From Thalasso to mountain water: about the healing power of water

Even in ancient Rome, people knew about the healing power of water. A report on the most important methods and applications. Plus: a guide to the best establishments.

24 November 2021

For many people, water is the wellness element par excellence, whether from the inside through drinking cures or through external applications. In any case, water is a fundamental part of our well-being. Mankind came to this realisation very early on: people were already rock-solidly convinced of the fact that seawater heals no less than 2400 years ago.

Already in ancient Greece, the famous physician Hippocrates of Kos knew about the powers of the sea and sea air and used them medicinally. In the Middle Ages, this knowledge fell into oblivion and was only used again in the middle of the 18th century by the London doctor Richard Russel. Modern research backs this up and has long since recognized seawater substances as healing agents. But thalassotherapy is clearly more than the sea: it is an integrated concept for therapy, prevention and health promotion. The potential of this therapy lies in two components: the healing salt in the sea and the vital minerals in the algae. Incidentally, the word "thalasso" is derived from the ancient Greek "thálassa" and means "the power of the sea". It refers to treatment with cold or heated sea water, sea air, sun, algae or sand. Basically, thalasso is divided into two directions: thalassotherapy as a medical remedy and thalassotherapy, which is used for preventive or cosmetic purposes. The latter includes inhalation of seawater, seawater baths, heliotherapy with natural sunlight, exercise near the sea or cosmetic treatment with sea products such as algae. A "real" thalassotherapy can only take place where there is a direct connection to the sea and the thalassotypical elements can have a holistic effect. Essential here: only the holistic interaction of these elements allows the term thalassotherapy.

Natural healing through mountain water and thermal springs

Not only seawater, but also mountain and thermal water have been proven to have a healing effect, starting with internal use. After all, water is man's most important elixir of life, as it plays an irreplaceable role in almost all parts of our body as the fuel of our bodily functions. Regular water intake therefore plays an irreplaceable role. When it comes to clean and mineral-rich drinking water, the Alpine region is, among many other regions, a veritable land of milk and honey: the areas in the Alps are blessed with clean drinking water that can be consumed from the tap without any problems and impresses with its top quality. It is therefore no wonder that here water drinking cures are offered in many places, as they are the basis of treatment for so many things. Water - be it pure, with turmeric, lemon or ginger - is also the immune booster par excellence. Numerous spa and wellness hotels now offer their own "immune boost days", wellness packages with a coordinated culinary segment, so to speak. The healing and health-promoting effects of applying water externally have also been known for a long time: "There is healing in water; it is the simplest, cheapest and - when applied correctly - the safest remedy", as Sebastian Kneipp, the founder of the well-known Kneipp treatment methods, once knew. The approach named after Kneipp relies in particular on water applications; these are used preventively or curatively.

Many spas and thermal baths have evolved from historic health spas into modern temples of wellness. ©GettyImages

Spas and cures

A real (wellness) trend are also visits to spas. Around the globe, there are sites that have been proven to have springs whose waters can heal. Healing springs can be naturally or artificially created outlets for healing water, which has been proven to have a healing, soothing or preventive effect on a wide range of illnesses. The application mostly takes place in baths or in thermal spa hotels. There is evidence that spas have existed since the Middle Ages, but the Asklepieia of ancient Greece should also be mentioned here. Even in Jesus' time, the Dead Sea was a popular place for the wealthy, who appreciated the beneficial power of the salty water. Even then, people relied on the unique combination of medical care and natural remedies in relaxing places. The purpose of a cure is to rebalance body and soul and to awaken new spirits - the health and well-being of the guests are the main focus in cure and thermal spa hotels in various regions of the world.

