Hungary's 'mud castle' combines spa bliss with medieval splendor

Soak up the final moments of summer with a trip to Sarvar, Hungary, a historic town with renowned thermal springs.

Julie O'Shea

Written by Julie O'Shea Published on 23.08.2023 17:00:00 (updated on 23.08.2023) Reading time: 4 minutes

Combine much-deserved wellness pampering and a bit of adventure with a trip to Sarvar, home to one of the best-known thermal springs on the renowned Hungarian spa circuit.

Located in the lush Raab Valley in western Hungary, about four and a half hours from Prague by car, Sarvar is the ideal location for a late summer retreat.

Surrounded by hills and a beautiful natural landscape – including a sprawling arboretum filled with 400-year-old trees – this small town rose to prominence in the late Middle Ages, and visitors can explore many of the stunning architectural relics still standing from that bygone era. 

However, it wasn’t until centuries after its medieval heyday that Sarvar’s greatest geological treasures were (accidently) discovered. While searching for oil in the early 1960s, crews uncovered not just one but two thermal hot springs hundreds of meters below ground. 

Salt water measuring 83 degrees Celsius was found at a depth of 2,000 meters, while medicinal water measuring 43 degrees Celsius rose to the surface from 1,300 meters. The springs quickly turned tiny Sarvar into a prominent stop along Hungary’s mineral bath pilgrimage. 

The salt water is cooled and used for spa treatments, and the salt is evaporated to form the well-known Sarvar thermal crystal products.

For more than 50 years, the town’s medicinal waters have worked to combat numerous chronic medical conditions and diseases – a distinction that, in 2004, was recognized by the Royal Spas of Europe Association.

Sarvar’s extended network of modernized public thermal baths has cemented its status as an internationally renowned healing and wellness resort.   

In the middle of the action is Thermal Sarvar, one of Ensana Hotels’ first-rate properties in the region, which sits directly 1,300 meters above one of the town’s two thermal springs. The water brought up to the hotel is significantly cooled before it’s used in a broad range of balneotherapies.

Whether you are looking for a spa holiday, a relaxing time-out with your partner, a family holiday that combines entertainment with activity and wellbeing or a special program to protect or restore your health, Thermal Sarvar has you covered.

The goal is to relax, recharge and rejuvenate your mind and body in a quiet, intimate setting, away from the hubbub of city life.

Schedule an Immunity Booster, a customized spa program or a traditional massage. Take a dip in one of Thermal Sarvar’s thermal pools or spend time detoxing in its colorful sauna world. 

You’ll emerge refreshed and ready to take in the town. From museums and baroque churches to the public spa with adventure pools, winding cycle paths and a number of trailheads, there’s a lot to see, so don’t try and rush through in one day.   

Built over a swamp and moorlands, some 200 km from Budapest, Sarvar literally translates to mean “Mud Castle.” And at the heart of this quaint rural hamlet is Nadasdy Castle. The Late Renaissance pentagonal outer castle is one of the few fully preserved medieval castles in the country. 

The moated property, which served as an outpost for the kings of Bavaria, was pivotal in the progress of Hungarian culture during the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact, the first Hungarian-language book was printed here in 1541 – a translation of the New Testament. During the Renaissance, Sarvar was a center of the Reformation movement, and the town is often referred to as the Hungarian Wittenberg. 

Sarvar’s celebrated arboretum is also not to be missed. Filled with roughly 300 tree species and flowering shrubs, some of which were planted by the castle’s royal patrons centuries ago, this 9.2-hectare botanical garden is a cornucopia of rare and exotic plants. 

Later on, enjoy a boat trip down the Raba River or the high ropes course at the town’s Adventure Park, adjacent to the public spa, where you can pan for gold or try your hand at suction cup archery. Wine aficionados, take note: the nearby Somlo Mountain is a worthy pitstop. The slopes of this extinct volcano are known for producing some of Hungary’s best white wines.   

Hotel Thermal Sarvar

A medical spa hotel steeped in tradition, Thermal Sarvar offers a full range of wellness and spa treatments to add to your relaxation, recovery and pleasure. The hotel’s medical and wellness center, situated right next to the Sarvar Arboretum, offers guests a selection of hot spring water pools and a spacious sauna world, equipped with a Finnish sauna, stream bath and an aromatherapy cabin.

Most of the hotel’s guest rooms and suites are fitted with balconies where you can sit with a bottle of wine surrounded by the town’s lovely natural vistas. The onsite restaurant offers à la carte menus and a buffet selection, too. In addition to Hungarian and international cuisine, the kitchen also serves vegetarian, light, and wellness menus. 

This article was written in cooperation with Ensana. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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