Popular tour operator leading trips to Bosnia & Herzegovinia

G Adventures will soon be offering an extended program of trips to Bosnia and Herzegovina that are designed to support local communities, while showcasing the Balkan nation’s distinctive culture, nature and heritage.

The new trips are launching as the result of a collaboration between the U.S. Government’s USAID Developing Sustainable Tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina (USAID Turizam) initiative, the Global Travel & Tourism Resilience Council (GTTRC), and G Adventures.

Yves Marceau, vice-president of product for G Adventures, welcomed the partnership and opportunity to expand the operator’s trip offerings in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The Balkans is a special part of the world that is growing in popularity as people move beyond traditional European destinations. As more travellers start to visit, it’s important that tourism develops the right way – a way that supports local people and communities. Travel is a two-way exchange, and we’re excited to introduce our new trips in 2025,” Marceau said.

A "model for tourism development"

Karl Wurster, Director of the Economic Development Office at USAID/BiH says the success of this collaboration will serve as a model for tourism development, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but worldwide.

“We are pleased to launch our collaboration with G Adventures, a company that takes travellers from around the world to more than 100 countries. What’s most impressive is G Adventures’ commitment to community tourism, which will ensure the long-term sustainability of tourism development in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Wurster.

As part of the new partnership, representatives from G Adventures will be visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina to explore new destinations, services and experiences to expand existing itineraries and introduce new and extended trips. Here, USAID Turizam will introduce G Adventures to suppliers and service providers to discuss ideas for future on-trip experiences.

For more information on G Adventures, please visit www.gadventures.com.

Canadian airline adds summer flights to Stockholm

Air Canada is expanding its presence in Scandinavia with new summer seasonal flights to Stockholm.

Three weekly flights from Montreal and two weekly flights from Toronto will begin June 12, 2024. The airline will also be increasing capacity on its year-round Copenhagen flights from Toronto with daily flights beginning May 1, 2024 until Oct. 31, and will resume seasonal flights from Montreal earlier on May 2, 2024, increasing up to five weekly flights in June.

Air Canada first launched service to Scandinavia in 2010 with flights from Toronto to Copenhagen. In 2023, the airline expanded its presence in Copenhagen with the addition of new flights from Montreal to Copenhagen.

Air Canada plans to operate 100 per cent of its peak summer 2019 trans-Atlantic capacity next year, taking full advantage of the robust recovery in its largest international market.

Flights will be operated with Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft featuring three cabins of service for customers to choose from, including Signature Class with lie-flat seats, Premium Economy and Economy Class.

Seats are available for purchase now at aircanada.com, via the Air Canada App, Air Canada’s Contact Centres, and travel agents.

10 reasons to explore Germany in 2024

As the host of UEFA EURO 2024, next summer will be an exciting time to visit Germany.

Ten cities are set to host 51 matches kicking off in Munich on June 14 and ending in Berlin on July 14.

Along with taking in the soccer action and the stadium energy, here’s a look at what visitors can experience during a visit to Germany in 2024.

Fabulous Frankfurt beyond the airport

Jasmin Bischoff, Marketing Director for Frankfurt Tourism Marketing, wants Canadians to know that there’s so much more to the city than its airport. However, anyone with at least a five hour layover should take advantage of its quick connection to downtown.

Bischoff recommends visiting the new old town, an area that was destroyed during the Second World War, and restored and recreated to its former glory from 2010-2018. Frankfurt is one of the host cities for the Euro’s. When in town, she also recommends diving into its traditional cuisine ranging from apple wine to a green sauce dish made from seven herbs and sour cream, served with potatoes and boiled eggs.

Buzzing Berlin celebrates milestone

Germany’s capital city, where history, art, and innovation seamlessly collide, is marking the 35th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall in 2024. More than 60 Christmas markets to visit, Inka Rehahn, Director of Strategic Marketing for Visit Berlin, says the holiday season is also a magical time to visit. Berlin will host the final match of the UEFA EURO 2024.

Bathing in Baden-Baden

During a previous visit to this charming spa town, Bill Clinton remarked, “Baden-Baden is so nice you have to name it twice.” With a location on the doorstep to France and Switzerland, Cornelia Stahr, Head of Global Marketing, said the destination can easily be combined with other countries.

