Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Die hards

The high plains directly north of Andalucia's Sierra Nevada are windswept and arid. The few people living here are mostly dependent on agriculture which  means growing olives.

Touristicly though it is an interesting area: there's much history to be discovered whereas the natural surroundings though desolate are very photogenic. 
However with the summer holidays, temperatures here are very hot, thus dissuading potential tourists. 
So it's not surprising that the hot springs of Alicún are little known.

Finding Balneario de Alicún de las Torres is not straight forward: the GPS router seems to disbelieve the existence of the place. 
Luckily the turn off from the main A-92N motorway (between Baza and Guadix) prominently features Balneario de Alicún. So off we must go.
From the motorway the road goes nearly deadstraight until the edge of this part of the Altiplano de Granada has been found. Here, the road swirls around a corner and you arrive at the balneario. Simple.

The balneario and surroundings are rather non-descript this Monday, not much seems to be going on, though some seniors are milling around the building. The entry to the balneario itself is not clear and the congregation of elders all seem to know what to do. A lady proclaims 
: closed. 
OK, though that does seem to contradict most of the ongoings, hmmm.
We cross the main road to where it looks like there is an overflow from the balneario. Some of the water flows swiftly away in what's best described as an irrigation ditch, which is enveloped in vegetation.

To the left of this is another stream with water seeking to progress through a park-like landscape. More buildings are here. Behind these, there are a few large pools to be seen. But all are empty; closed. 

Later I discover the reason. Apparently old habits die hard here: it's been decreed that after September 1 the outside swim season has come to an end. Today (mid-October) the outside temperature was 25ºC! Pity this.

In the surrounding park there is though a small pool which might afford a soak, but it's not very deep, nor any warmer than 30ºC. 

We returned to the balneario and I then followed the above mentioned irrigation ditch. Who knows, maybe there's a soakable overflow somewhere downstream?
While the adjacent track itself descends swiftly, the ditch continues it's higher trajectory. The difference gets bigger, 5-7 meters. At about 500m from the car park, there's a narrow underpass. The drop on the other side of the irrigation ditch is even bigger. From the underpass there's a good overview of the swimming pools. But empty.

Alas, it's not evident that a wild soak is to be had here ...

Concerning the termas of Alicún, there's not too much additional information available on internet, certainly not in English. 

The balneario's own website adds nothing in English, though I could swear there was more English info on the site during the summer. 
In Spanish there's more info, such as the fact that the balneario was built in 1920.
About the swimming pools, otherwise known as Piscinas Termales los Torreones:
'Enclosure of 20,000 m2 with two outdoor thermal pools, one for adults 1,000,000 liters and a children than 100,000 liters. This complex is complemented by a restaurant, 2 bars, barbecues, changing rooms, first aid, games room and solarium'
The balneario has a site on pininterest with a couple of pictures from the swimming pool area. Some added info such as the swimming pool is the biggest thermal pool in Andalucia.

The bigger of the pools, source.

On the site of conocetusfuentes.com the additional info includes stating the temperature of the water (34ºC) and that the hot spring has been
'... famous since ancient times'.
Then there's an extensive photo visit report (in French) which notes finding a cave in the back of the springs somewhere; looks idyllic, no idea whether it's naturally heated ...

The forum site Furgovw (Spanish) has an extensive posting on this hot spring, with many photo's. In this forum entry, the author adds more info but not with enough detail. Apparently the best place for a soak is behind the main bathing building .... 
If only I were not sick the day before ... 
The info found: the irrigation ditch would date back 3,000 years, rises to 15m above surroundings in some places and in this dry climate encourages a moist micro climate.

In the Spanish language Waste.ideal.es site there's a full article on the irrigation ditch itself. It is 3 km long and is of high natural significance for the province of Granada. Because of the carbonated nature of the carried water, the irrigation canal has grown in height and length naturally.

The balneario hotel itself gets just 3,5 stars from tripadvisor but based on only 3 reviewers. Booking.com gives it a 7,5 based on 6 reviews. Not much word on soaking experiences or even the use of the swimming pools.

The following gives a good overview of the swimming pool itself:

A good youtube of the surroundings of Alicun:

We get in the car and continue our descent into the gorge. We'll return to the motorway, this time via the village of Gorafe. This a picturesque route. Near Gorafe, about 5 km from the balneario, one can find dolmen from Megalithic times.

