These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.



Mountain Spas

The Height of Relaxation

After a long stretch of skiing or hiking in the mountains, a relaxing weekend in a spa - or just a few hours basking in a hot pool - is sometimes just the thing.

Solisko Hotel, located in the High Tatra resort village of Štrbské Pleso, offers one of Slovakia's finest spa experiences. This spa hotel's main selling point is its location. It's perched right on a vast glacial lake, across which lies one of the High Tatras' most dramatic stretches of peaks. And while Štrbské Pleso has been heavily developed the view of the mountains from the hotel is almost completely unimpaired.

Another advantage is its proximity to hiking trails. There's nothing like a brisk walk up a mountain trail in the morning to prepare you for a later massage. In summer, the trails are packed; but in winter, when everyone else is skiing, trails within metres of the hotel wind directly into wonderful stretches of unspoiled, and virtually unpopulated, nature. People in reasonably good condition might consider a hike to Vodopád Skok, a dramatic alpine waterfall, frozen solid in winter, about an hour's hike from the hotel. Enquire at the information desk for a trail map to the surrounding area.

The hotel itself is a grand late 19th century building that underwent a tasteful remodelling in the early 1990s. The spa facilities are first-rate. As in the rest of Slovakia, spa activities are seen as "treatments," and "patients" must first consult a doctor before, say, receiving a massage. No matter. Submit to a brief doctor's exam, and you're free to avail yourself of the sauna, pool, and massage services.

There are also some interesting fitness programmes on offer. For women, there's the "Diana" programme, a week-long regimen of exercise, diet and skin-care advice, and massages. The "Hercules", for "anyone who wants to be fit", according to the spa's literature, is a week-long programme of exercise, water work, and self-help talk.

The hotel also runs a very good restaurant. Spa cuisine - at least by, say, California standards - it isn't. The restaurant specialises in typical Central European fare: hearty, well-rendered variations on the pork-and-cabbage theme. The restaurant also has an excellent wine list. If the concept of hedonism is all but alien to Slovak spas, at least Slovak spa cuisine knows how to kick back and have a good time.

Other Mountain Retreats

If Solisko seems too posh or crowded, or you're just looking for a mountain swim, there are a couple of fine options. Both are excellent bases for hikes.

On the edge of the High Tatras, there's a wonderful set of six swimming pools at Bešeňová, located 12 kilometres from Ružomberok. It's an outdoor pool, open year-round, with naturally warm, mineral-rich water. From it, bathers have views of both the High and Low Tatras. In the winter, with frigid wind lashing through the snow-blanketed terrain, it's particularly relaxing to luxuriate and perhaps nurse skiing aches in this medicinal water. The water hovers around 40 degrees Celcius. Surrounding the pool are spa-equipped hotels.

In Orava, there's a set of thermal pools at Oravice, also open year-round. This one gets really hot - up to 54 degrees Celsius. There's also a warm pool that clocks in at around 40 degrees Celsius. As in Bešeňová, the pools are spring-fed and naturally rich in minerals, and surrounded by lovely mountain views.

For pricing and booking information on Solisko, check:
www.spa-slovakia.com/english/strbske-pleso/index.html.
For information about Bešeňová, call: Bešeňová Thermal Swimming Pool, Tel: 044 439-2429.
For information on Oravice, call: Rekreačné Stredisko ATC Oravice, Tel: 043 539-4114 or check: www.oravice.sk.

- Tom Philpott


These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2003.

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