10 top spas to recharge your batteries

Need to get back into shape this autumn? Head for the French spas and their waters, renowned since Antiquity. Whether curative, preventive or fitness, these icons of the Belle Epoque are more vibrant than ever, drawing from the bowels of the earth to revitalise you from head to toe. Here's the proof, in the form of 10 flagship resorts, all in the green, between volcanoes, sea, mountains and forests.

Balaruc-les-Bains in Occitanie: the most Mediterranean of the region

A unique site, a peninsula in the Etang de Thau, exceptional waters! A mixture of ancient (150,000 years BC!) and recent resurgences, the waters of Balaruc-les-Bains gush out at 49°C with analgesic, relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties. You can enjoy their benefits at the thermal baths or in the 2,200 m² O'Balia spa. A sensory pool at 34°C with hydro-massage sofas or a Japanese-inspired whirlpool buried in the vegetation, you can relax and unwind before setting sail for other waters: the Etang de Thau is a small inland sea where you can fill up on iodine between water sports and oyster tasting. Still thirsty for water? The Mediterranean is just around the corner!

Les Thermes de Balaruc-les-Bains (External link)

Bagnoles de l'Orne in Normandy: the greenest of them all

Have the fairies of the Andaines forest watched over the birthplace of Bagnoles-de-l'Orne? It's easy to imagine that when you arrive at this eclectic spa in the heart of Normandy. Is it not rumoured that a local lord unearthed the elixir of youth in the depths of its oligo-metallic waters? Legend or not, at the Spa B'O thermal, we draw on their virtues and those of the neighbouring forest to concoct detox rituals. Their secret? A natural cosmetic based on chlorophyll and undergrowth plants and a new range incorporating active apple extracts rich in polyphenols. Would you like to take a forest bath?

B'O Resort Thermal (External link)

Luchon in the Pyrenees: the most Roman of them all

An amphitheatre of mountains and a vast natural hammam designed by the Romans! This is Luchon, a Belle Epoque jewel set in the heart of the Pyrenees. Its great attraction is its vaporarium: imagine 150 metres of underground galleries with walls exuding sulphurous vapours: ideal for eliminating toxins and cleansing the skin. You can also immerse yourself in the cocoon of the thermal baths nestling in a green park, for treatments focusing on rheumatology, the respiratory tract and relaxation. If the peaks seen from the relaxation pool taunt you, head off for a skiing or hiking trip to Superbagnères, depending on the season!

Thermes de Luchon (External link)

Gréoux-les-Bains: the most Provençal of them all

Jean Giono wrote: "I know of no place that is a better cure for boredom than Gréoux-les Bains". We can only agree when we discover the troglodytic thermal baths built in the style of Roman baths, fed by water rich in sulphur, calcium, magnesium and trace elements. There's no Cleopatra-style asses' milk, just weightless kaolin baths and treatments with a thousand Provençal scents, from intense relaxation modelling with lavender to revitalising baths with rosemary. Just the thing to recharge your batteries before strolling through the streets of this pretty village nestling between the castle and the banks of the Verdon: with 150 hectares of green spaces, this is the "romantic oasis" evoked by Giono!

Gréoux-les-Bains (External link)

Vittel - Contrexéville in the Vosges: the most arty

You can be a town of water and a town of art! The proof is in the twin resorts of Vittel and Contrexéville, in the heart of the Vosges mountains. In Vittel, the 650-hectare listed spa park is an invitation to stroll through architectural gems in Moorish, neo-classical and Art Deco styles, lush green footpaths to explore on foot or by bike, and a health trail combining classic cures, spa treatments and a Chinese medicine centre. In neighbouring Contrexéville, the colonnades lined with shades of blue are the perfect place to get back into shape with thermoludic treatments and tai chi. The slimming cure, a speciality of the resort, is also famous for its anti-stress properties!

Thermes de Vittel (External link)
Thermes de Contrexéville (External link)

Cambo-Les-Bains in the Basque Country: the most oceanic

Bunch of hydrangeas, palm trees and oleander bushes... Between the Pyrenees and the Atlantic coast, Cambo-Les-Bains is as famous for its temperate, sunny climate as it is for the quality of its sulphurous waters. On the banks of the River Nive, respiratory tracts and rheumatological ailments are treated in beautiful Art Deco thermal baths set in 12 hectares of parkland. Thermal water showers with pine essences, gentle back modelling with essential oils - the complementary treatments have a local flavour. In the mood for more pampering? Head to the Puyodebat museum to stock up on chocolate, made in the Basque Country, to complete your magnesium cure!

Cambo-les-Bains (External link)

Châtel-Guyon in Auvergne: the most cutting-edge

Aïga is water in Occitan. And it's the name of this French spa destination, a 15,000 m² centre dedicated to health tourism, located in Châtel-Guyon, at the foot of the Auvergne volcanoes. At the heart of the project is a unique concept: thermalism of the intestinal microbiota, and golden water, the richest in Europe in magnesium, highly concentrated in silicon and trace elements. A fitness and health trail, including preventive cures and nutrition workshops, pamper your body and mind with specially adapted dishes and mouth-watering treatments: a relaxing massage with wild carrot oil or a scrub with walnut chips, all from the kitchen garden of Beauty Garden, a brand from Corrèze!

Aïga Resort (External link)

Dax in the Landes: the tastiest

What's its anti-ageing secret? Dax may be the oldest spa town in France, but the Landes resort in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is bursting with an energy that defies time! No fewer than 16 thermal centres in the Greater Dax area share the benefits of its thermal waters and the famous Dax peloid, a thermal mud produced by the slow maturation of silt from the Adour river and hot hyperthermal waters. Nutrition workshops, qi gong, osteopathy in the pool or skintao (anti-ageing facial massage)... You'll find plenty of Wellbeing and beauty recipes and, for good measure, local flavours such as foie gras or duck breast - it's good for your morale! To keep your figure after this treatment, all you have to do is pedal along the Christus lake, Dax's green corridor, or challenge the waves of the ocean.

Grand Dax spa (External link)

Saint-Amand-les-Eaux dans les Hauts-de-France : le plus royal d'entre eux

The only spa in the Hauts-de-France region, just a stone's throw from Valenciennes, owes its existence to... Louis XIV! Visiting the region at the end of the 17th century, the Sun King ordered work to be carried out to capture the "healing" water that gushed up from the surface of the ground. Today, this water, rich in minerals and rare metals, is used in rheumatology and respiratory treatments, and is the talk of the town at the thermal baths, with their bright, tree-lined spaces. You can breathe deeply here, to the rhythm of the steam baths and other hydromassage thermal waters, before putting on your trainers - the Raismes forest, a 5,000-hectare green lung, is just across the road!

Saint-Amand-les-Eaux spa (External link)

Aix-les-Bains in the Alps: the most aquatic of them all

A turquoise-blue lake stretching between the mountains of the Alpine Riviera, thermal waters used in phlebology, rheumatology and ENT, and an incomparably gentle way of life... In Aix-Les-Bains, a Belle Epoque resort on the shores of Lac du Bourget in the Alps, you can indulge in a full-scale bath of vitality. There's a choice of two thermal baths, 4 balneotherapy centres, 8 spas and an infinite range of outdoor wellness activities, from yoga paddle on the lake to qi gong on the beach, not forgetting hiking on 472 km of signposted footpaths. And don't forget skiing in winter: in the heart of the Massif des Bauges Regional Nature Park, 150 km of runs are available for Nordic skiing!

Discover wellness activities in Aix-les-Bains, in the Alps (External link)