Tea ceremonies. Tea is drunk practically all over the world, but different rituals and customs have developed everywhere. ©GettyImages

Best of Hotels

Euphoria Retreat

A journey to bring body and mind into harmony

The exceptional five-star Euphoria Retreat - A Holistic Wellbeing Destination Spa is located in the middle of the Taygetos Mountains in the Greek Peloponnese, beautifully nestled in the surrounding forest. Guests can expect unique architectural design inspired by Byzantine architecture. But the hotel also has a special philosophy apart from the architecture: the "Euphoria Retreat" is not just a hotel - guests who come here will discover a healing philosophy that aims to energize and balance them. Very quickly, you'll find a wellness program that suits you among a wide selection. Even a "post covid recovery program" is currently on offer, as well as a weight loss program - where the focus is on metabolism, bringing long-term success. Spa treatments are combined with a unique nutritional approach in the hotel's Wellbeing Detox programme; daily yoga sessions are just one of a number of activities on offer. Founder Marina Effaimoglou herself says, "When you explore 'Euphoria', we give you the keys to explore yourself. This exploration brings more freedom and happiness, it's an adventure without preconditions." The spa features a hammam, indoor and outdoor pools, including a "sphere pool," saunas, steam rooms, a Kneipp area, a tepidarium and more. Special attention is also paid to nutrition here: a special test provides guests with valuable information on how their respective metabolism processes food. Relaxation is also found in sleep: The 45 rooms and suites are exceptional in their design - the luxurious monastic furnishings are inspired by the iconography of the Byzantine era and subtly combine patterns, textures and colours to unique effect. Double room including breakfast from € 239,- per person.

Euphoria Retreat*****, euphoriaretreat.com
Mystras, Sparta, Greece
T: +30 2731 306111

No wishes remain unfulfilled in the spa area. There is almost nothing that is not available. ©stavroshabakis

Capri Palace Jumeirah Hotel & Spa

The leading hotel icon of the Italian celebrity island

Located high on the mountain, the "Capri Palace Jumeirah" is a luxury hotel where guests can immerse themselves in the breathtaking natural beauty of Capri. Since the 1960s, the "Capri Palace" has been considered the leading hotel icon on the jet-set island - and this has not changed since the takeover by the Jumeirah Group. Here, a first-class spa area, dolce vita ambience including a panoramic view of the Gulf of Naples and first-class cuisine (including the restaurant "L'olivio", which is the only restaurant on the island to be decorated with two Michelin stars) come together. The Capri Medical Spa is the in-house medical spa, offering guests life-enhancing treatments with the groundbreaking medical spa concept. Guests enjoy wellness treatments tailored to each individual's goals, whether in single sessions or through multi-day spa packages - from weight loss and detoxification to anti-aging and stress management. This unique wellness philosophy aims to provide a holistic spa experience, combining the best of Western and Eastern traditions with an emphasis on medical and scientific principles and methods. The award-winning spa in Capri is under the direction of Professor Francesco Canonaco - the medical director of Capri Medical Spa has also developed and patented, after years of research, a unique method of treating vascular problems, christened "The Leg School". Even Hollywood stars swear by the aquatic therapy at the luxurious hotel in Anacapri on Capri. Speaking of Hollywood stars, one suite pays homage to regular guest Gwyneth Paltrow - this centrepiece boasts a chic and modern interior in monochrome tones. Double room including breakfast from € 362 per person.

Capri Palace Jumeirah Hotel & Spa*****, capripalace.com
Via Capodimonte 14, 80071 Isola di Capri, NA, Italy
T: +39 081 9780111

Best kept secret for perfect legs. The "Leg School" is known worldwide for its exceptional results. ©Capri Palace Jumeirah Hotel & Spa

Soft title Quiberon

The ideal place for thalassotherapy

The location could not be more ideal for thalassotherapy. The "Sofitel Quiberon Thalassa Sea & Spa" is nestled in the picturesque landscape of southern Brittany and offers a wide range of spa treatments with seawater combined with excellent culinary delights in this ideal thalassotherapy setting. At the heart of the five-star luxury resort is the state-of-the-art Thalassotherapy Institute, which offers a wide range of innovative and effective seawater treatments. Guests will find relaxation in the total of 125 luxurious rooms and suites, especially thanks to the exclusive bed concept "My Bed by Sofitel". From a culinary point of view, no wishes should remain unfulfilled - the refined authentic Breton cuisine by chef Patrick Barbin is delicious, healthy and based on local and seasonal products. Double room including breakfast from € 174,- per person.

