The use of thermal waters in the territories occupied by the province of Zaragoza dates back to Roman times, but the spas we know today were born in the middle of the 19th century. With multiple options, the province of Saragossa, specifically, the Region of Calatayud, is one of those with more spas in Spain. Its facilities in the municipalities of Jaraba, Alhama de Aragón and Paracuellos de Jiloca are in constant evolution, as are its proposals.
THE ABUNDANCE OF SPAS IN A SMALL AREA IS NO COINCIDENCE: THIS AREA IN THE CALATAYUD REGION HAS NUMEROUS SPRINGS DECLARED OF PUBLIC UTILITY FOR THE BENEFITS OF ITS WATERS.
It is in Jaraba where the greatest number of establishments of this type is found, with three: the spas of La Virgen, Sicilia and Serón, although the latter has been closed since the pandemic. A few kilometers away are the Hotel Balneario Alhama de Aragón and the Termas Pallarés. The Paracuellos de Jiloca Spa closes the hexagon.
The latter is managed by Ramiro Pérez, vice-president of the Aragón Spa Association. As he explains, the types of clients of the spas in the province of Zaragoza are nowadays very varied. During the vacations there are profiles such as couples or families looking for an alternative destination to the beach and the mountains. But “one of the most powerful customers” are those coming from the Imserso Thermalism Program, which is “a profile that has changed a lot”.
“Before they tended to spend more time of their stay exclusively in the spas and now they want to visit the wineries in the area, the Monasterio de Piedra, the shoe factories in Illueca and Brea de Aragón or take a trip to Zaragoza,” he explains about the tourist attractions in the area, which are increasingly being included in the plans of users who come in groups.
In addition, he highlights the “great success” that has had this year the Social Thermalism Program of the Provincial Council of Zaragoza (DPZ), which has returned after the hiatus of the pandemic and that “is an opportunity for people from all over the province to discover the possibilities of thermalism” in its territory through two programs. The first one, of 9 days, has a more therapeutic effect, allowing the waters to have a more evident effect on the health, and of 4 days, with a more relaxing and playful component, he describes.
FOR THOSE WHO FEEL LIKE PUTTING THE BATHING SUIT IN THE SUITCASE AT ANY TIME OF THE YEAR, THESE ARE THE OPTIONS OF THERMALISM IN ZARAGOZA PROVINCE.
Pallarés Thermal Baths (Alhama de Aragón)
Located in Alhama de Aragón, Termas Pallarés has as its emblem its natural lake, in which thermal water flows constantly at 32 degrees. As Miguel Mirones, president of the Relais Termal chain, of which this spa is a part, points out, this natural lake with 22,000 square meters of water gives this space its most special character.
“People can bathe permanently because the water springs from the subsoil all year round at a temperature of 32 degrees. The water is warm all year round,” he says about this option that does not understand seasons and is complemented by hydrothermal techniques, massages, beauty treatments, wraps, respiratory techniques and thermal programs.
A lake that is surrounded by “a unique thermal complex in Spain due to its configuration, with a series of buildings of an impressive architectural richness, which house three different hotels”.
In this space you can also enjoy 68,000 square meters of gardens, which were inspired by the great European spas of the 19th century. In addition, there is the majestic casino theater, a construction from the early 20th century that today preserves the old cafeteria.
The origin of this spa dates back to 1860, when a Catalan businessman, who saw how the waters of Alhama were excellent for the joints and respiratory tract, decided to create a thermal station. The spa was growing, first with the Hotel Termas, the gardens, the palace-house, the Hotel Cascada (because of the inhalation waterfall it houses) or the emblematic Casino, which was inaugurated in 1917.
Alhama de Aragón Spa (Alhama de Aragón)
From the emblematic San Roque y Cantanero spa, this modern spa focused on wellness is born. Located in the municipality of Alhama de Aragón and surrounded by a rich natural environment, it offers bathing in indoor and outdoor thermo-active pools, water circuits, steam baths and Vichy showers.
One of the most outstanding proposals of the Balneario de Alhama de Aragón is the bathing gallery of `El Moro’, which dates back to the 11th century. “The bath of ‘El Moro’ is considered one of the oldest in Spain and is still open today, it is a service offered to customers. It is a grotto with water that emerges directly from the subsoil,” describes the director of this spa hotel, Gustavo Moreno.
As indicated in the explanation of its history, this bath dates back to Roman times, to which the arch that frames the rock from which the spring emerges belongs. It creates a fine rain of constant water, while another attraction, the spring of ‘La Mora’, offers a waterfall.
The spa facilities have two floors: on the second floor are located the cabinets and spaces for treatments and on the first floor a thermal pool, to which is added the outdoor pool. “Outside there is a summer pool of medicinal mineral water. It is a very appropriate area to relax and to be able to lie on a lounger sunbathing or bathing in the thermal waters,” explains the director of this complex, which welcomes a varied profile of clients, beyond the classic.
As Moreno emphasizes, in addition to the health benefits offered by the waters, “it is not necessary to have a pathology or to be ill to go to a spa, but anyone can come, simply, looking for a little relaxation”.
