The French, in particular, take vacationing very seriously, with a minimum of 15 consecutive days. There’s a long history in France of combining time off with time to rejuvenate. Now, almost three years into what appears to be an unending, though less scary, pandemic, many people are seeking getaways rooted in self-care. It’s called wellness tourism.
Pilgrimages to French hot springs date as far back as the age of the Gauls and the Romans. The thermal baths of the Pyrénées were historically used as healing destinations by ancient civilizations and eventually ‘rediscovered’ by soldiers during the crusades. It wasn’t until the 19th century that “spa tourism” was developed in France. Today many of these destinations still offer healing properties to their visitors.
Looking out directly onto the white-capped summits, these five thermal destinations are located on France’s border with Spain in the Pyrénées mountain range. They are a perfect French winter getaway that won’t break the bank with entry rates of under 20 € per person.
Les Bains de Llo
Les Bains de Llo offers sulfurous outdoor pools, a toning spa with fountains and hot tubs, a relaxing spa with lounge chairs, and even music. Located along the Sègre Gorge, it promises incredible views and a rejuvenating break. It’s surely one of the regions’ more low-key thermal baths, with plenty of locals as well as visitors enjoying their time soaking. The entrance is currently 15.50 € per adult or a family package of 47 € for four visitors (2 kids and 2 adults.)
Les Bains de Dorres
Les Bains de Dorres have existed here since the Roman times and include two antique baths carved out of granite blocks to complement the old washhouse. These springs are naturally at 40°C (104°F.) Located near the village of Dorres, in Cerdagne, the historical experience is complemented by 180-degree views from the Canigou to Sierra del Cadi. Entry is priced at a mere 5,50 € per adult! Perhaps the French hot springs are both healthy and affordable!
Les Bains de Saint-Thomas
Les Bains de Saint-Thomas are located at an elevation and feature picturesque water basins and sweeping views of the mountains. The bathing area is a vast amphitheater made of stone which houses three hot, sulphureous water basins. Decked out with jacuzzis and jets, this destination also features three steam rooms, two hot tubs, and various treatment rooms. All-inclusive service, non? The cost per adult it 7 €.
Les Bains du Couloubret in Ax-les-Thermes
This famous hot spring located in Ax-Les-Thermes is known to have the hottest springs in the Pyrenees at 77°C (170 °F)! Les Bains du Couloubret is open year-round and also offers medical facilities. While the outdoor spa is always the attractive element in a hot springs, the indoor bathing house at Couloubret looks like a true flashback to Roman times. Take your time to enjoy all the pools and activities and then relax in the solarium with a view of the mountains. This swanky thermal destination charges 20 € with a variety of packages available for a discount price.
Balnéa in Loudenvielle
Perhaps some of the most beautiful springs are the thermal waters at Balnéa. This premier spa invites you to try out four distinct treatments from the Native American, Roman, Japanese and Incan cultures. Each space has its own private pools and procedures, while the Roman space is the one with the swoon-worthy outdoor pools and sweeping views of the mountains. The entrance goes at 18,00 € – 20.00 €, depending on the time of the year and day of the week.