Turkish baths

What is the right Spa for me?

Spa.   The Oxford English Dictionary defines this in two ways:

  1. A place or resort with a mineral spring
  2. A commercial establishment offering health & beauty treatments through such means as steam baths, exercise equipment and massage.

This can be further broken down into different commercial spas:

  1. Destination spas
  2. Spa Resorts
  3. Days Spas

So far, so confusing.   Let’s take a closer look at each spa to understand what each one offers  🙂



Destination Spas are residential facilities that concentrate on improving health and fitness through exercise, nutrition, spa treatments and thermal wellbeing. They are all about relaxation and rejuvenation and learning how to live a healthy life.    The spa is the destination, you are there for a reason and that is to spa and nothing else!  You can stay for as long as you want, from days to months if budget allows!  The aim is to restore your health and vitality.

Six Senses Yao-noi Spa, Thailand

The cost usually includes all meals, exercise classes and some spa treatments, but obviously check before you book.

They are staffed by experts in various disciplines e.g yoga or nutrition or herbal medicine, and promote a healthy and active lifestyle during your stay.   Some personalise therapies to their guests so that they gain optimum benefit from their time there.

Children aren’t normally welcome in a destination spa.  It is however suitable for people travelling alone but who want to spend time with like-minded people and for couples.



A spa resort caters more for families in a hotel situation and is less focused on an all-encompassing health and wellness experience.   The spa treatments are usually only one part of the stay which can include outdoor pools, tennis, cycling and golf.   They are likely to have a suite of saunas and steam rooms with maybe an ice room or plunge pool alongside a gym for guests to use during their stay.

Treetop Sauna, Centre Parcs, Sherwood Forest

At a spa resort the focus is on enjoying yourself, eat and drink healthy if you like, but if you don’t there are other options available on the menu!

Some spa resorts can also act as a day spa, whereby access is allowed to day guests who aren’t residents of the hotel.



As the name suggests, these aren’t residential – you literally visit a day spa for a day without any overnight accommodation.

They usually have a variety of pampering facilities for the guest to experience such as massages, beauty therapies and holistic treatments and have thermal rooms and swimming pools. Gym facilities are very common now too.   Packages generally include a treatment and lunch or afternoon tea.


Pennyhill Park Spa

Day spas vary in price depending on what treatments they can offer.   Some may just offer manicures and massage alongside a sauna, steam room and jacuzzi, whilst others offer a full range of treatments, some even including more ‘medical’ ones such as Botox and laser facials, with a selection of thermal wellbeing rooms and pools.

A lot of day spas are attached to hotels or country clubs and allow guests to stay at the hotel if they wish and then revisit again the next day.




Warmth and Water: The Basis for Life – Part II


‘Bella’ Steam Room – Dröm UK Ltd

Steam bathing can be traced back thousands of years with the ancient Greeks, Romans and Turks recognising the benefits of steam to enhance health and wellbeing.   The original Roman baths utilised thermal underground springs, with the Caldarium room (the hottest of a series of three bathing rooms) being built directly on top of this heat source with the walls being hollow to allow the heat to rise through them.  The Roman Baths and Turkish Hammams were considered an integral and important part of social culture with the men congregating in the baths to discuss the various political and social issues of the day.   The Hammams were originally adjoined to mosques to enable cleansing and purifying before prayer and the prophet Muhammad taught that steam and hot water helped enhance fertility.  However, they became a more separate facility during the period of the Ottoman Empire.

The Aztec people also had a form of steam room called a Temazcal which was considered to be a cleansing and healing place – somewhere to purify the body after battles and physical exertion.

During the 1850’s, British diplomat David Urquhart introduced Turkish Baths to Britain and promoted them in great detail in his book The Pillars of Hercules (1850), which led to the Irish physician Richard Barter including them in his system of hydropathy.   Urquhart was instrumental in the building of the men-only Turkish baths at 76 Jermyn Street, London and lectured widely on the benefits of steam bathing recommending it as a cure for almost all known Victorian ailments!


Turkish Baths, Jermyn Street : Illustrated London News

Over the next 150 years more than 600 Turkish baths opened throughout the United Kingdom and bathing in a sauna or steam room is now considered a normal, regular part of many people’s routine as the health and relaxation benefits continue to be well documented.