Despite the fact that I don’t really like massages and that the idea of honey all over my body makes me cringe (understatement), I still couldn’t wait to sign up for a honey massage on my June 2023 trip to Slovenia.
You see, Slovenia is the beekeeping capital of the world. As a beekeeper myself, I was thrilled to be able to see what kinds of unique bee-related trouble I could get myself into. And I certainly found some.
I spent the night in a beehive, tasted all kinds of different honeys, talked to some local beekeepers, visited bee shops and apiaries, and more. But the one thing that will stand out in my memory as one of the most… let’s say “unexpected” parts of my trip was my honey massage. Read on to see what a honey massage in Slovenia is really like.
Why a honey massage in Slovenia?
Honey massages are quite popular in Slovenia, a country that produces around 2,500 tons of honey each year! (And it’s only about the size of Massachusetts, mind you.) Many believe they have all kinds of physical and mental health benefits. Beyond the standard “relaxation” that typically accompanies a massage, you also get the detoxifying, immune-boosting, and aromatherapy benefits of honey.
As a beekeeper, I’ve long been familiar with the healing effects of honey. It’s a proven antibiotic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory, among other helpful things. In our house, we put honey on our burns, cuts, scrapes, and stings! (More on the benefits of honey here.) And honey is just one part of the whole “apitherapy” movement.
But covering my body in honey? And then having someone rub it all over me? (You can’t see but I’m gagging as I type this.) Let’s just say… I did this solely for research purposes, not because I thought it would even remotely relax me. As popular as honey massages are, there’s still very little information about what one actually entails. So, I sought my own answers.
Also check out my post on all the awesome bee-related things you can do in Slovenia!
Where to get a honey massage
Certified professionals perform honey massages all over Slovenia and in all types of environments. You can get them in the backyard shed of a local farmer, like I did, but also in high-end spa resorts.
If you’re staying in one of Slovenia’s awesome bee hotels, your host will likely also be a certified apitherapist who offers honey massages to their guests. Otherwise, here are a few places you can get a honey massage in Slovenia:
- Sleeping with Bees (Tourist Farm Muha) in Grosuplje, near Ljubljana – Andrej is both a fantastic host and certified honey masseuse. This is where I got my honey massage.
- Apitourism Kozjac in Kobarid (near Italian border) – Besides having their own on-site beehive hotel, they also offer honey massages.
- Andreja Stankovič of Zavod Čebela in Novo Mesto (southeastern Slovenia) offers honey massages.
- Batištuta Beekeeping in Kojsko (near Italian border) – They’re also on Facebook.
- The Ziva Wellness Center at the Rikli Balance Hotel in Lake Bled
- Hotel Thermana Park Laško Superior in Laško – They have lots of “honey wellness pampering.”
- Panorama Glamping in Visole (northeast Slovenia) offers honey massage and other “experiences.”
- Mr. Bee in Zgornja Polskava (near Maribor) offers detox and relax versions of a honey massage (and even royal jelly facials).
This list is certainly not all-inclusive. Most “wellness centers” and spas offer some kind of honey massage, as do many of the bee-centric hotels and learning centers. Really, it’s surprisingly not hard to find someone willing to rub honey all over you in Slovenia.
And afterwards, you’ll definitely need a lot of wine. See my post on where to go wine tasting in Slovenia here.
What is a honey massage like?
When I first signed up for a honey massage, I had no idea what to expect. The idea of massaging someone with honey didn’t even make sense. It’s not exactly massage-able, after all, given that it’s basically just delicious glue. Nevertheless, I committed.
What a honey massage actually is… you’re probably not prepared for. It’s important to remember here that where classic massages focus on relaxing the muscles, the purpose of a honey massage is to remove unwanted toxins from your skin and body. So, the way a honey massage works is actually a direct result of its sticky nature.
