A Slovakian ‘medical’ spa was a bit thin on fluffy edges but mud and hot water is a great treatment


MISSION: To eliminate lingering pain, post-physiotherapy, in my shoulder, caused by years of hunching over my keyboard, cradling the phone under my chin. This was to be done by visiting Slovakia’s most famous “medical” mineral spa, Thermae Piestany, set on its own island in the river Vàh.

AMBIENCE: With eight hotels in the complex, it depends on where you stay. The Thermia Palace is a stunning five-star Art Nouveau establishment with gorgeous bedrooms. It is directly attached to the most luxurious of the treatment centres, Spa Irma. On my visit, the hotel was being refurbished. The four-star Balnea Esplanade Palace was comfortable but more Eastern bloc in appearance and it reminded me of university halls of residence. More used to whalesong and warm stones, I was taken aback by the hospital atmosphere of the treatment areas.
USP: Piestany is firmly entrenched in the Central European tradition of medicine based on the absorption of healing minerals from the local spring. Sulphur-rich water comes out of the ground at a terrifying 69C (156F) and the treatment mud is dug from the Vàh, then “matured” for a year in big smelly pools. The first thing you do is to visit a doctor, who gives you a full medical examination and prescribes a bespoke treatment regimen. The thermal waters are good for arthritis, postinjury and skin conditions, but not for pregnant woman or anyone with a heart condition.
QUALITY OF EXPERIENCE: My massage therapist was pleasant enough, but the room was brightly strip-lit and the oil used smelt suspiciously ordinary. One of my companions was incensed when his therapist answered a call on her mobile phone in the middle of his massage, while he lay naked and helpless on the bed (Central Europeans are much, much more comfortable with nakedness). However, the facilities are, in general, of very high standard. A network of outdoor pools make for a lovely experience in fine weather, and the doctors, all of whom speak excellent English, are highly qualified and sympathetic. The food is healthy but not faddy. And my shoulder did start to feel better.
PRODUCTS: Spa Irma caters for the wellbeing market and uses Clarins products for facials and body treatments in the salon.
FACILITIES: As well as rehabilitation exercise for my shoulder, there is a fitness centre and classes such as Pilates, t’ai chi, yoga and aerobics. Outdoor pursuits are available in summer, including tennis, golf, horse-riding, biking, walking and watersports.
In crowdMainly Germans, Slovaks and other naked Europeans, but also stupendously wealthy Arabs, who bring their entire families to spend several months taking the waters during the summer.
WALLET WATCH: There is a huge variety of packages. A “relaxation” package, for a minimum of four nights, is £404 at the Thermia Palace and £248 at the Balnea Palace, with half-board, up to two treatments a day and the use of pool and fitness facilities. For clients with medical complaints, 13 nights at the five-star Thermia Palace with a “traditional” medical package is £1,456 per person, based on two people sharing. The Balnea Grand three-star version is £949. That includes diagnostic and lab tests, full board and a complete therapeutic programme. There are also medical and relaxation packages for children.
Need to knowThermae Piestany is in the town of Piestany, Slovakia. For further details visit or call 00 421 33 775 77 33. Nancy Durrant travelled with Sky Europe. Return flights to Bratislava start at £10 (from March to October); visit

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