Hydrotherapy 101: Bathing like a Roman in Leukerbad, Switzerland

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by Suzanne Morphet

“Nudity is obligatory,” said the man from Leukerbad’s tourism office when I enquired about one of the most intriguing hydrotherapy options in this Swiss spa town.

I had never bathed nude in public before – not unless you count some occasional skinny-dipping in my youth – but that was among friends. Leukerbad’s Roman-Irish Bath would be with strangers, men and women.

For centuries, spa enthusiasts have been enjoying this town’s biggest asset: thermal water. Every day, more than 100,000 gallons gush to the surface, the largest volume in all of Europe.

Four public facilities and five hotels offer access to these mineral-rich waters for hydrotherapy. At Leukerbad Therme alone, ten pools of various shapes and sizes beckon, including a stone grotto with blistering hot 111° F (44° C) water, another designed specifically for your feet, and a leisure pool with underwater seats and possibly more jets than an airport.

I try them all before heading to Walliser Alpentherme, where I’ve worked up my courage to try hydrotherapy in the Roman-Irish Bath.

Walliser Alpentherme hydrotherapy

The name isn’t a stretch since Roman coins from the time of Vespasian have been found in Leukerbad, so Romans were here before me, no doubt naked as well. (The name also references 19th-century Irish bathhouses.)

The main bathing area is meant to resemble the inner courtyard of a Roman senator’s villa with two interlocking pools. Saunas, steam baths, and a massage room are tucked out of sight behind crimson-red walls.

Upon arrival, I enter the women’s changing room, shed my clothes and have a shower – the first step in the Roman-Irish hydrotherapy bathing ritual.

This process involves warming, cooling and cleansing the body in 11 stages, each for a prescribed time and temperature. Because visits are scheduled, you see only a few other people. Still, when I arrive at stage five’s soap-brush massage, two naked men are right behind me.

I quickly flop face-down onto the table, hoping to cover as much of my private anatomy as possible. The attendant shakes her head. ‘Onto your back,’ she motions.

Reluctantly, I roll over. Within seconds I don’t care who sees what. Being brushed all over with hot, soapy water feels divine. When she’s finished, I’m Miss Bliss, as slippery as a seal and compliant as a puppet.

Soon, it’s all over except for the ‘contemplation room’ where I’m wrapped in a blanket and left to doze like a babe in a nursery, clean, coddled and carefree.


Suzanne Morphet writes about adventure, from swimming with whale sharks to having a baby in a foreign country. She contributes to a variety of publications, including The Globe and Mail, Luxury Travel Magazine, Canadian Geographic Travel, Westworld and Ensemble Vacations Magazine. She’s based in Victoria, BC.

About Walliser Alpentherme & SPA in Leukerbad

Leukerbad Thermen Bath

Walliser Alpentherme & SPA is a luxury spa and wellness centre located in the picturesque town of Leukerbad, Switzerland. This world-renowned facility is set amidst the stunning backdrop of the Swiss Alps, providing guests with a truly immersive and relaxing experience.

The spa is built around the natural hot springs that have been used for their therapeutic properties for centuries. The water is rich in minerals and has a temperature of around 51°C. There are several indoor and outdoor thermal pools where guests can soak and enjoy the health benefits of the water, including increased circulation, reduced stress levels, and improved skin health.

In addition to the thermal pools, the spa offers a range of other facilities and treatments to help guests relax and rejuvenate. There are various saunas and steam rooms, including a panoramic sauna with breathtaking views of the mountains. There is also a saltwater pool and an ice grotto for those who want to cool off after a hot sauna.

The spa offers a range of treatments and massages, including traditional Swiss massages and hot stone therapy. Guests can also indulge in various beauty treatments, including facials and manicures, to help them look and feel their best.

The Walliser Alpentherme & SPA also has a gym and fitness center, complete with state-of-the-art equipment and personal trainers. Guests can work out in the gym, take part in a yoga class, or go on a guided hike through the mountains.

The spa also has several dining options, including a restaurant that serves healthy and delicious cuisine, as well as a bar that serves refreshing drinks and snacks.

Overall, the Walliser Alpentherme & SPA is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a luxurious and relaxing spa experience in the heart of the Swiss Alps.

Whether you’re looking to unwind after a day of skiing or hiking or simply want to escape the stresses of daily life, this world-class spa has something for everyone.

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