Dolenjske Toplice: Wellbeing in the embrace of nature

The Dolenjske Toplice thermal spa is situated in lush countryside amidst the rolling hills, vineyards, hilltop churches, and castles of Dolenjska.

Despite being one of Europe’s oldest spas, the addition of the four-star superior Hotel Balnea, which blends tastefully and seamlessly into the far corner of the main square, Zdraviliški trg, has brought this spa bang up-to-date with modern facilities and a touch of luxury.

D&K ARHITEKTI, HOTEL BALNEA, DOLENJSKE TOPLICE, SLO 2009

Even though I visited in March, when nature was only just beginning to awaken after its winter slumber, the area already had an abundance of green just calling out to be explored. Whenever I visit one of Slovenia’s thermal spas, despite my good intentions to rest and relax, which, after all, is one of the main reasons to visit a spa, I tend to get carried away with trying to see and do as much in the surroundings, and the enchanting Dolenjske Toplice was no exception.

The spa was founded on the thermal water that, according to legend, was discovered by a dog! To cut a long story short, the injured dog was found by its owner lying in a puddle next to a stream licking its wounds. The water in the puddle was warm and the dog survived its serious injuries.

These days  the water is used to treat blood and lymph circulation disorders, as well as having thermic effects on the entire body, including stimulating the immune system. A full range of preventative and rehabilitation programmes, medical services and other specialist medical and wellness programmes are available.

The Dolenjske Toplice spa comprises 3 hotels, the four-star Vital and Kristal hotels, and the aforementioned Hotel Balnea. I most definitely recommend staying at Hotel Balnea which offers very well-appointed spacious rooms, park views, a tranquil location, wifi, and the best dining area in the Kristal restaurant.

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The other two hotels are somewhat older and more traditional in style. If, however, you are more a fan of nostalgia, and particularly for those staying on a medical programme, then you could choose the renovated Kristal hotel, with its hundred-year tradition  and dining room with impressive chandelier and painted ceiling.

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On arrival I had a short stroll around the compact town and the spa park to stretch my legs after the drive, followed by a nose around the pools, saunas and wellness areas.

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On the very day of my arrival, a brand new sauna was opened on the top floor of Hotel Balnea. The view itself makes it worth a visit, which I did to take some photos, though no photos of the sauna itself due to that European thing of nakedness in the sauna!

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Hotels Balnea and Kristal are connected to the pools and wellness centre by a covered walkway. The photo below shows the view from my room, looking down over the roof of the covered walkway.

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Next I visited the Balnea Wellness Centre to try the signature Balnea massage, which combines a variety of techniques, including the use of hot stones. Despite this kind of massage being intended more for relaxation, before she began I asked the therapist, Marjana, if she could be a little more firm in her technique (I do like, or rather need, a firm, bordering on painful, massage!) and she was very obliging.

Dinner was plentiful and delicious – no need to diet here, though of course you can eat as healthily as you like. There were extensive self-service salad and dessert bars, whilst the main course is served at the table from a choice of four. I ate gnocchi in truffle sauce, and herbed pork escalopes, and just had to sample a few of the desserts such as chocolate and banana cake, tarragon potica, and blueberry tart.

Next morning, after an equally plentiful and delicious breakfast, it was time to set off exploring the Dolenjska countryside. First I drove a couple of kilometres to the village of Podturn to begin my walk around the 2 kilometre Rožek Forest Nature Trail, where there are many tree and shrub varieties, castle ruins and the Jazbina cave.

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From the nature trail a path continues up to the peak of Pogorelec (816m), for stunning views over the Dolenjska countryside.

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I finished my  day’s exploring with a visit to Baza 20 at Kočevski rog. The importance of this site cannot be underestimated. During the Second World War Baza 20 was the headquarters of the political leadership of the Slovenian resistance movement and it became the centre of the resistance against the occupying forces in 1942. It is the only headquarters of any resistance movement in Europe built in such a secret remote area and serves as a poignant reminder of the past. Twenty-six huts were built, all of which are still standing today. Each has information, in both Slovene and English, regarding its former purpose and in huts 16 and 22 there are permanent exhibitions showing the variety of activities that took place there, and at the nearby partisan hospitals of Jelendol and Zgornji Hrastnik. In fine weather, those keen on cycling can visit Baza 20 by bike, direct from Dolenjske Toplice.

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On returning to the hotel it was time for lunch and a swim in the indoor pool – the outdoor one had yet to open for the season at the time of my visit, though it looked tempting as I was fortunate that my visit coincided with the hottest weekend so far in 2016.

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The water in two of the pools is fed directly from the thermal springs. Having somewhat revived my weary legs it was time to bid farewell to a very pleasant, part-relaxing, part-active mini-break at Dolenjske Toplice. I only touched the surface of all there is to see and do, so a longer stay will be required next time!

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Recommended for: The pools would provide enough to keep kids occupied for a few days, particularly in the summer when the open-air pools are open. However, I’d recommend Dolenjske Toplice more for adults, be it for a weekend of rest and relaxation, some pampering ‘me’ time, participation in a health or medical programme, or just as a base for exploring the wonderful Dolenjska countryside.

My tips: Stay in Hotel Balnea for the best rooms and views (though if you like a powerful hairdryer, take your own!). The nearest supermarket is a 5 minute drive or a 15 minute walk, but directly opposite there is a well-stocked gift shop.

Getting there: by car is the most simple and convenient way to reach Dolenjske Toplice and also makes it easier to visit the surrounding areas. However, if you are reliant on public transport you can travel first by train to the city of Novo Mesto, 15 kilometres away, then take a bus or taxi for the remainder of the journey.

More information about Dolenjske Toplice can be  found here – http://www.terme-krka.com/us/en/destinations/dolenjske-toplice/

© Spas in Slovenia 2016