With the finest collection of thermal leisure and spa centres in France, Midi-Pyrénées is the perfect place to unwind and relax, in the unspoilt environment of the mountains. Each spa is supplied with naturally warm thermal water with an average temperature of 33 degrees. Midi-Pyrénées is the fourth biggest thermal region in France.
Since the beginning of the 2000’s, ten thermal leisure and spa centres have opened their doors. Major investments have been made during the last ten years to enable to thermal leisure industry in the area to boom and the Midi-Pyrénées is welcoming more and more visitors to the spas each year – with a plus 28% increase in the last four years.
A thermal leisure centre is an establishment for relaxation and well-being based around pools and water features. They are open all year round and are characterised by water displays and features such as hydro-massage, high pressure jet seats, geysers, counter-current pools, bubble beds, swan neck jets, musical baths, waterfalls, etc. They are radically different from public swimming pools and water parks as they are not designed for swimming and diving and they are not supplied with mains water but with thermal or natural mineral water which has been officially approved.
The use of thermal fluid provides high levels of added value in the thermal leisure facilities making them ‘Authentic’ – offering a product that is unique to the site and cannot be delocalised, ‘Natural and Ecological’ – the water comes from the depths of the earth and is totally pure and ‘Magical’ – carbon dating has established that the water is several centuries old, several millennia in some cases whilst the physic-chemical composition of the water is mild and gentle on the skin.
See overleaf for a selection of spas and thermal leisure centres in the Midi-Pyrenees.
Note to editors: Whether you prefer to spend your time experiencing culture, pursuing an activity or enjoying typical French hospitality, the Midi-Pyrénées appeals to most tastes. Midi-Pyrénées is the largest region of south-west France. From Toulouse, The Pink City, to the banks of the Canal du Midi, the grandiose spectacle of the Cirque de Gavarnie or the Millau Viaduct, authentic villages oozing with character such as Saint-Cirque Lapopie and exuberant festivals like Jazz in Marciac, explore all the possibilities that Midi-Pyrénées offers. The region is easily accessible from the UK with direct flights from London, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle and Dublin. For more information, visit www.tourism-midi-pyrenees.co.uk or call +33 561 13 55 12.
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The Bains du Couloubret in Ax-les-Thermes
Ax-les-Thermes is the ultimate thermal town of the Ariege Pyrenees, where thermal water has been used since Roman Times. This recently renovated thermal leisure centre has a Roman theme with a frigidarium, caldarium and vaporarium. The ground floor has a 200 square metre central pool with water at 77 degrees, the warmest in the Pyrenees. Upstairs there are several different areas – Nordic, Oriental and Wellness and outside Panoramic Pool and Amphitheatre with gorgeous views over the mountains. www.bains-couloubret.com
Luchon Forme et Bien-Etre Centre
The spa features a surprising network of underground galleries developed in the ‘60s and renovated in 2010. The sulphur-rich thermal water filters through the rock face, releasing steam which fluctuates between 38-42 degrees – this is ideal for weight management, skin cleansing, muscle relaxation and eliminating toxins and is unique – the only natural steam bath in Europe. This is a beautiful Belle Epoque spa which is one of the oldest in the region yet has a recently developed range of new treatments such as nano-mineral treatment which comes in vitality, peel, comfort or slimming chocolate versions.
Balnéa in Génos-Loudenvielle (Hautes-Pyrénées)
Balnéa offers guests a journey across the world, with the baths of Rome, the Amerindian climate, the harmonies of Tibet and the serenity of Japan – the different environments make this an ideal centre for families with children from the age of nine months welcomed. The floor-to ceiling windows offer a fantastic view over the largest concentration of peaks in the Pyrenees over 3000 metres.
The Edenvik in Capvern-les-Bains
Dedicated to the balance of the senses, at ‘must do’ at the Edenvik is a sophrology session which rearranges emotions, thoughts and behaviour! Today, the resort specialises in treatment of kidneys, metabolic disorders and excess weight, some of the highlights include a Turkish bath that looks like a Viking lodge and a zen ambiance.
Aquesis in Bagneres-de-Bigorre
Formerly known as ‘The Athens’ of the Pyrenees, the small spa town of Bagneres-de-Bigorre has a thermal leisure and spa centre to match its historical cachet. Based in the 19th century wing of Bagneres Casino, Aquensis has an amazing larch wood framework above the central pool which is quite spectacular. The recently expanded ‘chic & spa’ area with high ceilings, marble chimneys’ and cabins to enjoy individual treatments – the signature one being an asses milk bath.
Cieleo in Bareges
The new spa (2009) covers 2,500 square metres and is adjacent to the Bareges thermal baths built during the reign of Napoleon III. The spa boasts an atmosphere designed for contemplation and for dreaming, with a glass dome on top of a rotunda for viewing the sky and the stars. The motto here is ‘feet in the water, head in the stars’. There is an extensive range of treatments such as the Baregine muscle relaxation massage which uses sulphureted water as its active ingredient.
Luzea in Luz-Saint-Sauveur
Luzea is suspended on the side of the mountain on a historic site, preserving the memory of the 19th century spa visitors, in particular Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, who were great advocates of the Pyrenean thermal waters. Highlights of the spa include the ‘hanging Jacuzzis’, with expansive views and the high quality beauty treatments such as the Cosmetic Cocktail which is a body scrub followed by a massage with the oil of your choice – Mojito, Pina Colada or Tequila.
The Jardin des Bains in Argeles-Gazost
A spa town famous for phlebology and respiratory tract treatments, Argeles-Gazost opened a thermal leisure centre in 2011. The thermal centre is based on the theme of travel through gardens in time and space – from dazzling waterfalls in the emerald forest to the quietly refined atmosphere of the Turkish baths of Babylon. The walking trail has three baths with different depths, temperatures and floor materials. The gardens feature therapeutic plants such as bee balm and wild roses and the architecture is spectacular with details like the Ziggurat which has decors inspired by Mesopotamian art. One of the signature treatments is Balsamic Milk – good for tired legs.
The Bains du Rocher in Catuterets
Having opened in 2010, this vast thermal spa is devoted to relaxation in thermal water (2,500 square metres). There is a unique outdoor lagoon which is made of stainless steel so the water reflects the surrounding mountains and tress – it is quite beautiful, as is the Turkish bath made of mother of pearl mosaic and lit with optical fibres. The town was popular in the 19th century with figures such as Sarah Bernhardt, Victor Hugo and Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand.
Sensoria in Saint-Lary
A perfect thermal leisure and spa centre for relaxing time with the family, Sensoria is open to children from the age of just three months. The most recent addition to the Pyrenean mountain range, the spa features contemporary architecture and offers various treatments for adults such as the hydro-massage bath and affusion modelling massages. The spa is split into three main areas – Sensoria Rio (pools), Sensoria Wellness (treatments) and Sensoria Fitness (sports).