- Apr. 21 2015 00:00
The award-winning spa at Radisson Blu Paradise Resort & Spa Sochi
The first written mention of Sochi dates way back to 137 A.D., when a visiting Roman general noted a river "Masaitika" (today's Matsesta) by the coastline of the Black Sea. By the fifth century, the Romans — who knew a good spot for a spa when they saw one — were using the malodorous but healing waters by the river Matsesta to soothe the aches and pains of battle. But over the next centuries, the sunshine, sea water, and healing spring water remained something of a local secret.
And then in the mid-1800s, when the world's doctors and scientists were enamored with the health benefits of spring water, the natural mineral waters around Sochi were rediscovered. The sulfurous mineral water was tested and declared to have curative powers. At the turn of the century, the tsarist minister of land and state property proposed the creation of a spa near the Matsesta spring, and a rather primitive bathing complex opened in 1902. A few years later the first spa resort was launched: Kavkazskaya Riviera. By then Sochi was already drawing tourists to its lush coastline and beach. By the time of the 1917 Revolution, Sochi was Russia's prime southern resort, with the first version of the spas, hotels, boardwalks, parks and cafes that now dot the coastline.
Sochi and its healing resort spas continued to be developed throughout the Soviet period, with a great building boom in the 1930s when Joseph Stalin vacationed in his dacha in the hills. The "Stalinist classical" architecture defined the town, parks, and resorts. Until the USSR dissolved, tourists flocked to Sochi on package tours to resorts funded by their workplace, or as private tourists looking to rent a room for a month. But without development funds, in the 1990s Sochi became run-down and could not compete with the family resorts in Turkey and Egypt, or with traditional European spa towns like Karlovy Vary and Baden-Baden.
Spa Town Revival
In the last five years Sochi has been reviving, updating and recreating the centuries-old traditions of spa resorts for today's exacting clients. One of the oldest spas now restored is Matsesta (matsesta.info), which has classical architecture set in a landscaped park. You can stay at an updated sanatorium or in a hotel of your choice, and come to the spa for a course of treatment, which can include bathing in the healing — though smelly — spring water, massages, and other procedures.
Lovers of retro chic might choose Swissotel Sochi Kamelia, which was built to replicate the beloved Intourist Hotel of 1935, complete with a cascade of fountains and monumental statuary flowing down the hillside. There might be antique cars out front, and a manicured park that looks ready to receive a foreign delegation, but retro stops at the door. Inside all is bright, airy and thoroughly modern. Tired guests can find rejuvenation at the Purovel Spa & Sport center, which uses spa treatments from the Swiss Alps, and continue to unwind in the saunas, jet pools, or outdoor swimming pool. Like all Swissotels, the Kamelia helps guests stay fit with a special Vitality menu, jogging routes, and exercise rooms and equipment.
Another resort that is retro on the outside and high-tech on the inside is the Rodina Grand Hotel and Spa, which has just 40 rooms ranging from deluxe to beyond deluxe (with prices to match). The hotel is set in a large and lush park, and has several pools, both indoor and outdoor; its own pebble beach; a gym, tennis and sports courts; a billiards room, movie theater and library; two restaurants, two bars, a terrace restaurant and a café on the beach; and an enormous and luxurious spa that uses Italian treatment methods. Bring your sunglasses and pretend that you don't recognize the other clients.
The Radisson Blu Paradise Resort & Spa is a five-star hotel that brings the Sochi spa into the 21st century. For active relaxation, there is an expansive beach, two large pools, tennis and sports courts, and the award-winning SPA "SIBO," a 2,500 square-meter expanse of stone, wood, and water that provides massages, beauty treatments, relaxation therapies and detox programs. The resort staff can also arrange activities outside the resort, such as rafting, horseback riding or quad bike rides in the Caucasus.