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If you’re travelling through Europe, Leukerbad in Switzerland makes a terrific mountain destination. Less touristy than Zermatt, this high altitude spa and ski town has hot springs, incredible mountain walks and – of course – the all important fondu.
Somehow I never imagined that Leukerbad in Switzerland would be so high up. I know this small Swiss town bills itself as the highest Alpine spa in Switzerland, and yes I know Switzerland is a country of snowy mountain peaks – but when I planned a Leukerbad spa honeymoon I didn’t know how dramatic it would look, 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.
Leukerbad in Switzerland – it’s hot! It’s cool!
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.)
A Leukerbad spa honeymoon is off the beaten path
You may have never heard of the spa town of Leukerbad. I hadn’t either until I was casting around for a Swiss spa town to go to for the second stage of Mark’s and my honeymoon extraordinaire. (Our first stop was Baden-Baden.) And even though we’d never heard of it, it’s the largest Alpine spa in Europe and definitely one of the highest altitude spa towns in Europe. Who knew? (Besides all those savvy Swiss.)
Too many Swiss spa choices
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.
BUT 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 so much in my husband’s.
Trouble in honeymoon paradise
“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 my new husband 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. 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 fanatic?
Leukerbad is more than a spa
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.”
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Plenty of hot springs in Leukerbad in Switzerland
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, the lovely Les Sources des Alpes.
The bathing complex called the Wallister Alpentherme was our favourite spa and soak destination in town 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.
A spa trip to Leukerbad includes a new world of sauna experiences
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 keep me up.
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 nothing but a towel came in, sprinkled rose oil on the hot stones and started whirling hot rose-scented air at everyone.
A rose sauna intensified
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 botanical garden), I was keen to check out the rest of ‘activity menu’ because there is no telling what these imaginative Swiss spa people in Leukerbad will come up with next.
Let me count the ways to spa in Leukerbad, Switzerland
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 thermal pool (smoked salmon and yogurt are on the menu) or even watch movies from the water.
You really could occupy yourself 100% of the time at the Leukerbad spas, but realizing that this is Mark’s holiday too, we’ve also spent a lot of time 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 we took a cable car high up into the Alps and … and … well, what more do you need? Oh, yes, we also shopped for Swiss army knives.
A Leukerbad spa honeymoon is a well-rounded vacation
And now that our spa honeymoon has developed into one with plenty of activities, Mark insists he is completely content (and he says he was before, too, and that I should forget he ever thought he wasn’t).
A year round destination
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 Mark in Leukerbad for the winter (and if we stayed here once the snow really hit, then we could ski, too.)
Travel tips for Leukerbad, Switzerland
How to get to Leukerbad. The town 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.)
You might want to combine a trip to Leukerbad with a trip to Zermatt, though you need to take the train down from the mountains and then up into them again – it’s in the same general region.
About Leukerbad’s thermal springs
The hot springs of Leukerbad take 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. Almost 4 million litres flow into Leukerbad from 65 springs into the thermal baths here each day at temperatures of up to 51 ºC. 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
Read more about Switzerland:
Read more about Leukerbad: A wonderful hike that we didn’t do (yes, you read that right) is Leukerbad and the Gemmi Pass.
Want more spa? Read The Spa and Spa Travel