According to the Portuguese saying, soft water will keep on wearing a hard stone until it makes a hole. We prefer to say that until it heals. And the following words are proof of that. We have known about the therapeutic benefits of water for centuries, and the search for this remedy for the body (and soul) is nothing new. Among its many attributes, Portugal excels in the art of wellness, using water as the foundation for these treatments. Specifically, thermal spa resorts are proof that water can be our best friend.
Join us on a journey to two of the most exquisite Portuguese locations that combine luxury with health, based on water springs.
A perfect blend of history, nature and modern architecture, where all the elements exist in a perfect symbiosis. Welcome to the magical universe of the Pedras Salgadas Spa & Nature Park.
Located in the heart of Vila Pouca de Aguiar, nestled in a green landscape deep in the Portuguese interior, we find a perfect connection between nature and history that can be seen in several parts of this 20-hectare site.
A bit of history
Let’s go back in time, because this place demands we journey to the past. The area around Pedras Salgadas was a favourite spa destination for the Portuguese royal family at the beginning of the last century, with the properties of the Pedras Salgadas mineral water source gaining international fame, after winning awards for its therapeutic value at the 1873 Vienna International Exhibition. This award resulted in the construction of a spa that opened in 1879, when it became part of the itinerary for some of Portugal’s most renowned personalities, including the king.
Shortly afterwards, a company was set up to exploit the waters, which led to the discovery of new springs. In 1884 the Rio, Gruta, José Júlio Rodrigues, Férrea, Nova, Saraiva and Botelho, Penedo and Preciosa springs were discovered. That was also the year King Ferdinand visited Pedras Salgadas. The source of the river was then named after the king in his honour.
In 1906, King Carlos stayed at Pedras Salgadas to take the waters. The following year, the area received another boost when the Corgo railway line arrived at Pedras Salgadas.
The project gained fresh life in 2009 when the spa was rebuilt by Siza Vieira.
Water as a treatment
Now, Pedras Salgadas is the perfect retreat for those who seek well-being and tranquillity. It offers various experiences, ranging from staying in the Tree Houses or EcoHouses to treatments at the spa and meals at the Tea House. There is also time for a beautiful walk along the approximately 8 km path that leads you through the history of Pedras Salgadas.
The spa building is a must-see. Signed by award-winning Portuguese architect Siza Vieira, it is a place devoted to rest and relaxation. The architect has restored the space’s personality of yesteryear. In this temple to health and wellness, you can enjoy an indoor heated swimming pool with speed lanes, a sauna, a hammam (Turkish bath), a hydromassage, a jet shower, a Vichy massage shower and two relaxation rooms in addition to the massage rooms. The Spa has 14 treatment rooms, including five hydrotherapy rooms and two double rooms.
The experience is complete when you try the mineral water directly at its source. There are five springs in the park: Pedras Salgadas, Preciosa, Penedo, Grande Alcalina and Dom Fernando. The springs have unique therapeutic properties that have been recognised by the national and international scientific community for decades.
Nature. History. Health. And luxury. All in one truly timeless space. A real gateway to the past. Proof that luxury is timeless? Just visit Vidago Palace, the history of which goes back more than a century.
The place was built in 1910 by the order of King Carlos, whose aim was to establish a luxurious space with international prestige to accommodate visitors, tourists and the royal family, who came in search of the therapeutic effects of the famous mineral waters. This is why the space was built around the thermal springs and one of the world’s richest alkaline waters (with scientifically proven therapeutic and healing properties).
The location promises a journey back in time, at least in our imagination. The Noble Hall lets us (at least) imagine the style of the parties of those times, while also calling us back to reality with the mastery of Chef Vitor Matos’ menu. Background music transports us to an unfamiliar world that nevertheless feels close to us.
The project became the stage for grandiose festivities, with the Portuguese and European elites recognising its excellence. Vidago Palace became a trend, and the aristocracy became increasingly devoted to the characteristic luxury to be found there, alongside the natural magnificence of the gardens surrounding it.
After the Second World War, with Europe very fragile, the popularity of the hotel began to wane. It eventually closed for refurbishment in 2006, reopening with a new lease on life in 2010. The hotel recalls the art of living in the grand aristocratic houses of the Belle Époque, while also respecting its architectural heritage. It retains details from the original building and throughout its corridors presents the noble materials used in its construction and bespoke furniture, some recently crafted while other items date from when the hotel first opened more than 100 years ago.
The backdrop is provided by 110 hectares of greenery. The more than 100-year-old trees of the Vidago Natural Park surround the building like a protective mantle. Established in 1910, it presents a landscape that was typical of the early 20th century and which remains intact to this day.
And as water is at the core of all its splendour, the spa is truly very special. Spa by Clarins and Aromatherapy Associated has the signature of Siza Vieira and results from the refurbishments carried out between 2006 and 2010. In total, there are 2,500 sq m where one can coexist in peace and quiet. The rigorous architecture and simple furnishings allow natural light to enter through the building’s large windows, while medical and beauty treatments (some using Vidago mineral water) are carried out by a team of highly qualified experts.
Thus, we return to the beginning: luxury is timeless. And if the desire to enter a luxurious and magical world surrounded by nature and history combined with the therapeutic qualities of the water speaks loudly to you, then this is the best place to be.
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