Ancient Iberians knew these waters thousands of years ago but the Romans developed the area and artifacts of their constructions date back to 200 BC. When digging for a new garage a few years ago, the Archena management was forced by archeologists to halt construction as ruins of a Roman village were discovered and can be seen by all visitors to the area. Three generations ago a family invested in the complex and while hit by the crisis they are constantly developing new programs and areas for healing. Archena has a staff of roughly 250 people.
This was first of all a magnificent healing experience for both of us. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and after checking into our four star Hotel Levante, we went right to the waters, a large series of connected pools. In some areas jets of water move swimmers around a circular pool and in others strong jets splash on one’s back and shoulders. Other areas are for soaking, walking, three Jacuzzis, one small hot tub and another small cold dip. The most spectacular area is out of doors where one can communicate with the stunning rock cliffs and even see an occasional white goat climbing the mountain.
The next morning we visited the Archena doctor who recommended various treatments (at extra cost) depending on our particular needs. We did not necessarily follow all of her suggestions but highly recommend the Archena Experience — a massage with local mud and thermal waters, held in a separate area next to the pools, called the Thermalium. (My wife especially enjoyed her treatment from Joaquin who is also a professor of yoga.) After the 45 minute massage we floated in a salt pool, swam in a relaxing thermal pool filled with fresh lemons, rested on warm tiles, went into the Turkish bath sauna, tackled the contrasting cold and hot showers, and (I) spent a few seconds in an ice filled igloo at 2 degrees Celsius. The Archena massage was 40 Euros per person and highly worth it. On another day we went into Thermalium just for the salt pool and the lemon swim for only 10 Euros, good on weekdays all day. After taking the waters we felt tremendously relaxed. After lunch we normally slept a siesta but also slept soundly at night. Incredibly restful it was.
Each day we took a one hour walk with a guide – Jose Heredia from Linares. There are several good walks in the area and each day was different. (We thought first he was from Murcia but his strong Andalusian accent made us realize that he was not a native.)
Archena also has a lovely chapel built in the last century with a daily Mass at 11 a.m.
As chlorine must be added to the public pools we were encouraged to shower after soaking. Archena provides its own shampoo and bath gel in all showers – both products quite agreeable to the skin. They also provide cozy white bathrobes and a variety of white cotton towels for guests. It is a requirement to wear a small cotton bathing cap when in the pools and to wear flip-flops when walking in pool areas.
There are two four star hotels (Levante and Termas) and one three star (Leon), the latter not opened during our visit and used for the Imserso crowd. Underneath Hotel Termas there are many massage and healing treatment areas for clients. We had a particularly fine treatment called “Tired Legs” from Maria Dolores. There is also a special building for Physical Therapy treatments with all manner of equipment for guests. The tiles in Termas are magnificent and date over 150 years and the lower galleries are filled with ancient marble bathtubs.
The food included in our El Corte Inglés Over 55 package of 300 Euros per person for five days and nights was simple but perfectly adequate Spanish basic fare, with four or five choices of first and second courses at lunch and dinner. Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit are always available. (This package deal is not always available but it is worthwhile to check with Corte Inglés.)
One of the benefits for foreign visitors was meeting Bettina Heinemann, a young German woman in the PR Department who was extremely helpful. She made a point of showing us the entire establishment and told us that if we should have any special needs or requests just to contact her. She is promoting an international marketing program for Archena and has been visiting the coastal areas of Murcia to interest foreigners. She was very helpful to us recommending a wonderful restaurant (El Mosqui) in Cabo de Palos on the coast, definitely worth a visit to see the glorious Med and eat fresh seafood, as well as the local dish Caldero Murciano served with true ali oli.
An additional benefit was a visit to the nearby Valle de Ricote, a desert like area surrounded by jagged peaks and filled with groves of lemons and oranges. In the town of Ricote there just happens to be one the best restaurants in Spain, El Sordo, where the food is fresh from their huerta and the olive oil and wine are spectacular. (We brought some home – 5 liters of their homemade wine for 13 euros!) And, on the way out of town visitors should not fail to stop at the tapa bar La Sorpresa, where a wonderful character presides over fabulous food, including locally grown habas topped with a huevo frito, delicious tortillas de patatas and a local wine from the nearby area of Jumilla called Roble Luzón that is superb. Bettina and José both raved about this place and when we told the owner, he was so pleased he refused payment. I doubt that this would happen to everyone but his place was unforgettable and a delightful end to our visit to Archena.
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