Sofitel Quiberon Thalassa Sea & Spa*****, sofitel-quiberon-thalassa.com
Bd Louison Bobet, 56170 Quiberon, France
T: +33 297 502000

Pool with a view! Here you can relax with the sound of the sea and a gentle breeze. ©Emmanuel Berthier

Anassa Hotel

The ultimate Mediterranean retreat

The Cypriot luxury hotel "Anassa", part of the luxury hotel group Thanos Hotels & Resorts, is rightly ennobled as the ultimate Mediterranean retreat. Based on the concept of a Roman-style wellness oasis, the Thalassa Spa at "Anassa" offers a wide range of therapies, from holistic rituals to thalassotherapy. Under towering Roman columns amid sun-drenched courtyards and healing thalassotherapy pools, infinite tranquility can be enjoyed. Culinary excellence, under the direction of chef David Goodridge, focuses on regionality. Retreat to rooms of sparkling elegance: the "Anassa" has 166 rooms, suites and residences. Flower-strewn gardens lead directly from the luxury hotel down to a beautiful sandy beach. Double room including breakfast from € 277,- per person.

Hotel Anassa*****, anassa.com
40, Alekou Michailidi Road, 8852 Neo Chorio, Cyprus
T: +357 26 888000

A spa to dream of awaits at Anassa. ©Alicia Taylor

Hotel Post Krimml

A source of strength in the Alps

The "Hotel Post Krimml" is a house with a unique alpine flair, which combines modern components and tradition in a particularly harmonious way. Close to the famous Krimml Waterfalls, this four-star hotel is located in the middle of the Hohe Tauern Nature Park and allows you to recharge your batteries - from the hotel's own panoramic sauna, for example, with a view of the Krimml Waterfalls included. The magnificent mountain panorama can also be enjoyed from the relaxation and yoga room; hostess Isabella is personally responsible for yoga sessions. Host Ernst Steger is responsible for giving guests tips on hikes and activities in the region - the restaurant's good reputation is in turn due to host Maria Steger. From a culinary point of view, a lot of emphasis is placed on regionality: Thus, jams, liqueurs or bread are made by the kitchen team itself (and are also available at the reception). Among other things, you can choose from the Panoramastüberl, sun terraces and a hotel bar. The rooms and suites of the hotel are all allergy-friendly. The hotel is a certified so-called "Hohe Tauern Health Hotel" - "Hohe Tauern Health" is a health initiative for allergy and asthma sufferers in conjunction with the healing power of the Krimml Waterfalls. According to various studies, the spray from the Krimml Waterfalls has been proven to be an exceptional natural remedy for asthma and allergies and is especially suitable for adults and children with allergic respiratory diseases. The hotel's rooms and suites also score highly with very spacious furnished balconies. A special tip is the 44 square meter suite "Bergliebe", which - like the rest of the four-star hotel - is furnished in an alpine-modern style. Natural materials set the tone here. Double room including breakfast from € 102,- per person.

Hotel Post Krimml****, hotelpost-krimml.at
Oberkrimml 18, 5743 Krimml, Austria
T: +43 6564 73580

It's especially good to take a deep breath near the world-famous Krimml Waterfalls in the beautiful Salzburger Land. ©Reifmüller

Falkensteiner Marienbad

Source of peace and strength in the heart of Europe

Marienbad is, on par with other European health resorts, the birthplace of modern, scientifically based health tourism. The luxury resort "Falkensteiner Marienbad" is located in the West Bohemian spa town. The hotel, rich in tradition and built in Art Nouveau style, offers an excellent wellness program in the renovated Acquapura Spa with five themed pools and the only heated outdoor pool in town. There is also a medical centre with its own spa doctor and multilingual team of therapists, as well as the hotel's own Alexandra spring for baths and drinking cures. The offer includes a Covid rehabilitation programme and the popular preventive cure "Alexandra Basic". The hotel's location on the Kaiserwald nature reserve is also top: the region in and around Marienbad offers a a wide range of leisure activities, sights and natural beauty. Double room including breakfast from € 92,- per person.