Rather than gently massaging the
victim client the way one would with massage oils, a honey massage involves covering the person in honey and then repeatedly sticking and unsticking your hands from their body. Over and over and over. This (allegedly) yanks out the bad stuff your body is holding onto and pushes in the good stuff that comes with the honey.
In short, it feels like being gently slapped for half an hour. You can see a sampling of what I mean in this video.
My friend Amanda, who just so happened to be in the room for this entire procedure, asked me what it felt like afterwards. All I could say was, “It felt like being licked by that giant bee at the beekeeping center!” This is what I meant:
Also check out: What It’s Really Like Visiting a Prague Beer Spa
How much does a honey massage cost?
How much you’ll pay for a honey massage in Slovenia will depend on where you get it done / who does it. In my case, I got mine done by the host of my beehive B&B for the night who is also a certified apitherapist. My honey massage cost €55 and lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.
When I asked him how long the massage would take, he said it would be anywhere from 1 hour to 1.5 hours, depending on how tight my muscles were. (An answer I love because it means he cares more about the result than the money:time ratio.) Other honey massage places I’ve checked quote more “standard” rates, like €60 for 50 minutes, etc.
But to answer the question, a honey massage doesn’t cost any more than a classic massage so you should expect typical massage prices.
What to expect during a honey massage / my experience
I’d like to preface this section by letting you in on what happened before my honey massage. Look, I’m not kidding when I say the idea of being covered in sticky honey (and on a 95°F day BTW) makes me cringe.
In fact, “cringe” is beyond an understatement. I have a real, clinical aversion to being sticky. Not to mention the way honey sounds (see this honey ASMR video for reference), to me, is what other people must feel when they hear the word “moist.”
Yes, I’m a beekeeper; and no, perhaps this is not the most ideal hobby for me. Moving on.
Read also: The Truth About Visiting the Blue Lagoon in Iceland + Essential Tips
Step 1: Panic.
My toxic trait is that I have a tendency to sign up for things that “future Ashley” will be less than thrilled about. My honey massage was just the latest in a string of activities I’ve tortured myself with while traveling. This all came to a head when I was halfway through my cheeseburger at dinner just an hour before my massage.
Much of this has to do with the fact that it was pushing 100°F that day and I’d just learned that the beehive house where I’d be getting my honey massage didn’t have air conditioning. And because my masseur had told me that I should shower before my massage since it’s advised to not shower for 24 hours after your honey massage.
My pre-honey massage panic attack was just one of my worst travel moments of 2023. Read the rest of them in that link!
That was just not going to happen, antioxidants be damned. I was getting on an airplane in 14 hours and HOW WILL I WEAR CLOTHES IF I’M STICKY?! So, I went into full panic attack mode and began this maniacal half laughing/half sobbing thing I do when I simultaneously want to do something out of my comfort zone and want to avoid it with every ounce of my being, all while poor Amanda just wanted to finish her salad.
My ever-present desire to challenge myself and not give in to fear/repulsion won out and I committed to going through with the honey massage. Pray for me, St. Ambrose, patron saint of beekeepers.
Moral of the story here: Avoid your triggers, sure. But also, don’t immediately shut down the things that make you uncomfortable. That’s how you grow!
Step 2: Yup, it’s as awkward as I imagined
Upon arriving back at our bee house for the night, the sight of the massage table in the middle of the room made my stomach turn. But, the air conditioner our host had brought in greatly lifted my spirits. Maybe this wouldn’t feel like I was being tortured for state secrets after all!
Because we were staying in the beehive house of a local farmer (which is located in his backyard in a remote-ish town) Amanda really had nowhere else to go for the better part of 1.5 hours. So, she stayed there in the room for the whole thing. I honestly didn’t mind this at all and welcomed the moral support I’d get from her presence. That was, until shit hit the awkward fan and I instantly regretted the fact that she was forced to witness this ridiculousness.
