Duzdag: The health spa hidden deep in a salt mine on the edge of Asia

These mountains hide a health spa.Camilla Rzayeva

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Nakhchivan, a landlocked exclave about 260 miles west of Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, has a long list of historical attractions that include towers, castles, tombs and even wish-making caves.

However, the centerpiece is the salt mine of Duzdag, or “Salt Mountain,” which functions as the largest medical tourism facility in the region.

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Hidden 360 feet (110 meters) below ground, this usual destination offers alternative, complementary treatment for respiratory diseases in chambers that were first hollowed out almost 5,000 years ago.

Mountain retreat

The Duzdag Physiotherapy Center was founded in 1979.

The Duzdag Physiotherapy Center was founded in 1979.Camilla Rzayeva

Just a quick seven-mile drive out of Nakhchivan city, the caves are spectacularly located in mountains, at an altitude of 3,848 feet (1,173 meters).

The modern Physiotherapy Center was founded in 1979 on the site of salt mines that were excavated by archaeologists in the 1970s. It is believed salt was mined here from the third millennium BCE and exported to the Middle East.

Exactly how the caves became renowned for their healing properties isn’t clear, with several origin stories offering rival explanations.

Legend has it that the caves have long been revered for their restorative powers by locals who consider Duzdag salt to be sacred. During the 20th-century excavation works archaeologists reputedly found relief for their bronchitis and asthma.

Another tale tells of a boy with severe respiratory issues who lived near the caves and used to come there to play and draw animals on the walls. Drawings attributed to him remain on the walls, while his disease, locals claim, was fully cured.


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Salt therapy

Legend has it a local child carved these pictures inside Duzdag salt caves.

Legend has it a local child carved these pictures inside Duzdag salt caves.Camilla Rzayeva

Salt-based cures are nothing new. In mid-19th century Poland Feliks Boczkowski, a physician at a salt mine, observed that miners rarely suffered from respiratory diseases and appeared to have notably healthy constitutions.

Boczkowski is considered the founder of what would later be known as halotherapy: breathing in air with tiny salt particles with the aim of improving breathing.

Halotherapy has risen in popularity in recent years, although the scientific community isn’t unanimously convinced of its benefits. Experts have noted that airborne salt can help thin mucus in breathing passages and draw in moisture. Salty environments are also typically allergen-free.

However, with no evidence-based https://gimanalagiyakan.com findings to support the creation of medical guidelines, the American Lung Association’s advice is to always consult with your doctor before undertaking halotherapy or salt therapy.

When salt therapy is conducted below the Earth’s surface using the climate conditions and salt air found in naturally occurring caves, it’s known as speleotherapy.  Such salt caves exist all over the world – in Ukraine, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Germany and Switzerland  – and are widely used by asthma patients as an alternative treatment.

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