My first time ever in a thermal facility was, precisely, in Gerês, in 2009. I’ll spare you the sordid details about the bathing suit Vs bikini question and my experience with it. Instead, I’ll just give you the really necessary and interesting info. I’ve been to these thermal baths 2 or 3 times (and plan on going back) so please consider my experiences here as a whole.
The facilities include the medical treatment area and the spa area, although it’s all in the same building, technically. Only if you’re drinking this water (and that’s if you have a medical prescription) do you have to actually leave the building but you won’t need to go far. If you have orientation skills like mine it’s easy to end up in the wrong place, but fear not! There’s always someone around to help you out if you’re lost, have trouble walking or if you forgot your glasses in the locker (I saw this happen!). As usual in this kind of facility you’ll be given a bath robe, flip flops and towels.
If you’re going for a wellness and relax program it’s likely that it includes what they call a “circuit”. This is a kind of a basic spa experience which consists of gym + sauna or Turkish bath + three showers with different temperatures, different essences and water pressures + pool with fancy goodies, like underwater jet massage and jacuzzi. Next to the pool there are some comfy chairs that allow you to relax (more!) and there’s a trick to sort of ’tilt’ them backwards so that you’re almost lying down but with your feet up! If you can’t figure it out for yourself just observe the
old-timers more experienced people walking around. This pool also has a glass ceiling, which means you can be floating in the jacuzzi while gazing at the sky.
I’ve never had a medical treatment at a thermal facility (simply because I avoid doctors in general), so let me tell you some things about the spa treatments. You can get the basic stuff, in which you’re just immersed in the water (like whirlpool bathtubs, jacuzzi, etc.), you can have a therapist do a sort of shower massage (using a special nozzle to regulate the water pressure) or you can choose from a wide variety of massages.
My favourites? I believe the Vichy shower is a crowd pleaser. Warm water + gentle massage including all the main parts and even the fingertips = smile on anyone’s face. Last time I was there I also tried the Shiatsu massage for the first time and I have to say I’ll get another as soon as I can. The therapist was wonderful and I was totally zonked out when she was finished. The hot stone massage was super relaxing as well!
All over the building there are places where you can just sit in between treatments, browse a magazine or enjoy a cup of tea. My favourite spot in the spa area: there’s a small room with a little window, the comfy tilting chairs and soft music being played where you can enjoy your tea and if you happen to
sleep close your eyes nobody will bother you.
My tips: if you’re going with a friend/significant other there’s no need to stress about whether your treatments will be in the same schedules. You can ask the personnel to book your treatments bearing in mind that you’re going with somebody else, so they’ll try to squeeze everything in the schedule that’s best for you. As an FYI be advised that, particularly if you’re going during the thermal season, some “veterans” book their treatments months in advance, so don’t wait until the least minute.
Where is it? Googlemaps knows!
How do I get there? Car is the best option. This part of Gerês is about 1h30 from Porto. If you’re coming from the South part of the country it’s best to take the highway to Porto and go to Gerês from there.
How can I have more info? Their website is totally in Portuguese, unfortunately, but you can get basically the same information plus prices and other details from their hotel website. The same company that runs the thermal facilities also has a hotel and a park.
We’ll be talking about this hotel, the park and giving some tips about Gerês over the next few days. Don’t miss it!