The practice of traveling for medical and health reasons dates back to the ancient times. Thousands of years ago, mineral thermal springs and sacred temple baths were actively used for theurapetic purposes. It is believed that hill tribes from present-day Switzerland traveled to the lands of modern day France and Germany where they could find iron-rich hot springs.
Greek shrines are considered to be first well-developed medical centers. In honor of their god of medicine, Asclepius, the Greeks built the Asclepia Temples, which became some of the world's first medical tourism destinations. People from different parts of the world traveled to these temples to seek treatment for their ailments.
Meanwhile, in the east, India was offering alternative healing methods, yoga and Ayurvedic medicine, to medical travelers.
Later in the Middle Ages, Japan took the lead with its healing hot springs. In 13th century Islamic nations established the Mansuri Hospital in Cairo which accommodated thousands of patients from all over the world.
Medical tourism was especially refined during the Renaissance period. Wellness resorts across Europe started to flourish. Only the elite could afford the services. The word "spa" that means "health through water" was used for the first time in this period.