Somehow I never imagined that Leukerbad would be so high up. I know this little Swiss town bills itself as the highest Alpine spa in Switzerland, and yes I know Switzerland is a country of snowy mountain peaks – I just didn’t know how dramatic it would all be, with the bus ride from the train station climbing up the side of the mountain, and the snow-covered crags staring down at you as you soaked in the thermal water.
I mean, how cool is that? (Actually, it’s only cool if you’re out of the water, and warm when you’re in it – the springs spout out at about 51C degrees.)
You may have never heard of Leukerbad. I hadn’t either until I was casting around for a new spa town to go to for the second stage of Mark’s and my honeymoon extraordinaire. I was sooo tempted to go back to Bad Ragaz, an elegant spa towards St. Moritz on the eastern side of Switzerland, but I was determined to try somewhere new.
And how could we go wrong with Leukerbad? Mountains and hot springs are a combo as delicious as chocolate and raspberry, at least in my mind – but perhaps not in Mark’s.
“If I wasn’t trying to cure up my back, I’m not sure I’d choose a spa for a vacation,” he said on our first morning in Leukerbad.
I stared at him dagger eyed. That statement is right up there with him telling my brother-in-law and sister that “he didn’t believe in spas.” This was about 4 years ago and I thought I’d converted him by now. Perhaps not.
You really do learn a lot about someone once you’re married.
“Well there goes about 100 hours of planning,” I said. Honestly, if he didn’t want a spa holiday he should have put a little work into the itinerary. Doesn’t he know better than to leave a honeymoon trip to Europe in the hands of a spa writer?
Besides, here’s the thing about a spa vacation. You don’t have to spa all the time. (Just most of it if you’re lucky, but don’t tell Mark I said that.)
“The thing is honey,” I explained patiently. “A spa holiday is just like any other, only you get to add in some saunas, maybe some soaks in some hot springs and a facial, or erm, I mean a sports massage.”
Plenty of hot springs
Leukerbad has 3 or 4 public thermal baths (depending on if you include clinics), and a few hotels have their own thermal pools such as our hotel, Les Sources des Alpes. The pool photos above are of the Wallister Alpentherme, which is lovely because of the view of the Alps and because of its attached Sauna Village, which really is like a little log house village, only each “house” is a sauna. I’ve never seen a ‘coffee steam bath’ before, which smelled good but I didn’t stay inside because it was evening and I thought all that caffeine surging through my pores might wake me up.
Looking at the world through a rose-coloured sauna
In another sauna cabin in the Sauna Village (the hottest one and Mark’s favourite, because for all his dismissive spa attitude I have never met a man more passionate about saunas), a man dressed in a towel came in, put rose oil on the hot stones and started whirling hot rose-scented air at everyone. Apparently there are special ‘sauna’ activities like this that take place all day long and even though I had to slink out before he was finished (I swear, it was liked being microwaved in a searing botanical garden), I’m keen to check out the rest of ‘activity menu’ because there is no telling what these imaginative Swiss spa folk will come up with next.
Let me count the ways to spa
Seriously, you can walk a themed thermal hike (which is really a bit daunting as it slices through a gorge), have a champagne breakfast in the pool (smoked salmon and yogurt are also on the menu) or watch movies from the water. You really could occupy yourself 100% of the time at the spa, but realizing that this is Mark’s holiday too, we have also started hiking (See? His back is better already!), taking day trips (well, at least one so far, to Bern and we’re thinking of Zermatt), and taken a cable car high up into the Alps and … and … well, what more do you need? Oh, yes, we’ve also shopped for Swiss army knives.
And now that our spa honeymoon has developed into a well-rounded vacation, Mark insists he is completely content (and he says he was before, too, and that I should forget he ever thought he wasn’t), and even if we weren’t doing all these day trips and outdoorsy excursions, I’m sure the Sauna Village alone would be enough to keep him here for the winter (and if we stayed here once winter really hit, then we could ski, too.)
Leukerbad and the famous Gemmi Pass is on my travel blog.
Travel tips for Leukerbad
Leukerbad is located in the canton of Valais in the southwestern part of Switzerland. To get there, take the train to Leuk and bus 471 from there. (The bus stop is right at the train station and times are coordinated with the trains, so it’s not so complicated.)
About Leukerbad’s thermal springs
The water takes a 40-year journey to get to Leukerbad – rain falls onto the Majinghorn and Torrenthorn mountains, seeps down some 3000 metres, heats up then pops out in Leukerbad. The water is rich in calcium sulphate and is supposed to particularly good for rheumatoid and neurological complaints. And honeymoons. Just ask Mark.
For more information on Switzerland visit MySwitzerland.com
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