Terme Čatež – A Whole World of Water and More!

I knew from browsing the internet prior to my visit that the Terme Čatež Thermal Spa was big, however, it wasn’t until I actually visited and saw it for myself that I realised just how vast it is. Bigger than many Slovene villages, some towns even! How I’m going to fit everything into one blog post, I don’t know, but I’ll give it a go!

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Thermal springs were discovered here near the banks of the Sava river over 200 years ago and the power of the natural thermal water became the basis for the development of the Terme Čatež Thermal Spa.

The choice of accommodation at the resort is so wide that it would be easier to say what there isn’t! 2 four-star and 1 three-star hotels, various apartments and camps, an Indian village, Pirates Bay …

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Pirates Bay

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The Indian Village

I stayed in the four-stay Hotel Terme, the exterior of which belies what lies within, and is the pick of the bunch if budget isn’t a top priority. It is also in a slightly quieter part of the resort, so ideal if you are looking for a little peace. The superior rooms are very well appointed and air-conditioned throughout.  What an amazing view of the sun setting I managed to snap from my balcony.

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The sun setting above the nearby town of Brežice

At Hotel Terme, meals are taken either in the main dining room (self-service buffet) or in the a-la-carte MM Restaurant, where I was treated to quite a feast!

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The four-star Hotel Toplice is set closer to the action and connects directly with the Winter Thermal Riviera.

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Hotel Toplice – Photo: Archive Terme Čatež

If you have kids who love water, then you need look no further than Terme Čatež. In summer the Summer Thermal Riviera is the place to be. At over 10,000 m2 it is by far the largest outdoor pool complex far and wide. There is water-based fun in every shape, size and form.

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The covered Winter Thermal Riviera is open 365 days a year and particularly comes into its own, as the name suggests, in winter. It offers over 2,000 m2 of water with toboggans, slides and myriad other attractions.

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Other onsite facilities include a casino, a wellness centre, a health centre, a dental centre, and a tourist information centre, where bikes can be rented and trips, such as wine tasting, can be arranged in the local area. I set off early to beat the heat!

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Off exploring by bike!

The Terme Čatež Energy Path leads up through the forest to the Church of St. Vid, from where there are far-reaching views and where, according to legend, one must ring the church bell three times for good luck, which I duly did!

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A little effort rewarded by a wonderful view!

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Terme Čatež is located close to the banks of the Sava river. In bygone days, boats and ferries regularly transported people and goods from one side of the river to the other. Nowadays, the special ‘brod’ ferries offer short pleasure trips along the river.

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A free bus takes guests to see the sights of interest in the nearby town of Brežice. Plenty more about that coming soon here – https://adeleinslovenia.com/

You can find everything you need to know about Terme Čatež here – http://www.terme-catez.si/en/

© Spas in Slovenia

 

Zen and Zest at Zreče!

I’m very much enjoying my journey of discovery of Slovenia’s thermal spas. The majority of those that I have visited so far have been first-time visits for me, and I certainly couldn’t choose a favourite among them, since they are all so diverse. It wasn’t my first visit, however, to the Zreče Thermal Spa, where I have stayed on a couple of previous occasions, since if there is one place with my name written all over it, then this is it!

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The reason is its location, situated in the lush foothills of the Pohorje mountains, the Zreče Thermal Spa offers an ideal escape from everyday life and is a real paradise for those, like me, who are lovers of the great outdoors. Regardless of the season, there is always plenty to keep you occupied whether you are seeking zen or zest!

During my visit I stayed in the newest part of the resort, the four-star superior Hotel Atrij. In addition to Hotel Atrij, other accommodation includes the four-star Hotel Vital, the three-star Hotel Klasik and Hotel Medico (intended for guests staying on medical programmes), and the four-star forest villas.

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For a special treat book a Gala Suite, which comes complete with its own Finnish sauna, and massage tub with heated ceramic bed.

My room, with its large balcony, looked directly over the courtyard, which has been tastefully transformed into a tranquil, green oasis and a lovely area to linger over a refreshing drink on a hot summer’s day.

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The Idyll Wellness and Spa Centre offers a very comprehensive range of pampering treatments.

