Thermal spas in a mountain resort: Leukerbad, Switzerland
If there is one thing that Switzerland does well (other than chocolate and cheese), it's wellness. The country is world-renowned for its spas and wellness retreats. There is something about that mountain air that does a body good.
In early February we decided to finally experience the wonderful outdoor thermal baths of Leukerbad, which is about 3 hours south of us in the canton Valais. The drive itself was beautiful (and even included a short ride on the car-train) and Leukerbad is at the absolute end of many winding roads going up into the Alps. The town is famous for its natural thermal baths, which are always close to 90 degrees, year-round.
We choose an adorable traditional Swiss Chalet-style hotel, Hotel Waldhaus, which included 3 hours daily entry to the amazing Alpentherme spa. And OMG, the spa was heaven. There were warm pools both inside and outside, but the outside one was simply spectacular. Sitting outside in the sun, in the middle of winter, surrounded by mountains was perfect. This place has to be the fountain of youth. Inside, they also had a 2-hour Roman/Irish bath circuit, which is a designated series of saunas, massages and baths (of varying temperatures) for the perfect relaxation ritual. It's also completely NUDE. Welcome to Switzerland. Luckily, they time admissions, so you don't really run into anyone else during the circuit. It was super awkward though, since staff was walking around and the American in me still doesn't find it normal to just be walking around a public place naked. Oh well, it was still really cool.
The entire village is also a ski resort and we saw tons of families heading up to the slopes every day. We didn't bring our skis, but we did take the gondola up to one of the main peaks just to get a view. If we had been thinking we would have at least brought hiking boots to explore more on the mountains (and go sledding!!). But a coffee in the sun was nice enough. And I swear we could see the iconic Matterhorn in the distance.
I could have spent a week there - alternating between the spas and the mountains, it was beautiful. Another reason we chose our hotel was for its restaurant (obviously). It had great reviews on TripAdvisor and didn't disappoint. Traditional Swiss food and good local wines. Our dinner table even had a view (through a glass panel in the floor) to the wine cellar - super cool.
On the drive home, we passed through Montreux, in the French region. The weather was still gorgeous and a slight detour to see Lake Geneva (the original, sorry Wisconsin) and its Chateau Chillon. The medieval castle is on a small island and definitely worth a visit. We did the audio tour and spent an hour seeing the original rooms (and prison!) and learning its history. Not a bad way to spend a weekend!