From here the road winds itself back up the opposite side of the gorge. At the top more dolmen are to be seen and we are also blessed enough to see vultures soaring under and above us.

For more info on Gorafe check this page

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Carpe diem

Spending the morning at Furnas thermal springs. #furnas #terranostra #thermalsprings #hotsprings #azores #travel #travelgram #Portugal #wanderlust #polishgirl #paradise #me #instagood #instatravel #vacation

A more extensive posting from around Euroland.
Ninety-one days. A very interesting travel writing concept. Jürgen and Mike travel around the world but stay in each country/state/city for 91 days. During that time they have much more time to visit more off the track places. And give daily updates.
For instance, on the Macedonian leg they visit Bansko:
'For time immemorial, the naturally heated waters which flow from the springs of Bansko have been prized for their therapeutic properties. The Romans established a large bathhouse here, the remains of which can still be seen near the Hotel Tsar Samoil.
We walked over to the large Tsar Samoil, which fulfills multiple purposes for the people of Bansko. There’s the hotel, a restaurant, conference rooms, a public pool, and a rehabilitation center which makes use of the water’s purported health benefits. We paid about $1.50 apiece and went into the changing room.
The swimming hall is a little run-down, but the pool itself is large and clean, and the water feels great. Just be aware that the other swimmers consist mostly of patients and elderly people treating their aching bones. Nothing wrong with that, of course, just as there’s nothing wrong with, let’s say… very old women with bugged-out crazy eyes who can’t keep their tongues in their mouths. But as I was relaxing against the edge of the pool with my eyes closed, exactly such a woman feeling her way along the wall half-climbed onto me, and I nearly screamed'.
They have some interesting photo's, amongst others this:

They also visit Katlanovska Spa not far from the capital of Skopje. Once more the experience is not according to expectations:
'Turns out that Katlanovo is principally a rehabilitation center where people suffering from maladies like broken legs come to recover. It’s also been marketing itself as a spa for tourists, but the overwhelming majority (actually, the sum total) of people we saw were patients, most of them hobbling around on crutches'.
On their itinerary are a visit to the hammams of Skopje, Macedonia's capital. No sweat anymore, the places have been transformed: 
'Today, the Daut Pasha and Čifte Hamams serve as venues for the National Gallery, and we visited both on a sweltering afternoon in July'.
ATARAXIA :)!!! #CarpeDiem #AguasTermales #Placeres #Ataraxia #autumm #beautiful #renneslesbains

Last year they stayed the 91 days in Iceland and as could be expected it's jam packed with hot springs.

Fame and fortune
Other big news from Iceland:
'Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has at least twice tried to buy the famed Blue Lagoon'.
So reports the Reykjavik Grapevine (Sep. 24). The Blue Lagoon is Iceland's iconic hot spring, located in a field of lava rocks. But the reported deal stems from 2006. It didn't go down, so the article continues, the Iceland icon proudly remains in the hands of Icelandic investors.
Less iconic, but possibly more enjoyable? catbiell, Reykjaladur, Iceland.
 'Warming her cold buns in the hot river'

Sascha's soaks
Benjë, 10 km from Përmet, Albania

There are three hot springs, the one on the picture is the biggest one but also the coolest one, about 28°C. There is a gravel bottom and no algae. The water is good for people with skin problems. The water in the other sources is warmer about 35°C and are good for stomach problems. 
The surrounding is absolutely great. On the other side of the river is a small restaurant. They offered us also to camp; next hotels seem to be quite far away in Përmet. In summer week-ends, this place seems to be quite popular by locals; it is advisable to come in the morning. 
My evaluation: 4 stars (I would have given 5 stars if the water would have been warmer).

Over on Soakersforum over the past few weeks, there has been a sudden flurry on Euro-biased contributions. Italy features prominently. 

What do we learn? We learn about Erio Rosetti & Luca Valenti, authors of Italian language guide books, Terme e sorgenti di Toscana, Terme & acque minerali del Lazio and the not so recent more Terme e acque segrete dell'Emilia Romagna.