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Other facilities include indoor and outdoor thermal pools, a fitness centre, a health care centre, a wine tasting cellar, and the popular Sauna Village.

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The thermal indoor pool complex comprises a recreational swimming pool, a winter garden with eight waterbeds and two massage pools, a children’s splash pool and a therapeutic pool. There is also an outdoor summer pool and the Forest Water Park with water slides for children.

The calcium and magnesium-rich acratothermal water is of particular importance in balneo-rehabilitation treatments, as well as having a beneficial effect on disorders including those of the locomotive system, spine, nervous system, and for sports injuries.

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Treatments using mountain peat, found in the marshlands of the nearby Pohorje forest and mountains, are a speciality. The peat, found in mid-high altitude mountain marshland, can be applied to individual areas of the body, taken as a wrap or a bath, and is known for its therapeutic properties which can aid disorders of the locomotor system, as well as gynaecological, urological, internal, and psychosomatic disorders. Though effective, the heat of the mud penetrates almost immediately, it’s not the most glamorous of treatments – it is mud after all!

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There are restaurants, cafes and bars to cater to all tastes and budgets, where the focus is on using local and seasonal ingredients.

During my stay I ate one night in the buffet-style main restaurant, and the other night in the A-La-Carte Atrij restaurant, where, for my starter, I tried a selection of local Taste Rogla foods Pohorska ‘bunka‘ with pickled mushrooms, curd cheese with pumpkin seeds and pumpkin oil, smoked trout and pork roulade – all of which were delicious and very moreish!

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 The Zreče lake is located just minutes from the resort, behind the forest villas, and is a wonderful place for a peaceful stroll as well as being a popular spot for fishing.

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After breakfast the next morning I went exploring. There are 7 well-marked hiking trails which begin right from the doorstep of the resort. I took route no. 1 (Brinjeva gora, 5.6km) which leads, steeply at first, up to a church from where there are far-reaching views over the resort and surroundings.

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The nearby Rogla resort is a paradise year-round. In summer there are endless opportunities for walking, hiking and cycling, whilst in winter it is transformed into a winter wonderland. A ski bus operates directly from Zreče.

Since there is so much to see and do on Rogla, far too much for just one blog post, I’ll be writing plenty more about that in a forthcoming blog post, coming very soon herehttps://adeleinslovenia.com/

Despite it’s rural location, the Terme Zreče spa is easily reached. It is just a few kilometres from the motorway and can also be reached by public transport via the nearby town of Slovenske Konjice.

Find out more about Terme Zreče here – http://www.terme-zrece.eu/en/

© Spas in Slovenia

 

 

The Rogaška Medical Centre – A World of Health and Wellness

The Rogaška Medical Centre in Rogaška Slatina offers a whole world of wellness and health under one roof. This vast multi-storey building sits at one end of the magnificent Rogaška Wellness Park, which, throughout its 400-year tradition, has been attracting guests from all over the world.

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The centre specialises in disease prevention and ongoing treatment and rehabilitation, particularly for patients suffering with digestive and metabolic disorders, as well as offering a very comprehensive array of health and wellness services.

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Rogaška Slatina is inextricably linked with Donat Mg water, thus Balneotherapy plays a large part in treatments. Donat Mg water contains magnesium, which, even in small amounts, can contribute to the healing of various ailments. The miraculous power of Rogaška mineral water was first analysed by alchemists back in 1572. It is known to contain 1000mg of magnesium per litre. The water, even direct from the spring, is mildly carbonated and has an unusual and distinctive, though not  unpleasant, taste.

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The medical centre is staffed by a team of experts doctors and therapists, who specialise, amongst others, in areas including specialist examinations and diagnostics, vascular surgery, aesthetic surgery, acupuncture, nutrition consultations, body analysis, preventative check-ups, kinesiotherapy, electrotherapy, magnetotherapy.

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In addition to the vast array of medical services, those seeking some pampering are also well catered for. It was difficult to choose which of the treatments to try, since there are so many! In the end I went for a magnesium bath, out of curiosity and because they are highly popular so there must be something in it! These baths form part of the Balneotherapy programme, and, if taken regularly, are known to have a positive effect on health by improving, amongst others, blood circulation, the immune system, and lowering blood pressure.

