Health resorts offer more than just a holiday. They are also a place to relax, and be pampered. Sometimes it is also to recuperate. Natasha Blair visits Birstonas in Lithuania, known for its therapeutic spa waters to see what the town has to offer.
Not much bigger than a village, the town is situated within one of the countries largest regional parks. The majority of buildings are no more than two or three stories high, and with very little pollution breathing in the fresh, unpolluted air is a treat. The water underground has a wealth of therapeutic health giving minerals with a distinct taste from a combination of both salt and sulfur. Many of the hotels have their own boreholes so guests can help themselves to the water as often as they like. As well as the waters the area is also known for its curative peat mud. There are two types, black and white. The black is used for medical purposes while the lighter apparently slows down the aging process.
Kneipp philosophy, the maintenance of good health through the natural powers of water, plants and herbs plays a prominent role in the treatments. In the centre of town there is a mineral water pavilion, and the Kneipp Garden. Here people can practice his water philosophy by placing their arms in cold water, and walk barefoot on the stoned therapy footpath. Both are supposed to make the body more resistant, and strengthen the immune system. In the mineral water graduation tower visitors can experience open-air inhalation. Mineral water flows down the tower evaporating naturally producing the same effect as breathing sea air. A statue of a whale symbolises the one used to close the mineral water source in the river.
The hotels differ in the facilities and treatments they provide, as well as the length of treatments. The choices are extensive although all have a doctor who sees you at the start to advise on what is best for you.
Five-star Vytautas Mineral Spa is the newest, and smartest hotel in town with an award-winning spa in a luxurious atmosphere. This is the place to come to be pampered. The waters tend to differ from one to place to another, and at Vytautas they claim theirs has similar healing properties to those of the Dead Sea. Buffet service appears to be the way food is served everywhere. This allows visitors to sample the traditional food, primarily sourced locally, as well as more familiar ones.
Egles Sanatorium is a hotel with a spa but the main reason for visiting is their extensive medical facilities. People come for a variety of reasons from diagnostics, to physical medicine, and rehabilitation. The place caters for the whole family so while one member may need the medical facilities, everyone can enjoy the spa with its swimming pools and numerous saunas and steam rooms.
Once a care home, the Royal Spa doesn’t have the luxury or extensive medical facilities of the others. However, with 87 different massages and therapies it has very competitive prices for anyone wanting a cheap, relaxing health-oriented holiday.
The country is very flat so excellent for cycling. The River Nemunas virtually encompasses the town, and leisurely boat trips are one of the past times. For the more adventurous, ballooning is another. The views of the undulating river and countryside are apparently spectacular.
Further afield is an open-air ethnographic museum, one of the largest in Europe, with buildings from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century. The route covers ten kilometers but fortunately cars and bicycles are allowed although visitors can also hire a pony and cart.
Trakai is the other must-see place to visit. Formerly the capital the red castle, built at the end of the 14th century, was home to Lithuania’s Grand Dukes. Now it houses the Trakai History Museum containing archeological objects, coins and crafts. Said to be the only castle in Eastern Europe built on an island.
Lithuania is in the euro-zone, which usually means that everything is expensive. In Lithuania, however, prices are a lot cheaper. An added bonus is that because it is, any calls and data used in your mobile package are included.
Birstonas is conveniently situated in the middle of Lithuania which, as the country is small, means that visitors are near its Capital Vilnius, and its second largest city Kaunas, both of which have direct flights from the UK.
The resort is family friendly and children are welcome. A plus if you want a holiday with younger members. English is widely spoken, but as it is often only learnt at school it can sometimes be difficult to make yourself understood. If booking independently, there is a Birstonas Resort fee of €1 per person per day for anyone over the age of 18 that is not included in the price.
Natasha’s trip was organized by Baltic Holidays.
Flights were to and from London Luton Airport. Flying to Kaunas with Wizz Air returning via Vilnius with Ryanair.
National Express operates coach services direct to the terminal for all major UK airports 24 hours a day with 1,100 airport services every day.