A key reason to visit will be to soak up the town’s healing waters at the historic Friedrichsbad (textile-free) or the newer Caracalla bath down the road where swimsuits are worn.

Explore charming Franconia

For postcard-worthy pictures of Germany, look no further than the Franconia region. Jörg Hentschel from the Franconian Tourist Board noted that 2024 will mark the 750th anniversary of the picturesque medieval town Rothenburg ob der Tauber and the 70th anniversary of the Castle Road, which like the name indicates is a trail of palaces. There are also 5 UNESCO Heritage Sites, christmas markets, and loads of breweries and vineyards to discover along the way.

Discover the historic highlights of Germany

Historic Highlights of Germany, which represents 17 destinations in Germany that are all at least 700 years old, from the likes of Potsdam to Trier, is also home to Germany’s latest UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 52nd site is in Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia, which boasts a Jewish-medieval heritage with three important monuments – the Old Synagogue, the Mikveh, and the Stone House.

Get to know the real Stuttgart

While Stuttgart is well known for automotive innovation as the home of the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums, the region’s International Marketing & Sales Manager Svenja Heinzelmann shares that her city is also surrounded by vineyards and forests.

But for a truly memorable stay, car fans can check out theV8 Hotel Stuttgart, which features car themed rooms. Of course, visitors will also have to try Maultaschen, a kind of large meat-filled dumpling in Swabian cuisine.

Dive into Düsseldorf’s culinary scene

For beer fans, Christian Schüller, manager market development for Düsseldorf Tourism, says travellers will have to visit its old town to try its special top fermented craft beer. The city, known for offering a blend of contemporary architecture, arts, and culture, is one of the host cities for the EURO’s.

With a fair number of Japanese immigrants, Schüller shared that the modern metropolis on the Rhine has an unexpected Japanese food scene.

Go behind the scenes in beautiful Bavaria

Another area in Germany rich with rich history, nature, culture and traditions is Bavaria. Interestingly, Susanne Miller, Unit Lead, International Networks at Bavaria Tourism, says the state embraces local insiders to showcase its diversity. Among the most interesting is illustrator and artist Werner Härtl, who paints rural scenes with fresh cow dung.

Make the most of Munich

 As one of Germany’s most visited destinations, the Munich Tourist Board’s Melanie Reif knows that Canadians are already well versed in what the city offers. So the Head of International Trade Relations put the spotlight on two brand new hotel offerings.

The first is the newly opened five-star Rosewood Munich, the brand’s first property in Germany, housed in two landmark historical buildings, the former headquarters of the State Bank of Bavaria and the adjacent Palais Neuhaus-Preysing, a former grand aristocratic residence. And opening in spring 2024 is a 106 room JW Marriott, a new build on the traditional site of the old Hotel Königshof. Notably, Munich will host four EURO matches, including the opening game.

Soak up the culture in Saxony

Germany’s leading cultural destination, with its historic capital, Dresden and its largest city, Leipzig, have lots of offer for visitors, but next year Saxony is a big destination for the travel trade as well.

Wolfgang Gärtner, Head of International Marketing, Saxony Tourism, highlighted that the 2024 Germany Travel Mart well be held in Chemnitz, which will also be the European Capital of Culture in 2025. Four EURO games will also be held at the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig.

Our guide to exploring the best of Rome by day and night

With a history spanning 2,775 years, Rome is loaded with impressive ancient architecture seemingly around every corner. While the sights continue to lure in international visitors, Italy’s capital city is also known for its vibrant food scene, culture and nightlife.

“The Eternal City is just that – eternal and timeless in its appeal, as it continues to exude more than 2,000 years of history and culture,” guided tour operator Tauck’s product manager, Brenda MacKellar, who designs and oversees the tour operator’s itineraries in Italy, tells Offshore. “One can encounter ancient ruins in an amazing array of places — at the Roman Forum or one of the many other well-known archeological sites throughout the city, or in completely unexpected places – for example, underneath a church.”

Along with iconic spots, here are some surefire ways to ensure a memorable visit to The Eternal City. 

DAY

PHOTO SPOTS

For a unique view of St. Peter’s Basilica, head to the Aventine Keyhole on the top of Aventine Hill. The unassuming door gives way to a perfectly framed view of the basilica’s dome. Many visitors come to take a photo through the keyhole, but it’s also possible to enter the gardens with a booked appointment through the Priory of Knights of Malta.

