Monasteries and Spas – A roadtrip around Northern and Central Spain

At the end of February 2018, I was invited to check out Castilla Termals’ stunning hotels in central and northern Spain.  I took a week to do a road trip, travelling around the areas of Valladolid, Cantabria and Soria to visit the four different hotels by Castilla Termal. Each of the hotels combines historical buildings and thermal waters, creating a unique spa experience I couldn’t wait to try.

Castilla Termal Burgo de Osma.

Northern Spain Road Trip
Inner courtyard of the hotel

After a brief visit to Madrid, I set off in my little Volkswagen “UP” to my first hotel Castilla Termal Burgo de Osma. Located in the southwest of the province of Soria, Spain. It’s about an hour and 45 minutes drive from Madrid. The hotel has been built around a beautiful Renaissance courtyard in what was the Renaissance University of Santa Catalina, founded in the 16th century. It’s a striking sight walking into the courtyard,  in the centre is a great glass dome which allows you to look down to the thermal wellness area below. It’s the most peaceful hotel lobby I’ve ever been in. Cosy couches surround the area with the bar in the corner. I just wanted to curl up on one them with a glass of wine but that would have to wait. I needed to check out my room then get ready for my contrast circuit. My room was incredible. Set out on 2 levels with a HUGE double bed on the top and a living area on the bottom. In all of the bedrooms, one of the walls is part of the original historic building, which I think is pretty cool.

A quick change into my robe and I made my way down to the contrast circuit. The contrast circuit takes about 90 minutes and is the process of going back and forth from hot to cold. It helps to relax the body, boost your metabolism and give your body’s detoxification system a kickstart. The thermal contrast circuit area was stunning. It’s a recreation of the beautiful Mozarab chapel of the 11th century located in the village of Casillas de Berlanga. It has a big column with different arches, containing the different pools.

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
The hot and cold contrast circuit. Designed to look like a chapel

I started off with an exfoliation scrub and a warm shower, then it was into the Finnish Sauna for 20 minutes mixed with intermittent cold showers. Which really gets the circulation going. Then it on to the cold pool for as long as you could stand it, it actually became quite pleasant after a while… no really!  This was combined with going into the hot pool (so good after being in the cold) and using the Kneipp walk (cool water with pebbles you walk on). After half an hour or so of this, it was into the eucalyptus steam for another 20 minutes, taking a break every so often to use the artic mist shower. After using the hot and cold facilities, I was brought into a darkened relaxing room where I put my feet up, drank some herbal tea and ate some fresh fruit.

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
Chilling (Literally this was the cold pool)

I decided to try out the thermal pools before I conked out for the night in the relaxing room. The pools and hydrotherapy use waters from the Santa Catalina spring, which are rich in bicarbonates and calcium are ideal for anti-stress treatments. Lovely and warm, there were loads of different hydrotherapy jets to try out. I love when you get the pressure jet just right on the muscle, feels so good! The whole area is bathed in natural light from the glass dome in the courtyard which gives it a sort of ethereal glow.

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
The Thermal Pools. Source: Castilla Termal

Afterwards, I sat down to a delicious dinner of some mushrooms and gnocchi. I’m generally not the biggest fan of mushrooms but as the area of Soria is famous for its mushrooms, I thought I better try some and I’m so glad I did, they were heavenly and so full of flavour. I attempted to finish my glass of wine after dinner but after all my time in the spa, I could barely keep my eyes open so it was off to sleep in my ginormous bed.

The next day after doing some work and meetings (it’s not always spa time!) I took a wander around the town of El Burgo de Osma.  It has been declared a historic-artistic site and has one of the best preserved medieval buildings in the country, the Burgo de Osma Cathedral. It’s considered one of the best examples of thirteenth-century Gothic architecture in Spain. Pretty spectacular as you can see from the photo.

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
The town of Osma

After a long long lunch (the Spanish know how to do lunch!) I was back on the road to again to my next destination.

Castilla Termal Monastery of Valbuena

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
Monastery of Valbuena. Source: Castilla Termal

Located in the Castilla y León area and in the heart of the Ribera del Duero wine region, with vast plains, mountain peaks in the distance and a castle seemingly on every hill, it was a stunning drive to my next destination Castilla Termal Monastery of Valbuena.

As I drove the last 30 mins or so I realised I had never seen vines in the “winter time” (it was F February). At first, I didn’t know what they were but after seeing row after row and being in the Ribera de Duero area I had my aha moment. The closer I got to Monastario de Valbuena, the more wineries I passed, making it an unmistakable and distinctive symbol of the environment. The Monastery of Valbuena is actually surrounded by some of the most prestigious wineries of Ribera del Duero.

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.

