Begun by the Romans and brought to its greatest splendour by the Austro-Hungarian emperors, spas in Croatia are both a thousand-year-old tradition and a modern dream.
There are many advantages to choosing Croatia as a destination for a spa weekend (or why not, a whole week!): it has a great choice of facilities and the prices, although no longer the super low-cost ones of the early 2000s, are still good and on average lower than those of more emblazoned European spa destinations.
Moreover, the spas are often located in idyllic natural settings, hidden in the mountains, nestled along quiet valleys or overlooking a surprisingly blue Adriatic Sea. The pleasure of warm water caressing your body is complemented by the intoxicating scents of nature, such as the aromas of lavender, rosemary and other medicinal plants, and beautiful panoramic views – a unique sensory journey that will restore your energy and good mood.
A spa holiday in Croatia is suitable for everyone, but be careful if you are travelling with children as there may be some age restrictions. These are partly due to health reasons (very high temperature waters, saunas and Turkish baths are not suitable for very young children), and partly due to marketing (some facilities cater specifically to an adult audience).
To enjoy an unforgettable spa holiday in Croatia with your family, look for family-friendly spa hotels; even in the case of family-friendly establishments, it is a good idea to enquire about any access times reserved for adults. The same advice applies, on the contrary, to couples who desire a romantic atmosphere and adults who dream of a weekend or holiday in peace and privacy.
Fortunately, there is a spa for every age: the best spas in Croatia offer special packages for couples, families and pensioners.
The best areas for a spa holiday in Croatia are the northern and central parts of the country, especially the regions around Zagreb, because this is where the oldest seaside resorts are located; the hinterland offers a greater choice of establishments than the coast.
If you are looking for a more modern and exclusive experience, seaside spa hotels are for you because they offer more services and amenities, but bear in mind that the pools in these hotels are often not filled with natural hot water and it is not always possible to have beauty and healing mud treatments.
Below we present six historical spa towns in Croatia. You can choose to spend your entire holiday in one of them or visit them on a day trip.
If you want to treat yourself to the top of your spa holiday in Croatia, book Tuhelj Spas in Tuheljske Toplice, about 35 km from Zagreb: it is the largest and most famous spa in Croatia. This beautifully designed spa complex is harmoniously set in the idyllic landscape of the Zagorje region, a green oasis of absolute peace, and is decorated with works by Croatian artists.
The curative mineral waters in the area are sulphurous, with a source temperature of 32-33°, and have long been used to treat rheumatic illnesses, orthopaedic injuries, and skin diseases. The mud formed at the Tuhelj thermal spring is considered among the best healing muds in Europe.
A unique experience that you can have at Terme Tuhelj is bathing in the spring pools, i.e. two pools created from natural basins near the spring from which the thermal water flows.
In addition to these, you will find a gigantic water park with indoor and outdoor pools designed according to an artificial landscape project that aimed for a perfect balance between architecture and its natural surroundings: goal achieved! Immortalised by photographer Rostuhar for his art project ‘Croatia from Above’, the Water Planet of the Tuhelj Thermal Spa has become an icon of modern Croatia and a must-see destination for European spa tourism.
The establishment also includes a spa where beauty treatments and massages can be booked, and a sauna area. The water park also includes slides, water games and other attractions for children.
Another popular spa resort not far from Zagreb is Krapinske Toplice, a town nestled in a green valley 40 kilometres from the capital and about 15 from the town of Krapina. It was already known as a spa resort in Roman times under the name Aquae Vivae; the first modern spa was built in the second half of the 18th century.
The thermal waters in the area are very hot (the temperature at the spring is 39-41°) and rich in calcium, magnesium and hydrocarbons. Among the many therapeutic uses of these waters are treatments for rheumatism, sciatica, inflammation, gout, degenerative diseases, muscle diseases and post-traumatic rehabilitation.
In the town you will find several hotels and clinics offering day-spa or anti-stress treatments. The largest occupies an area of no less than 18,000 square metres where indoor and outdoor pools (including even one for diving exercises), saunas, gayser, ice room and beauty centre are located.
An obligatory stop on any spa itinerary in Croatia is Varazdinske Toplice, the oldest spa resort in the country – it boasts more than two thousand years of history behind it – as well as one of the most touristy.
Known in Roman times as Aquae Lasae, this small town is located about 15 km from Varazdin; it is nestled in a valley in northern Croatia crossed by the Bednja River and surrounded by hills partly planted with vines, partly covered in forest.
The thermal waters in the area are of the sulphurous-fluorinated type and have a very high temperature at source: as high as 58°! They are mainly used to treat rheumatic and locomotive diseases.
The thermal spa offers curative and wellness treatments; it has three indoor and two outdoor pools (one with slides and water games for children). Before or after the thermal pools, it is worth stopping in town for a while to admire the beautiful historical buildings and the remains of the Roman baths.
70 km from Zagreb, not far from the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, is Topusko, a spa resort once frequented by emperors, kings and princes. Today, the glories of the past seem light years away and Topusko is a quiet resort, suitable for those who don’t like fuss and frills; prices are slightly lower than other more popular spas.
The village lies in the valley of the Glina River, a tributary of the Kupa, and is surrounded by green hills that reach an altitude of about 500 metres.
The thermal water of Topusko is of volcanic origin, slightly radioactive, and has a temperature at the source between 68 and 72 degrees. It is used to treat diseases of the nervous and muscular system, arthritis, neurological diseases, and injuries of the locomotor system.
The spa includes five outdoor pools and one indoor pool.
Health and wellness are also at the centre of the tourist offer in Daruvar, a town in western Slavonia some 130 km from Zagreb. Here too, the spa tradition dates back to Roman times and is continued today by modern facilities and qualified staff.
The thermal waters of Daruvar are rich in minerals such as calcium and magnesium; the temperature at the source is 46°. They are particularly effective for the treatment of gynaecological problems (including infertility), rheumatism and trauma. Daruvar is also one of the few thermal centres in Croatia with specific treatment programmes for children.
For those who, fortunately, do not need treatment but come to Daruvar on holiday, there is the Aquae Balissae thermal water park with indoor and outdoor pools, children’s playgrounds, and a wellness centre for beauty treatments and massages.
If for you spa is synonymous with spa, or if for you there is no relaxation without the sea, leave the green hills of the hinterland with their warm waters alone: the right place for you to recharge your batteries is Opatija.
The lack of thermal springs is more than compensated for by the charm of the sea waves and the fairytale atmosphere evoked by its illustrious past, when the tourists who frequented it were nobles and artists of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The opulent waterfront palaces that once welcomed these illustrious visitors are now luxury hotels for tourists in search of class and sophistication.
The spas in Opatija’s 4- and 5-star hotels retain their 19th-century charm while adapting to the needs and tastes of today’s guests. They feature indoor pools with panoramic windows, outdoor infinity pools and beauty centres offering a wide variety of treatments and massages. The service is always impeccable: you are in the right place to be pampered.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article