For those who keep track of places they’ve visited, the area and the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, located down the road from the Spanish Steps, have rights of extraterritoriality. This means that those who visit either spot, along with the Vatican City during an Italian voyage, can add three destinations to their repertoire or set foot in three separate destinations in one day.

While in the Vatican, one of the best views of Rome is from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s €8 to climb to the top by foot or €10 for the elevator ride so we recommend splurging on the lift.

STROLL

To many first time visitors, Rome can seem like an enormous, sprawling city. However, it’s far more walkable than many realize.

“I love to take a leisurely passeggiata (stroll) through the city centre that takes in so many splendid sites, such as Piazza di Spagna, the Pantheon — perhaps the most well preserved of the city’s ancient buildings — or the Piazza del Popolo,” says MacKellar, who spent five years living in Rome. “Along the way, I try to step inside some of Rome’s wonderful churches, like San Luigi dei Francesi where you can see no less than three amazing Caravaggio paintings. In a very real sense, Rome is a living museum.”

STAY

For a remarkable stay, check into Palazzo Dama, a boutique property set in a former noble palace that once served as the residence of the Malaspinas, a family that hosted high-society gatherings for dignitaries, diplomats, aristocrats, and the cultural elite.

The elegant hotel features 29 guestrooms and suites with marble bathrooms, mere steps away from Piazza del Popolo and a short walk to other attractions like The Spanish Steps and The Trevi Fountain. From handwritten notes delivered during turndown service featuring the weather for the next day to a custom pillow menu, the hotel focuses on providing elevated service.

Stand out features include crystal chandeliers, a picturesque pool and secluded indoor and outdoor spots to chill and dine. Palazzo Dama is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ L.V.X. portfolio of luxury properties known for providing exclusive service in unique settings. To escape the heat during a hot summer’s day, we recommend hitting the outdoor pool for an afternoon dip.

NIGHT

SUNSET

While Aperol Spritz has become a trendy drink of choice for cocktail hour in Canada, Italy’s bars boast many different varieties like the Limoncello Spritz and the Hugo Spritz (made with an elderflower liqueur such as St. Germain). 

“After your passeggiata, take advantage of the city’s vibrant café culture and kick back with an aperitivo drink and light snack in the early evening,” says MacKellar. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to savour Rome’s charms, enjoy wonderful people watching, or simply relax before meeting friends for dinner in one of the city’s incredible restaurants.”

There are many hot spots to view the sunset for aperitivo hour such as the rooftop bar Terrace Les Etoiles and the Terrazza Borromini featuring spectacular 360 degree views over Rome, or Aroma, a one-star Michelin restaurant overlooking the Colosseum. 

DINE

Overall, Italy is renowned for its food scene and Rome does not disappoint. 

Cacio e pepe is a symbol of Rome – like the Colosseum — it’s an institution. This typically Roman pasta dish goes back to ancient times,” says Irma Berlingieri, manager, product development at Air Canada Vacations. “In their sacks, local shepherds would carry cacio cheese made from sheep’s milk, pepper, and dried spaghetti.”

To try this classic pasta dish made with cheese and black pepper, Berlingieri suggests Settimo Roman Cuisine & Terrace, Osteria Zi’Umberto or Felice A Testaccio. Reservations are recommended as popular spots book up quickly. 

“Italy’s capital also calls for carbonara, a deliciously egg-based pasta with pancetta or guanciale (cured pork jowl) and pecorino romano cheese,” she adds. “Save space for an order of the seasonal carciofo alla giudia, Rome’s famous deep-fried, Jewish-style artichokes, and snack on supplì, fried rice balls usually stuffed with tomato sauce, mozzarella and meat.”

BEAT THE CROWDS

Rome also boasts gorgeous Baroque architecture and amazing fountains. “Trevi Fountain is perhaps the best known, but a personal favourite is Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona,” says MacKellar.

Beat some of the crowds by visiting the fountains at night with a gelato or a wine in hand, instead of during the day when many cruise ships are in port. Gelato shops are open late so this treat isn’t just for daytime. The Nutella and Kinder flavours are hard to beat. 

