A trip to the spa is a common travel activity. It can be a great way to experience local culture and customs, enjoy some serious relaxation and/or remove the grime that accumulates while on the global road.

See also: Hot springs
The scented oil menu at a spa in Sanur, Bali


The word spa is derived from Spa, a town in Belgium, though folk etymology, repeated through marketing, has claimed it to be an acronym of Sanitas per aquam or other Latin phrases.

Springs of water have attracted travellers since prehistoric times, some of them with religious importance. While bathing was a virtue many in societies such as the Roman Empire and the Ottoman Empire, it fell out of fashion in medieval and early modern Europe, with some exceptions.

In the 19th century, springwater drinking and bathing were again promoted as healthy; founded on science as well as romanticism for nature. Rail travel and other modes of transport allowed the middle class to visit spa resorts. Many visitors came for entertainment and social life, rather than health.

Modern spas combine different diets, treatments and activities, such as sport, yoga, meditation, sauna, and vegetarian food.


Foot baths

Podiatric bliss awaits

Although most services are ordered a la carte, if you opt for a package treatment you'll most likely begin with a foot bath delivered by your attendant. This usually involves having your feet washed and scrubbed in a basin of warm water with flowers. A pumice stone may be applied to your feet as well as some scented oils and/or soaps. Foot baths, accompanied with a foot massage, are also popular treatments for those wanting some personal care (especially after a long day of sight seeing) but aren't interested in the full body experience.


A body scrub is an exfoliating spa treatment. A therapist rubs a coarse mixture over the body to remove dead skin cells and stimulate circulation. The mixture is rinsed off leaving the skin soft and smooth. A variety of materials are used as the exfoliant - salt, sugar, apricot shells, polyethylene beads, jojoba beads, pumice, ground loofah, sand, crushed grape seed and more. This material is suspended in a liquid that can contain essential oils, oils such as sweet almond, sunflower, and coconut, herbs, and/or vitamin A, C, E. Scrubs are also known as Salt Glow, Sugar Scrub, Full Body Exfoliation. The beauty of body scrubs is that they are one of the spa treatments that you can do yourself at home with great results.


Wraps can be enjoyed on their own or as part of a package, in which it will usually follow the scrub. During a wrap treatment, your attendant will cover you in a warm sticky covering that has the consistency of jam or jelly and comes in lovely smelling mixtures, such as papaya and aloe or more earthy concoctions such as seaweed or volcanic mud. Either way, you'll covered from your neck down in your selection and then you'll be wrapped up in a cocoon made from a variety of natural materials, banana leaves are common. For the next 15–30 minutes, you'll be left in isolation and your skin will soak up the ingredients while you drift in and out of a light sleep.


A facial treatment can also be enjoyed on its own or as part of a spa package. When part of a package, it typically follows a wrap or scrub—after most of your body has been scrubbed and you are relaxed, you'll be stretched out on a table and all of your attendants attention will be focused on your face, neck and head. Usually a facial involves the deep cleansing of the skin on your face and may also include a neck and/or scalp massage. A facial treatment may use scented cleansers and may last between 15 minutes and one hour.

Aromatherapy baths

Aromatherapy baths are often part of a spa package and entail relaxing in a large tub filled with warm water. Typically, the tub will decorated with fresh flowers floating on the surface and may also have scented oils, where the aromathereapy comes in, added to the water. The idea is that while relaxing in the water, the scents will deepen your state of relaxation.


The Hamam is a Turkish style bathing system that occurs at a marble setting. Usually the real hamams in Turkey were built on thermal fountains.



Particularly in South-East Asia, you'll find your spa visit to be much less expensive than you would find in North America and Europe without cutting out any of the ambiance or experience (you'll likely have more).

And although not strictly speaking the same as spas, even the smallest provincial town will have massage parlors dishing out bone-crackingly good Thai massages for a few hundred baht per hour.

North America





There are dozens of spas and spa hotels in Finland. Some of these are traditional health spas and others are modern tropically warm indoor water amusement parks with spa treatments. Sauna bathing is very important in Finnish spas because Finland is the country of sauna's origin. Modern spas are family resorts with children's pools, water slides, jacuzzis etc. There are famous spas in these destinations: Hämeenlinna, Imatra, Kuopio, Lappeenranta, Naantali (the largest spa in Finland, the only Scandinavian member in the Royal Spas of Europe affiliation), Nokia (the most popular family spa destination in Finland), Saariselkä (the northermost spa in Europe), Savonlinna, Siuntio, Tampere and Turku.


Germany features the earliest seaside spas of Europe, such as Heiligendamm, Norderney, Putbus and Rostock with Warnemünde. The islands of Usedom, Rugia (Rügen) and Sylt are internationally renowned for their seaside spa resorts.

Famous inland resorts include Baden-Baden, Bad Doberan, Bad Ems, Bad Kissingen, and Wiesbaden.


Somewhat different traditions from South-Eastern Asia, see Budapest#Thermal baths for background.




Middle East

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