If you like receiving a massage, being in a pool until your skin is all wrinkly or if you just want to improve your general health, then Portugal might just be the right place for you.
The country has a multitude of thermal baths, which were sought after even before we were a country. Often people would go to the nearest hot springs in search of healing and this included (and still does, in some cases) prayers and faith, which is why you’ll find churches near most thermal baths. We’ve had them since the time of the Romans (maybe even before that, in some places) and they were used by royalty as well.
Today, you can go for a treatment under medical supervision or just enjoy the pools, massages and general relaxation. Some thermal baths are open all year round, while others are open from Spring to early-mid Autumn. Most thermal baths give you the possibility of choosing from several wellness and relax programs (ranging from 1 day to 2 weeks, in most cases) or you can just choose whatever treatment you want. Some have the medical treatments and spa in the same space, whereas others draw a clear line between the two.
As you’ll notice on the map bellow, most thermal baths in Portugal are located in the central-inner part of the country. This, obviously, means lots of relax-food-wine-sightseeing combos! Beware, however, that in some places most visitors are around 70 years old. Retired and enjoying a massage just because I can? Hey, I could live with that!
Why go to a thermal bath in the country instead of a fancy spa in the city? Well, two main reasons: 1) if you live in a city it means a weekend getaway (at least), mixing pampering and activities that you enjoy, such as hiking, visiting the local museums or just stuffing your face with local food; 2) generally speaking, most spa treatments are cheaper there than they are in the city spas. Example: in Lisbon you pay a fairly high price for, say, a Vichy shower. You get the relaxing music and maybe some candles, but you’re being massaged with tap water. When you leave you just go back to the traffic and the routine. In most thermal baths you get to pay about half the price for the same massage with thermal water. Granted: no music and no candles here, in most cases, but when you leave you don’t have to go to work or wash the dishes or anything of the sort.
This, of course, doesn’t apply if you’re lucky enough to live near a thermal bath, in which case I don’t think I’d feel sorry for you. 🙂 Simply put, you can have many different experiences in the Portuguese thermal baths, as they’re not all run in the same way. So, just pick one and experience what it has to offer.