“In addition to delicious food, Rome has historical sites everywhere you turn,” adds Berlingieri. “Walking the small streets is the best way to find cafés, gelato shops or small typical cuisine restaurants around every corner. Taking advantage of a hop-on hop-off is the fastest way to cover a lot of ground exploring the surroundings at every stop.”

This article first appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of OFFSHORE. Click here to read the digital magazine.

Stunning hotel opens inside a palace on island of Madeira

The Reserve is an exclusive luxury hotel concept set within the renowned Savoy Palace in Madeira, Portugal.

At The Reserve, every detail is carefully curated to create a truly exceptional stay. From the moment their booking is confirmed at this premier hideaway, they are connected with their own GEPA (The Reserve’s acronym for Guest Experience Personal Assistant), via email and WhatsApp, which tailors and prepares the stay to the guests’ specific requests and requirements prior to arrival.

To ensure a seamless visit, guests staying at The Reserve and Savoy Palace can enjoy the signature private car service (for an extra fee) upon their arrival and departure at Madeira International Airport, allowing for a smooth and hassle-free transition and being the perfect addition to the meet and greet service at the airport, which is complimentary to all guests at The Reserve on both arrival and departure.

Once guests arrive at the hotel, a dedicated private elevator will take them from the street-level lobby to the 16th floor of the Savoy Palace building where guests will find the Jacarandá Lounge & Club – the heart of The Reserve. Here guests will find a stunning rooftop pool, offering a panoramic view of Funchal, exclusive to The Reserve guests, which further enhances the already VIP experience. 

Contemporary suites

The Reserve presents an array of 40 elegantly appointed rooms designed to cater to various preferences. The spacious pool suites offer a private sanctuary, with a personal terrace and very own plunge pool; while the deluxe rooms provide a cozy retreat with serene sea views of the breathtaking Funchal Bay.

Every suite is thoughtfully furnished with lavish bedding and contemporary amenities, assuring the highest degree of comfort and relaxation within an ambiance of unmatched privacy and luxury.

The decor in the rooms consists of four different color palettes inspired by the colors and flora of the beautiful island of Madeira. 

Central to the concept of The Reserve is the dedicated GEPA available around the clock. As the single point of contact for all guest needs, the GEPA liaises with all hotel departments and external parties and manages, monitors, adjusts and adapts the different aspects of the guest’s stay and activities in the island to ensure a flawless and personalized visit tailored to each guest’s desires. 

With its soft opening scheduled for Dec. 1 and grand opening for Jan. 15, 2024, The Reserve is poised to become the ultimate destination for discerning travelers seeking an extraordinary experience in Madeira Island, Portugal. 

Some of the best experiences to have in Slovenia this summer

If you are thinking about an exciting new travel destination,  Slovenia stands ready.

The summer season is ideal for exploring cultural treasures, embarking Slovenian Coast, indulging in wellness retreats, or savoring exquisite culinary delights. Slovenia’s diverse attractions and warm hospitality will leave lasting memories and a desire to return. 

Do not miss Slovenia’s picturesque coastline, adorned with sun-soaked coastal towns also known for producing wine, olive oil, and salt, or wander amongst the orchards, vineyards, and romantic villages in Brda. Ensure you include a visit to the renowned Lipica Stud Farm, the historic birthplace of the world-famous Lipizzaner horses, listed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the World’s Intangible Heritage.

Explore the cave systems

The captivating Karst region is another must-see. With around 13,000 caves, including the breathtaking Postojna Cave, Europe’s largest cave system, and the UNESCO-listed Škocjan Caves, Slovenia is a paradise for cave enthusiasts.

Captivating cities and nature

Charming cities await as well: the capital Ljubljana invites you to wander its scenic streets, while Maribor, the second-largest city, boasts the world’s oldest vine, symbolizing the city’s rich viticultural heritage.

If your heart beats for more into nature, the Pohorje Hills will captivate you with extensive forests, peat bogs, and lakes.

For wine & wellness

For those seeking spa experiences, numerous natural spa resorts like Rogaška Slatina, known for its revered mineral-rich springs, Dobrna Spa with its blend of modern treatments and historic charm, and Terme Olimia Spa with luxurious pools, offer holistic wellness rejuvenating escape.

