Leukerbad is a small mountain village in Switzerland, with just 1.500 inhabitants. At first sight, it looks like a sleepy, motionless and unexciting little town, but as soon as you notice the many white steam clouds rising up against the blue sky, you realize that there’s more going on here: Leukerbad houses Europe’s largest thermal baths, offering as many wellness treatments as there are days in a year. If you can’t relax here, you can’t relax anywhere!
All good things start with a W in Switzerland: winter, warmth, wealth, water baths … and Wallis. Leukerbad lies in the Rhône valley in the Swiss canton of Wallis (or Valais), in the southwestern part of the country, at 1.400 m altitude. A nice place to go skiing, snowboarding or hiking, but the greatest draw is right there in the valley itself. Every day, about 62 hot springs fill up over 30 public and private pools, spas and bath houses with 3,9 million liters of naturally heated and mineral rich water. All of that makes the town the largest thermal spa resort in the Alps. Especially when visiting the outdoor pools, you’re in for a real treat: the views of the surrounding Valais Alps are absolutely stunning.
- Don’t forget your sunglasses! There’s an average of 300 days of sunshine per year in Wallis, that’s more than any other Swiss skiing destination!
- Leukerbad’s spa history goes back to Roman times, which makes this a tourist attraction of over 2.000 years old. Knowing that definitely adds something extra to the experience.
- The water of the hot springs isn’t just used to heat the thermal pools, it also heats entire hotels and provides the town of electricity.
- If you were to try out one wellness treatment every day here in Leukerbad, you’d need a whole year to finish them all!
Showers, caves, bubbles and baths
The Alpentherme and Burgerbad: remember these names, because of all 30 spas in Leukerbad, these are the two biggest. They’re so big that there’s a whole system of underground passages underneath the town centre, allowing you to go straight from your hotel room to the thermal baths without even crossing the street. In your hotel slippers and dressing gown! facilities, especially at the Alpentherme, are amazing. Saunas at different temperatures and in different styles, different steam rooms, hot caves, pools and showers, dozens of different massages, treatments and wraps, different styles baths with bubbles and jets … You can go from Turkey to Finland or Ireland in thirty minutes.
Fresh orange slices and a sauna
One of the most renowned spa options is the Roman-Irish treatment, only by appointment. You’re guided to a separate spa area where you undergo a course of 2 hours of different saunas, steam rooms, massages and baths, all strictly timed and placed in a certain order so that your body benefits the most from it. But what I found the most impressive is the sauna village of the Alpentherme. It’s a whopping 300 m² and when entering the room it’s like you’re walking around in an actual Swiss village, with small timber houses, a fountain, cow bells and lanterns providing a warm and cosy light. I tried as many saunas as I could, like the herbal sauna in a lovely converted barn, a Finnish sauna (90°c) in a cute Swiss Chalet, the steam bath in a rustic Valaisian farmhouse and the stone sauna with a mill wheel. At one point I was even served slices of orange inside one of the saunas. Only when you taste the fresh fruit, you realize how badly you wanted it. But when the attendants started fanning the air with a towel afterwards (and basically throwing the hot air straight in your face), I had to get out. Too darn hot!
A few days of wellness in Leukerbad isn’t cheap. The famous ‘Promenade’ near the village square, where most of the pools are situated, is dotted with three-to five-star hotels at your service, all up to impeccable Swiss standards. But the nice thing about staying in one of these hotels is that you not only have access to all public pools, but also to the private ones of your hotel. Fewer people, more you-time… There’s only one thing prohibited here in Leukerbad, our guide tells us, and that’s stress!
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