The Thermal Baths of Bënja in Albania are here to relax you more than ever. Jump in!
We all know that when the planets align, and it is time to go on holiday or a relaxing trip, we typically choose familiar locations or at least some highly rated places that we expect to be on par with their good reviews. But what about those “unheard-of” places that you are skeptical about, either because there is no visitors’ feedback or they simply don’t look fancy enough to convince you?
Well, today I am going to recommend one of those places because I think it’s worth exploring more options in your destination catalog, and that is: the Thermal Baths of Bënja (Albania, Europe).
Background of Thermal Baths of Bënja
The Thermal Baths of Bënja (beh-nee-uh) were discovered around 1964 and up to 1975, they were owned by the government with limited access to the public. After that, they became publicly accessible and without limitations, under the fair usage rule, which meant that you were free to perform any leisure activities you like as long as you did not cause any damage or nuisance to your surroundings. The baths are located 14 km West of Përmet (puhr-meht), a rather small town, in the South Western part of Albania. And for anyone unaware about the country of Albania, it is a small country in the Balkans of Europe, right between Italy and Greece.
The Thermal Baths of Bënja consist of a total of 4 major springs and multiple smaller ones. The natural water gushing out of the springs and forming baths ranges in temperatures from 26-32 °C (78.8 – 89.6 F) independently of seasons or weather, hence there is no reason for you to ever be discouraged by the idea of cold water. However, what is really special about these springs is the therapeutic properties the water possesses due to the earth’s minerals dissolved in it, with those primarily being: sulfate compounds, bicarbonate soda, salts, and other elements. It’s recommended that you spend at least two weeks of daily bathing in the springs in 20 minutes intervals for you to tap on those therapeutic properties and see the benefits on your body.
Experts, doctors, and people themselves, claim that those curative properties mainly focus on problems connected to: rheumatism, stomach aches or diseases, skin rashes and diseases, and others. Just as with everything, there is always skepticism and disbelief among a few people while others “swear on their mother” that their health problems have been resolved or at least mitigated to a satisfactory degree. Look, I am no expert but every time I visited the baths, I never got sick during the winter.
The bottom line is that nobody can really guarantee their therapeutic properties, but even if that’s not the case, at least I can assure you that they are really freakin’ enjoyable! I just spent a whole summer over there and if you follow my advice, you are definitely going to enjoy the beautiful nature, the clean air and the amazing view of the canyons.
Here is what you will encounter upon your arrival at the thermal baths
What will you find?
The moment you reach the location, you will see a camping area along with a small outdoor restaurant where you can get a drink or a snack. It’s minimalistic and provides the basics, but nature lovers won’t mind that much once they see the beautiful countryside.
Next to it, there is a stream that ends up on Vjosa River and the start of the Lengarica Canyons (len-guh-reet-suh). There is an old historical bridge (Ura e Kadiut) right next to the first and largest thermal bath at the entrance of the canyons. You can go over or under the bridge, but you should be extra careful as there are no handlebars or other safety measures. If you are a first-timer, I suggest crossing the river on foot. It’s shallow, so no worries.
The 1st major bath
Walking a few more meters, you will reach the first and largest thermal bath. This one has a depth of around 1 – 1.3 meters (3-4 ft.) and is about 15m (50 ft.) in diameter. Children over 4 years old should be fine as long as they remain above the mentioned heights. The bath has a man-made stone wall around it to retain the water and keep a decent depth while allowing overflow from the top. This ensures that the water is on an adequate level, and surface disturbances are at a minimum. Regarding its therapeutic properties, it’s said that it can relieve pain and eliminate skin-related rashes. It’s also good for skin irritations.
The 2nd major bath
Moving on to the next one, you will find it hidden just behind the old bridge’s abutment. It’s about ¼ of the size of the previous bath, and it has similar conditions. The water is even clearer because it has fewer people and is exclusively used for relaxation purposes. The old-timers claim that this spring focuses on issues related to your stomach, and it’s much better if you actually drink some of that water directly from the source to have some meaningful effect on your body. I’ve personally tried it and although it tastes a bit weird due to magnesium, it is perfectly drinkable.
The 3rd major bath
The 3rd largest bath is located about 50m (150 ft.) farther from the previous ones and upstream of the river. It has a significant amount of sulfate compounds in it, which can be seen from the white marks on the stones and the putrid eggshell smell. Regardless, it is safe and is highly recommended for rheumatoid conditions or other types of bone and joint pain. However, avoid drinking any amount, as that would probably cause you a stomach ache.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you’ll have to walk to access all the baths. There is no car or boat to take you to the desired location. A pair of crocs would do a nice job of keeping your feet safe from hard rocks and river pebbles.
The 4th major bath
If you keep walking another 100m (300 ft.) upstream of the river and deep within the canyons, you will find the 4th major bath. It’s similar in properties to the 3rd one, but much larger, which makes it very comfortable for families. Its location is somewhat special because it’s part of the actual canyon rock, with the water coming directly from a crack in it. Refrain from being intimidated by the huge canyon over your head. It’s stable and safe.
The Thermal Baths of Bënja is a destination that you should keep in mind when visiting the Balkans. If you can spare 2-3 days from your trip, I promise you that you won’t regret it. As I mentioned earlier, it won’t be to everyone’s taste, and it’s definitely not something fancy but rather family-oriented, and it mostly focuses on relaxation and well-being.
If you, however, are adventurous and in the mood for some rafting, then you should definitely try the Langarica Canyons rafting programs tailored for tourists. It will be a much better fit for what you’re looking for.
Before you go, here are some extra tips for the folks that decided to finally make the trip to the Thermal Baths of Bënja.
- Plan your trip beforehand. Book a hotel/guest house. Check for transport and car renting companies. Certain places of Albania are still under development;
- Use a bicycle if you like enjoying nature;
- If you do not own/rent a car, there are buses too. Be mindful of their early departing hours;
- If you are not a fan of crowds, try to avoid the morning or early evening hours, as they are the peak bathing hours for locals and tourists;
- Do not take many belongings with you when you go to the thermal baths. You just need a towel, a bottle of water, your sunscreen, and your hat. Phones, cameras, tablets, etc. will be safer in your car. You never know when you might drop your expensive piece in the water or get it stolen. Though I have never heard of thieves at that place, you never know;
- Show respect to the people around you when you are inside the baths. Normally, you will find families having a relaxing time together. Even though some kids like to do “bomb-diving”, please do not feel tempted to do the same;
- Careful to not wander too much alone farther in the canyons. It might be tempting, but better take a person with you. If you have an accident, nobody can hear you;
- Careful about bees, wasps, and occasionally… vipers. Although rare, they can make their presence known when you least expect it;
- Avoid junk food. There is no need to eat such things if you have proper and inexpensive restaurants in the town. You can also pack yourself a sandwich;
- Be stress-free. You are here to relax, and the people of Përmet are very quiet and friendly. Just talk to them without fear or awkwardness. The majority knows very basic English or none at all, but they will gladly help you.
Hopefully, you enjoyed our guide.
Which place should we write about next?
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