R&R Slovak style - mineral-physical treatment for under a tenner in Slovakia

USP: A curative spa in the central European tradition, the mineral-rich thermal waters of Rajecké Teplice come out of the ground at 38 degrees centigrade and are the basis for many of the offered treatments. But unlike many of Slovakia’s slightly scary "medical" spas, Aphrodite has cottoned on to the wellbeing market and has made a concerted effort to appeal to clients who just want a bit of R&R.
AMBIENCE: The "classical" theme is unmissable in the hotel Aphrodite and attached Spa House. Fluted columns support every ceiling, broadly mythical scenes adorn the walls, a variety of deities occupy alcoves and the (tiny) sauna and steam rooms are covered in mosaic tiles. The whirlpool bath is backed with an elaborate trompe d’oeil as if on a hill amid ancient ruins. The spa has two largish pools, one a Mirror Pool – presumably so named because of the glassy calm that should reign in it at all times; at 38 degrees, you’re strongly advised not to swim in case of exhaustion – and one comfortably cooler pool with strong jets to drum tired muscles into submission. Treatment rooms are small but comfortable and softly-lit, with not-particularly-annoying piped music noodling quietly in the background. The spa is sited in a rather lovely park, with a fish-filled lake.
QUALITY OF EXPERIENCE: After a long drive from Bratislava on the bumpy back seat of a minibus, I was very much looking forward to a classical back massage and a nice sit down in a big bath of very hot water. Padding down to the massage desk at the appointed time I found it unmanned and had to loiter uncertainly at the entrance to the treatment rooms for a few minutes before my therapist came to collect me. She clearly knew what she was doing but it was quite painful in places and my lack of confidence in either her English or my judgment (perhaps it was –ouch! - meant to be – oo! - like this?) meant that I limped away feeling more pummelled than pampered. My massage therapist didn't use anything particularly exciting, just a basic, lemon-scented oil, though they do offer aromatherapy massage (30 mins, £9).
The pools were very pleasant and the mirror pool is lined with underwater seating so that you can sit and meditate without fear of sliding under if you nod off. This being a Saturday evening, however, it seemed the entire town had popped in for a dip and a leisurely canoodle, and I was a bit surprised to find myself the object of scrutiny by a group of young men clearly there for non-recuperative reasons.
FOOD: Traditional Slovak fare is the order of the day in most of the restaurants (there are several hotels in addition to the Aphrodite) with excellent freshwater fish being a particular speciality at the Fisherman’s Bastion, a sweet little chalet-like restaurant on an island in the centre of the lake, with windows downstairs looking out under the water.
IN CROWD: Mainly Slovaks, Czechs and other central Europeans here for a more or less regimented course of relaxation – day passes can be bought by anyone so you could find yourself sitting up to your armpits in hot water between a pop star and the local butcher. Enticingly, a number of Olympic athletes are regular visitors.
WALLET WATCH: A relaxation package, with use of the saunas, pools and a number of treatments costs 22 Euros (£15) pp per night, with a double room at the Hotel Aphrodite starting from 67 Euros (£45) per night on top. Once you’re there, any individual treatments you wish to add in are also spectacularly cheap. A 15-minute classic back massage costs 250 SK (around £5) and 90 minutes of lava stones massage is 800SK (£16).
NEED TO KNOW: Aphrodite Spa House, Oslobodite?ov 131/4, 01313 Rajecké Teplice, Slovakia (00421 (0) 41 5494 256/7; email [email protected] . Nancy Durrant travelled with Sky Europe. Return flights to Bratislava start from £19 (
The spa water contains hydrogen carbonate, calcium and magnesium but it isn't high in sulphur, like some Slovak thermal springs. According to the spa, the indications are diseases of the kinetic apparatus, non-tuberculosis diseases of the respiratory system, nervous disorders and occupational diseases. As usual with these hot-water spas, the contra-indications are many due to the relatively high heat - these are mainly serious conditions from infectious diseases to hypertension - so it's worth checking with your own doctor before heading off.

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