The city of Karlovy Vary is situated in the western part of the Czech Republic at the junction of two rivers around 120km from Prague. It is the largest and most famous health resort in the Czech Republic.
Karlovy Vary is known for its intense, curative spa treatments. While some just come to sample a few of the wide array of available services, most make their way to Karlovy Vary to enjoy a one- to three-week spa experience. Treatments begin with a consultation with a spa physician who will prescribe a specific regimen of daily activities, which may include mineral baths, massages, waxings, mudpacks, electrotherapy, and pure oxygen inhalation. But do not worry; the regimens leave plenty of time for exploring quirky Karlovy Vary and its beautiful countryside. After spending the morning in utter relaxation at a spa or sanatorium, you will be encouraged to spend afternoons enjoying a leisurely walk along the paths of the town’s lush forests.
The intensive, all-inclusive spa treatments are all at least one week long and must be arranged in advance. They traditionally include room, full board, and a complete therapy regimen. Costs vary from 900 CZK to 2,500 CZK per person per day depending on the season and the amenities offered at the therapeutic complex. Rates are highest from May to September and lowest from November to February, so plan a visit during the low season for a great price break.
If you are just interested in enjoying a one- or two-day spa getaway, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the mineral waters on an “outpatient” basis. Nearly all of the hotels in town provide spa and health treatments, so ask when you book your room. Most will happily arrange a treatment if they don’t provide them directly.
The largest and most famous therapeutic complex in the Czech Republic is the Elizabeth Bath (Alžbětiny Lázně) located at Smetanovy sady 1145/1 (www.spa5.cz). This is the place to come for complete and utter relaxation. Its menu contains more than 60 different kinds of treatments that pamper your body with water cures, massages, a hot-air bath, a steam bath, a whirlpool, a pearl bath, and much more. Every treatment also includes the use of their massive swimming pool. You can choose spa packages that run between 430 CZK for an anti-cellulite beer bath to 1,200 CZK for a hot stone massage. The Elizabeth Bath is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 3pm for spa treatments. The pool is open Monday to Friday from 9am to noon and 1pm to 9pm, Saturday from 9am to 9pm, and Sunday from 9am to 6pm.
The Castle Spa (Zámecké Lázně) located on Zámecký vrch 1 is a relatively new establishment that has become known as the place to go for the most luxurious spa treatments in Karlovy Vary. The wellness house is located on a renovated site at the foot of the Castle Tower (Zámecká věž) in the old city center and has a wonderful mix of old charm and modern amenities. Check out the Castle Spa’s website (www.carlsbad-plaza.com) to peruse the menu of treatments and make a reservation.
Newcomers to Karlovy Vary may be perplexed upon arrival to see almost everyone carrying around a funny-looking cup. “The Cup” is basically a mug with a built-in straw running through the handle. Young and old alike parade around with their mugs, filling and refilling them at the various thermal water taps found around town. You can buy these quirky souvenirs everywhere for as little as 80 CZK or as much as 300 CZK. But be warned: None of the mugs can make the mineral water taste any better. Although it is common to see people chugging the stuff, you may want to take a small sip first. Like most mineral waters, Karlovy Vary’s has a distinct smell and taste reminiscent of rotten eggs.
Though every spa treatment is different, they all include one thing: a big daily dose of hot mineral water from one of the 12 local springs. The water is used to treat internal disorders, and the minerals tend to cleanse the body thoroughly. This means that a gulp of mineral water often causes bouts of diarrhea, so be prepared!
Prague to Karlovy Vary Transport. Alternative to train or bus. Book cheap door to door private minibus.