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A chance glance at a map highlighted some Roman baths in the Casares hills and a Google search showed that they are just a 15 minute drive from home – perfect for our latest Sunday outing!
Los Banos de la Hedionda
Translated from Spanish it means Baths of the Stinking Place and, walking up the path towards the baths, I could certainly smell them before I could see them. The smell of sulphur isn’t overpowering (if you’ve been to Rotorua in New Zealand you’ll know all about that!) but it’s definitely in the air.
We arrived late morning and there were already quite a few locals there (but not so many that it felt overcrowded).
There’s a small white building with a domed roof behind a couple of pools of sulphurous milky blue water flowing into a small stream. I paddled across the shallow stream to a wall of clay – great, a free face and body mask! I was expecting it to be soft so thought I’d be able to scoop great handfuls onto my body – wrong! It’s actually really hard so, if you are going to try a mudpack, I’d suggest getting a stone from the river and using it to scrape the mud off the wall and mixing it in to a paste with water from the stream.
The white building houses the baths themselves – there are two small entrances leading into the pool. Cold at first but it soon warmed up. It can be a bit slippy underfoot so be careful getting in and out. There are several tunnels in the baths leading to underground caverns (and the source of the water) but we didn’t have a torch with us to explore too far – something to remember for next time.
Apparently Julius Caesar visited the baths and cured his psoriasis although I’m not sure if there’s actually any truth in that story. I will say though that after a dip my skin did feel lovely and soft (even if it did have a slightly sulphurous odour to it!!).
Given the fact that I’m not very good with directions (check out my tales of hiking in the Sierra Bermeja) I did wonder if we’d manage to find the baths but it was a fairly straightforward journey.
If you’re driving from the south on the A7 you should turn left at the roundabout by Lidl in Sabinillas onto Camino los Banos and carry on up this road until you drive underneath the motorway. There’s a restaurant on the right called Roman Oasis – you could park here and walk although we carried on past this and parked in one of the official car parks – it’s down a very steep gravel path so be prepared!
A word of warning. If you’re going on a Sunday morning expect lots of traffic – not to the baths but to the Sunday market in Sabinillas. It’s held in a big car park on Camino los Banos – there are traffic police directing cars in and out so the wait shouldn’t be too long – but, if road rage does take hold of you a dip in the baths will be the perfect antidote.