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After the bath I was wrapped up in a warm blanket and left to relax (yes, me, relax!!), before moving on to my next treatment, an orthopaedic massage. This is just one of a range of classic, specialist, and therapeutic massages, as well as scrubs, wraps, and baths offered at the centre. As someone who is constantly on the go, this was a perfect massage for me, as my weary muscles need a good pummelling. The massage combines use of a vacuum technique (cupping) and a deep tissue massage. Relaxing it wasn’t, but that’s what makes a good massage for me!!! More information here – http://www.rogaska-medical.com/en/massages-scrubs-wraps/medical-and-therapeutic-massages

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You are spoilt for choice in terms of accommodation at Rogaška Slatina. There are numerous hotels surrounding the park, most of which have their own leisure facilities with pools, saunas etc. On my most recent visit I stayed at the 4* Superior Grand Hotel Donat. If you’re looking for luxury, try one of the newly renovated luxurious rooms or suites offering VIP accommodation. More here – http://www.en.ghdonat.com/

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Of all the buildings and hotels surrounding the park, this magnificent grand old building, the Grand Hotel Rogaška, seen below, forms the centrepiece.

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Rogaška is surrounded by beautiful nature which just beckons to be explored. There are 9 marked walking trails, which begin directly from the centre and vary from less than 2kms up to almost 15km in length. There’s even a small ski slope, Janina, though, at just 362m, I can’t imagine an awful lot of skiing goes on there, but snowy fun not doubt at least.

The newly-built Anin Dvor (Ana’s Mansion and Museum) is a cultural-tourist centre housing various collections and exhibitions.

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Nearby is the Rogaška Glassworks, which has been producing its well-known and highly-regarded crystal products for over 350 years. Factory tours can be arranged or you can just pop in to the shop and treat yourself, or friends and loved ones, to some of the high quality cut and engraved crystal products.

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Photo: Drustvosteklarjev.si

You can find out plenty more about the Rogaška Medical Centre here – http://www.rogaska-medical.com/en/

© Spas in Slovenia 2016

The Topolšica Thermal Spa

I last visited the Topolšica thermal spa some years back, and, though I didn’t stay overnight, I distinctly remember feeling it seemed somewhat dated. On my recent visit I was therefore delighted to discover that significant improvements have been made with the addition of the brand new Ocepkov Gaj Apartment Village and, a few years ago, the Zala Wellness Centre – both of which are shining examples of modern, thoughtful construction and the changing face of Slovenian wellness tourism.

My visit, on a wonderfully hot late-May weekend, coincided with the seasonal opening of the outdoor pool complex – the Zora Water Park..

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There is an additional outdoor pool, which is open all year, connected to the indoor pool and whirlpool complex, within Hotel Vesna.

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Within the complex there are also Finnish, Turkish and infrared saunas, and Sauna Land in the Zala Wellness Centre features, among others, classic or extreme Finnish saunas, herbal, salt and steam saunas,   an ice cave experience and a Kneipp terrace. The fitness centre is also very well-equipped with the latest Technogym equipment.

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The new Ocepkov Gaj Apartment Village is the place to stay for a break at Topolšica. The 27 modern well-equipped 4-star holiday houses are set next to the forest in a tranquil location just minutes away from the main hotel and pools. Facilities include free Wi-Fi, plasma televisions, free parking, and a private terrace.

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A good way to get a feel for the area, and for a bird’s eye view, is to take a walk or bike ride on one of the many marked paths that start directly from the doorstop.  I opted for a hike on the Sonča Pot (Sunny Path), which leads up to Lom and onwards to the highest point of Topolšica at 884m.

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The main hotel, the 3-star Hotel Vesna, is nice enough looking from the outside, however, at over 30 years old it is showing its age and in need of modernisation. It’s not all bad, though, the pool facilities, café (with seriously scrumptious cakes!), and public areas are fine. For those watching the pennies and planning to spend most of the time using the pools and/or exploring the area, then the rooms are perfectly acceptable – clean, quiet and surprisingly spacious – but the corridors, room décor, and bedding are, well, a tad dingy.

I tried the 70-minute Zala massage at the Zala Wellness Centre, which combines various massage techniques of classic body massage, shiatsu head massage and reflexology foot massage – sheer bliss!

