In theory you can ask, “what could go wrong?”. A quite wonderful area of Valencia with medicinal waters at a constant temperature of 23 degrees celcius, a fantastic location on the banks of the River Turia as it meanders its way down towards Valencia from the nearby mountains, the beautiful town of Chulilla hewn into the hillside above the Charco Azul just 4km away, a mecca for climbers and walkers with its vertical cliff faces on the Ruta de los Calderones, in short close to perfection. Well, it turns out quite a lot can go wrong, especially after the financial crisis of 2008.
The fountains of Chulilla and the medicinal properties of the waters that sprung from them were already known in the 17th century. Valencians would make the trek up to Chulilla to take the waters if they had respiratory problems, arthritis, backaches and more and they would benefit from being in a relaxing and spectacular location.
For centuries Chulilla continued in this way as a destination for well heeled Valencians giving rise to many large villas being built in the late 1800s and into the twentieth century making the area a destination for the Valencian bourgeoisie.
There was always going to be an opportunity for someone to make something of this and in 1983 the Chulilla Balneario opened. For the first eight years of its life the spa became better known and more popular and grew accordingly. The first problem came in 1991 when the founder of the spa, Jose Maria Lasso died (He was manager of Joan Manuel Serrat and one of the people responsible for Julio Iglesias breaking the US market) The spa was later run by Termas de Fuencaliente SA and in the good times the spa grew until it had 100 rooms and up to 200 guests. It was generally full or close to being full as it added into its offers traditionally associated with a spa lots of cultural events such as chamber music, art exhibitions, themed weekends and more to make it more of a year round destination.
The financial crisis was key in the unravelling of it all. Suddenly people were looking out for any excess expenditure and visits to the spa for the weekend were suddenly not a necessity. The spa enjoyed a great supply of customers through the Imserso project whereby pensioners in Spain are given a holiday every year and many of them ended up enjoying the spa facilities at Chulilla. The government started cutting back on the project again reducing the numbers turning up at the spa.
Things went from bad to worse over the years following the financial crisis until the final cut in 2012 when a huge forest fire affected the area and 100 clients were evacuated from the spa along with the whole population of Chulilla and Gestalgar as 5500 hectares were destroyed. The spa itself wasn’t touched but the area around it was torched making it much less attractive to tourists. (It is now totally recovered)
The spa shut down in the autumn of 2013 with the idea of reopening in spring 2014 after a renovation of the installations but it never happened and now it looks like something that Jack Nicholson would spend a winter at trying to write a book.
The building is owned by the town council and they don’t have the funds to maintain it so year by year it decays. There have been a couple of floods and obviously thieves have been in and raided it for anything valuable. It’s a shame. If anyone is looking for a rural tourism 100 room hotel that they could get from the council at favourable rates for a decade or so while it is fixed up and restored to its former glory then this might be the answer. Let’s just say it requires a little TLC.
Meanwhile Chulilla itself goes from strength to strength as a tourist destination. Climbers from all over the world visit and walkers from all over the Valencia region converge on the town at weekends and during the holiday periods to enjoy everything it has to offer. At under an hour away from Valencia it is well worth a visit. However in the last decade the town’s population has fallen from 850 to around 640. A 25% reduction in just ten years isn’t great. Maybe it requires an influx of people buying extremely well priced property in a beautiful area, we can source great properties in Chulilla for you of course.
And remember if you like this story then just click on the images below for more places around Valencia.