Five Best: Mountain Spas
Louie Jones finds the classiest places to relax after a tough day on the slopes
Saturday 14 October 2006
Bagni Vecchi, Italy
Praised by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, the hot water in the Bagni Vecchi has been delighting Italians since the first century AD. Joined on the outskirts of Bormio by upstart Bagni Nuovi in 1836, the historic spa complex offers over 60 different places to unwind - including the original Roman chambers, mud and steam subterranean grottos, waterfalls, and 11 outdoor pools. A huge range of massages and treatments is also available. Leonardo (da Vinci, not DiCaprio) was a guest of the Bagni Vecchi hotel, a castle perched on the cliffs; the Bagni Nuovi is a much grander affair. But you don't have to ski in Bormio to take to the waters; the baths are just 35km from Livignio and an easy day trip from St Moritz/Engadin.
Bagni Vechhi, Bormio, Italy (00 39 342 910131; www.bagnidibormio.it). Open 10am-8pm, until 11pm on Thursdays. Entrance from €30 (£20). Doubles from €208 (£140), including breakfast and admission.
Therme Vals, Switzerland
Church bells from the valley below echo off the quartzite columns surrounding the outdoor pool; petals float across the flower chamber; heat radiates from the adobe walls in the fire room. Ten years old, this arresting take on classical baths is hewn out of the local black stone. Thermal pools are complemented by a sauna and steam room; relaxation rooms peer out onto alpine meadows. The spa is easily accessible from Flims/Laax.
Therme Vals, Vals, Switzerland (00 41 81 926 8080; www.therme-vals.ch).
Open daily 11am-10pm. Entrance SFr30 (£12.80) adults, SFr20 (£8.50) children. Doubles in the Hotel Therme Vals start at SFr208 (£89), including breakfast.
Aqua Dome, Austria
This giant, airy spa satisfies families, design buffs and serenity seekers alike. Fed by the Längenfeld spring, the glass-domed indoor swimming pool and elevated outdoor jacuzzis are dominated by the looming Ötztal Alps. In the sauna complex, it's strictly voices down and clothes off. Towel-toting Austrians trot between earth, hay and herb saunas, steam rooms, an ice grotto, volcano waterfall and the outdoor pool. The slopes of Sölden, Obergurgl and little Oetz are close by.
Aqua Dome, Ötztal Valley, Austria (00 43 5253 6400; www.aqua-dome.at). Open daily 9am-10pm. Entrance from €13 (£8.80) for adults, €6.50 (£4.40) under 15s (plus €2 (£1.35) supplement on weekends and holidays); €7 (£4.70) extra for admission to the sauna complex. Doubles in the hotel from €250 (£170), half board.
Ten Thousand Waves, US
At the southern tip of the Rockies, little Santa Fe Ski Basin boasts one of the highest base elevations on the North American continent, along with dry-as-the-desert powder and bright sunny days. Halfway between the no-frills resort and the adobe walls of Santa Fe is this tribute to the Japanese onsen, an serene outdoor complex of private hot tubs. Each affords views across the desert hillside; super premium tubs have their own saunas. Pretty pagodas serve as therapy rooms; 12 elegant cottage suites are located in the grounds. Book in advance for a tub at the end of the ski day.
Ten Thousand Waves, Santa Fe, New Mexico (001 505 992 5025; www.tenthousandwaves.com). Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10.15am-9.30pm, Tuesday 4pm-9:30pm, Friday to Sunday and holidays, 9.15am-10.30pm. Private tubs from $20 (£11). Double rooms from $99 (£53).
Resembling a Seventh Day Adventist temple from the outside, this tower of glass contains a watery theme park within. The giant thermal lagoon is like a leisure pool turned up to 11, busy with whirlpools and water massage jets. Outside, the snaking thermal river and hot tubs are a calmer affair, as the surrounding mountains work their peace-bestowing magic. Elaborately-themed saunas, hammams, ice pools and footbaths slow the pace another notch. Adults wishing to escape the hubbub entirely pay extra (from €73/£50, depending on treatment) to enter the club level, an upper floor of massage rooms, relaxation areas and smaller pools and saunas. The spa is on the edge of Andorra's capital city, la Vella, making it a short drive from most of the principality's resorts.
Caldea, Engordany, Andorra (00 376 800 999; www.caldea.ad). Open daily from 9.30am-11pm (last admission at 9pm), Saturdays from 9.30am-12 midnight (last admission 10pm). Entrance from €29.50 (£20), 5-12 year olds €22 (£15).
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