Falkensteiner Spa Resort Mariánské Lázně*****, falkensteiner.com
Ruská 123, 353 01 Mariánské Lázně, Czech Republic
T: +420 354 929399

The excellent offer of the Marienbad also helps with covid therapies. ©Falkensteiner

Terme di Saturnia Natural Spa

One of the most famous thermal springs in Italy

For 3000 years the thermal water has been bubbling out of the earth here at a temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius. Already at the beginning of the 18th century, the thermal spring of Saturnia was considered a miracle cure for skin diseases, and even today people are convinced of this idea: the spring water of this thermal spring is sulphurous, rich in mineral salts, gases, etc.. When immersed in the spring, it is possible to detect the valuable active ingredient plankton, which has moisturizing properties. Also, the thermal water has a blood pressure lowering effect and it can achieve an increase in respiratory volume; in addition, it has an anti-aging effect for the liver, an exfoliating function and a deep antiseptic effect. It has also been shown to reduce tension in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Double room including breakfast from € 297,- per person.

Terme di Saturnia Natural Spa*****, en.lhw.com
Via Follonata, 58014 Saturnia, Italy
T: +39 0564 600111

Rich history. The "Terme di Saturnia" was already mentioned in the Middle Ages by the poet Dante. ©Terme di Saturnia Natural Spa

Esplanade Tergesteo Luxury Retreat

An exclusive oasis of calm

In the heart of the northern Italian region of Veneto, not far from Padua and Venice, lies the Hotel "Esplanade Tergesteo" in Montegrotto Terme. It is a stylish oasis of tranquillity and a place where the ancient healing powers of the thermal waters meet an extremely modern and appealing ambience. The exceptional style of the hotel is truly outstanding: It captivates with a stylish combination of unique design objects, wood, marble and other harmonious materials. The region can look back on 1000 years of bathing tradition: very well known in this region is thermal mud therapy with its extraordinary therapeutic effects. In the hotel, these resources of nature are used not only for the traditional mud therapy but also for the innovative beauty treatments. The exclusive Fango Uniko Bio Treatments are suitable for all skin types thanks to the high quality organic ingredients. The skin is detoxified and cell renewal is stimulated. The heart of the five-star hotel, however, are the thermal baths: the indoor pool, which flows directly into the unique White Pool in the outdoor area, and the H2 O3 pool with ozone micro-bubbles represent a perfect combination of nature, harmony and relaxation. There is also an adults-only area: the RoofTop54 is an absolutely unique place with a salt water pool, textile-free sauna and various relaxation rooms. In the wellness area "Well 54", guests can also expect various regenerating rituals and a variety of exclusive retreats. The culinary part is not neglected either: The "Pepita Restaurant" is an ideal symbiosis of taste experience and feel-good moments. Modern sophistication and traditional Italian culinary arts meet here skilfully. Double room from € 324,- per night.

Esplanade Tergesteo - Luxury Retreat*****, esplanadetergesteo.it
Via Roma, 54, 35036 Montegrotto Terme PD, Italy
T: +39 049 8911777

Perfect combination. The hotel harmoniously combines design and wellness. ©Esplanade Tergesteo

Thermenwelt Hotel Pulverer

Gurgling springs, healing waters, impressive mountain landscapes

At the foot of the Nockberge mountains rises this Carinthian wellness hotel with its own spa, award-winning cuisine (with the "Loystubn") and its own health centre. The five-star "Thermenwelt Hotel Pulverer" in Bad Kleinkirchheim has a thermal landscape covering a generous 2100 m2. There is a choice of more than 30 different massages. The "Thermenwelt Hotel Pulverer" also relies on the power of the Alps and their herbs. Special offers are available in summer - the credo here is: "Enjoy, immerse yourself in a new (wellness) world and let yourself be pampered." As a treat, there is a pampering voucher for the hotel's own Vitaloase, and that for four nights from just 584 euros per person. Otherwise, the price in a double room including breakfast is from € 118, - per person.

