I decided I wanted to treat my fiancé to a wonderful spa weekend for his birthday but not travel too far from our home in Mojácar, South East corner of Spain. After a Google search I found that, just an hour away, we are very lucky to have the best spa in the Almeria region, right in the centre of the city of Almeria! Our visit to the Aire Hotel & Spa, in a restored historic building, with ancient, subterranean baths that are lit by candles alone proved to be an awesome experience.
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The weekend was also to be a surprise, so after a trail run in the Cabo de Gata National Park and a picnic on a remote beach in the Park, I gave instructions to point the car in the direction of Almería City!
Almeria City is full of tiny narrow one-way streets so having missed the car park I'd been told about, we did spend a few stressful minutes locating it again before we arrived at the Spa entrance! If anyone is visiting this Spa by car, the best car park is just before the Hotel on the right, and underground as most Spanish car parks are.
As it was our first trip away as an engaged couple I'd splashed out on a Christmas offer that the Hotel was offering, and booked a Junior Suite which was super luxurious. Looking back, this has been our only trip as an engaged couple, due to the coronavirus lockdown that happened a couple of months later!
On arrival you have to book your time in the Spa baths, so we decided to head straight down there and experience the bathing traditions of ancient Roman, Greek and Ottoman civilizations.
In our room we found luxury bath robes and some odd little black fabric slipper shoes - we thought these must be for use in the room so made our way to the Spa entrance in our flip flops, swim costumes and the robes. Big mistake! We were turned back to our room to put the little slippers on as they are for use in the Spa - you have to wear them all the time, a health regulation. A point to remember if you visit to prevent a trip up and down the stairs!
The ancient baths are underground so you wind your way down the stairs to the magical candlelit area. We found only about 3 other couples were using the spa at the same time and as there are many different pools, it felt quite private and not crowded.
You have a choice of various baths - Caldarium (Hot Bath 102ºF), the Frigidarium (Cold Bath 57ºF and Ice Bath
50ºF), the Tepidarium (Warm Bath 97ºF - this has a private area you can swim into), the Balneum (Bath of a Thousand
Jets), the Laconicum (Steam Room, there are two different steam
intensities and both with aromatherapy), and the Flotarium (Salt Water
Bath). We loved the flotation bath and the huge jacuzzi! I braved the Ice Bath but my other half wimped out on that one!!!
We didn't actually try the Wine Bath - it's an extra charge, but there is a thermal round bath filled with red wine!! You can relax in the wine and enjoy a glass as well - submerge yourself completely in the antioxidant properties of the Spanish Ribera del Duero red grapes!
It is a very quiet atmosphere (no photos allowed so my pictures are from the official website) and there's unlimited water and lovely hot, sweet herbal tea for your refreshment. There are of course various massage and therapy options on offer that you can combing with your visit to the Baths. Check out the official website for more information on these HERE.
You can spend up to 2 hours in the Baths; we stayed just over an hour then headed back upstairs.
Our room with lovely high ceilings had a great view over the courtyard and out towards the Alcazaba - the biggest of the citadels built by the Arabs in Spain and totally worth a visit while in Almería. It's worth asking for a courtyard view when you book as the other side of the hotel just looks out on other buildings.
One unusual aspect which gave us a bit of amusement was the toilet! It was a 'spa toilet' in itself, a Japanese model I think with various buttons to press. We braved a few! However, pressing one (standing aside a bit) the water went nearly halfway across the toilet area!!! Interesting......
The Hotel does not have an actual restaurant area for dining in the evening, however right next door is a lovely mediterranean gastro-bar, full of Spanish diners and very authentic. We had a drink there on our return from eating out in the city. Being right in the city center there are so many coffee bars, tapas bars and restaurants to choose from, you have endless opportunities for your evening in Almería.
We headed to the tapas bars in the narrow streets - it was great to be somewhere totally 'Spanish' as where we live there are many English ex-pats. We didn't hear an English voice during our whole visit!
You'll find that family plays a big part in Spanish life and the tapas bars will usually have babies and young children still out at 10.30pm at night. The Spanish way of life of course means eating your evening meal after that time. No restaurants will actually be open till after 8pm or 8.30pm.
There may not be a full-on restaurant in the Hotel but there is an amazing roof top breakfast area with great views of the Alcazaba. There is also a small pool on the roof for drinks and a dip in the summer and a small gym. We had a beautiful breakfast with lovely fresh fruit included the following morning in the sunshine.
Whilst in Almería, a visit to the Alcazaba (fortified Citadel) is a must - it is only a short walk from the Spa Hotel. Entrance is free - you just give your nationality to the lady at the entrance so they can record where visitors are coming from. The Alcazaba can be seen from all parts of the city and has great views from the top of the city and the port.
Don't make the mistake we made by walking to the statue and fortified walls that are to the right of the main Alcazaba buildings. This statue is very impressive to see but is a separate monument from the Citadel! We hiked up to this statue, then had to walk all the way down again and along the street to the true Alcazaba entrance!
When you arrive at the Alcazaba, it is divided into 3 enclosures, the first 2 are of Islamic origin and the third is a castle built by the Catholic Kings after the Christian conquest of Almeria in 1489. The first area has been turned into a lovely garden to walk through.
The second area is the stronghold accessed through 2 towers and contains many old constructions, a shrine, the palace and further ponds and gardens. In the 3rd enclosure the Catholic Kings built a new castle to solve defence issues. You can see the towers and windows in the shape of a 'ball and cross' for positioning of artillery.
The history is explained in a leaflet given in your own language. You can read more on the history HERE.
The Alcazaba has been used to film Conan the Barbarian, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Never Say Never Again, and most recently Wonder Woman 1984, as well as the syndicated TV series Queen of Swords who used the inner courtyard and gardens. Wonder Woman 1984 production company will donate 18.000 euros to preserve and investigate the Alcazaba.
So, in conclusion, I'd highly recommend a visit to the Aire Hotel & Spa with its wonderful underground ancient baths. It's not the cheapest place to stay, but it is the best spa Almeria. The experience is amazing and one to remember! Plus don't forget to make time to visit the Alcazaba of Almeria!
Story by Mogsy Ford, Editor, Adventuress Travel Magazine
Visit was in December 2019 travelling with fiancé Richard