There are a wide range of treatments on offer – classic and innovative. Among the latter is the Dr. Breuss massage – a speciality back massage named after Dr. Rudolf Breuss from Austria, known for his fasting diets. The gentle, soothing massage is designed to rid the body of physcological and physical blockages for better energy flow. Only a small amount of oil is used and the technique involves light stretching of the spine. It is also one of the few massages which can be carried out on people with acute spinal conditions. This video, though not from the spa, gives an idea of the technique used.

For active types, there’s more than enough to keep you busy here and in the surroundings. I hired a bike from the hotel and cycled through the Šalek Valley (Šaleška dolina) to the 3 Velenje lakesVelenjsko jezero, Šaleško jezero, Družmirsko jezero.

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There’s no escaping the fact that the lakes are right next to the Šostanj thermal power plant, which is a bit of a blot on the landscape, however, if you just avert your gaze away from the plant, the scenery is lovely! The well-arranged paths around the lakes are ideal for strolling, jogging and cycling and in fine weather the Velenje Beach is the place to be. It offers sun loungers, a café/bar, and numerous water sports, such as stand-up paddling and wind-surfing. More about Velenje Beach here – http://www.velenje-tourism.si/en/adventures/the-velenje-beach

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Getting there: Topolšica is easiest reached by car. If, however, you are reliant on public transport you can take a train to Velenje or Šoštanj and then a local bus onwards to Topolšica.

© Spas in Slovenia

Winning Wellness at the Terme Olimia Thermal Spa

The Terme Olimia thermal spa is located in the town of Podčetrtek, near the pretty village of Olimje, in the Kozjansko region in the east of Slovenia.

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The resort comprises a huge array of facilities including 2 hotels, an apartment hotel and  holiday village, the largest Sauna World in Slovenia2 spa and beauty centres, a wellness and pool oasis, a health centre, a fitness centre, several cafes and restaurants and more.

Amongst Slovenia’s 14 thermal spas Wellness Centre Orhidelia has won the title of ‘Best Wellness Centre in Slovenia’ for the last 5 years in a row. The name and the purple and black colour scheme of the wellness centre was chosen due to the rare black orchid which grows in the vicinity.

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It’s not just Slovenes that know about, and visit, Terme Olimia – word has spread – over 70% of guests come from abroad and I was mighty impressed by the ability of the staff to effortlessly switch between at least 6 foreign languages.

If your budget allows I recommend staying in the four-star superior Wellness Hotel Sotelia, which is the most modern hotel. In fact it is only 10 years old and already a partial refurbishment of rooms is in progress as “in a hotel of this standard, guests expect the best and we must maintain our standards’.

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Those wishing to take advantage of the resort’s extensive medical facilities, which particularly specialises in treating back pain, should stay in the four-star Hotel Breza that allows direct access and designated facilities. For families, and/or those who prefer to self-cater, the Vas Lipa holiday village or the Aparthotel Rosa are ideal.

The wellness centre and Hotel Sotelia have grass-covered roofs in keeping with the pristine, green environment and environmentally-friendly ethos. This was the view from my room!

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The Armonia Spa offers a very comprehensive range of pampering treatments. I tried one of its speciality massages, the Olimia massage, which combines the expertise of masseurs and physiotherapists and begins with stretching followed by a relaxing massage. There are also Tibetan, Thai, Khanya (African) and Ayurveda massages and treatments, as well as a full range of other beauty treatments.

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As part of the Selfness Programme there is a twice- daily ‘House Ritual’, which promotes relaxation and calmness. Both guests and staff are encouraged to take part in the ritual at 10.30am and 4.30pm and everyone literally downs tools for 3 minutes to join in. These 2 staff, below, happened to passing reception at the time of the ritual and I was amazed to see they literally stopped in their tracks to join in! It’s very admirable that this is also afforded to staff!

 

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you can see more of the House Ritual in this video below.

Other activities include Qi Gong, Tai Chi, barefoot walking, guided cycling trips, Nordic walking, and various workshops.

