Where to wallow in self-indulgence in Estonia and Latvia
By Renée S. Gordon
The driving distance, on well maintained roads, between the two Baltic capitals—Tallinn, Estonia, and Riga, Latvia—is 172 miles and there is much to see and do along the route.
Pärnu, Estonia sits at the midpoint between the two cities. Pärnu is Estonia’s summer capital and is renowned internationally as a health, wellness and sauna destination.
Pärnu was first documented by that name in 1251, though there is ample evidence that it has been inhabited for more than 11,000 years. The area can credit the presence of two rivers for the founding of the port cities Vana-Pärnu: Old Pärnu on the right shore of the River Pärnu and Embecke, New Pärnu on the left. This same water access facilitated the city’s inclusion in the Hanseatic League in the 1300s.
The first public bath and spa opened in 1838 and by the end of the century Pärnu had become a Russian imperial resort visited by the tsar’s court and later a favorite Soviet resort. Men and women bathed separately by taking bathing bridges—a distance apart and different lengths—to reach the water. The first co-ed bathing beach, known as “Paradise,” opened in 1924. Today it is a beach town extraordinaire with a 105-mile county coastline of white sand and shallow water. There’s a complete menu of water-based activities from paddling out to a nearby island to kayaking and yachting to the sea. The beach promenade is lined with trendy restaurants, wellness facilities, clubs, shops, a park and waterfalls.
The seemingly endless menu of treatments includes historic mud baths, traditional treatments and, for a wallow in self-indulgence, a gold massage. Services are holistic, luxurious, therapeutic, beautifying and restorative.
Generally spa history is traced to the baths of Ancient Rome where people attained “health by means of water.” “Sanus per Aquam.” The baths were not only for treatment but also meeting with friends and relaxing—very little has changed through the centuries.
The Estonia Resort Hotel & Spa is an ultramodern 106-room facility that offers state-of-the-art accommodations including SleepAngel pillows that block allergens, bacteria and viruses. Experts recommended that guests should try different massage techniques and also different masseurs for maximum benefit. The resort menu features more than 60 treatments ranging from $15-$70. There’s also a Dead Sea Pool. The building opened in July of 2015 and is designed to accommodate people with disabilities and offers specialized services for men and children.
A sister property, the Estonian Medical Spa & Hotel, one of the largest medical spas in the country, has a number of unique packages including Laughter Yoga and dental services.
If your spa preferences run to the slightly different or you desire a more intimate, yet authentic spa experience, the Lantus Country Spa in Latvia is just the place. This beautiful complex consists of several separate lodgings, dining facilities, bucolic activities and views and a traditional Latvian sauna. The main house was constructed in 1926 and recently underwent a three-year renovation. Lantus also hosts nuptials and reunions.
– Photos by Renée S. Gordon
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