In the eastern part of Slovenia, the Pomurje region  offers a serene haven with rolling hills, vineyards, and quaint villages. Visit Expano, an interactive pavilion, to explore the region’s wonders through cutting-edge technology, interactive exhibits, and captivating events.

Further south, you can visit Dolenjska and enjoy idyllic moments among vineyards or make unforgettable romantic memories at the charming Otočec Castle.

For outdoor enthusiasts

Lastly, do not overlook Slovenia’s breathtaking outdoors. Dive into the Soča Valley for exhilarating adventures and soak in the natural beauty of Slovenia’s haven for nature lovers.

For inspiration, latest summer stories, and events, visit www.slovenia.info 

Explore these five nature spots in Lithuania

Lithuania’s captivating natural wonders, including pristine lakes, enchanting forests, and massive sand dunes, offer a myriad of stunning landscapes for nature enthusiasts this summer.


As the summer season reaches its peak, Lithuania’s treasure trove of natural wonders are bound to captivate the hearts of visitors and locals alike. From over 3,000 pristine lakes, 90 kilometres of the Baltic Sea shoreline, and enchanting forests that blanket more than 30 per cent of the country, this Baltic gem offers a myriad of stunning landscapes for nature enthusiasts to immerse themselves in.

Here are five nature spots not to miss during your Lithuanian summer adventure.

Silence of the dunes

Neringa is a top seaside location for every Lithuanian summer, mostly characterized by its massive moving sand dunes. Due to efforts to manage nature long ago, pine woods now dominate the area, yet parts of the historic dunes still remain entirely untouched.

On the 1.1 km walk of the Nagliai Nature Reserve, visitors may come to the peculiar natural phenomenon known as dead sand dunes. A few centuries ago, powerful winds formed a strange landscape of hollows and washouts that exposed the soil of a long-dead forest that was buried in the sand. The Curonian Spit — a UNESCO-listed peninsula with a carefully protected ecology —  is capped with unlimited vistas.

Nida’s Parnidis Dune is one of its most beautiful sites. At 52 m, it is one of Europe’s tallest dunes and provides a beautiful view of infinite sandy beaches that mingle with aromatic pine trees.

A therapeutic walk among junipers

The 1.3-kilometer-long Arlaviškių — or Juniper Valley — nature trail, located just outside Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city, welcomes visitors to appreciate the wonderful vista of the expanded Nemunas river, Dabinta Island, and the picturesque surrounding outcrops.

The trail’s uniqueness is more readily apparent now that it has been renovated: naturally grown on a steep slope, with patches of steppe grassland between the juniper trees and in other parts of the reserve that are home to rare plants, mushrooms, springs with forming tuffs, and even hanging wetlands. Furthermore, the air here is particularly pure due to essential oils secreted by junipers. According to some folk medicine practitioners, the aireven has a therapeutic value.

Treetops at a touching distance

The Treetop Walking Path in Anykščiai was the first trail in the Baltic States and in the whole of Eastern Europe where it was possible to walk at treetop level. At the end of the trail there is an observation tower, the height of the observation deck is 34 m.

This unique architectural structure is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Lithuania, as no other location offers the chance to walk among the tops of trees at an altitude of over 20 meters. From this height, the winding Šventoji River Valley unfurls in all its undisturbed beauty, with romantic peaks of the highest church towers — St. Matthew’s —  in Lithuania, popping up from the sea of green.

An ever-evolving landscape

Biržai’s surroundings are full of surprises. It is a one-of-a-kind land where the earth’s surface affects the landscape, with land collapsing in the most literal sense. This occurs when groundwater washes away gypsum deposits in the earth.

Above this special landscape and the local karst lakes looms the Kirkilai Observation Tower, which has a distinctive form — resembling a canoe or a sinking boat. The height of the tower is almost 32 meters, meaning visitors can take in the full-breadth of the surrounding landscape. In summer, under certain conditions, the lakes take on different colors — becoming painted with various shades of green and blue.

Mysteries of Lithuania’s pagan heritage

The Dūkštai Oak Grove Nature Trail meanders through one of the oldest and largest natural oak forests in Lithuania. Among the undergrowth of 200-year-old oak trees there are several species of rare and endangered animals, plants, fungi, and lichens that call the grove home.

