WE FANCY A FOREIGN HEALTH FARM

We have had several weekends at health farms in the UK and are interested in doing something similar abroad. Can you offer any suggestions?

R Botham

Notting Hill

Jill Crawshaw replies: There are certainly plenty of opportunities, but the choice really depends on which is more important to you; the holiday or the spa activities? It is also important to distinguish between the genuine health centres from those that are hotels offering a range of beauty treatments.

Some tour operators include hotels with spas or health centres in their holiday brochures. With Panorama (01273 206531) for example, if you are staying in one of the Azur group of hotels in Tunisia's most popular beach resort Hammamet, you can take a thalassotherapy course - the treatment using hot sea waters with seaweed or mud pack treatment which is supposed to help with various forms of stress, slimming, arthritis, rheumatism, and claims it can help you give up smoking. A one day course costs pounds 50, four days pounds 180.

Two brochures specialise in spas and health centres abroad, with France and Central Europe widely featured, as these holidays have always been more popular in those areas than in this country. (Some offer "cures" on their own national health services).

Erna Low's (Tel: 0171 584 2841) "Spas Worldwide" features a wide range, with the more traditional centres in Hungary and the Czech Republic. Hungary's most famous spa, the Gallert Hotel on the banks of the Danube in Budapest, offers balneotherapy treatments, including mud packs, thermal baths, massage, and electrotherapy, with basic treatments claiming relief from rheumatic and arthritic problems and digestive disorders. The cost per person is from pounds 401-pounds 456 and includes seven nights b&b accommodation, one dinner, three massages, Turkish Roman bathing and sparkling bath. Flights are from pounds 190.

Spas in Malta, Tenerife, Spain, France, and Portugal are also included in the brochure, as are the famous mud treatments in Italy. At the luxurious Hotel Terme Savoia, Abano, costs are from pounds 646 per person per week, plus flights to Venice from pounds 190.

Destinations further afield include Costa Rica, Jamaica, South Africa and Finland where, at the Haikko Manor Spa in Porvoo, about 30 miles from Helsinki, you can combine a health break with skiing, snowmobile safaris, and ice-hole fishing in the winter. A week's half board costs from pounds 731 per person (plus air fares to Helsinki from pounds 270), including the use of the fitness centre. Various treatments are available including anti- cellulite "cures", muscle activator calisthenics and skin cleansing.

The other Spa specialist, Thermalia Travel (Tel: 0171 463 1898) offers 18 spa destinations worldwide with a choice of treatments including thalassotherapy, ozone baths, aromatherapy, fangotherapy (mud treatments), Thai massage, and the terrifying sounding "lymph drainage", as well as a range of detoxification and fitness programmes to tackle stress and weight.

Thermalia's lead-in price is from pounds 765 for a week at the Hotel Dvorak in the Czech Republic, which covers flights, half-board accommodation and a range of spa treatments. A 10-night anti-stress programme at St Martin in the Caribbean costs from pounds 1,544; 10 nights at the Chiva-Som Health Resort in Thailand's Hua Hin - Asia's first dedicated health spa - claims to combine Buddhist philosophy to promote a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit, with Western techniques, at a cost from pounds 1,832 per week; all these prices include flights.

8 Jill Crawshaw is a travel expert, writer, and broadcaster.

ACCOMMODATION PROBLEMS IN SPAIN

I am planning to walk at least part of the Camino de Santiago (Way of St James) in Spain, in September of this year. But I am having difficulty obtaining information on accommodation. I have a month and would like to finish in Santiago.

G Boyle

Ayreshire

The Travel Editor replies:

The Spanish Tourist Office in London will be delighted to help. You need to decide which sections of the walk you want to cover. The whole route runs right across northern Spain, through the provinces of Huesca, Navarra, La Rioja, Burgos, Palencia, Leon, Lugo, La Coruna and Santiago.

Having chosen the provinces you intend to walk through, you can ask the Spanish tourist office to send you lists of accommodation for each province. The lists cover a range of accommodation types. There is also a general "Way of St James" brochure.

To obtain these brochures call the tourist office brochure line on 0891 669920 and leave a recorded message. For more specific queries, call 0171 499 0901. When in London, you can drop in at 57-58 St James St, SW1A.

PACKAGE HOLIDAYS FOR OLDER TOURISTS

A South American friend of mine is planning to bring his 80-year-old mother to Britain. He has asked me to find an all-inclusive package deal that would take them through some of the main European cities for a month, and that caters for the elderly.

R Lozano

The Travel Editor replies:

The best known tour operator that caters specifically for the needs of older holiday-makers is Saga Holidays (tel: 0800 300 500). These have a number of all-inclusive tours in Europe, which combine air travel from the UK, with coach travel once in the chosen area of Europe.

HOW DO I AVOID PRICKLY HEAT?

I am travelling to India soon and I am concerned about prickly heat. I spent a year in the Caribbean without suffering, yet recently the rash has appeared from brief periods in the sun here in Newcastle. I have tried using a sunbed to "toughen" my skin; could this be causing it? Should I avoid the sun before I go? Are any treatments particularly effective?

C Frost

Newcastle

Prickly heat is not, as most people believe, directly related to overexposure to the sun. In fact it arises due to the plugging up of the sweat ducts during hot weather. It occurs typically on the trunk and neck, but may also affect other parts such as the arms of even scalp. Exactly why the glands become blocked isn't known, but is probably the result of unevaporated sweat which may be excessive in hot and humid conditions. The skin becomes inflamed, resulting in the prickly itchy rash which is extremely uncomfortable and can disturb sleeping. The problem often resolves itself once people have been in the warm climate for some time.

Prickly heat can be prevented by trying to ensure that you keep clean and dry, helped by wearing cool, loose fitting cotton clothing. A cool shower at the end of the day provides some relief, taking care to dry the skin thoroughly and perhaps using talcum powder. If you do develop a mild case of prickly heat, then applying calamine preparations will relieve the itching. In more severe cases, taking anti-histamine tablets and applying hydrocortisone cream should help the itching and inflammation.

You mention the use of sunbed to "toughen" yourself to exposure to the sun. This is really not to be recommended, as a natural tan will thicken the skin, offering some degree of protection, whereas a tan from a sunbed will not have this property. The general advice is to avoid tanning at all, but, if you really want to, then build up the tan gradually over the holiday.

8 Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8, Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.

Comments