Katrina Lobley checks in to one of the Switzerland’s best thermal spas to discover its health-giving benefits – all in the name of research, of course.
As far back as the Bronze Age, people flocked to St. Moritz to soak in its mineral springs – the highest in Switzerland.
Combining the iron-rich waters, filtered through the alpine moors, with the invigorating mountain climate was said to be so beneficial that entire royal households came to take the waters.
Today St. Moritz is still a first-class health resort.
While active types head out to conquer the surrounding mountains, I’m heading eight kilometres along the floor of the Engadin Valley – via the famously efficient Swiss railway system – to Samedan, the village that’s home to the Mineral Bath & Spa Samedan.
I’m drawn to this spa in particular because it’s known as the country’s first vertical spa – but I’m not prepared for its striking location.
Attached to the rear of an historic church, it’s possible to lounge in the tiny rooftop bath directly under the Chapel of Saint Anthony’s landmark tower – considered the daintiest baroque tower in the country.
Unfortunately, a storm is brewing. As soon as the first forks of lightning flash across the sky, we’re ushered inside to explore the rest of the complex.
Each of the baths has a cosy, cave-like ambience, thanks to the clever use of richly coloured glazed mosaic tiles on the walls, floors and ceilings.
There’s dramatic up-lighting from the floors of the pools, and soft, barely-there down-lighting courtesy of centrepiece light fixtures that would look more at home in a mansion or art gallery.
There are shafts of natural light, too, thanks to judiciously placed windows that allow bathers to contemplate Samedan’s main square while lounging in the warm waters (the spa’s waters come from a geothermal, mineral-rich vein that runs beneath the complex).
These windows are framed on the building’s exterior with the same glazed tiles that dominate the spa’s interiors – the only hint that the minimalist extension has nothing to do with religion.
The architects have thought of everything: built into the pools are dark alcoves and long underwater benches.
Much consideration also went into the colour scheme: the valley’s autumnal larch forests inspired the yellow hues of one bath, while a fiery red envelops the steam baths.
It’s a wrench to leave, but Badrutt’s Palace Hotel’s own spa is waiting for me back in St. Moritz. It seems I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to spoiling myself.
The spa menu
From beer to bathing
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Splash around under the stars at Les Bains de Lavey, 30 kilometres from Montreux. At night the largest outdoor pool is illuminated.
Now and zen
Built from 60,000 slabs of Vals quartzite, the thermal baths at 7132 Hotel are an architectural masterpiece.
Tamina Therme in Bad Ragaz calls its thermal waters “36.5-degree blue gold”.
The mountaintop setting of Rigi Kaltbad Mineral Baths & Spa offers an unbeatable view of the Alps.