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What Is Thalassotherapy (& What Does It Have to Do with Your Next Dream Vacation)?

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When you think about a trip to the spa, you probably think about a massage, a facial and maybe a trip to the sauna. But have you heard about thalassotherapy, or treatments that utilize seawater and its components? Read on for more about its potential benefits as well as where you can try it yourself (hint: some truly stunning places).

What Is Thalassotherapy?

Thalassotherapy refers to any treatment that involves the therapeutic use of seawater. This could mean bathing or swimming in seawater, using seawater, or using mud, sand or any other substances found in the sea on the skin. The term comes from the Greek word thalassa, or ocean, and thalassotherapy dates back to the 19th century, though people from various cultures have bathed in the sea for its health benefits for much, much longer than that.

What Are the Supposed Benefits of Thalassotherapy?

Proponents of thalassotherapy say that the minerals found in salt water, including sodium, chloride and iodine, can help you relax, cleanse your skin, ease aches and pains, boost your immune system and more. While there isn’t much research on the benefits of thalassotherapy, a few studies indicate it may help with some conditions. (But note that it’s not a substitute for medical treatment.)

For example, one 2020 study by Spanish researchers found that, for 62 people who had experienced a stroke, the combination of aquatic therapy and thalassotherapy in a Mediterranean climate could improve pain, balance, mobility and certain aspects of a person’s quality of life. A 2013 study of 119 people with psoriasis published in the Israel Medical Association Journal concluded that being near the Dead Sea enhanced the quality of life in individuals with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Where Can I Try Thalassotherapy?

1. The Seawater Spa at Gurney’s Montauk, Long Island, NY

Unfortunately for those of us who live stateside, there’s only one thalassotherapy spa we can get to without a plane ticket: the Seawater Spa at Gurney’s in Montauk. There you’ll find a seawater pool fed by the Atlantic Ocean, in addition to traditional spa treatments like massages and facials. Of the spa, one guest writes in their review, “We felt pampered and relaxed, which to me is a five-star spa experience!! The saltwater pool was amazing, even with the cloud cover.”

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2. Castel Clara Thalasso & Spa, Brittany, France

Situated on the secluded island of Belle-Île-en-Mer, off the coast of Brittany in northwest France, Castel Clara is reachable by a boat ride, on which guests pass rocky coves with turquoise water, rolling hills and pastel-colored ports. The hotel's spa features both indoor and outdoor seawater pools (both heated) and various thalassotherapy treatments, from the Intense Marine Magnesium Revitalization Massage to the Voluptuousness of the Seas Ritual. (Fancy.)

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3. Vair Spa at Borgo Egnazia in Puglia, Italy

In keeping with the tradition of Roman baths, the Vair Spa at Borgo Egnazia encourages guests to harness the powers of sea water via 50-, 80- or 120-minute Roman bath sessions (among loads of other traditional spa treatments). There’s also a flotation tank which, according to the spa, is a salt-saturated tub that “allows the senses to perceive the absence of weight and reach the highest state of lightness thanks to the deprivation of gravity.”

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4. Thalasso at Miramar La Cigale, Brittany, France

Thalassotherapy isn’t just part of the spa menu at at Miramar La Cigale— located about 65 miles from Castel Clara—it’s the main draw. In addition to day-long treatment options, the property also offers so-called ‘thalasso stays,’ which are scheduled over four to six days and include various sea-inspired treatments and other wellness experiences. One reviewer writes, “I booked this after seeing great reviews on Tripadvisor and absolutely loved it. It's not cheap but well worth the money. Amazing spa—almost 50 treatment rooms, brilliant pools and Jacuzzis.”

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My Honest Review of the QC NY Spa