As these trees were worshiped as gods several hundred years ago, wooden statues made in their honor can be discovered by those who wander through the area. Adding to the mystic energy of the park is the Airėnai Stone, with runes etched onto it whose meanings are still a mystery to mankind.

Here’s where you can hike the highest sea cliff in Europe

Hornelen Via Ferrata is a new and spectacular via ferrata up the highest sea cliff in Europe that offers stunning views of Norway’s coast. 

Hornelen is located on the island of Bremangerlandet in Nordfjord, north of the Sognefjord and south of the city of Ålesund. From the top (860 metres above sea level) there is a magnificent panoramic view over narrow fjords and high mountains.

Hornelen Via Ferrata opened on June 18, 2023.

A landmark full of myths

The mountain was formerly an important landmark for passing ships, and in even older times a gathering place for witches (according to a legend) both at Midsummer and Christmas.

According to the saga of Olav Trygvason, he climed up the steep side of the cliff, and many people believe that is why Olav established the first climbing route in Norway. Now you have the chanse to climb the same route as Olav, but in controlled and safe and controlled conditions.

Guided hikes available

Hornelen Via Ferrata is now ready to welcome guests on guided hikes on Hornelen. The experienced and knowledgeable guides take care of equipment and safety, and bring the guests safely up the mountainside so they can focus on climbing and the powerful nature experience.

There are three different routes up to the top of Hornelen:

  • Ørnelia takes two hours and is the perfect introduction to via ferrata for beginners
  •  The Hekseveggen takes about five hours  and offers very varied and sometimes challenging climbing.
  • The Olavsruta is by far the fiercest rout, climbing the very peak of Hornelen. This route takes about eight hours and is really exposed and challenging.

There will be six available daily guided hikes, with a variety of group sizes.

Baring it all in Baden-Baden at the Friedrichsbad bath house

by Ann Ruppenstein

Not one to shy away from immersing myself in the real local culture firsthand, I decided to suck it up for the authentic experience.


To be or not to be naked, that is the question. 

I’m in Baden-Baden, Germany, one of the UNESCO-listed Great Spa Towns of Europe, faced with the decision to bare it all — or not. There are two thermal baths in the historic spa town, a contemporary one built in 1985 and a traditional one with impressive Renaissance-style architecture dating back to 1877.

From the offset, the authentic Friedrichsbad sounds like the obvious frontrunner, but the caveat is that it’s textile-free, meaning no swimsuits are allowed. As tour guide Joachim Schadendorf puts it in simple terms, “this one is serious and that one is fun.”

Not one to shy away from immersing myself in the real local culture firsthand, I decided to suck it up (or more like suck it in) for the authentic experience.

It’s definitely not the most popular option, especially amongst North American travellers, who tend to be more hesitant to strip down completely amongst strangers, including members of the opposite sex.

By the numbers, at pre-pandemic levels, the modern Caracalla bath down the road — where swimsuits are worn — attracted an average of half a million visitors per year, whereas roughly only 70,000 people frequented Friedrichsbad. Here’s to the road less travelled! 

Friedrichsbad_32-2 (c) Baden-Baden Tourism Board, N. Dautel


The skinny on the dip

After paying the €35 entrance fee, I headed to the co-ed changing area with two others and was relieved to see a tiny sheet in the locker. After slipping out of my clothes, I wrap it around my body and strut to the main spa entrance with confidence. 

That’s when a male staff member greets us — in full spa attire in case you were wondering — to explain that the space is divided into a circuit of 17 different stations. After showering before station seven, “you leave the sheet in the laundry pile,” he said, motioning to my short wrap.

Following an initial cleansing shower, the process began with various warm and hot air baths, providing an identical sensation to being in an over-sized sauna. I eased myself into the au natural experience by opening my sheet once I’d settled onto one of the wooden loungers.

This isn’t so bad. 

A few steps later, at dreaded stop number seven, the time had come to commit fully to the nudist lifestyle before entering the first thermal steam bath in the circuit. I was determined to proceed in the name of research. “Alright, let’s do this,” I said out loud, more so to motivate myself, that this was indeed happening.

Trying to avoid eye contact with all the passing private parts, we ducked into a corner of the steam room, placing fresh hygienic matts underneath our bottoms before sitting down. Then, quite astonishingly, like the steam evaporating in the room, within minutes we were no longer phased by the fact that we were stark naked and quickly embraced the more liberal European views on letting it all hang out and feeling comfortable in our own skin.

