Why eastern Slovenia is an under-the-radar wellness destination that every spa lover should visit

26th Jun 19 | Lifestyle

Healing waters, energy points and natural thermal spas. Liz Connor finds an overlooked European region with rest and relaxation on the menu.

Ever since Lonely Planet touted postcard-perfect Slovenia as one of it’s best value travel destinations of last year, the country has been creeping up the ranks with adventure tourists, who’ve already ticked off the adrenaline-soaked treasures of the neighbouring Dalmatian Coast.

As the only country that combines four of Europe’s distinct geographical features – the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pannonian Plain (a lowland basin) and the Karst (a rocky limestone region) – Slovenia boasts landscapes so perfect, they practically ache to be hiked, canoed or traversed in whichever way you see fit.

And traverse you should – but don’t make the mistake of giving all your attention to the country’s dramatic western region (the one that’s famous for Lake Bled, the Julian Alps and Postojna Cave).

Wonderful Slovenia on kranjska Gora and the Jasna Lake
Slovenia is known for its adventure travel (iStock/PA)

To the east lies a path less trodden by tourists, and while it might not boast the snow-capped ranges or Instagram-worthy waterfalls that form as you edge towards the Italian border, it’s just as gorgeous in its own right.

The lesser-explored part of the country is all grassy vistas, flat, rolling vineyards and neat little chocolate box villages that could be mistaken for Switzerland. Here, you can tap into another of the country’s very well-kept natural secrets too; natural Magnesium-rich springs, bubbling thermal waters and destination spas.

If a slower pace of life is what you’re looking for, this pretty part of Slovenia is poised as the perfect wellness break for sports recovery or a spot of much-needed self-care. And at only three hours by plane from the UK too, it’s doable in a long weekend.

Here are five local wellness destinations to have on your radar…

1. Best for sports recovery

Where: Terme 3000, Moravske Toplice

Terme 3000 pools
One of the pools at Terme 3000 (Terme 3000/PA)

Slovenia isn’t as famous as Iceland when it comes to natural hot springs, but the Pannonian sea that occupied the heart of the Prekmurje region millions of years ago has left traces of them across the country.

This family-friendly spa, water park and resort is famous for its black mineral water baths; large, inky-coloured pools that spring from hundreds of metres under the ground. Locals say that submerging yourself in the water can help to treat all types of skin and inflammatory conditions, from chronic rheumatism and psoriasis to neurodermatitis.

Black thermal springs
Healing black mineral water baths in Moravske Toplice (Terme 3000/PA)

Surrounding the two black water baths is an enormous water park – the biggest in Slovenia – with 28 indoor and outdoor pools with plenty of water attractions and slides to keep little ones entertained. At its heart is the Thermalium Wellness Centre, an indoor spa with services to pamper, soothe and pummel away pain.

Many treatments are inspired by the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, using holistic therapies and bespoke massage techniques, although you can’t go wrong with the classic full body massage (€39/£34.89 for 45 minutes), administered with a good slathering of fragrant Prekmurje herbs.

Doubles from €149.40/£133 with breakfast. Visit sava-hotels-resorts.com.

2. Best for healing from the inside out

Where: Rogaska Medical Centre, Rogaska Slatina

Legend has it that Apollo ordered his winged horse Pegasus to strike his hoof to the earth at Rogaska, open up the Roitschocrene spring and drink from the powerful source.

These days, Rogaska is a buzzing medical centre where people trek from far and wide to drink from the famous Donat Mg water springs, a bitter mineral water with a unique magnesium content of 1000mg per litre. Three euros (or €45 for 14 days) gets you a refillable glass in the centre’s light and airy atrium, where you can guzzle all the Donat you can drink  – although it’s recommended to sip small amounts slowly, as the water can have a rather unfortunate laxative effect.

Magnesium-rich Donat MG water
Magnesium-rich Donat MG water (Liz Connor/PA)

If you can stomach the metallic taste, the spa say that drinking small amounts of the water on a daily basis can help to lower cholesterol, speed up metabolism and boost immunity. The centre also has a clinical laboratory and over 40 specialists on-hand, with a medical focus on gastroenterological and endocrine diseases, and post-surgery conditions (full details and prices at rogaska-medical.com).

An area to relax
An area for guests to relax in the wellness hotel Grand Hotel Sava (Grand Hotel Sava/PA)

There are 10 hotels around the medical centre, each with its own doctor, but our recommended stay is Grand Hotel Sava, a health-focused property with over 250 rooms, a very good spa, daily wellness activities such as healing sound baths, and several different types of sauna.

Doubles from €75/£67.10 with breakfast. Visit rogaska.si.

3. Best for sweating it out in a sauna

Where: Terme Olimia, Podcetrtek

Slovenians take their saunas very seriously and you’ll see why here. Half hidden in the surrounding landscape, this sprawling spa village is one of Kozjansko’s best assets – three hotels and a cluster of chic apartments surrounding the famous Wellness Orhidelia, a destination spa that’s reachable underground from all the hotels and accommodations. (The idea is that you can cleverly pad from bed to spa in your robe, without getting soaked in the rain.)

