Herculane Spa

Herculana Spa – Baile Herculane is the oldest bathing spa resort of Romania and also one of the oldest spas and bathing resorts of the world. Băile Herculane – Herculana Spa is a small town in Romanian Banat /population 5,000 inhabitants/, in Caraş-Severin County, situated in the valley of the Cerna River, between the Mehedinţi Mountains to the east and the Cerna Mountains to the west, elevation 168 meters. Herculana Spa is located just 40 kilometers away from the modern day city of Drobeta Turnu Severin, in the south-east part of the Banat, in the beautiful Cerna river valley, 19 km from the city of Orsova, within the Domogled-Valea Cernei National Park, a protected area of 61,211 hectares that was opened in 2000.

The first written documentation about the Herculane spa date from 153 AD, when Romans established a first spa called Aqua Herculi, dedicated to Greek-Roman mythical hero-god of Heracles. Founded by the Romans during their invasion of the Dacian territories, Herculane Spa Resort is famous all over the world for the curative effects of its mineral thermal springs. During the 165 years of Roman domination of Dacia, the Herculaneum Spa was known all over the Roman Empire, and there was even an aqueduct to transport warm water from thermal springs to the Roman baths. In 1718 Austro-Hungarian field marshal von Hamilton had rebuilt the ancient Herculane Spa as Herkulesbad. Unearthed stone carvings show that visiting Roman aristocrats turned the town into a Roman leisure center. Herculane Spa was one of the favorite SPA Resorts in Europe, but also for Princess Sissi of Austria which used to be visited by tourists from all over the world. The mineral waters of the Herculane spa resort fall into the following main categories : chlorosodic, bi-carbonated, slightly sulfurous mineral waters. The negative air-ions diminish the blood sedimentation speed, increase blood and tissue colloidal stability, and body resistance to infectious diseases.

Legend has it that Hercules himself bathed in the strength-giving natural springs of Herculane Spa. Six statues of Hercules from the time have been discovered. A bronze replica of one of them, molded in 1874, stands as a landmark in the town center.

After the retreat of the Romans from Dacia (271 AD, under the Emperor Aurelius) the baths were not maintained, forest grew among the water conduits and the basins  during centuries. The “jungle” was wiped out after 1718. As a consequence of the two wars taking place between the Austrians and the Turks, nothing remained from the 18th century. But the two old cores of the bathing resort subsisted in good condition: one of them was constructed at the beginning of the 19th century (Piaţa Hercules – Hercules Square) and the other one at the end of the century (the zone of the Casino and the Neptune Bath). At the end of the 19th century, “Herkules-bad” became a place where noblemen from the territory of the whole empire spent their holidays. In the beginning, “Sisi” (the Empress Elisabeth) visited the place and advanced the promotion of the bathing resort during the five occasions spent here. The triple meeting was held here in 1896 among Francis Joseph and the kings of Romania and Serbia. According to Francis Joseph: „…here, in this wild valley of the Cerna, we can find the most beautiful town of spa of the continent.”

Springs of the Herculane Spa feature a high radio-emanation level, similar to the ones of Vichy and Montdore. At present, 16 natural springs of the Herculane Spa with thermal mineral water, scattered along the Cerna Valley for about 4 km, are known in the neighborhood of the resort. In the last decades, 9 hydro-geological drilling have been performed in order to obtain important flow increase. The present-day thermal-mineral waters supply the Herculane Spa resort as in store is of 4.000 m3/24 h, that offers – due to their physical-chemical properties – various possibilities for the balneary treatment. The chlorine and sodium which are found in great quantities (from 7mg/l to 4700mg/l), generally appear in thermal waters of Herculane spa trough the effusion of hot mineralised vapors from the magma pits, trough the action of hydro-chloric acid on the minerals in the rocks, the vapors go out to the surface of the earth. The natural air – ionization (2.000-2.500 negative air-ions/cm3/s) increases the resistance of the body to catching disease. Air-ions act on the organism by entering the lungs together with the in-coming air as well as by direct action on the skin. Mount Domogled, to the west of the Herculane resort, is an extensive forest reservation sheltering rare trees, turtles and butterflies. Herculane is known for its rock-climbing and hiking trails, and boasts regular events all season long. While some hotels of the Herculane Spa, like the Ferdinand Hotel and the Cerna Hotel have been renovated to offer their own comfortable spas and wellness treatments, there is still a lot to invest to bring back the glamour of the 19th century to the whole complex. Opened in 1924 in a former casino, the Herculane Spa Museum in its three hall presents the history of this world-renowned spa since the Roman times. Hall 1 shows archaeological objects from the nearby Thieves’ cave. Hall 2 in the former Silver Room (roulette room) is dedicated to Roman and medieval objects, while the Hall 3 preserves lithographs, paintings and photographs of ancient Herkulesbad.