Although many people still go on holiday looking for sun, sea and sand, or simply to get a good tan, there are lots of travelers who now look for a different experience: perhaps to see how the locals live, or in search of legendary health and beauty treatments.

If you’re in the latter category, a holiday that includes a spa treatment can really fit the bill. Some spa treatments are only offered in a particular country or even only in a particular region of that country. They may be renowned in the area for their healing or beautifying powers – so we’ve tracked down ten of the best traditional treatments that you really must try.

  1. Traditional Andalucían spas

These spas are for the medical treatment of problems such as heart or respiratory disease, and can be really quite Spartan – no pampering treatments or soft fluffy towels here! They are a spa in the truly traditional sense, i.e. they use water (hydrotherapy) to treat the problem, whether through thermal bathing, vapours, hydro massage, sprays or showers. The salts and minerals in the water are said to be the source of the healing effect, which has been relied on by locals for hundreds of years. Learn more about these techniques here.


  1. Salt caves

A salt cave brings to mind an underground cavern, dripping with mineral and sodium deposits. Unfortunately, many salt caves aren’t quite so picturesque—but halotherapy, as salt therapy is called, has a good history of treating respiratory and skin problems – it’s been around since the days of the ancient Greeks.


  1. Budapesti spas

If the more plain surroundings are not for you and you want something to delight the eyes at the same time as improve your health, try one of the traditional Budapesti spas. The thermal baths of Budapest are justly famous for their beauty, as the tiling and decoration are quite breath taking. You can spend all day steaming yourself and soaking in the waters, and taking treatments such as scrubs and massages. Some have been in operation for more than five hundred years, and you’ll find locals of all ages enjoying the waters alongside you. Baths are both indoor and outdoor – we recommend a tour of all of them.


  1. Japanese spa towns

Some areas of Japan are entirely centred around their natural hot springs and have whole villages offering traditional inns to stay in while you enjoy the waters. They are called “onsen towns”. One of the most famous may be the Shibu Onsen, which is high up in the mountains and offers the delights of cheeky Snow Monkeys, who enjoy a bathe in the hot springs as much as any human. You will also see male and female locals alike walking the streets and going for a drink or snack clad only in the thin, informal dressing gown like kimono known as “yukata”. The inns serve traditional Japanese food and drinks, and the Japanese have been migrating to the cool mountain spas in the hot summers for centuries – you can’t get much more traditional than this.


  1. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland

The geothermal spa known as the Blue Lagoon in Iceland is named for its wonderful colour. The colours of the unspoilt landscape are as refreshing to the eyes as to the other senses. Guests can soak in the warm water for hours, and also enjoy a refreshing massage under a waterfall, and other beauty experiences are available too. There is also a steam bath and sauna carved from a nearby lava cave to enhance your experience. We recommend visiting the nearby Lava Resturant too. Built into a lava cliff, it offers beautifully presented local Icelandic food.


  1. Balinese four-hand massage

The Balinese are expert at massage and spa treatments of the most relaxing and luxurious kind, and have developed their own techniques, which combine a number of therapies from around the world. The price for Westerners is relatively low, and you can enjoy a whole day of mud masks, scrubs and massage in lovely spa surroundings in most cities. We particularly recommend seeking out a four hand massage, in which two attendants will happily knead you for a couple of hours until you feel as relaxed as it’s humanly possible to be.


  1. Moroccan hammams

Morocco is a haven for those who would like traditional treatments in relaxing surroundings. Local hammams, or steam baths (and there are plenty), have been famous for hundreds of years and you can get massage treatments, mud wraps, or just sit in the steam rooms and treat your skin to a chance to be the cleanest it’s ever been. In addition, most spas offer black soap and mud treatments to take home, so although the surroundings of your humble bathroom back in Blighty may not have the atmosphere of Morocco, you can still treat yourself. Don’t forget to go to the local market for some Argan oil, which is excellent for hair and skin, for a fraction of the price you would pay at the health food store.

  1. Croatia’s “Island of Health”

Traditionally the travel destination of royalty, who went there to recover from illnesses and boost their constitutions, the island of Losinj, in Croatia, boasts a healthy climate and still offers a variety of treatments and indulgences. The nearby island of Mali Losinj (Little Losinj) is a tiny version of this, reachable by regular ferry but otherwise undisturbed. You can walk the island from coast to coast in an hour or so, and enjoy the natural pine forest, scented gardens and unpolluted sea ozone. A seafood dinner, fished from the ocean only minutes before will have you brimming with health in no time.


  1. Dead Sea mud treatments

Being slathered in black mud and then lying in the hot sun to have it baked on before rinsing it all off is a curious sensation, but users who enjoy the beauty treatments involving mud from the Dead Sea say that it is invigorating, and leaves skin feeling refreshed and new, as well as soothing conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Just floating in the Dead Sea is something that must be tried at least once, since the concentration of salt in the water provides an unusual buoyancy. And as well as all this, did you know you can dive there, too? Seeing the underwater salt formations is quite a magical experience, so take your scuba diving gear with you.


  1. The spas at Bath 

There have been bathers at the hot springs in Bath, UK, since at least 8,000BC and their popularity has never waned. Romans constructed bathhouses when they came to England in the 1st Century AD and the baths (which you can still visit), containing up to 42 minerals, are said to heal skin problems, breathing difficulties, and rheumatism and arthritis. The treatments today are a little more state of the art, but still using the same waters. In addition to this, Bath is an interesting historic town to visit, so it’s well worth making a weekend of it.

So, whether you want to stay near home, or travel as far as Japan, there is a treatment to make you healthy or beautiful (or both!) to choose from, wherever you go.


This article is a collaboration – since I was so taken with the list!  

Image credit.