It also draws attention to the publication L'Italia delle Terme, an overview of all Italian old-style (though still grand) places for a bit of thermal bathing. The list contains just 490 places! 
With this in mind, further research reveals the website therme.info which lists all of Italy's thermal baths as well as many from neighbouring countries. Other websites to search for more info for soaking in Italy are thermeitaliane, or the terme's listing on benessere.com

Hot springs in ítaly #cascatedelmulino#toscana#tuscany#hotsprings#águastermicas#aguastermais#quente#cachoeira

From ThinkGeoEnergy (Nov. 11) we learn that in the Tuscan village of Montieri 425 houses now receive direct heating from a local geothermal plant. One of the challenges:
'A challenging part of the project has been retro-fitting the historic houses and buildings of medieval Montieri village. This has required a high level of care for the town’s high cultural and artistic value, in particular the full reconstruction of narrow paved streets containg the water supply and drainage pipes'.
The aforementioned poster on soakersforum, Neptun, also gives the link to an Italian language overview by the Italian Trade Agency (?) of Greek hot springs, Termalismo in Grecia. Extensive, it does miss quite a few soaks out on the islands.

Bit of nudie swimming at the abandoned harbour village of Avlaki. The water was warmed by the hot volcanic spring. #nisyros #avlaki #greece #skinnydipping
Avlaki on Nisyros island, source.

Hot enough
Fresh back from visiting Andalucia, Spain. With the coastline being under siege all summer, one should heed that the backcountry is very picturesque and equally enjoyable. If not, more so!
We visited a couple of great soaking locations as well as hiked in the mountains of Sierra Nevada and splashed in a couple of very cold streams. See my postings elsewhere on this website.
What did surprise me though is the lack of non-Spanish information on many of the hikes and dips ...
Back on the coast another good place to visit from Almería is the national park of Cabo de Gata. This protected coastline boasts many delicious and mostly undisturbed beaches. Wish it were closerby ...
Anyway a good site to seek out (more) springs be they cold / hot in Andalucia is conocetusfuentes.com. It's a rather long list ...

When is a soak a soak? I ask this question because I found some web info on the Baño Chico of Durcal in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Nearby is a bigger pool, but a touch cooler (source). 
At nearly 25°C is Baño Chico soak worthy? On a hot day, yes, but how but in winter? 
Here's a photo from website above, in summer ...:

Thermospas has a list of 5 of Europe's best hot springs. Top to no. 5: Saturnia (Italy), Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic), Aqua Dome (Austria), Bath (UK) and Széchenyi (Hungary).
The mostbreathtakingplacesintheworld.com (Oct. 28) adds to the accolades for Saturnia naming it the most visited place in Italy. Luckily there's no evidence of the many visitors, because it just intent on capturing headlines. In reality it's not too busy ... It does add:
'You can enjoy the most awesome photos of Terme di Saturnia, I suggest after seeing those pictures you might be wishing to visit Italy some day soon offering to relax and swimming around in the hot spring water of Terme di Saturnia'.
You can enjoy the most awesome photos of Terme di Saturnia, I suggest after seeing those pictures you might be wishing to visit Italy some day soon offering to relax and swimming around in the hot spring water of Terme di Saturnia. - See more at: http://www.mostbreathtakingplacesintheworld.com/discover-terme-di-saturnia-hot-spring-the-most-visited-place-in-italy/#sthash.rGd5bXBr.dpuf
You can enjoy the most awesome photos of Terme di Saturnia, I suggest after seeing those pictures you might be wishing to visit Italy some day soon offering to relax and swimming around in the hot spring water of Terme di Saturnia. - See more at: http://www.mostbreathtakingplacesintheworld.com/discover-terme-di-saturnia-hot-spring-the-most-visited-place-in-italy/#sthash.rGd5bXBr.dpuf
You can enjoy the most awesome photos of Terme di Saturnia, I suggest after seeing those pictures you might be wishing to visit Italy some day soon offering to relax and swimming around in the hot spring water of Terme di Saturnia. - See more at: http://www.mostbreathtakingplacesintheworld.com/discover-terme-di-saturnia-hot-spring-the-most-visited-place-in-italy/#sthash.rGd5bXBr.dpuf
Bags packed?

