Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Leukerbad Thermal Baths

We have been traveling a lot in recent weeks so we decided this weekend to make it low key-no touring-just relaxation.

On Saturday morning we traveled to a little Swiss village called Leukerbad, which is famous for its Thermal Baths.  It is located about 70 miles east of Vevey, in one of the many German speaking areas of Switzerland.  It takes about an hour by train and then a 30 minute bus ride along a very curvy mountain road with many switchbacks.

Leukerbad is the biggest thermal center in Switzerland, located in the valley of the river Dala at 4,630 feet above sea level. The thermal center was already known in Ancient Roman time, around the 2nd century AD, for its thermal baths. (We all know how well the Romans enjoyed their warm baths).

Today there are over 30 pools, with warm water of varying temperatures. Leukerbad is home to the largest alpine thermal water resort in Europe.  It has been estimated that annually, over 1 million gallons of warm water run through the pools.  The source for all of this water comes from 65 thermal springs. 

The baths were initially laid out very simply with ditches dug out very close to the thermal springs. The oldest known bath, dates back to 1544, when it still had no roof and was used separately by men and women. The baths remained very simple affairs until the 18th century when proper baths with much greater comfort were finally built. 

Note - "bad" in German literally means "bath tub"

After arriving in Leukerbad we checked in to this quaint hotel.  On Sunday, before we checked out, the hotel served a great breakfast.  

A view of the mountains for our hotel deck.  There are hiking trails all through this area.  Later in the summer we are planning to go back for the hiking.

Another view from our hotel deck.

Before going to the thermal baths, we decided to explore the town a little bit.  During our tour, we saw this picturesque cemetery in the down town area.

A view from one of the side streets of Leukerbad.

The Burgerbad Thermal Bath.

Burgerbad, opened in 1980, is Europe's largest thermal bath. It is surrounded by impressive mountain ranges, with many outdoor baths, pools, bubbling water beds and a fitness facility.  The water in the pools is kept at a very comfortable 82 to 108 degrees.
In addition to all of the indoor and outdoor pools, this spa also has an enclosed area where you descend into a darkened grotto where the water is around 115 degrees.  The water is piped directly from the spring that feeds the pools, at Burgerbad, and has not been filtered.  The water is a dark brown color.   I attempted to take a picture, while we were in there, but there was just not enough light.  Imagine how popular this move was with the contemplative people soaking. 

One of the many water features at Burgerbad.

One of the many outdoor pools.

Another of the outdoor pools with the Alps in the background.

Paula enjoying the bubbling water beds at Burgerbad.  Here's hoping the suntan is gone by the time she sees dermatologist in Portland next month. 

Another view of the Alps from Burgerbad.

On Sunday we visited the Alpentherme Thermal Baths, the 2nd largest thermal bath in Leukenbad and Europe's largest high-altitude medical and Alpine wellness, beauty and thermal spa.

The Lindner Alpentherme, opened in 1993, has an indoor thermal bath of over 2,100 square feet with water temperatures of 97 to 108 degrees, and an outdoor bath of over 3,200 square feet with water temperatures of 82 to 104 degrees, with breathtaking Alpine views. Both pools are equipped with a number of integrated facilities such as neck showers, underwater massage jets, bubble couches and aero-hydro jets.

The facility also has relaxation rooms, steam rooms, mineral baths, massage rooms and a fitness center.

Paula in front of the Alpentherme Thermal Baths.

A view of Alpentherme with the Alps in the back ground.

Paula relaxing after a long day in the thermal baths.

A view of the Alps from Alpentherme.

Another view from Alpentherme.

Initially, when we had planned this trip, we wanted to ride the cable cars that operate from Leukerbad to the top of the surrounding mountains.

There a  two cable cars The Gemmi and the Torrent.

The Gemmi cable car became operational in 1957.  It starts in Leukerbad a 4,630 feet and climbs to Gemmi Pass at 7,709 feet.  They are currently updating the cable car system and it should be operational by the middle of July.

The Torrent cable car became operational in 1972.  It starts in Leukerbad a 4,630 feet and climbs to Rinderhutte at 7,589 feet.  They are currently updating the cable car system and it too should be operational by the middle of July.

When we return this summer we will take the cable car rides.

This picture was taken from the bus as we traveled back to Leuk to catch the train to Vevey.  In the middle, on the right side of the picture you can see the road that we will be on.  The road from Leuk to Leukerbad is only 9 miles, but because the road is one switchback after another, it takes 30 minutes by bus. Great relaxing weekend. 

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