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Unusual beauty treatments to experience in your travels

The Garra rufa species of fish is included in an pedicure service in many European locations.

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By KAREN BRADBURY | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 26, 2021

As the days grow longer across Europe, urges to remain hunkered down at home are giving way to a desire to get outside and rejoin the big wide world. Although COVID-19 and the regulations put in place to control it continue to negate all notion of distant travels, we can still dream of slightly quirky or outright self-indulgent treatments designed to help us put our freshest faces forward when we finally step out into the light. Here is a look at some of the procedures one can undergo, from those that cost close to nothing to those that carry a fancy price tag.

Mucky mud baths

While a good slather in a spring-fed mud pool might feel dirty at first, the relaxation factor might be just enough to make you fall for this treatment available on the island of Vulcano, the southernmost of the seven Aeolian Islands off the northeast coast of Sicily. The island is home to one of Italy’s four active, above-ground volcanoes. At the Terme di Vulcano, guests can treat themselves to a rub with stinky sulphuric mud, reputed to heal skin ailments and boost the respiratory system. Rinsing it off in the hot spring thereafter might be the more pleasant part of the experience. Don’t wear your favorite bathing suit, as the rotten-egg smell tends to linger long thereafter. Admission to the mud baths costs 3 euros. Vulcano can be reached via hydrofoil in less than two hours from the port of Milazzo, near Messina, via the Siremar ferry line. Online: tinyurl.com/h3gj9a02

Sudsy soaks

Since the opening of the Czech Republic’s first beer spa in 2006, similar facilities have sprung up rapidly throughout the land. A fine place to indulge in a beer bath ritual is the charming city of Pilsen, where brewing traditions date back to the 13th century. The vitamin B, hops and malt extract contained in beer make for a healthy and soothing soak. The typical bathing procedure takes around 30 minutes, and as the water is rather hot, the drinking of liquids is encouraged. For this reason, a tap from which the guest can pull his own beer is attached to the tub. The Purkmistr Beer Spa offers a beer bath experience for 900 Czech Koruna (about $42) for single bathers and 1780 CZK for pairs. The facility also offers baths incorporating chocolate, hops, lavender and cannabis, along with a Finnish sauna, steam bath and wellness facilities. Online: purkmistr.cz

Fishy foot spas

These days, plenty of major metropolises, spa towns and tourist hotspots boast of facilities offering fish pedicures, in which tiny toothless fish in a tank nibble the dead skin off one’s feet. The Garra rufa species of fish, commonly referred to as “doctor fish,” has long been used as a treatment for various skin ailments. One of the oldest recorded uses of such therapy is offered at the the Kangal Fish Springs in Kangal, in the province of Sivas in Turkey. Psoriasis sufferers in particular have long claimed to have been helped by the effect of the warm thermal waters, rich in selenium, coupled with the ministrations of the fish. A hotel complex offers comfort to those who come to take the cure. Online: tinyurl.com/18o11h2e

Rolls in the hay

For more than 100 years, spa facilities in Fiè allo Sciliar, a town on a plateau in the Dolomites mountain range in northern Italy, have offered treatments involving the sweet grasses gathered after mowing the fields of Europe’s largest high-altitude Alpine meadow. In a procedure known as a hay bath, meadow grasses are harvested in the early morning or late afternoon, when their aromas and essential oils are in peak condition. The hay, rich in herbs such as arnica, thyme, gentian and cinquefoil, is dampened, which sparks the fermentation process and causes the hay to reach temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The three-star Hotel Heubad offers a wide range of procedures. In one of its most popular treatments, the guest is wrapped in warm hay while lying atop a warm-water cushion. Other facilities offer similar treatments. Online: hotelheubad.com

Cascading waterfalls

La Posidonia Spa on the Spanish island of Ibiza specializes in balneotherapy, healing with mineral water, and outdoor wellness experiences. In a treatment that ticks both boxes, the “Cascadas Suspendidas,” suspended waterfalls experience allows guests to soak in eight connected pools built high into a cliff overlooking a pine-studded bay. The pools are heated to various temperatures and provide high-pressure jet massages starting with the soles of one’s feet and finishing with an invigorating, full-body exposure. The 45-minute experience costs 40 euros and is available to guests of the Hacienda Na Xamena, the wellness hotel to which the spa is attached, in Puerto de San Miguel. Online: laposidonia-ibiza.com

Diamonds for everlasting youth

The Akasha Spa at the Conservatorium Hotel in Amsterdam offers a myriad of pampering experiences; among the most luxurious is “The Ultimate Diamond Experience Life Infusion.” An Asian-inspired cleansing ritual is followed by a lavender ayurvedic massage, a triple exfoliation procedure and the application of a luminous gold and pearl nourishing mask. The 90-minute treatment goes for 315 euros. Online: conservatoriumhotel.com/spa-and-treatments