Written by Annabelle Hood
Thalassotherapy is big business in Tunisia, and The Residence’s spa exuded a luxurious feel that was frankly lacking in the other more medical thalasso centres we visited. With a resident doctor and Darphin treatments on offer, Les Thermes Marins de Carthage Spa seamlessly blended the right amount of medical know-how with deluxe appeal. Hardly surprising that Leading Hotels of the World should choose this hotel as its only five-star member.
The spa also merges the contemporary with the authentic, from its spherical Roman-style thalasso pool and huge oriental Hamman steam room, to the dashing hotel attendants in smart Arabic dress. Most impressive is the hotel’s cathedral-like lobby — a marble expanse festooned with flickering lanterns and two lofty palm trees silhouetted against the outdoor pool.
The spa’s state-of-the-art thalasso facilities made me more brazen than I’d normally be choosing a treatment: Sweeping claustrophobia aside with the assurance that my head would poke out, I lay down on a white domed ‘steam box’ before being coated in a pleasantly scented algae and encased. 20 minutes later, the lid was lifted and I emerged from the sea-spray like Aphrodite from her shell with super-soft skin — and, I have to say, a treacherous thirst.
Within moments of pouring out a fragrant herbal tea in the pool’s relaxation area, I was summoned for a knot-busting back massage by a very respectful male therapist. Treatment rooms are small, clean and simple rather than traditional, and contain state-of-the-art equipment from multi-jet baths to bodywrap waterbeds.
Those on a would-be diet, be warned: The Residence food is devilishly irresistible and varied, from a Chinese restaurant to authentic Arabic food at the El Dar. At L’Olivier breakfast is served at cooking stations and freshly prepared before your eyes, making this a no-no for anyone devoid of granite-hard reserve — it’s just too easy to return for more. Anyone on a special diet should don permanent blinkers and head straight for the Neroli restaurant, which serves a light, nutritionist-assisted special diet.
My room on the second floor was spacious, light, with both the pool and distant ocean visible from the balcony. Arabic slatted wooden windows and white walls married sleek modernity with traditional Moorish design.
It’s easy to see why celebrities are drawn by this elegant hotel’s villa-like vibe and quiet location well away from the tourist throngs. The hotel’s proximity to Tunis and Carthage is ideal for those wanting a weekend spa break, with easy access to the beach provided by a private decking path leading straight from the hotel.
On the spa menu:
Darphin facials and body treatments including pregnancy and men’s treatments, thalassotherapy-based wraps and massages cost from £23 (50 Dinars) and Darphin facials from £44 (95 Dinars) for a 30-minute eye treatment
the spa’s Romanesque thalasso-pool with powerful jets
British Airways and TunisAir fly direct from the UK
Also in northern Tunisia:
• The vast, five-star Hasdrubal Thalassa Yasmin Hammamet, where Mariah Carey has stayed, boasts a state-of-the-art thalassotherapy centre right next to the beach.
Award-winning luxury travel, health and spa Journalist and Editor, Annabelle has written for Vogue, TTG Luxury, Spa Heath & Beauty, Spa Secrets magazine, Brides, The Evening Standard and Handbag.com amongst others. She specialises in city break destinations, luxury hotel, spa and restaurant reviews, and health and beauty features.