The spa’s thermal water springs from a depth of 520m in the area of the Aqualuna Thermal Park and Camp Natura. The water contains magnesium, calcium and hydrogen-carbonates. It is suitable for drinking and guests are provided with a bottle of spring water daily in their rooms and the water is used in all the pools throughout the resort.

The Aqualuna Thermal Park and Natura Camp, also part of Terme Olimia, are situated just 5 minutes from the main resort.

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There is a wealth of things to see in do in the immediate vicinity of the spa, including a well-marked network of walking and cycling paths.

One such path leads up to Podčetrtek Castle, which sits imposingly above the town. The pleasant path leads up through the forest, taking about 30 minutes to reach the castle. However, whilst it looks mighty from the outside, it was disappointing to see the dilapidated state of the remainder of the castle, and venturing further inside isn’t advisable as it could be hazardous. This is an investment project ripe for anyone who has a spare few million euros!

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The spotlessly clean compact town centre is within easy reach and has a small selection of shops, a bakery, and numerous restaurants and cafes.

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This odd couple can be found outside the school!

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Those without their own transport can reach Podčetrtek on the special ‘spa trains’, operated by Slovenian Railways, which run from Ljubljana. Visitors arriving by train are also entitled to special discounts and benefits. More information here – http://www.slo-zeleznice.si/en/passenger-transport/around-slovenia/the-spa-train

You can find information about all the above,  and more, here – http://www.terme-olimia.com/gb

If time allows, I thoroughly recommend a visit to the village of Olimje. Since there’s way too much to write about that here, keep an eye out on ‘Adele in Slovenia’ for much more information about what to see and do. Coming soon! – https://adeleinslovenia.com/

© Spas in Slovenia 2016

 

Detox and Serenity at Šmarješke Toplice

The Terme Šmarješke Toplice spa is located in a tranquil corner of the Dolenjska region. It is entirely surrounded by green parkland and is ideal for a complete switch-off from the hustle and bustle of every day life.

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My visit at the end of April coincided with unusually late-spring snowfall so it really was a tale of two halves. The first day was very cold and snowy, whilst, by the second day, the sun had made a welcome comeback and I was able to see the area in (almost) its full glory. It was, however, sad to see the destruction that the late-spring snow caused to the surrounding vineyards and forests. A reminder of the power of nature.

This was the view from my room when I arrived.

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And this was the view an hour or so later! I know which I prefer! How about you?

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I stayed at the four-star superior Hotel Vitarium, which has modern well-appointed rooms. The resort also comprises two 4-star hotels – Hotel Šmarjeta and Hotel Toplice.

Shortly after arrival, and seeeking sanctuary from the blizzard raging outside, I headed to the fitness centre, which I was delighted to find is modern and well-equipped and even includes an altitude training chamber.

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The warmth of the sauna also looked rather inviting on such a chilly day! The Sauna World comprises Finnish, Turkish, Roman, and herbal saunas.

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The first medical wellness centre in Slovenia was founded at Smarjeske Toplice over 20 years ago. The centre specialises in the rehabilitation of heart conditions and problems with veins, as well as a full complement of other services. These days, however, it is also home to the very modern Vitarium Spa & Clinique which offers  a comprehensive range of beauty and pampering treatments.   

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I opted for the Vitarium massage which uses grape seed oil.

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The Vitarium Premium Selection slimming and detox programmes are particularly popular amongst guests, many of whom return every year for an annual detox (or two!).  There are 7, 10, or 14 night programmes, which include a very comprehensive range of services such as a medical check-up, tissue structure analysis, consultations with a nutritionist and personal trainer, massages, Fango mud wraps, detox treatments, Pilates and other exercise sessions, as well as a whole host of other services designed to make you leave feeling fitter and lighter.

For obvious reasons the outdoor pool complex wasn’t open during the time of my visit, however, the outdoor pool at the Vitarium Aqua centre was open as well as the indoor pools and whirlpools, all filled with thermal water.

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The next day, wrapped up well, I ventured out to explore the surroundings. Šmarješke Toplice set up one of the first Nordic walking centres in Slovenia. There are daily guided Nordic walks, or, like me, you can just borrow a pair of Nordic hiking poles and head off on a journey of discovery! There are 9 well-marked routes, which start directly from the resort, ranging in length from 2.5 – 12 kilometres.

