Thermal water and water therapy have been known for their healing properties for hundreds of thousands of years. Healing through water is also a great method of rehabilitation after a medical procedure.
Zagreb happens to have a number of water therapy spots right on its doorstep.
What is water therapy?
Healing baths and water therapy have been used in Croatia for centuries. Varaždinske Toplice (1h north of Zagreb) date back to ancient Roman times, for example.
Various types of healing baths, thermae, or simply the practice of soaking in hot springs, all involve naturally occurring hot water sources. The temperature of such sources is usually around 40 degrees Celsius, and the water is enriched naturally with minerals such as calcium and magnesium.
Water is considered helpful for joint issues related to diabetes; healing following orthopedic, surgical and neurosurgical procedures, heart disease; postoperative states in general; spine disease; neuro-muscular problems; rheumatism; and more.
Water therapy can be used directly at the water source, or in man-made facilities connected to it; and it's not limited to fresh water - sea water is utilized, as well.
Krapinske Toplice was first written about in the 1770s. Baths were built on the area in the early 19th century along with an onsite hotel. "Toplice" means thermal water wellness resort.
During the Austro-Hungarian era, Krapinske Toplice became a prominent rehabilitation centre. Since the 20th century and beyond, the spa has been considered one of the leading rehabilitation centres on the continent. It was voted the 6th-best thermal water quality source in Europe.
While you're in the area, grab a bit to eat at restaurant Villa Magdalena, awarded the best restaurant in the Zagorje region by Gaullt & Millau in 2019.
Krapinske Toplice sits 45 km / 50 minutes by car northwest from Zagreb's city centre.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the Kvarner region and its innovative water therapy approaches, which also include thalassotherapy.
Thalassotherapy (from the Greek word for "sea", thalassa) is the use of seawater and other marine products (such as algae and sand) as a form of therapy.
In Kvarner, you can visit Thalasso Wellness Center Opatija (located 175 km / 2 hours by car from Zagreb's city centre) and Thalassotherapia Special Hospital for Medical Rehabilitation in Crikvenica (located 165km / 1 hour and 50 minutes by car from Zagreb's city centre).
LifeClass Terme Sveti Martin
This wellness and spa resort is a modern affair, opened in 2009. It boasts indoor pools with thermal water, a full spa, and nine-hole golf course. Stay in one of their 90 apartments, or in an airy room or suite at the four-star Hotel Spa Golfer.
Between massages and dips in the pool, take a bike ride around the idyllic countryside or savour local cuisine. Don't miss Međimurska gibanica, a triple-threat cake made up of an apple layer, a sweet cheese layer, and a poppyseed layer.
Nestled in Croatia's beautiful northern region of Međimurje, LifeClass Terme Sveti Martin is 120km / 1 hour and 40 minutes by car from Zagreb's city centre.
Naftalan, operating since 1989, uses thermal water and the healing "naftalan" oil which it's named for. Naftalan oil can only be found in Croatia and Azerbaijan worldwide.
The oil is formed during the process of organic material (such as algae, bacteria, plants, phytoplankton, and zooplankton) sedimentation at the bottom of a sea or a lake. Combined with mineral particles naturally found in the water, the resulting oil is rich in naphthenic hydrocarbons which can help in healing, especially steranes.
Naftalan offers treatments for rheumatism and skin diseases (including psoriasis), along with various wellness and rejuvenation treatments. For example, naftalan oil and thermal water treatmenta are used to help heal musculoskeletal damage through baths and compressions. Other treatments offered include PRP (platelet-rich plasma) therapy; used for skin rejuvenation, joint issues, and hair loss.
Trained professionals - including physiotherapists, dermatologists, nurses, cosmeticians and kinesiologists - are available at the facility 24/7.
Naftalan sits 40 km / 45 minutes by car from Zagreb's city centre.
Stubičke Toplice dates back to very beginning of the 19th century when an indoor swimming pool, baths, rooms, and public areas were built on the site.
This rehabilitation centre and spa sits at the foot of the Mount Medvednica's northern slopes (for reference, Zagreb sits on the southern foothills). It's surrounded by lush forest greenery.
At the centre of the source, Stubičke Toplice's thermal water can reach almost 70 degrees Celsius.The establishment has a capacity of 267 beds across three interconnected health facilities.
Stubičke Toplice is situated 45 km / 50 minutes by car from Zagreb's city centre.
Terme Tuhelj includes a thermal water spa, healing mud spring, saunas, a hotel, and recreational facilities. The establishment is surrounded by forests and rolling hills.
Onsite treatments offered include thermal mud and essential oil massages, while a number of nearby restaurants (don't miss Mihanović Manor!) present delicious and traditional Zagorje cuisine such as štrukli and roast turkey with mlinci.
Terme Tuhelj sits 50 km / 55 minutes by car from Zagreb's city centre.
Terme Jezerčica has a hotel with 47 rooms onsite, as well as indoor and outdoor water parks which include eight pools. A wellness and spa centre are included in the complex, as well.
Campers are welcome here, too. Terme Jezerčica has 16000 square metres of campground, with 215 mobile homes, 18 camping parcels, and 20 tents.
The site's thermo-healing mineral water has optimal temperatures and chemical compositions, and can be used for both rehabilitation and recreation. Expert physiotherapists lead exercises in the recreational pool twice a day.
Terme Jezerčica is located 45 km / 50 minutes by car from Zagreb's city centre.