Thermenwelt Hotel Pulverer*****, pulverer.at
Thermenstraße 4, 9546 Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria
T: +43 4240 744

Guests can fully relax in the hotel's garden in summer. ©Gert Perauer

Thermal spa Bad Waltersdorf

The source of tranquility

In 1975, oil was drilled in Bad Waltersdorf - instead of black gold, hot, healing springs were discovered. In the Heiltherme Bad Waltersdorf, natural materials and the view of the lush greenery of Eastern Styria come together and make the spa, which was completely redesigned in 2015, the ideal place to relax. The 4-star Quellenhotel is located directly adjacent to the spa. Quellenhotel guests also have access to the Quellenoase hotel spa. The energy of the thermal water is of course central, and can be felt in the pools as well as in the Kneipp facility or along the massage route. Officially recognised as medicinal water, the pleasantly warm water has a proven relaxing effect on body and soul, is good for the skin, tightens the connective tissue and activates the self-healing and defence forces. Double room from € 141,- per person.

Heiltherme Quellenhotel Bad Waltersdorf****, heiltherme.at
Thermenstraße 111, 8271 Bad Waltersdorf, Austria
T: +43 3333 3150-0

Gift of nature. By chance, healing springs were discovered - since then, this has been a region of health and pleasure. ©Harald Eisenberger

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz

A very special water and a very special house

The well-known Tamina spring, located in the middle of the foothills of the Alps in eastern Switzerland, is considered to be the most water-rich acratotherm in Europe. The water has a wide range of health effects - from the musculoskeletal system to diseases of the cardiovascular system, many areas of illness are included. The buoyancy with its joint-relieving and thus pain-relieving effect should also be emphasised. The water pressure is also ideal for people with venous diseases: The water compresses the veins and arteries from the outside. The healing water from the Tamina Gorge is also something special for healthy people: after a bath, the skin feels velvety soft, moreover, relaxation is promoted, the muscles are loosened and the immune system is strengthened. The thermal water world of the hotel's own thermal spa includes the historic Helenabad, the Sportbad, the Family Spa and the Garden Pool with a view of the mountains. Guests draw new strength and vitality - this is what makes a stay at the "Grand Resort Bad Ragaz" so special. The experience of the luxury hotel is based on centuries of bathing and healing tradition. This has resulted in a unique combination of its own thermal spring, holistic medical expertise and the diversity of a five-star luxury resort. Incidentally, hotel guests have free access to the bathing facilities of the public thermal spa "Tamina Therme". Culinary delights at the highest level are also a tradition at the "Grand Resort Bad Ragaz". The restaurants stand for authenticity, gastronomic variety and exclusivity. There is a choice of seven restaurants, three bars, a bistro, a sushi take-away and a café. Since this year, the "Grand Resort Bad Ragaz" sparkles in the light of fabulous five Michelin stars. In addition, there is a broad culinary spectrum ranging from Asian specialities to innovative Swiss Alpine cuisine. A water sommelier is also part of the team at the "Grand Resort Bad Ragaz". Guests can choose between three styles in the rooms and suites of the two grand hotels: timeless elegance, purist design or a modern, elegant atmosphere.
stylish comfort. Double room from € 465,- per night.

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz*****, resortragaz.ch
Bernhard-Simonstrasse, 7310 Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
T: +41 81 3033030

Relaxation and exclusivity. The generous wellness offer includes, among other things, the Helena bath from the 19th century and one of the most beautiful Kneipp paths. ©Grand Resort Bad Ragaz

This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue SPA Special 2021.

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