Thermal spas

Barèges is a historic spa village, and at 1250m has the highest thermal baths in France. The thermal waters were discovered in the 15th century when a farmer found an injured sheep bathing in a warm sulphurous pool. The sheep recovered very quickly and soon the pool was being used by the local people, who dipped in a big basin sheltered by a roof. The royal family began to take the “cure” in 1675, and the original spa buildings were built in 1860 when Napoleon the third, under Louis XV, ordered the construction of a military hospital and spa for the treatment of war wounds, rheumatism and skin problems.

Today the thermal spa at Barèges has had a recent complete refurbishment. The thermo ludiqu centre for relaxation and pampering has a jet-pool, Jacuzzi with mountain views and a hammam steam room. The original thermal baths and spa treatments are also available for visitors. The excellent Luzea spa at Luz St-Sauveur is only 15 minutes drive from Barèges and is also worth a visit. Whether you’re looking for a cure or just a chance to indulge yourself, a trip to the spa is certainly a lovely way to relax after a strenuous day out enjoy activities in the mountain.

Why does Barèges have thermal waters?

The Pyrenees are a young mountain belt and the buried igneous rocks are still warm, so water circulating deep in the granite is heated naturally. At Barèges naturally heated waters rise to the surface along a geological fault line between two different rock types – a granite and a schist. The sodic thermal waters of Barèges are rich in sulphur and a natural gel called “Barégine”. This white filament gives a unique richness to the waters and has antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and scar-reducing properties. Barégine has always been reputed for its healing qualities. It is now known to be product of the sulphur-bacteria which live in the waters and use sulphur as their energy source.

The Barèges spa is recommended particularly for the reconstruction of bones and for rheumatism. There is also a second spa (Thermes de Barzun) specialising in respiratory complaints. Thermal “cure” treatments are widely recognised in France: 87% of French people consider thermalism to be an alternative treatment for certain illnesses, and 83% believe that thermal treatments allow a reduction in their consumption of medication.