When you imagine spa locations for a tourist destination, the immediate ideas that spring to your mind are probably the fabled Turkish hamam baths or the thermal pools of Budapest. The truth is that the country of Romania is packed to the brim with thermal springs and local Romanians have been taking advantage of them for centuries. The only big difference between the more well-known mineral baths in other countries and those found in Romania is the price. If visiting natural thermal springs is on your list of things to do, you might want to think about coming to one of the Romanian gems, such as the criminally overlooked Baile Herculane.
Located just a few kilometers away from the modern day city of Drobeta Turnu Severin, the history of Baile Herculane and its thermal baths actually goes back to much older times. Legend has it that a weak and weary Hercules came to the region in ancient years and rested in the healing pools, thus serving as inspiration for the name of the place. Also, there is concrete proof that humans have lived continuously in Baile Herculane since the Paleolithic era, evidenced by caves that can still be visited. One of the biggest peaks of the area’s popularity came during Roman rule of the area when the city and its Herculaneum Spa were known throughout the Roman empire and there are many artifacts from that time.
Even though the thermal baths were used continuously throughout their known history, Baile Herculane has somehow managed to stay off the typical tourist trail. The closest it has gotten to becoming an international spa destination was during the interbelic period of Romania when the healing waters attracted nobility and aristocratic society from all corners of Europe. After World War II and the switch to communism, Baile Herculane became more of a Romanian treasure and it was heavily developed into a mass tourism resort for annual vacations taken by the Romanian population. With communism falling in 1989, the city moved into a new modern era and many new hotels and pensions have popped up to meet the increasing demand for accommodation.
Where to Stay
Today, a visitor has many choices for where to stay in Baile Herculane. While some of the original communist hotels, such as Hotel Diana, are still active, many of the newer and smaller locations offer a more personal feel from which to explore the town. Of these, Pension Noblesse may be the best choice for true luxury. The 4 star hotel opened their doors in 2011 and has quickly become a favorite with its excellent location in the center of town and an impressive list of amenities. The only downsides to the pension are the fact that it is 5 kilometers away from the natural springs and can command a high price during peak season. A good budget option that will put a visitor in the middle of the action is Pension Charisma, which is located less than a kilometer from the train station. Most hotels will offer a combination package of several nights that also gives a person access to the thermal baths as well.
The Mineral Waters
The reason that Baile Herculane is coming back into fashion after such a long dormancy has to do with the waters that are used in the thermal baths. A total of 16 natural springs have been identified in the area and they contain very high amounts of minerals like sulfur that are claimed to have healing properties. Combined with the many services offered by the spas, patients with a wide variety of conditions come on a regular basis to receive treatments as well as simply enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of the town. Some of the health problems that are said to be alleviated by the thermal springs include breathing problems, diabetes mellitus, digestive issues, obesity, eye problems, detoxification, and other disorders.
Things to Do Outside Baile Herculane
Spending time in the thermal baths is an excellent activity, but there’s much more to Baile Herculane than just the water. For a person staying several days in the resort town, it will be helpful to know what other sights are located near the spas. Valea Cernei National Park is nearby and has lots of hiking trails for someone who would like to spend some active time in nature. For those looking for more urban things to do, Drobeta Turnu Severin occupies a picturesque spot on the Danube and has all the amenities of a medium-sized city.
Getting to Baile Herculane
As part of a full Romanian vacation, Baile Herculane is relatively easy to reach. There are daily train and bus connections from Bucharest and Timisoara, the closest major city in the region. In addition, rental car is another option and can be a great way to explore not only the city and its spas, but also the surrounding area as well. For a person coming directly to Baile Herculane by plane, the nearest real airport is in Timisoara.
When to Go
Some people would argue that the summer is the best time to check out Baile Herculane, but it makes for a great winter destination as well as the hot baths can provide an excellent contrast for the cold weather outside. One particular time of note is thinking about coming to the spas for New Year’s Eve. Much less expensive than other New Year’s Eve destinations, there is a growing number of people that choose to ring in the new year by relaxing in the thermal baths.
Baile Herculane will not be an undiscovered destination for much longer. Word has already gotten out about the high mineral content of the waters and the pleasant atmosphere of the town. With spa tourism on the rise both in Romania and other countries, this place will soon be on the map. To get the best prices and a real feel for the place, a person should book their next vacation for the thermal baths as soon as possible.