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Mineral Water Spas/Russia

Introducing Mineral Water Spas

The central Caucasus rises from the steppe in an eerie landscape studded with dead volcanoes and spouting mineral springs. The curative powers of the springs have attracted unhealthy, hypochondriac or just holiday-minded Russians since the late 18th century, when wounded soldiers appeared to heal quicker after bathing in them. The area had already passed from Turkish to Russian hands in 1774 but still came under attack from local tribes. The first settlements were forts that evolved into graceful spa towns.

Today Kavkazskie Mineralnye Vody (Caucasian Mineral Waters) is a holiday resort where the healthy outnumber the ailing. The atmosphere is relaxed, the air fresh and the walks lovely. The parks and elegant spa buildings recall the 19th century, when fashionable society trekked from Moscow and St Petersburg to see, be seen and look for a spouse.

Many of the 130-plus springs have fizzled out for lack of maintenance. Those remaining feed fountains in drinking galleries and provide the elixir for sanatoria treatment of muscle, bone, heart, circulation, nervous system, joints and skin problems. For a fee, at some sanatoria, you can experience being plastered with supposedly curative black mud or being blasted by a shock shower.

Pyatigorsk and Kislovodsk are the main resorts, and Essentuki and Zheleznovodsk the minor resorts.