With a privileged location spanning 200 kilometres of coast, the Algarve is the perfect place to take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of the Atlantic Ocean.
From the Greek “thálassa”, which means “sea”, and “therapeía”, meaning “cure”, thalassotherapy takes advantage of the healing properties of seawater, as well as of the marine environment, for curative and preventive purposes, boosting health and general well-being.
The therapy’s benefits have long been known. In ancient times, Greeks and Romans already used it as a therapeutic resource.
Hippocrates, a patron of Western medicine between 460 and 370 BC, believed that the balance of the body was achieved through the practice of therapies involving seawater. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that the first thalassotherapy centres began to appear in Europe.
In the Algarve, given its location wide open to the Atlantic Ocean, the potential of water resources is limitless, making it perfect for thalassotherapy in many forms.
The region’s first centre was the Vilalara Longevity Thalassa & Medical Spa, which opened in 1989 and has several rooms specifically for thalassotherapy as well as a treatment pool and a Jet Stream. Located in the five-star Vilalara Thalassa Resort, in Porches, the spa was named one of the five best thalassotherapy centres in the world by Condé Nast Traveller.
With plenty of modern equipment and treatments, the spa has several personalised thalassotherapy programmes. The longest, the Talasso Shape Premium, lasts seven nights and includes body and drainage treatments, ensuring the natural contours of the body are redefined. The five-night, anti-stress cure, Special Thalassotherapy, consists of 17 thalassotherapy treatments. There is also an exclusive programme providing professional and specialised support for people trying to quit smoking, and a marine slimming/anti-cellulite treatment. The menu also includes the Romantic Pack and the Special Back Thalassotherapy, with massages and muscle kneading with magnesium and sea mud, which alleviate pain and restore muscle relaxation and joint mobility. There are also several showers, massages and pool treatments.
Moving on to Albufeira, the five-star Grande Real Santa Eulália Resort & Spa opened its Real Spa Therapy in 2003 to help prevent ailments and combine aesthetic pleasure with well-being as a therapy. The crown jewels are the thalassotherapy treatments. “We stood out when we opened because we were thalassotherapy specialists,” explains spa director Angelina Diegues, who has held this position from the start. “We get our water from the Atlantic Ocean, right on our doorstep, which is so mineralised, and it takes only a 12-minute immersion in our circuit, consisting of a pool with eight aerobath and bubble stations, for example, to experience the remineralisation of the body through osmosis, as seawater is very similar to blood plasma.”
Angelina goes on to detail other benefits of this type of therapy: “Because the water is always above 32°C, which is not possible in the sea, the heat acts as a numbing agent and promotes relaxation. It can also help boost toning, reduce cellulite and relieve joint inflammation; it stimulates mobility and muscle recovery, reinforces our immune system and, for people with chronic illnesses, such as psoriasis or rheumatism, thalassotherapy delays the symptoms’ active stage.” Therefore, it is a treatment for anyone and for all ages (over 16), whatever their lifestyle or comorbidities.
At Real Spa Therapy, the seawater used is made up of 108 minerals and there are several bathtubs for different types of baths. There is the relaxing hydromassage with chamomile, the Talasso Capsule, a type of pressotherapy with water jets that improve venous return and blood circulation, underwater massages and jet showers. Angelina also suggests the Anti-Ageing Cocoon Capsule with olive therapy and the two- or four-hand Vichy shower with rosemary for muscular well-being.
In the eastern Algarve, in Castro Marim, lies the Salina da Barquinha salt spa made up of various baths rich in mineral salts and therapeutic clays. Open from Easter to November, is an open-air, natural spa with waters rich in salts, magnesium, potassium, iodine and iron, providing different treatments, massages and yoga, which boost energy balance.
But you do not need to visit a spa to feel the beneficial effects of seawater, especially in the Algarve. A walk by the shore is enough “for you to feel more positive. All it takes is breathing in that air, which qualifies as thalassotherapy, because the body is filled with negative ions and there is an increase in serotonin, the happy hormone. In addition to vitamin D, of which the sun is the main source, just taking a walk by the sea has a calming effect, with a direct impact on our mental well-being”, concludes Angelina Diegues.
By Maria Simiris