More reliable words for the upmarket section of my readers. And others who are just plain curious. A freetravelguide (Sep. 22) to one of Europe's classiest soaking opportunities, Karlovy Vary, better known as Carlsbad for us non-Czech. The attractions:
'Today the mineral springs of Karlovy Vary attract patients seeking natural treatment options for health issues like gastrointestinal diseases, metabolic disorders, diabetes, gout, obesity, periodontitis, but also liver, pancreas, gallbladder and biliary tract conditions. The hot springs also fascinate the tourists who come to admire their beautiful pageantry as they rise, in or near five colonnades. The most prestigious of them is the Mill Colonnade (Colonnade Mlynská) with its Renaissance architectural style. It contains five sources and has a booth in which musicians play. You can also visit the Hot Spring Colonnade (Colonnade Vřídelní), home to the hottest spring (73 ° C) or the Market Colonnade (Colonnade Trini), home to two springs, including the one discovered by Charles IV'.
Though the language used may not add to the attraction, the entry itself is quite extensive.

Manolo López on the hot springs of Saint Thomas (France):
'El lugar es conocido en la zona y frecuentado por personas todo tipo de edades y preferencias, como es de entender por su entorno prima la armonía y naturalidad del desnudo, pero no se discrimina ninguna otra opción, siempre que se respete la concordia reinante.
Una experiencia tan sencilla como memorable'.

Friday, November 14, 2014

More to do's

Star gazing
The hamlet of Baños de Sierra Alhamilla is little more than a number of houses around and below the balneario which partially gives the hamlet it's name. It is set on a ridge 450 meter plus above the Desierto de Tabernas, north of the city of Almería (Andalucia). 
The hot spring from which the Baños are sourced is very much the end of the road up into the sierra Alhamilla mountain range which summits at nearly 1,400 meters. There's something that could be called a village square adjacent to the other two businesses of the hamlet, both cafes slash bars.

The source itself is just in front of the balneario, to the side of the village square. The hottest spring of Andalucia (58ºC, source) gushes significant quantities of fresh spring water which drops into two troughs.

The source.

The overflow of this hot spring here brings forth an oasis which stretches below the springs as far as the water can tumble. The vegetation of this oasis consists of cacti, eucalyptus, agave, flowering rosemary and palm trees. Set between this abundance are are a few properties which together make up the hamlet.

As could be expected, there's very little happening here. However, despite the village being at the end of the steep road, it sees quite a lot of traffic from Alemría's locals seeking to refill their drinking water bottles directly from the hot spring source. 
Adding to the water tourists, are many a local cyclist either those who stick to the tarmac or those that come up on asphalt but who tumble down backtracks towards their starting point in the valley. 
For it's size there are quite a few reasons for tourists to visit here. For instance, one of the aforementioned local bars has a reputation for tapas, drawing foodies from Almería. 
And many of the village's houses are now popular as weekend homes for the Almeríans.

We had decided to stay in the hamlet itself, at one of the properties below the hot springs. 
Gifted with a magnificent view out towards the Cabo de Gata and the city of Almería itself, the non-commercial bungalow turned out to be a great place to enjoy the expected silence during the day while proving to be an excellent place for star-gazing during the darker hours. 
An extra add-on of staying at any place in Baños de Sierra Alhamilla is that the local water supply originates from the hot spring. Though for drinking it's advised to fill up a water container at the spring itself.
And of course a stay here is very convenient for enjoying a soak.

Almería in the distance, beyond the Mediterranean.

The Balneario itself is not very big. The entrance is surprisingly around the alley at the back. After passing the reception one comes to a cool inner court, amply shadowed by greenery. Upstairs are rooms, while directly opposite stairs lead downstairs to the baths themselves. 

The baths are actually bath tubs in small but tall rooms, devoid of anything else. That's all. 

The baths are only available in the morning. We had booked on forehand so when we came after our breakfast, our baths had already been drawn. We were appointed each a separate bathroom; socializing isn't part of the experience it seems. The time slot was 30 minutes which is long enough to enjoy the heat and stare at the walls.

Or trying to catch up on sleep ...

Once redressed, we enquired about the original baths. The proprietor opened an iron gate off to the north side of the inner court, down a separate staircase. Here in the center of the doomed roof are double baths with small alcoves to the side (see below). It looks like a very nice place to spend with friends, maybe a bit too big for just two persons. The more sociable experience would set you back 38€.

We paid up (8,80€ per bath) and went for a coffee.

