Thursday, December 25, 2014

Experience

A couple of pictures to warm up the festive season ...

1 grado, nieve y aguas termales en medio del bosque, gracias #merenlesvalles #france #francia #termas #thermes

#ricordi#estate#lanonnaésemprelanonna#terme#toscana#echicemazza emojiemojiemoji 
source, Italy


Erica Berry soaks in a natural hot springs in Sicily’s Madonie National Park.
Submitted by Rosie Bowden
Instagram @ericajberry
#hotspring #naturalpool #lieeeebe emoji
Iceland's Seljavallalaug, source

#palju #iceland #north66 #keissir 

Romanian hot spring by Revolution_Ferg
Hot Sulphur Pools -Vallea Cerna #WalkingTransylvania

#termales#alhama#granada#giornatarelax#acquacalda 
South Spain, source

Aedipsos has hot spring water that gushes out from a sea wall. There are pools carved into the rock below for a jacuzzi like experience.
Maikoul A, Greece 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tunnel vision


More rustic
Having just visited the elusive free hot springs of Alicún de las Torres, we continue onwards back to the motorway, close to the town of Baza and then take the turnoff onwards to the village of Zújar
Once in Zújar and after a coffee, we follow the rather small signboards heading to the presumed hot springs which lie between the looming Cerro de Jabalcón and the Negratin lake. 

Fifteen minutes out of Zújar and past a couple of nasty potholes, we come to a steep side road. Up this rather grand drive way we arrive at a modern looking and very recently constructed spa building. Named Balneario de Zújar it makes a very swish impression.
We enter the balneario with a bang; apparently the huge door jams this way. We patiently ask what a soak would set us back. Soaking around for a couple of hours will set you back 20€. 

I had read that there's an inexpensive more rustic place. This isn't it. 

 
Looks like a soak?

With another bang of the door, we continue a little onwards away from Zújar, along the lake. 

Windchill
A little further along the main road encircling Negratin Lake, located on the lakeside itself, is a restaurant. Below the restaurant, halfway down to the lake itself, is a semi-circular pool.

Though the principle business here is catering, the proprietors also manage the hot spring pool. Entrance fee paid at the bar is just 2€. 

Through a gate and down stairs one comes to the pool on the right with minimalist changing facilities on the left. Half of the pool lies under a hard plastic tunnel, assisting in warding off the chilly winds blowing in off the lake. 

A quick change of clothing and it's a dive into the hot springs .... Brrrr, the waters themselves are not so hot, barely 30°C? 

There are a few other soakers here, but what with the winds and cooler than anticipated waters, a longer soak is not really what's required ....
We quickly dress and continue our onwards drive ...

View from the restaurant

While away
Now let's see what more info can be delved from the internet, starting with the above mentioned balneario. 
Next door to the balneario is an hotel with rooms going for €50 for an early December overnite stay.  
Booking.com rates this hotel with a 8.9 (from 80+ reviews), with many glowing stories regarding the excellence of facilities and staff. Tripadvisor is less generous, giving it just three stars out of possible 5; apparently breakfasts are not so appealing. Meanwhile tripadvisor's reviews the balneario itself and it has 5 stars! Though only from 1 review ...

Then the website of Balneario de Zújar itself. What do we learn? 
The current site has been open for just over 1 year.  
It adds a snippet of information on how the waters were famous since Roman times, though there's precious little to be seen concerning this glamorous past. Because the former site (indeed dating back to Roman times) has been submerged under the lake water (source) from 1985.

This is what it would have looked like. From panoramio:
 'Baños romanos-árabes de Zujar'
Then additional information on the soaking (not) site we failed to appreciate. Not much more to add, apparently what you see is what you get. 
The adjacent restaurant itself gets 3,5 stars from tripadvisor based on 10 reviews. Just an example:
'... the Menu del Dia at €10 includes starter, main course, dessert, drink and coffee (choose the simplest homecooked options). The reason to go is for the healing waters of the baths .. at just €2 adults and €1 children, it is a great way to while away a few hours overlooking the beauty of the lake'.
Pilgrimage
So what's more to do?
The nearby village of Zújar seems nothing special, but the aforementioned Cerro de Jabalcón is a magnet for more active pursuits. There is a road, which heads all the way up to the summit. Once there are great views to be had of the surroundings. 
As well as various ways of getting to the top, paragliding down is quite popular. And rock climbing. Cavehousecountry adds:
'The Hermitage of the Virgen de la Cabeza, situated at the top of the hill, is the object of the annual pilgrimage which is undertaken by much of the population of Zújar during their patron saint fiestas'.
Then in summer the beaches around the Negratin lake cater to many a swimmer, there's even an official naturist beach (source).
 
Baza is a nice town to visit. It was once the frontier town of the Moors and much of the ramparts and the original town remain. Among the buildings reconstructed are the original Arab baths from the 13/14th century, see this website.

Further away, Guadix is famous for it's cave dwellings but also has a pleasant town center with an old town situated around the cathedral and Moorish castle. 

Near Guadix there are still some more or less original Arab baths to be found, mostly in combination with cave dwellings. 
Take the example of nearby Las Cuevas Hammam del Abuelo Jose. Bathing prices are comparable to those charged in Granada. 

Located near Las Cuevas (in Cortes y Graena) there is a restored thermal bath in what was once an hammam. The website of these facilities appears to suggest that this is once again old-school bathing: a single bath is to be had for just under 10€ with a load of adds-on to make your stay worthwhile (and expensive). Temperatures are a neat 44°C. Might have been a better choice to visit.

Then back on subject, there is this website which mentions (and illustrates) the existence of secret hot springs of Zújar. They certainly look worthy of an invitation. But they're not telling where exactly they are to be found .....

Euro soaks visited