A quick note: Yesterday – ten years (!) since I originally published this post – I realized it was in private mode. By making it public, it appeared as a new post. The Balneario de Archena is still a wonderful escape and something to dream about for post-pandemic days.
One of the things I love about living in Murcia is the sense of discovery I feel while exploring the region. When I arrived here nearly two years ago, I knew close to nothing about all the region had to offer, which felt, and still feels, like an exciting opportunity.
One Eureka! moment came when I heard there were thermal baths just a half hour from the city. It took me over a year to get there – you can’t do everything at once, after all – but I can now say with certainty I recommend the trip.
Manolo and I chose the historic Balneario de Archena, one of several spa resorts in the area, and were not disappointed. Tucked away in the valley of the Rio Segura and surrounded by arid mountains, the Balneario de Archena feels like a modern-day oasis.
This spa is all about the water, which flows from the earth at a temperature of around 130 ºF and is rich in minerals, such as sulfur, calcium and magnesium. For centuries, doctors in Spain have recommended the thermal waters of Archena, not only for relief from specific ailments like muscle and joint pain, but also for general well-being.
The ambiance on this weekday in late September was low-key and free of glitz. Most of the other clients were Spanish, minus a few stray Brits and yours truly, and the average age must have been around 70.
The mineral-packed waters felt almost creamy against my skin as I slipped into the principal thermal pool, where the average temperature is a constant 95-97 ºF. My muscles relaxed instantly, and I felt myself being pulled by a distinct current, as if I were floating along a lazy river. Turns out I was in a generated current loop, which took me through a winding indoor-outdoor circuit. I then tested out the many waterfalls, spouts and jets around the pool, enjoying massages varying from relaxing to invigorating.
My next stop was the balneotherapy zone, the Balnea Termalium, a restorative circuit of saunas, steam rooms, therapeutic pools, and even an igloo.
Manolo and I sweated it out in the Russian, Aztec and Estonian saunas, which varied in temperature and relative dryness. The estufa de Archena, a steam room with a strong dose of sulfur, provided humid contrast. And a few minutes in the icy igloo were nothing short of bracing. We exerted a bit of effort in the lap pool, which helped us more deeply relax in the saline flotation pool. And the lemon essence rising off the aromatherapy pool was gently awakening. I felt pampered, and convinced — I had a new highlight to add to my growing Murcia itinerary.
As a day trip: The Balneario de Archena is an easy day trip from Murcia. We went on a Friday so we could take advantage of the 29 € per person weekday special, “Escapeterapia.” This included use of the two indoor-outdoor thermal pools as well as the balneotherapy zone, lunch in the Espacio Termalium restaurant and a free swimming cap (required). (The lunch was good, a basic plato combinado with meat, a vegetable and potatoes, but not the highlight of the day.)
To stay overnight: There are three hotels at the resort, including the restored nineteenth century Hotel Termas, pictured below, and two more modern accommodations.
Promotions: If you are planning a trip to the Balneario de Archena, check here for special offers and promotions.
A bit of history:
Iberian peoples are thought to have used the waters at Archena as early as the fifth century B.C. But it was the Romans who left more of a trace – excavations have uncovered remains of Roman thermal baths on the site of today’s spa.
In the eighteenth century, these lands belonged to the Order of St. John, and the healing waters and their patron, Our Lady of Remedies, were sources of devotion. The existing chapel, La Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Salud, pictured below, dates from 1878, once the land had passed into private hands.At this time, the Balneario de Archena was a popular summer destination for wealthy families from all over Spain.
The Casino, once an exclusive club and now a café and bar, dates from the same era.
Some old postcards from the nineteenth century:
SOURCE of postcards: Memoria Gráfica de Murcia