Szczawnica is a city that is part of the administrative district of Nowy Targ in Lesser Poland Province. With a population of about 7500 inhabitants, it lies in the valley of the Grajcarek Stream, a tributary of the river Dunajec, which separates the Beskid Sadecki from the Pieniny Mountain range. The city lies at an altitude between 430m and 510m above sea level. The resort has the characteristic of a highland spa with a foothill climate that is comparatively stimulating and moderated by the vast tracts of dense coniferous forests growing on the surrounding mountain slopes. The basic natural elements used at the Szczawnica Spa are the carbonated spring water rich in bicarbonates, sodium and iodine and the climatic conditions.
History of a spa at Szczawnica dates back to the first decade of the 19th century and is associated with numerous sources of spring water in the area with medicinal qualities. The first chemical analysis of the springs was carried out in 1810 by Dr Rhodius, an Austrian officer, on behalf of the royal imperial state which confirmed their strong therapeutic worth. Jozef Zachwieja, who next obtained these lands, began the first commercial exploitation of the natural springs by bottling and selling the water. The successive owner, since 1824, Jan Kutschera, first protected the sources and built the first small tap room nearby. By 1828 the entire estate passed into the hands of the Szalay family, and specifically Jozef Szalay, who in 1839, can be associated with the initiation of the planned development of the resort. It was him, with the support of Professor Jozef Dietl, who expanded the facilities and gave it its final shape. All the known water sources were developed, an inhalator was built, the bathing facilities modernised and the spa park expanded. The recovery in the economy also led to numerous investments in the infrastructure that accompanied the spa facilities. The development of the resort was continued by Krakow’s Academy of Science as they were left part of the estate in his last will and testament in 1876. In 1884 a real architectural gem was opened in Szczawnica, the Hospitality Station. It performed many functions as it was a meeting place for social events, concerts and theatre productions. It had a ballroom for 500 people, a restaurant, cafes and club rooms which focused the cultural life of the resort. In 1909, as a result of financial difficulties, the Academy was forced to sell the resort. It was bought by Count Adam Stadnicki and under his management the resort facilities were further developed and the transport options improved to facilitate easier access to the resort. During World War II the activities of the spa were interrupted but it re-opened shortly after the liberation. In 1948 the resort was nationalised and new buildings built which were mostly sanatoria.
Today Szczawnica is not only a spa but a busy tourist resort. It has fully equipped modern facilities and accommodation with experienced and fully qualified staff to look after every need of its patients. The health resort specialises in the treatment of musculoskeletal and respiratory diseases and obesity and the dramatic scenery attracts active tourism enthusiasts. During the winter months the Palenica Ski Station is open in Szczawnica with about 4km of prepared ski runs. The longest run, on Mount Szafranowka, is about 1800m long and the best known, Palenica 1, considered one of the most interesting ski runs in Poland, are serviced by a four-person chairlift which has the capacity to carry 2200 people per hour. While in the summer the Pieniny Route, a hiking and cycling trail, starts in Szczawnica and runs along the Dunajec River, mainly on the Slovak side, which ends at the Slovak Red Monastery. The Jarmuta Massif is also nearby on which, according writings, there is a small pagan temple.