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Less than a 10 minute walk from the resort you can pay a visit to the beekeeper Stane Gorenc, who will be delighted to show you his hives, small museum and shop selling honey and honey products.

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The hotel has several restaurants. Those on full or halfboard, and not on a specific medical programme, dine in the Fontana restaurant, which was modern, bright and the food was delicious. Unlike most of the spas I have visited, where half or full board meals are buffet-style, here the starters and desserts are buffet-style, whilst guests can choose a main course from a choice of five daily menus. The focus throughout is on locally produced food, with as few food miles involved as possible. This locally-produced cheese was a nice touch.

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Getting there: By far the easiest way to reach Šmarješke Toplice is by car. If, however, you are reliant on public transport then the nearest major hub is the city of Novo Mesto, from where there are a few buses per day.

Find more information about Šmarješke Toplice here – http://www.terme-krka.com/us/en/destinations/smarjeske-toplice/

© Spas in Slovenia 2016

 

Sea, Salt & Spa in Strunjan

Let me begin this blog by saying that I’m not a person who is drawn to the sea – hills, mountains and forests are more my thing. However, I defy anyone, whether a lover of the coast of not, not to be enthralled, as I was, by the green haven that is Strunjan, and I haven’t stopped raving about it since!

Located halfway between Izola and Piran, Strunjan really is one of the nicest, most pristine, parts of Slovenia’s 42km of coastline, featuring the tallest cliffs in the Adriatic, tree-lined avenues, invigorating sea air, a nature park, salt pans, and so much more!

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I stayed in the four-star Svoboda Hotel, part of the Talaso Strunjan resort, which is particularly known for its thalassotherapy treatments. The resort also comprises the three-star Laguna Hotel, the four-star Villa Park annex, and family villas located just 100 metres from the Svoboda Hotel.

This was the view from my room, not bad hey! The water you can see is the Štjuža lagoon which forms part of the Strunjan Nature Park.

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Shortly after arrival I went for a walk around the lagoon and then up the steep cobbled street leading to St. Mary’s church – the most important pilgrimage centre in the whole of Istria.

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After my walk it was time to try out one of the thalassotherapy treatments, which harness the properties of the surrounding natural resources – sea, salt and mud – and are known not only for being relaxing, but also having optimal healing effects. I tried out a combination treatment which began with a Fango wrap, using marine mud – also known as ‘black gold’ – followed by a relaxing salt pan massage. Here’s the before…

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And the during …

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For the massage small linen pouches filled with salt crystals are used, which are then dipped in a mixture of 4 essential oils, again with an emphasis on scents from the surroundings – lavender, rosemary, orange and basil.

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The resort also features indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools and children’s pools, containing heated seawater, so you can enjoy swimming in the seawater all year round!

The Istrian stone-built saunas comprise Finnish, Turkish, infrared, aromatic and salt saunas.

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Strunjan boasts 2,300 hours of sunshine per year, so I was pretty unlucky that I woke up to cloud and drizzle on the second morning of my stay. However, I didn’t let that stop me and still went out for a walk to Lucan, following route 6 of the 8 well-marked walking trails. It was well worth it and the combination of the sea views, vineyards and olive groves gives the feeling of being in Tuscany, yet by the sea! The sights and smells, the flora and fauna, and the views, oh the views! I can only imagine that on a clear day it must be even more breathtaking!

There are also plenty of well-marked cycling routes that lead directly from the resort.

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From Strunjan you can see along the coastline to Piran, Slovenia’s most popular coastal town, often referred to as the ‘jewel of the Adriatic coast’. I took the opportunity to sit in the bay at Strunjan and watch the sun setting, as this is something I don’t get to see living in Gorenjska, where the sun sets behind the mountains. Simply magical!

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The Strunjan salt pans are a must-visit, and just a 10 minute stroll from the resort.

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The two salt maker’s houses now operate as a museum where visitors can take a guided tour and learn about the process of salt harvesting.

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I’m kicking myself that after 9 years of living here I have only just discovered Strunjan and am already counting the days until my next visit!

You can find more information at Talaso Strunjan here – http://www.terme-krka.com/us/en/destinations/strunjan/

© Spas in Slovenia 2016