The very well designed Terme Olimia
The very well designed Terme Olimia (Terme Olimia/PA)

The design is modern and sleek and draws a much younger crowd than the rest of the spas in Slovenia. In fact, the complex earned a nod of approval from the architecture world when it was nominated for a Mies van der Rohe award in 2007.

The indoor pools and contemporary roof design at Terme Olimia in Podcetrtek (Terme Olimia/PA)

There’s a whole ‘world’ of saunas to meander between – from classic Finnish and steam varieties to high-tech infrared technology. Slovenians sauna naked (mixed gender), so you’ll need to be comfortable with ditching the swimming costume if you want the full experience – but people are generally unfazed by the spectacle, and there’s no need to feel self-conscious. Parts of the spa are also nudist-friendly and there’s even a Friday naked swim if you’re really looking to feel uber-liberated.

Mon-Thur €27.50/£25 for an adult day pass to Wellness Orhidelia; €39/£35 Fri-Sun. The Wellness Hotel Sotelia is offering stays from €104.50/£93.50 per person on a half-board basis (two sharing), including access to the sauna world and pools. Valid until July 21. Visit terme-olimia.com.

4. Best for wellness with the kids

Where: Thermana Lasko, Lasko

The Lasko thermal springs have a rich history dating back to Roman times, when they’re said to have been frequented by legionaries. Today, Thermano Lasko is a medical centre and kid-friendly hotel with 188 rooms, a big indoor-outdoor pool area and hiking and biking trails in the local hills.

The family-friendly Thermano Lasko
The family-friendly Thermano Lasko (Thermano Lasko/PA)

The health centre has a Certificate of Eden (excellence for disabled tourism) and specialises in anti lower-back pain programmes, post-stroke and post-lower extremity injury programmes, and there’s round-the-clock medical care for guests. If you’re just looking to relax though, there’s a dreamy list of over 200 wellness treatments to choose from, plus a standalone Ayurveda and Thai massage centre.

The little town of Lasko takes pride in its self-titled local beers, its most famous being Lasko Zlatorog (4.9% abv), a light and tasty blond lager. At Thermano Lasko, I tried a rather unusual but excellent beer massage (whole body, 60 mins, €59/£53; partial body, 20 mins, €28/£25 ) that’s unique to the area, using a vitamin A-enriched butter that’s made with local hops. It’s fragrant, relaxing and leaves the skin feeling surprisingly silky soft.

Doubles from €60/£53 per person per night with breakfast. Visit thermana.si.

5. Best for getting a green boost

Where: Vila Planinka, Zgornje Jezersko

If a cabin in the woods is your idea of ultimate wellness, this highly-Instagrammable bolthole is making a play for tourists who like their hotels to come with all the hipster trappings; locally-sourced produce, roaring log fires and WiFi-free rooms for an imposed digital detox.

Vila Planinka
All of the materials used in the hotel are sourced from local craftsmen (Vila Planinka/PA)

With impressive eco-credentials and a design that brings the outdoors in, Vila Planinka might not have the medical mod-cons of other spas in the area, but it can soothe stress with something stronger; a dose of good old fashioned mother nature.

One of the bedrooms in Vila Planinka
One of the suites in Vila Planinka (Vila Planinka/PA)

The hotel has Jezersko on its doorstep, a pristine mountain range with snow-capped peaks. Slovenia is the third most forested country in Europe and the natural wealth is preserved with love. There are lots of different trails to take, but a 30-minute trek through flora and fauna (the hotel reception can give you a map) takes you to Planšarsko lake, a heart-shaped lagoon surrounded by fir trees, and a pier that looks out onto a perfect view.

On the way, you can stop at one of the country’s many ‘energy points’ – areas of natural beauty which are believed to spiritually rejuvenate the visitor.

Planšarsko Lake
Planšarsko Lake (Slovenian Tourist Board/PA)

Warm up afterwards by hunkering down in the hotel’s Swedish sauna or head straight to the bar for a lesson in local Slovenian wines. The country has three very good vino-making regions (Primorska, Posavje and Podravje) which have received a boastful amount of awards in excellence.

Slovenians are particularly famous for their orange wines, which are made by applying the same methods as red wine making to white grapes – i.e. the skins are left on, producing tannins. Highly knowledgeable hotel staff can pour you a glass or two and tell you about the process. Sadly, there’s no Slovenian healing elixir to avoid feeling fuzzy the morning after, but it’s well worth the sore head. Wellness is all about balance, after all.

Doubles from €193/£172 with breakfast. Visit vilaplaninka.com.

How to get there

Wizz Air (wizzair.com) operates up to four weekly flights to Ljubljana on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from London Luton. Fares start from  £24.99 one-way.

For more information on Slovenia and its wellness tourism offering, visit slovenia.info.

© Press Association 2019

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