Established in the early 20th century, Castilla Termal Balneario de Solares became the first thermal spa in Cantabria, Spain during the ‘Belle Epoque’ period and is now one of four properties in the Castilla Termal Hoteles chain of 4 and 5-star thermal-spa resorts.
One hundred years after first opening and after careful remodeling which left its classic style intact, it stands nestled in a quiet setting in the midst of expansive gardens lined with trees at the edge of Solares, a sleepy little town about 12 miles from Santander and even closer to the airport.
Featuring 113 rooms and suites, Castilla Termal offers guests 5,000 square metres of thermal facilities, including a children’s spa and an outdoor pool beside an open terrace. It is also only 10 miles from two beaches, Somo and Laredo, and from the 2,000-acre Cabárceno Natural Park.
Fed by Fuencaliente bicarbonate spring water rich in chloride, calcium and sodium, treatments are offered for problems associated with digestion, metabolism, inflammation, insomnia, stress and the overall nervous system. The spa also offers a range of leisure and beauty treatments using Skeyndor cosmetics, with Natalia one of the excellent masseuses. For exercise, guests can also enjoy yoga and Pilates classes. With 850,000 litres of mineral water and an indoor, 850-meter thermal pool, the needs of people of all ages are catered for, with activities even for infants as young as three months.
Accommodation is comfortable, without being ostentatious, and an excellent restaurant, ‘El Manantial,’ complements an informal lobby bar and summer terrace.
Sometimes menus at spas take second importance to the health facilities, but Castilla Termal is a delightful exception. Its excellent menu, entitled ‘Tierras de Medio Cuyedo,’ is a combination of sea, river and mountain, including salmon, lamb and ox, and is based on the slow food philosophy, with the hotel even having its own vegetable gardens and fruit trees.
One three-course lunch we enjoyed prepared by the resident trio of chefs Arturo, Adrian and Teresa there began with coins of tender and fresh broiled octopus sprinkled lightly with olive oil, salt flowers and paprika, followed by a second course of local cheese on a bed of chilled ratatouille topped with anchovies, with a main course of delicately pan-fried halibut and prawns, all resting on thin, roasted potato slices. Last but not least came crème Catalana, the Spanish version of crème brûlée, but without the crust of caramelized sugar. Served chilled, with curls of dark chocolate and vanilla ice cream, it was both delectable and a refreshing end to a fine, leisurely lunch. Alternatively, there is always the traditional quesada pasiega dessert, made with a fresh farmer’s cheese called queso de Burgos.
Service also is a most pleasant experience at Castilla Termal, with a high level of efficiency and friendliness at the reception desk. Veronica, for example, though off-duty, returned to her desk to provide information on a musical event.
Solares being a small town, the hotel is very close to the bus station – a three-minute walk – with regular transport to various parts of Spain.
Santander, being but 10 miles away, is an easy journey and offers a range of experiences, including a fine archaeological museum with artifacts gleaned from caves in the surrounding area, ancient cave art reproduced and also a series of screens depicting the effects of global warming.
Historic sites include eclectically styled, English-inspired palace crowning the Península de la Magdalena and the refurbished Jardines de Pereda offers leisurely walks as does the bayside promenade fronting it that stretches to the Puerto Chico (Little Port) marina.
A tranquil place in a spacious, charming setting where quality of food and spa treatments are viewed as equally important to one’s overall well-being, a stay at Castilla Termal Balneario de Solares will probably be most memorable.