An hour’s drive from Porto in Northern Portugal is the new Pedras Salgadas spa and nature park. Situated in a forest, it has a collection of eco-houses and two tree houses which offer a true connection with nature. The modern designs of the accommodation blend seamlessly with the trees and offer a great escape from life. Cycle, hike or spa – this is a great back to get away from it all.
The spa and thermal spa waters are the stars of the show at Pedras Salgadas. Famous across Portugal, they are rich in minerals and naturally sparkling. The thermal water is used for some of the spa treatments and by consultation with the resident doctor for courses of three days or ore. The water is, naturally, available to drink in the spa. With a gentle sparkle, and light fizz on the tongue, I found it ever so refreshing and oh, so spa.
The art nouveau thermal spa was renovated by the architect Alvaro Siza Vieira and has a great range of spa, wellness and beauty treatments. Its ornate design features were, thankfully retained during the refurbishment, but on the whole, the space is functional, formal and bordering on medical.
The spa doesn’t indulge in luxury touches, focussing solely on treatments and results. Its’ white corridors and pared back relaxation rooms are simple and filled with daylight. It’s fairly stark, but totally authentic and true to its heritage.
The spa is big: it has 14 treatment rooms (including five for hydrotherapy and two double rooms). The facilities also include a heated indoor pool with a walking lane, sauna, hammam, Jacuzzi, water jet massage, Vichy shower and two relaxation rooms.
The mineral waters of the Pedras Salgadas spring gained international fame in the nineteenth century when they won prizes for their therapeutic value at the International Exhibition of Vienna, Austria, in 1873. The prize spurred the construction of a Thermal Spa, which was eventually completed in 1879. More springs have since been discovered and the spa and its famous waters have been popular with royalty and the general public ever since.
The spa treatment we enjoyed in a couples suite (with The Spa Man 2) was a body wrap and massage using rich algae clay from the Le Phyto range. To begin with, hydrating algae clay is massaged into the skin with a lively massage that was both uplifting and reviving. It included a firm stomach massage that was well executed and the next day ensured that my bloated belly had subsided. After a quick shower to remove the mask you lay face down and have a hydrating body balm applied head to toe.
Natural daylight is celebrated in the treatment rooms, which have large windows and a light blind for privacy, and its daylight all round, there’s no blackout blinds here. It was a complete contrast from most European spas, odd to begin with, but actually a refreshing change.
Visiting one of Portugal’s traditional thermal spas
Sipping Pedras sparkling water
Walking through the forest of the nature park
Marvelling at the historical architecture
Paired down, back to basics and totally true to its heritage
ROOM TO IMPROVE:
Some reading material in the relaxation rooms and a little more explanation about the treatment would have been good. But that could be down to the language barrier.
Massage treatments start from 40 euros