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Just a half hour west of Riga is Latvia’s new Wellness Paradise: Jurmala, the seaside resort town whose name translates to … seaside. What Jurmala may lack in creativity it makes up for in it’s refreshing, natural beauty.
Stretching along the Baltic Sea’s east coast, Jurmala features 33 kilometers of white sand and a line of forest to hedge against any development that would interrupt the pristine shore. Latvia understood long ago what a resource an unspoiled shoreline could be, and the law requires any development to take place inland, on the other side of the tree line.
History of Jurmala
So far, the peak of Jurmala’s popularity occured during the Soviet era, when the Baltic coast was a favorite holiday retreat for the Communist Party’s political elites. Khrushchev, in particular, was a fan of what was then the Soviet Union’s west coast.
Since independence, Jurmala has struggled to create an identity outside of the Baltics and Russia, though tourist numbers have yet to reach the peak that the mid-20th century brought. This is great news for anyone who enjoys uncrowded, undeveloped beaches; and the air is so fresh you can smell the sea salt and pine as you walk around Jurmala.
The natural bay keeps the water calm, and the water itself is quite shallow a way’s out from the shore, so it’s perfect for frolicking kids. Please note, though, that the Baltic Sea is never, ever warm. This is a good thing on those days when the temperature cracks 30C (86 Fahrenheit) and everyone in Riga needs to cool off.
Jurmala: A World-Class Spa Destination
The crisp, refreshing air and unspoiled natural setting has also contributed to making Jurmala home to many sanatoriums, wellness facilities, and health retreats. Today, the character and essential property of the area has led to a boom in health spas.
The spas in Jurmala are innovative, comprehensive and — above all — really, really cheap by European standards. Here are a couple of examples:
1. The day spa at Hotel Jurmala offers scores of treatment options, from an hour-long skin treatment with chocolate (about $60) to 80-minute buckwheat massages (about $80).
2. The spa at the Baltic Beach Hotel, a Soviet architectural marvel in its own right, offers some truly adventurous treatments such as a weightless-state bed massage with Dead Sea mud (about $60) and salt-room therapy (about $10).
Getting To Jurmala
If you are going to Jurmala by train, there is a trick to it. Jurmala technically comprises 13 different towns, and each has its own stop on the line. The two most trafficked stops are the Majori stop and the Dzintari stop. Further stops offer more secluded beaches.
When you buy the ticket at the station, you have to tell the cashier which stop you’re going to. If you are not sure, probably take the train to Majori; that’s where most of the hotels and businesses are located, and it’s the most navigable stop after stepping off the train. Double-check the direction of the train (the Jurmala trains go in the direction of either Tukums or Dubulti), and find the corresponding platform. The train to Majori takes 30 minutes flat.
Jurmala’s Other Attractions
The indoor waterpark just inside the city boundary is a great place to take your kids.
It’s also a great place to take yourself. On the adult side of the building, there are multiple saunas — of varying drynesses and temperatures — a few hot tubs and a pool bar with an adjacent bubble massager. A drink with an umbrella in it can be had for about $5. If you are ever in Latvia in January, you will understand what an important resource Livu Aquapark is.
Written by Eric Barrier for EuropeUpClose.com