It was either that, or the steam went to my head. 

“I was nervous at first, but you realize that everybody just kind of looks the same,” one of my travel writer companions, whom I’d only met two days earlier, whispered.

The art of bathing, Roman and Irish style

Design wise, the centrepiece of Friedrichsbad is an intricate 17-metre high dome set above a circular pool. Before I knew I would muster up the courage to get to this point, I told myself that getting to see the architecture would make it worthwhile. Now, floating on my back while looking up at the elaborate ceiling, it didn’t disappoint, and I couldn’t help but think of the historic figures who swam in this very spot more than 146 years ago. 

“Here at the Friedrichsbad, you lose track of time within 10 minutes and track of the world within 20,” wrote literary great Mark Twain after a visit in the late 19th century. 

For me, the unexpected highlight of the experience was a visit to what’s called the relaxation room, a dark room filled with multiple beds. After laying down and wrapping myself in the warm blanket, I dozed off for a power nap, in deep relaxation mode. 

I could have stayed for hours, but naturally, I also had to see what the other Caracalla spa was all about. Aside from the fact that visitors weren’t naked, which almost felt strange after fully embracing the other way, another key difference is that it’s family-friendly (meanwhile, Friedrichsbad is adults-only with a minimum age requirement of 17 years). A highlight of the Caracalla bath is the outdoor area, where a steamy mist layer appears above the rock grotto formation when the temperature outside is cold enough. This is also where to go for additional spa services, such as massages, and a variety of saunas and treatment rooms. 

In my natural element

Notably, the thermal waters in both baths come from the 12 natural springs that push out roughly 800,000 litres of mineral-rich water a day at scorching temperatures as high as 68°C, first discovered some 2,000 years ago.

Friedrichsbad was, from day one, a huge success. It was the biggest and most modern bath in Europe. It is a so-called Roman-Irish bath, combining the Roman tradition of bathing in different temperatures with the Irish tradition of steam baths,” noted Baden-Baden based tour guide Katharina Koerner, adding that as a UNESCO listed building, it virtually looks the same as the day it opened. “In Roman tradition, it is, of course, textile-free to this day. Some people say, oh, I wanted to go in there, but in that case I prefer the Caracalla, where I can wear my bathers… We had an article about it once called ‘nothing but the comb’ because that’s one of the big advantages, you don’t have to come prepared.”

Just prepared to bare it all, that is.

For the full digital edition of this story, click here.

Read more stories in the new OFFSHORE Summer 2023 issue. Available now!

See the best of Europe this summer with Four Seasons

Which will it be? Private surf lesson in one of Lisbon’s lesser-known beach coves, an early morning hike to Budapest’s Castle District or a private cruise on Lake Como after exploring the lakeside views from behind the wheel of an Italian car?

This summer, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts invites guests to explore the rich cultural, culinary and natural beauty of Europe through personalized discoveries across its iconic European properties.

Unforgettable Adventures

Stay in the heart of the city at Four Seasons Hotel Madrid to discover the local barrios (neighbourhoods) through the eyes of Leica as part of a newly launched photographic walking tour. This two-hour on foot exploration takes in every opportunity to both learn about and capture the local sights through the lens of a Leica camera, guided by a photography specialist. Four Seasons Hotel Baku is also providing guests with a unique way to discover the historical city and discover traditional Azerbaijani carpet weaving. Adjoining to ancient walls and known as the “living room” of Icheri Sheher (Old City), Four Seasons Hotel Baku, is primely located to facilitate this private tour and hands-on, cultural experience under the guidance of a local skilled artisan, with the hand-woven carpet becoming a one-of-a-piece kind and a treasured keepsake for guests.

French Riviera views combined with a menu by Michelin-starred Chef Yoric Tièche await guests of Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel in a new Nomad Dining experience this summer.

Further south in Sicily, guests at San Domenico Palace, Taormina, A Four Seasons Hotel can embark on an adventure on the slopes of Mount Etna during a stargazing safari on a remote part of the mountain’s slopes to admire the night sky.

