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:
#me #arabresort #alhama #granada #summer #2013 #spain #instapic #elventorro #friends #spa #relax #peace #swimmingpool #love #alhamadegranada #andalucia #cuevas #arquitecture

And finally, from youtube there's this experience from a few years back:


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  2. I've just found your blog, congrats for this amount of useful information.

    No doubts about Alhama is a nice place to visit. I'm a «local» and I regularly visit the (free) hot springs. Since you complaint about the temperature of water, I guess you visited the hot springs in summer or fall. Between april and november, the balneario ("not free sector") is open to guests, they require more water so the flow decreases. Therefore, temperature decreases too and soaking in october-november could turn into a bad experience.

    I strongly recommend soaking in winter, from january to march, if possible by night. You'll find few people, maybe nobody. Anyway, peace and calm are guaranteed, a good water level and temperature over 40 degrees celsius.

    Finally I'd to complain about some bad experiences I'd had when skinny dipping here. It seems that some people have zero tolerance with nudity, even by night and with no children around. Were they born clothed? I won't never understand it.


    1. Thank you pianista for this first hand account, you make it sound like a perfect place to be in winter!
      I'm on the same level with you concerning skinny-dipping, unfortunatly people are less open-minded these days ...


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