With its rich natural surroundings and outstanding SPA facilities, the Baltic republic of Lithuania should make it onto any wellness-seeker’s bucket list
In the last few years, Lithuania, the largest of the three Baltic States, has earned itself a well-deserved reputation as a surprising, wallet-friendly weekend break amongst visitors.
Whilst the charming red roofs in the Old Town of the capital, Vilnius, and the Art Deco wonder that is the second largest city, Kaunas, remain the largest draws for tourists, Lithuania is still to be discovered for all that it has to offer for wellness-seekers – such as mineral water and mud treatments with hundreds of years of traditions, vast forests ideal for forest therapy, white sand beaches and hundreds of freshwater lakes. In addition, there are world-class SPA facilities and even unique SPA towns, such as Druskininkai.
From tailor-made mineral water treatments in the medical SPAs of Druskininkai, one of the oldest SPA towns in Eastern Europe’s Baltic region, to amber saunas in Palanga on the Baltic coast, Lithuania’s wellness facilities will leave visitors surprised and rejuvenated in equal measure.
Druskininkai Health Resort (Druskininkų gydykla)
The Druskininkai Health Resort is the oldest medical SPA in Druskininkai. From 19th century, through to the interwar period, the Soviet occupation of Lithuania, and up to the present day of independence, it has served as one of the country’s most popular SPAs to visitors from the wider European continent and The Near Abroad. Despite also being one of the oldest SPAs in Lithuania, its medical facilities are fully up-to-date, and visitors can take full advantage of the resort’s mud and mineral water baths, swimming pool, steam rooms, massage facilities, cryotherapy (cold therapy) equipment, and mineral water pump-rooms. Druskininkai Health Resort specialises in therapeutic mud and mineral water therapies – these are locally sourced, and aimed at treating cardiovascular conditions, blood diseases, epilepsy, mental health issues, and substance addictions. Other treatments also assist pregnant patients suffering from breast feeding complications.
The Baltic Coast
The Baltic coast is home to a number of wellness resorts, the biggest of which is the seaside town of Palanga. Recognised largely as a place for summer fun, Palanga is gradually becoming recognised for its wellness facilities thanks to its SPA facilities and the world’s largest amber sauna. In addition to the wellness benefits obtained from the sun, sea, and the area’s rich pine forests during the summer months, Lithuania’s Baltic coast is home to some of the finest beaches in Europe. The nearby Curonian Spit provides visitors seeking a relaxed summer holiday with award winning landscapes thanks to its soft white sands, undulating dunes, and small fishing villages with architecture unique to the region. The Curonian Spit is unique in that it is surrounded by the Baltic Sea on one side, and the 98 mile long Curonian Lagoon on the other.
Extreme Saunas and Cryotherapy
Druskininkai is home to a number of extreme wellness treatments. The Kantri sauna in the Aqua Park is aimed at serious sauna session lovers, and reaches temperatures up to 110C and it is powered by a heavy rock soundtrack, and three furnaces weighing 300 kilograms. Despite being largely a source of entertainment, the Kantri sauna brings a number of health benefits, which in addition to detoxing includes stress reduction, includes strengthened immunity and a boosted metabolism. On the other end of the extreme scale is Druskininkai Health Resort’s long-standing cryotherapy treatment which gives extreme wellness-seekers the opportunity to immerse their bodies in temperatures as low as -165C. Lasting just two minutes, this cryotherapy procedure provides much more than bragging rights – by being exposed to such low temperatures, the body experiences improved oxygen supply and releases chemicals possessing anti-inflammatory properties. Cryotherapy has also been found to improve respiratory issues and reduce cellulite. If treatments at the extreme heat and extreme cold ends of the wellness spectrum prove to be too much, the resort is also home to the Sharko Shower. A form of hydrotherapy, the Sharko Shower is a short, five-minute water massage covering the entire body apart from the head and is a popular form of treatment for the nervous system, as well as those suffering from fatigue, weight, and spinal complications – to enhance its healing effects, it can also be combined with more traditional treatments such as mud and oxygen therapies.
Upa Medical SPA
The Upa Medical SPA is one of the leading medical SPAs in Lithuania. Located amongst the secluded pine forests of Druskininkai, Upa’s doctors help patients suffering from musculoskeletal and cardiovascular disorders, as well as those recovering from cancer, joint surgery, as well as digestive and respiratory disorders. Depending on their treatment programme, Upa’s patients will obtain a personalised wellness plan based on their condition, and they will be treated using the SPA’s modern medical facilities, and also work with a tailor-made diet regimen. This particular medical spa also draws on Lithuania’s Pagan heritage and takes its name from Upa, the Balt goddess of rivers, springs, and water, and this nod to history is reflected in the facility’s interior.
Ice swimming is one of the most extreme forms of wellness in Lithuania. On top of being an invigorating form of exercise, ice swimming makes the brain produce dopamine and seratonin in the brain, which in turn boosts mental wellbeing, vitality, and mood. It also releases lactic acid in the joins to improve movement, and the shock of the cold water boosts circulation and burns calories. The town of Trakai, some 30 kilometres from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, hosts the annual ice swimming championship in its Galvė lake which lines the majestic Trakai Castle. Competitors swim 25 metres in the frozen water, but it is a regular pastime for visitors to the country’s numerous lakes and rivers.
For a country that is over 30% covered in forest, it is no surprise that Lithuanians feel a close connection with nature – after all, Lithuania is one of the few remaining countries in Europe to still have a recognised pagan movement. In addition to its rich connection with nature, walks and hikes throughout Lithuania’s pine forests can offer wellness seekers the opportunity to de-stress, boost their mental health, and lower their blood pressure after medical experts found that nature therapy can be as effective as conventional medical treatments. Furthermore, the forests in Lithuania are not just relegated to alternative wellness treatments. In a limited period during the autumn months, the country’s forests become a forager’s paradise thanks to the rich number of mushrooms that spring up overnight. Fast-forward to summer, and the forests of Lithuania become a playground for outdoor activity thanks to its mountain biking trails and numerous lakes. All-year-round, the lakes play an important part in the Lithuanian wellness scene and are used by visitors who rent cabins with saunas by the lakes, and use them as part of their sauna treatments to further detox by jumping into them.
As tourism levels to Lithuania from across Europe increase year-on-year it is expected that Lithuania’s reputation as a European centre of wellness will grow alongside these rising numbers of guests.