A Focus on Wellbeing

Venture into the wild beauty of the French Alps at Four Seasons Hotel Megève, where a guided, hillside yoga or meditation session within a geodesic dome allows guests to reset and refresh while soaking in the mountain vistas. Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon is also offering private yoga classes at the nearby beach in Costa da Caparica, just 30 minutes from the Hotel and a spot treasured by locals for its vast, sandy coastline that stretches for nearly 10 kilometres (6 miles). For those seeking a more adrenaline-filled activity, yoga can be swapped for a surf lesson in the same location, with each activity being followed by a lunch at a stylishly mellow, toes-in-the-sand beach bar that serves local favourites such as clams cooked in Portuguese Bulhão Pato sauce and grilled, line-caught fish from the Atlantic.

Early morning adventures go hand in hand with city-sightseeing at Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest through the Buda Before Breakfast workout, where members of the Four Seasons management team accompany guests on a hike up Gellért Hill or the Buda Hills for the best city views and a chance to learn about must-visit locations during a stay in the historic city.

A Celebratory Summer

Following the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III on May 6, Four Seasons UK Collection continues the wave of celebrations through a series of summer experiences designed to capture this momentous occasion. Indulge in the time-honoured British tradition of afternoon tea with the Crown Jewels Afternoon Tea at Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square or celebrate summer at Bloom – the rooftop lounge in the Hotel’s elegant Crown Residence. This floral pop-up is abuzz with summer energy, offering unparalleled views over the River Thames and the city, light bites and refreshing beverages.

Alternatively, complement a discovery of the capital’s heritage with the serenity of the British countryside by combining a stay at Four Seasons Hotel London at Park Lane with a stay at Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire as part of the properties’ Town and Country offer. 

Take to the Water

From the Athens Riviera to Lake Como, cruising on the Bosphorus and the scenic shores of the Vltava River in Prague, there’s no better place for boating adventures than Europe in the summer. Depart from the jetty of Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens for a full day exploration of the famous Greek islands of Hydra and Spetses. Journeying by the award-winning Praevado power cruiser, swim in crystal waters, have lunch at a seafood taverna and enjoy harbourside shopping, before a final dip at Zogeria Bay while recounting the day’s adventures.

In Istanbul – the city where Europe and Asia connect – hop aboard the Sea Shuttle to cruise across the Bosphorus river and take in the panoramic city views across the two continents while travelling from Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet in the city’s Old Town and the sea-front, former Ottoman Palace that is Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus. Also offering guests the chance to capture the city panorama from the water is Four Seasons Hotel Prague, with a river cruise along the Vltava in a charming wooden boat. Sip a glass of prosecco and enjoy breakfast, lunch or a light snack with family or friends on this scenic excursion.

For a journey that spans both land and water, Four Seasons Hotel Milan provides an exclusive opportunity to take the driver’s seat of a of a 1961 Giulietta Spider or of a Lancia Fulvia Coupè Rallye on a drive out of the city to Lake Como. Cruise top-down for unparalleled views while zipping through scenic back roads, before pulling over for lunch at a Concierge-recommended restaurant near the lake and to browse the local shops before a private afternoon cruise on Lake Como.

 

Destination Dining with Four Seasons Europe

Just in time for summer, Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel has launched a new Nomad Dining Experience overlooking the Cap Ferrat peninsula and the Mediterranean Sea. In this picturesque setting of the Hotel’s vegetable garden, guests can savour creative dishes prepared by Michelin-starred Chef Yoric Tièche while taking in sublime views of the French Riviera. Summer is also the ideal time to visit the Versailles vegetable garden of Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris, which is cultivated with the composting from Le George restaurant’s food waste. Guests will be taken from the Hotel to the garden in a Porsche electric car and will spend time with the Hotel’s Green Michelin Star chef, Simone Zanoni. Together with Simone, guests will handpick vegetables and cook them in an open-air kitchen before enjoying a picnic-style lunch on site, all while learning more about Simone’s secrets of the trade and his passion for sustainability.

By evening, stylish rooftop restaurant Izumi at Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva is the ideal spot to enjoy the warm summer nights and soak up panoramic lake views, while a golden-hour dinner on the Ponte Vecchio can be arranged for guests of Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. Nestled in the heart of Florence with views over the Arno river, dine on the open-air terrace of the famous Ponte Vecchio with an unforgettable dining experience prepared by Executive Chef Paolo Lavezzini.