Do you know which is the best hidden secret of Slovakia?
Water. Underground water. Healing underground water.
This secret, unknown to most people, is this country’s greatest asset to become the next hottest Wellness destination for avid travelers looking for new adventures. Everyone has heard about Roman therms, Turkish hammam, Finnish sauna, Japanese Sento bathhouses, Carlsbad hot springs, Traditional Chinese medicine…. but no one relates Slovakia to Wellness. Well, it is the perfect time to start exploring this Central European country which might be small in size but holds a big soul.
Nowadays everything is sold as Wellness. The question should be “What is really wellness?”
Wellness is a state beyond absence of illness that rather aims to optimize well-being. It is a term that has been around for less than 100 years and focuses on lifestyle changes to create routines that help prevent sickness and strengthen our own defenses. In order to achieve this, we need to work on our body (physical), mind (thoughts) and soul (emotions). This means that just one massage, just 15’ in a sauna, just one day drinking enough water, just breathing one time through stress… is not Wellness. The best approach to wellness is to establish daily routines and take care of ourselves, even for a moment (but everyday!), in this fast-paced world.
Wellness means “Take a moment for yourself” regularly because taking care of yourself is preventing sickness in the long run.
Therefore, if you are looking for your next perfect Wellness Destination to take a moment for yourself, Slovakia is the place to go for several reasons:
Thermal baths and hot springs
In Slovakia there are around 1.300 mineral sources providing curative water and high quality mineral water. It is said that if all the water from the mineral springs in Slovakia was bottled, they would stock the whole of Europe. This underground secret treasure, unknown to most people, can be enjoyed in most of the healing spas around the country. The Spa region in Piešťany is one of the most famous areas for this kind of waters and treatments. Here, for example, you can find Hotel Thermia Palace, the first thermal luxury hotel in Slovakia, and its Irma Balneotherapy House (1912). The first bathhouses in this region were constructed in 1778, restored in 1820 and became leading health spas for rheumatism in Europe in 1889. A place where aristocrats and imperial guests, like the last Austrian Emperor Charles I, went to enjoy some wellness time. Due to all the conflicts during the 1900’s, healing Spas in Slovakia lost their touristic appeal, and marketing redirected wellness visitors to other countries in Europe. Now, since the creation of the Slovak Republic, the government and private investment have been working to recover the fame and good name of these facilities as quality wellness destinations. Slowly but surely, more and more people are discovering the wonders of the hot springs tradition in Slovakia.
Wellness Centers and Spas
Thermal baths tradition and mineral waters led to the creation of wellness centers, Spas and water parks all over the country. Some of them use normal waters and some take advantage of their location and use thermal waters. Nevertheless, local and foreign tourists relax and take time for themselves in the numerous wellness centers and Spas associated to almost each hotel in the country, especially the ones located in High & Low Tatras. Again, thanks to the creation of the Slovak Republic almost 30 years ago, we can see how private efforts are improving these facilities and the quality of service. You will find excellent treatments, top cosmetic products and everything combined with amazing views of wild nature surrounding these spaces. Good examples of what I am mentioning are:
– Zion Spa in Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras and in Grand Hotel River Park Bratislava; recognized slovak luxury spa brand focused on a holistic approach to health. Beautiful spaces with amazing surroundings that invite to take some time for yourself and relax after a hard day at work or a nice hike in the mountains.
– Wellness Center in Hotel Lomnica, a historic hotel opened in 1894 where aristocrats, statesmen and artists used to enjoy views, food and open air. Recently reconstructed and brought back to life, offers new spa facilities, treatments and cosmetics to follow the centenary Spa tradition of this historical space.
Wellness affirms that we are Nature, so reconnecting with it brings health to your body, peace to your mind and freedom to your soul. Slovakia has probably the best wild natural areas you can find in Europe. Slovaks are in love with their country and all the protected areas they can explore. If you like hiking in the mountains, discovering lakes, or skiing in winter , you just found the place you want to travel to. High peaks, hidden untouched lakes, valleys, bike routes… everything and anything you can imagine is here. When we talk about a Wellness Destination, Nature is a must. Just google Slovenský Raj (Slovak paradise), Zelené Pleso (Green lake) or Kriváň and you will start feeling what real nature and wellness is about.
You cannot talk about Wellness without mentioning gastronomy. Every country and every culture has typical dishes, and to fully connect with them you need to understand the local products and the cooking possibilities through history. This is a really personal point of view, but trying to connect with the local recipes brings warmth to your heart. This country is rich in dishes with poultry, pork and game because hunting is really popular. They combine this with cabbage, potatoes and their traditional sheep chees, bryndza. Anywhere you go, you can try their traditional food in their traditional restaurants, Koliba and Salaš. Modern times imply modern chefs, though, so you will find more and more restaurants that revisit traditional slovak cuisine and bring these old recipes to new levels, such as:
– Boutique Hotel Slávia in Košice, with Chef Juraj Hruška who uses local natural ingredients to create seasonal menus based in traditional dishes of the slovak cookbooks, adding a twist of finesse and luxury.
– Folks Food Truck, with Chef Tomáš Tejbus who wants to make slovak food approachable for younger people using traditional dishes and delivering them in a fast food quality way.
– Doma u nás, with Chef Gabo Kocák who has brought back home his experience working in Michelin star restaurants, and now exploring slovak cuisine with an extra touch of care.
Cultural heritage, traditions and hospitality
Your mind, body and soul need to feel the local culture, understand the traditions and experience the hospitality of any place you visit to fully feel relaxed and connected. Slovaks are the proudest people I’ve seen when it comes to their heritage and they are the happiest to share it with all the visitors that show any interest. Slovakia has a rich history that starts way before it existed as a country, when this territory was part of the Roman Empire, during the invasion of the Huns and the final settlement of Slavic people. In this small territory you will find a mix of traditions from east to west, all related with each season of the year to show how nature and humans are interconnected to a level that proves that we are part of each other. No other country in this area can compare to slovak hospitality. People will share table, food, drinks and stories with you if you are willing to listen. They love toasting (Na zdravie!) and foreigners that make that extra effort of speaking basic words of their language. Immerse in this unique culture because connecting with people is wellness taken to a level you haven’t experienced before.
And here we are, trying to decide which will be our first holiday destination after such challenging times. If you are Slovak, you are lucky because you already have everything I’ve described right here, and the unique opportunity to explore further your own country. If you are not slovak, don’t worry, this is the perfect occasion to start planning your next trip to Slovakia before everyone starts discovering its best hidden secrets.
Slovakia is the choice right now because we are all looking for an interesting, fun and safe destination that will allow us to really relax and discover something new, while letting our minds, bodies and souls disconnect to reconnect.
Because a true Wellness Destination is not just a destination, but a journey that starts when you go back home.