Paracuellos de Jiloca Spa Resort
And we arrive at the Paracuellos de Jiloca Spa, located in the municipality to which it owes its name. As indicated by its director, Ramiro Pérez, it is the oldest spa in the area and dates back to 1848.
“Its great peculiarity is its sulfurous waters, with a high concentration of sulfur and salts, highly sought after in Europe because they have very rapid benefits for certain conditions, especially of the skin, respiratory tract and problems that have to do with joints, muscles and bone problems”, explains Pérez about these highly appreciated sulfurous thermal waters.
Its hotel of familiar atmosphere and “in constant renovation” is complemented with a great thermal center constructed in 2008, as a result of the Expo of the Water in Zaragoza, which has 3,500 square meters, which turns it into “one of the biggest thermal centers that there is in Aragón”.
The thermal pool with sulfurous waters is complemented by a series of services such as the footbath, the nebulized sauna, the steam bath, the thermal contrast pools or the Finnish sauna, in addition to individualized treatments. “Many people take advantage of their stay in the spa not only to take care of their health, but also to take care of their skin and revitalize the decompensations of seasonal changes,” he explains about other options for massages and facial and body treatments, which are becoming increasingly important in these environments.
In addition, the Paracuellos de Jiloca Spa recovered a few years ago an estate of 60,000 square meters, which today is a large park with sports facilities such as a paddle tennis court and two natural lakes, one of them enabled for bathing in the summer months.
La Virgen Spa (Jaraba)
In 1828 the first bathing area was created in the surroundings of the Balneario de la Virgen, although as its director, Javier Zarzuelo, explains, this area was already appreciated since before Roman times.
“There is a hermitage 500 meters away, then, the story goes, that pilgrims came, bathed in the lake, were cured of their ailments and that healing was attributed to the miracle of having come on pilgrimage to the Virgin, just as in ancient times the Romans called it the ‘water of the nymphs’, to which they attributed healing powers,” he says about the history of this emblematic spot, just 500 meters from the hermitage of the Virgin of Jaraba.
In 1868 the first building of the spa was erected and today it has evolved to what today is defined as a “synonym of tradition and history, landscape and nature, relaxation and wellness, beauty and health”.
In this sense, the head of the center highlights the medical consultation available to offer users individualized treatments depending on their pathology. “There is a wide range of pathologies, but the most spectacular are those of the renal system,” he points out about the effectiveness of these waters for ailments such as kidney stones, to which are added others such as those related to the circulatory system, the musculoskeletal or respiratory tract.
But if anything is striking is its location: at the bottom of the Mesa River canyon. “You’re tucked into the canyon with hundred-meter walls on either side and the natural lake is attached to the wall, so it makes a cave effect. We have vulture nests right above the spa, which you can see flying around. There is a lot of vegetation, very little noise and a microclimate, because being inside the canyon the winters are less austere and the summers less hot,” concludes Zarzuelo.
Sicilia Spa (Jaraba)
The Balneario Sicilia Spa, located in Jaraba, also began its journey in the 19th century, as a small family business that offered the benefits of its calcium-magnesium bicarbonated waters.
“They are of low mineralization and have a high diuretic effect. They eliminate a lot of liquid, that is why they always have an important dragging power and have always been associated to improve pathologies such as renal problems,” explains Montse Sánchez, head of Public Relations and Communication of the Sicilia and Serón Spas.
With more than a century of tradition, this space has evolved throughout successive reforms. In the seventies, José María Sicilia undertook a major remodeling and decided to “campaign” to open all year round, when spas were considered a place to spend the summer. Sánchez emphasizes that he was also a pioneer in promoting, together with the Government of Aragón, what was then known as the meetings for the elderly, demonstrating that “spa cures helped to save on pharmacy and medical expenses”.
With the idea of generating wellness, the options for enjoying the spa have been increasing over the years, for example, with the current children’s thermalism programs or those that combine these relaxing treatments with mindfulness.
“We want everyone to be able to enjoy it. Some in a more therapeutic way, with medical supervision, and others in a more playful way,” he explains about the evolution of thermalism, which is no longer only linked to the treatment of illnesses, but also to prevention or simply as a moment of relaxation.
With the idea of “integrating thermalism into the landscape”, the Thermal Cave, an indoor pool built by joining a natural cave with the hotel, stands out. In addition to the individualized treatments, there is the Thermal Garden circuit, with elements such as the flotation pool that allows you to listen to music through the water, the biosauna, a thermal bath of aromas in a natural cave to enjoy the benefits of thyme or a salt chamber, a pioneer in Spain.
Also in Jaraba, Balneario Serón belongs to the same group as Balneario Sicilia, which acquired it in the 1980s. After the pandemic, this spa has not opened yet, but as Montse Sánchez, head of Public Relations and Communication of both spas, explains, they would like to put it back into operation when conditions are more favorable.
With a constant temperature of 34 degrees, its waters are indicated for the kidney and urinary tract, the locomotor system, respiratory tract or peripheral circulation (for example, varicose veins). It also has a salt chamber, a treatment based on breathing dry salt spray.
Serón Spa. Photo: Serón Spa.
The large alameda of the surroundings complements this spa that, as Sánchez assures, has always had a very steady clientele that, while it remains closed, has been encouraged to enjoy the nearby Balneario Sicilia.