Old style
The balneario itself has a good web presence especially through booking sites for it's 27 rooms. If requesting a quote by booking.com, a stay early November 2014 would cost you 64€ per night for the cheapest room. That excludes the use of the baths itself.
Note that webvisitors at booking.com gave a stay at the balneario 7.3 out of 10 with many of the reviewers touching upon the good management, the atmosphere and the views. One of the quotes:
'This is a very old Moorish style hotel which is 'quirky', and great provided that is what you expect. In a quaint hamlet with 2 bars nearby, and great views. Brilliant individual marble spa baths. Breakfast on a terrace with great views'.
Meanwhile reviewers at tripadvisor gave it just 3 stars with reviews differing wildly, maybe a different crowd?

The website the balneario maintains has lots of info about a potential stay. It also mentions that the existence of the spring can be traced back to the
'... Phoenicians and later the Romans'.
The Manantiales y Fuentes de Andalucía website notes that an Arab bath was added in the ninth century, while the current building(s) stem from 1777. Spainholiday.com adds some more info:
'Another popular Almeria based spa was renovated as recently as 1984.
The 18th century building that is home to the Sierra Alhamilla Balneario was originally built on Roman and Arabic ruins.After more than 8 years of renovation it is now as impressive as it was in medieval days and its location in the Alhamilla mountainside is splendid'.
More web background. Take this experience from dining in Andalucia:
'The Hotel proved to be shabby but wonderful, quiet but atmospheric, the Spanish would say “emblematic” it is the favourite word of the tourist industry!
We had a very good lunch and were well looked after to round off a very special day. I took dozens of photographs of the Baños because surely they must have appeared in a film or two, they are too photogenic not to have. I must do more research. In fact it is such a lovely place I will return, if not to stay and be pampered, then for another lunch'.
Activities besides soaking / use of spring water mentioned above were dining and cycling. Rambling, rock climbing and paragliding are just more of the activities undertaken. Below the village square is a barren patch which hosts some campervans who even use the springs as a shower place, it least I saw it mentioned on the web, no witnessing it myself ...

Here is a youtube compilation of photo's of the balneario.

The inner court

The Baños de Sierra Alhamilla are not the only hot spring of Almería province. More inland is Alhama de Almería. Here the Balneario San Nicolas hosts potential soakers.
'First of all, the hotel is tailored for older people and has fewer children than Hamelin after the Pied Piper had passed through.
Secondly, it is true that there is little or nothing to do in the town.
Thirdly, I had read criticisms of the food and toiletries. The food (included in the price), which is served in a buffet, is good standard Spanish fare'.
Spain.holiday has more info on a potential visit.

Having the baños as a base for further exploration of the surrounding area is an additional plus point. Just the city of Almería and it's inner city is worth a couple of visits. What about it's beautifully restored 19th century Mercado Central and afterwards a coffee with churro's? Or the alley's around the cathedral? Or the Alcazaba (Moorish castle)?
Don't forget to enjoy the seaside boulevard to view all the evening paseo, the youngsters playing volleyball on the beach or dining while the evening ferry from Morocco arrives.

Even closer are the cinema sets for western style movies, just where the down bound road evens out. Almería is even host to a western-style movie festival!

Further afield, the village of Níjar is a very picturesque. Beyond the village  can walk along the valley with it's many mills, the ruta de los Molinos / ruta los Molinos de Agua
The village itself specializes in Andalucian ceramics and jarapa's. 

After a visit here we stocked up on some bocadillo's and headed out to one of the Cabo de Gata beaches, the Playazo beach of Rodalquilar
The weather for late October was great so the beach still had a good weekend turnout of mostly locals. A mix of scarcely clothed and non-clothed, the vibe was certainly great for a beach picnic followed by a long swim in the still warm waters.
The Cabo de Gata National Park is an area yearning to be explored. Vibrant villages attract the hip and young, while the mountains are easy to scale and the many beaches are devoid of construction but open to near year round skinny dipping. 
The cape itself is a nice though not too special outing. Make it worthwhile by visiting the slat marshes of Las Salinas which are home to a variety of birds, flamingo's providing the lead role .... .

Inland past Alhama de Almería are more mountain villages from where one can experience solitude on foot. Particularly the Sierra Nevada mountains behind Laujar de Andarax host many a trail. We took a scary trail along a disused hydrocanal, which passed along some high precipices and included a 20m winding tunnel. 

The nearby village of Padules is home to another wonder of nature. Perched high up above the Andarax river, a steep trail runs down from the village to the river. Called Las Canales, the river here squeezes and pushes itself through 50m high rocks. On the weekday we were here, it was totally deserted making it even more rewarding ... . Here's another great account of a visit.