Entering the hotel it was a slightly strange experience having this perfectly preserved monastery with all the luxury of the five-star hotel. As I was brought on a tour my mind did have a flashback to learning about monasteries in school and trying to remember if the refractory was where the monks ate? The centuries-old peaceful atmosphere surrounds you as you walk around. I found myself automatically lowering my voice to a whisper and trying to quiet my footsteps.  The serenity and sense of calm that pervades the property is almost eerie.

The thermal facilities were something else, exceeding 2000sqm with several thermal pools with the unique thermal water the area is famous for.  I was enjoying it so much I didn’t want to leave at closing time, they practically had to throw me out. The contrast circuit is in the recreation of the Chapel of San Pedro, the pictures say much more than I can.

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
Thermal Area Source: Castilla Termal

Because I spent so long in the thermal facilities it was pretty late in the evening for dinner, so I stayed in my robe, ordered some room service and had a lazy evening.

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
Relaxing in my room

Castilla Termal Balneario de Solares

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
Source: Castilla Termal

The next day it was on to the third hotel, Castilla Termal’s Balneario de Solares. One of the longest drives at nearly three hours. It was again a pleasant experience driving through the countryside and for a lot of the time  I was the only one on the road.

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
No one for miles (luckily as I was standing  in the middle of the road to take this photo)

Which was lucky as I would get so enchanted by the views I’d forget which side of the road I was meant to be on.  The drive took me through the beautiful Saja Besaya natural Park and as you come into Solares, the Sierra de Pena Cabara, a limestone massif, rises up in front of you.

A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern Spain.
Incredible views on my drive

The hotel is a grand historical building that has traditionally been a spa since the 18th century. Located in Cantabria, its close to  Santander and the magnificent Cantabrian coast. While the weather had been stunning on the way up, I was greeted in Solares by the cloudy and rainy northern Spanish weather. But it meant I didn’t feel too guilty about staying in the hotel that evening instead of going out and exploring. I also had an amazing jacuzzi bath in my room and was left some relaxing bath salts, so it was a very chilled evening with me turning into a prune in the bath.

Unfortunately the next day miserable weather continued so my plans to visit  Santander were put on hold and I, surprise surprise, spent the day at the spa. The spa features a pool of more than 85,000 litres of thermal water flowing directly from the Fuencaliente spring. Similar to the other thermal pools, it features a range of hydro jets above and under the water. Some of them are so strong you can barely stand under them as they pound the muscles in your back, but it feels SO good! I was staying another night in Solares so I could relax a bit and take my time exploring the contrast circuit.

A roadtrip around northern and central Spain.
The thermal pools and contrast circuit area

It was another quiet evening that night and another go at the jacuzzi bath. Not sure if my body has ever spent that much time in the water! I was disappointed I didn’t get to explore Santander but it just means I’ll have to come back again.

Castilla Termal Balneario de Olmedo

Erected on the ruins of the 12th century ancient convent of Sancti Spiritus is the Hotel Castilla Termal Spa of Olmedo, Spain.
Source: Castilla Termal

My fourth and final stop was Castilla Termal de Olemdo. Another long drive ahead of me, I found myself retracing my original drive to Solares in the opposite direction. But with those views, I couldn’t complain!

The Hotel Castilla Termal Spa of Olmedo is built on the ruins of the 12th-century convent of Sancti Spiritus and is just as stunning as the other properties. Located in Valladolid, which is considered one of the ‘Mudéjar capitals’ and has a great historical, artistic, cultural and gastronomic heritage.

To help my muscles which were so stiff after being in the car all week, I booked myself in for a back massage and facial. But of course, I had to use the thermal facilities before my treatments.

Erected on the ruins of the 12th century ancient convent of Sancti Spiritus is the Hotel Castilla Termal Spa of Olmedo, Spain.
Source: Castilla Termal
A roadtrip around northern and central Spain.
Source: Castilla Termal

The jewel of this hotel is the thermal pools and contrast circuit which is housed in a former cloister of the convent.  The contrast circuit area is decorated as Castillian mudéjar art and known as the”Mudéjar Patio”. The steam and sauna spaces surround the centre which has (very cold!!) water falling constantly, giving the feeling that it’s raining inside and a pleasant relaxing sound.

As it was my last night I treated myself at the restaurant ‘El Hontanar’. Its menu is created with products of the area Tierra de Pinares (pineland) and I had the main speciality, the Olmedo-style codfish along with a lot of local cheese (and wine of course) for dessert.

With my belly full, I slept soundly through my last night in Spain, said farewell to my trusty little Volkswagen “UP” and then flew home from Madrid.

I had an incredible time visiting the Castilla Termal hotels. It was a fascinating trip blending history and culture with the wellbeing benefits of thermal water and spas. If only I could have learnt history like this in school I might have remembered some of it!

I am delighted to be partnering with Castilla Termal to offer a range of spa and wellness programmes, please drop me a mail if you want to learn more!

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A Spanish Road Trip. Road Trip around Northern and Central Spain, exploring historic buildings and healing thermal waters
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