Savoie has been a land of thermal baths and springs since Roman times. Today, spa treatments are seen as a valuable complement to classic medicine, providing great relief for people with a wide range of chronic ailments, as Professor Carpentier, director of the La Léchère university research centre, explains.
Savoie’s spas are worthy successors to the baths of Greek and Roman times. In the 18th century, Aix-les-Bains became the first resort to revive this glorious past.
The first spa towns – Thonon-les-Bains, Evian-les-Bains, Challes-les-Eaux – grew up in the valleys of the pre-Alps. Gradually, health spas spread to more mountainous areas. The creation of Salins-les-Bains, Brides-les-Bains and La Léchère, in the Tarentaise, made Savoie France’s leading spa “département”.
During the golden age of spa treatments, from 1850 to 1939, Savoie was famous throughout Europe. In 1950, the government officially acknowledged the therapeutic value of spa medicine. Available under the French health service, it became available to all.
Although the effervescence of the early 20th century has now subsided, the ability of thermal medicine to alleviate the pain of chronic illnesses is widely accepted. La Léchère stands out among France’s 89 spa resorts, both for the quality of its waters and for their beneficial effects on the circulation and rheumatism.
The spa at Challes-les-Eaux.
Taking a stroll near the spa at Brides-les-Bains.
Hot-water fountain at the Marlioz spa in Aix-les-Bains.
The mysterious waters
Is it normal for hot water to flow out of the ground? What makes this phenomenon even more curious is that these waters can cure diseases thought to be incurable.
There is nothing mysterious about the waters of La Léchère; their origin is entirely geological. Water seeps through the mountainside, flowing deep into the ground to the bottom of the valley. As it percolates through the rock, it absorbs minerals and heat, so much so that 2000 years later it emerges below our feet at 61°C.
A forest of wells
Eleven wells have been dug, turning the ground into a veritable Swiss cheese.
The most recent, the Natacha well, was drilled in 1998. It supplies the spa and geothermal installations at La Léchère with 45 m3 of water every hour.