All in all, a great couple of days was had at our stay in Baños de Sierra Alhamilla, certainly worthwhile of a repeat. We were also very impressed with the vibe. 

But somehow I couldn't help but think that with a fresh approach to soaking and how to enjoy soaking could breathe even more life to what essentially is old school business model. Currently depending on elder guests with free time to bore themselves to death who are willing to spend a bit extra on food.

Witness a possible alternative. Rent out larger soaking tubs, each with a view of the valley. Ideal for those seeking sociable experiences as a way to cap off a day activity with the possibility to take a tapas or two with a drink. Even the two could co-exist ...

Making history?

Thursday, November 6, 2014


A slight photographic break from the blog posts entries with half a dozen or so photo's of soaking in Europe, starting with one from a soak I recently visited:

Santa Fe, Granada, Andalucia, Spain: extended family soaking (source).

@zen_thinking and I spent the evening at a beautiful natural geothermal hot spring tucked away in the countryside, amongst rolling hills, grazing sheep and a golden setting sun. incredible experience! #iceland #icelandzen #icelandsunset #geothermal #hotspring #absoluteiceland #discovericeland #madewithfaded @madewithfaded @bestoficeland #exploreiceland #travel #traveliceland #jenniferpicardphotography #neverstopexploring #livefolk #liveauthentic #life #love #relax #paradise #zen 
Chris le hobbo, dans les sources d’eau chaude de Saint-Thomas [France] 
Petit after-work dans les sources d’eau chaude de Lieccia.
One I couldn't retrace. Anybody? All I know it's in Tuscany, Italy .. but no hints, source

warm springs in Permet next to the ottoman bridge
Albania of all places, source Franco Pecchio

I wish this was my bathtub every day #azores #caldeiravelha #hotsprings
Azores = Portugal, source

Swimming in the hot springs of Pozar [Greek Macedonia]. It's really cold out btw emoji️ Greek beauty #notincrisis #pozar #hotsprings #thermalwaters #nature #greece #wonderful #bliss

Well, keep looking up this sight, more entries are to follow from my travels in Andalucia, as well as a full texted update later this month ....

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Lessons to be learnt
Alhama. The name already says it all. 
What? Well Alhama is derived from الـحَـمّـة , Arabic for hammam. Some say Arab bath, others Turkish (steam) bath
Any road, the town of Alhama de Granada is a town fortified in the Middle Ages, perched on a ledge over a not so deep gorge (but still spectacular) through which the Alhama river flows. 
And a couple of kilometres downstream, just around a sharp corner in the gorge, are the hot springs which gave name to the town.

Though the town may show it prominent roots (it thrived through the latter centuries of Moorish rule and the earlier rule under Catholicism), the existence of hot springs traces it's history to pre-Roman times when human interaction was said to have taken place. During Roman administration, the local rulers of course did their best to upgrade the hot spring facilities and oddly enough the fact that the Arab rulers did some renovations to the original Roman building seems to have sticked: the hot springs are referred to as Arab baths. After the Moors left further adjustments were made, such as the division of baths and the consequent construction of surrounding buildings, which increased in pace in the latter nineteenth century as the springs became more and more a traditional European bathing place for the elite. Originally there was one spring, but after an earthquake in 1884 another appeared.

In more recent times there seems to be confusion as regards to the ownership. This news article (Ideal, Nov. 12, 2008) discusses some of the then already protracted claims over 8 years between the company operating the spa and the local council.  
Concerning the exact details of the  history of the baths of Alhama de Granada a thorough scientific historical account has been undertaken by Salvador Raya Retamero entitled:  Historia de los Baños Termales de Alhama de Granada. De Roma a la actualidad. I take most of the above from an interview with said author. The interview comes with a few interesting historical pictures.

To do
The town of Alhama de Granada is worth a visit in it's own right. With spectacular views over the gorge, the town is a criss cross of small streets leading along centuries old buildings. Prominent during the Moorish reign, many of the buildings were then catholicsized.

The square before the oldest part of town is now packed with terraces, Alhama certainly has a lot of charm. In the gorge below the town, one can partake in one of the many walks. 

The town has an extensive local tourism office, which provided good info as well as a having a good web presence. They also do cheap tours of the old town.
One of the buildings which was open had a so-called exposition on thermal bathing places. But in reality it were just some general posters concerning bathing institutes in Spain.

Another good intro to the town can be found here with quite a lot of links on what to do. 

Further afield are two good places for a (wildish) swim: La Resinera (more info) and Embalse de Los Bermejales (more info). 
Though apparently activities are in reverse outside of summer, especially La Resinera was deserted. So we were a bit undecided whether or not we were at the right place. By the time we were at the lake we spent a great deal of time to find a lunch; here the lakeside eatery had closed up again.

The hot springs themselves are on the premises of the bathing resort. From the main highway, a narrow one lane road winds itself through the gorge and follows the flow of the river. Once beyond the rocks and the gorge, you will get to the gate of said bathing resort. Beyond is a small rough car park. Park here and cross the bridge. 

On the bridge, downstream you will see the overflow from the resort with two other pools, all adjacent to the stream. A steel set of stairs has been made to take you from the bridge to the pools. No more facilities than that are available.

The soaks next to the river.

When we arrive, there is already a family leaving the soaks, changing alfresco. We follow suit and spend the next half hour, watching patrons of the bathing institute to and fro over the bridge and other soakers joining us in the process.
The outflow.
It is a nice facility, free yes. But the temperature is just not hot enough for a longer sojourn. What's more, bathing under the stares of other guests somehow is not really comfortable, it feels like they think of us soakers as cheaters ... Them paying for all the frills, we paying nada ...

From the soak. 

This is a great web entry on the hot springs with bags of info and a first hand account of actual spa-ing. It notes that for a small fee one can observe the ancient baths from behind glass if allowed entrance to the bathing resort; they aren't in use (?).
'The property has a distinct health-focused, sanitarium feel, with professional staff dressed in white who offer a range of thermal water treatments. The water is said to not only relax the body, but also to help with removing toxins, cleaning and moisturising the skin and relieving arthritis and rheumatism amongst many other attributes.
The spa circuit is escorted, so a member of the team is with you for each stage.
It starts with classic water jets called 'Chorros a Presión'; one stands in a bathing suit in a private cubicle as powerful hoses are carefully and precisely directed at major muscle groups to relax, and tone.
Then it's a good 10 to 15 minutes in a large bubbling spa hot tub,  the 'Baño de Percussion': and then further time to relax and even meditate in the hot 'Baño de la Reina'. This is a large, shallow pool of hot thermal water, constantly refreshed by a bubbling source spilling out over lava rocks in the centre of this dimly lit, centuries-old space. One can cool off in large walk in circular showers.
To end, there are a range of additional services including a personalised mineral bubble bath in a huge, antique marble tub, hewn from a single, huge piece of marble. Therapeutic massages and facials are also available, as well as a salon dedicated to the inhalation of the water vapours'.
From the Balneario Alhama de Granada website

Then there is the Balneario de Alhama de Granada resort's website. Though it adds little know how than above. Prices are 80€ for an overnite stay with free use of the outside pool. Use of other facilities means more expenditure of nearly a minimum of €20 per treatment / usage.

Vernon has this experience of the free soak:
'But there is such a thing as a free bath.
Beside the spa there is a natural source of constantly flowing thermal water. Those who, like me, don’t want to pay to experience the benefits of the thermal waters, simply pull up in the car park and go to sit in the river.
Thereafter, you should take a stroll around the town and enjoy some tapas in one of the main squares'.

Here's another experience, this time from myNerja:
'The rock pools themselves are just a ramshackle couple of shallow pools, made from stones piled up around the side. There is also a concrete outlet drain, which people use as a makeshift hot tub. There are empty bottles and items of discarded clothing lying around, so don’t expect a high class spa experience, but on the other hand, it is free. The hotel pool is opposite the hotel, down a tree lined footpath. If you are not a guest in the hotel you have to pay €8 per person to use the pool, plus €3.50 for a swimming cap. The waters are naturally heated inside the ground and the pool temperatures are around 37ºC'.

There's a lot to discuss concerning this soak on the Spanish language forum FurgoVW, always an interesting site. Tips are for nite bathing or very early morning.

An extensive description in German, while at realandulacia, there's a photographic visit from a few years back. This website has an extensive number of links on Alhama and it's baths.

This is what the interior pools look like:
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And finally, from youtube there's this experience from a few years back:

Euro soaks visited