My honey masseur arrived, ready to get started. I was still fully dressed and fully clueless as to how this was going to go. He told me he needed only my back, and to maybe loosen my waistband a little so he could wrap me in a towel (since I’ll be covered in honey, obvs). He then turned his back so I could strip and climb awkwardly onto the table.
Immediately, down go my pants (but in the most professional and least-threatening way possible). And instantly, I am dead with repressed laughter knowing that Amanda is laying the opposite direction on her bed, right about where my full moon was shining brightly.
I understand now that this is the norm (you can see what I mean in the honey massage video I mentioned earlier) and clearly I didn’t provide enough surface area from the get-go. Regardless, I was fully mortified at this point, just shaking my head in the massage table hole.
Step 3: OK, this is actually kind of relaxing…
My honey massage started out with him placing both hands on the center of my back and gently pressing down for about five minutes. As soon as he did that, I felt myself relax quite a bit. Oddly, the single part of the massage most closely related to actually being held captive was the most comforting. *makes a note to mention this to her therapist*
After that, he performed something akin to a standard Swedish massage for about 20 minutes, without honey. Just a regular ol’ massage which, I’m guessing, he used to pinpoint my body’s tightest areas. He had mentioned beforehand that it was probably going to be my neck (based on his experience, I’m sure). But alas, ‘twas my ass. More on that in a minute.
Step 4: The honey portion of the honey massage
After almost half an hour of “regular” massage, he then hit me with the honey. Amanda and I both were expecting him to drizzle me with honey like a glazed ham fresh outta the oven, but that’s not how it went down.
Instead, he used crystallized / creamed honey which he spread all over my back and the top half of my sticky buns. He then began the traditional “honey massage” AKA the repeated gentle slapping. This lasted for another three days. (Though the timestamps swear it was only about 30 minutes.)
Look, I get it. Sticking and unsticking your hands to my body with honey helps pull out all the toxins and whatnot. That’s literally the purpose of honey massage. But no one can tell me this is “relaxing.” Especially since it took every ounce of willpower to keep from bursting out laughing at what I had paid someone to do to me. (Those of you with hairy backs should just sit this one out though since that’s probably just straight up painful.)
I knew Amanda was seeing this, and I knew that she knew that I was not expecting this, and that I was probably trying my hardest to hold my composure. We were, without a doubt, communicating with each other without even looking at each other. There was an elephant in the room and it was gently slapping my honey-covered body with its trunk.
Step 5: The cleanup
After my glazing was complete, I was fully prepared for him to be like, “OK we’re done, attempt to get dressed somehow.”
Instead, he covered me with a hot wet towel and wiped all the honey off of me! Even the little bit that had gotten in my hair. Sweet Jesus! I wasn’t going to have to take 12 hours’ worth of flights stuck to the airplane seat. Finally, I was able to relax.
Step 6: The deep tissue follow-up (warning: TMI)
No longer sticky, it was now time for a deep tissue massage, something I could actually get on board with. He spent the next 20 minutes or so deeply massaging my tissue. Mainly, the tissue in my tooshie.
This part was a whirlwind of emotion for me. On one hand, I was trying so hard to be cool and professional but… what do you do when something gets too close to your (bare) bum? You clench! And so began the cycle of reflexively clenching, thinking “omg he must be able to tell I’m clenching,” then trying to slowly unclench so it wasn’t so obvious that I’d been clenching.
But on the other hand, I give so many props to him as a masseur for pinpointing the one area that absolutely needed targeting. It just happened to be my butt. (For the record, it was his elbows he used to dig into me the entire time.)
Step 7: Don’t shower
For the deep tissue part of the massage he used a homemade massage bar made with beeswax and olive oil. This was blissfully non-sticky, smelled nice, and made my skin extra soft. This was why I wasn’t supposed to shower for 24 hours. Which I didn’t. He even gave us each one to take home.
After the massage was complete, which lasted almost an hour and a half, he left the room for a few minutes. Amanda and I immediately burst into the hysterical laughter we’d been holding in the entire time. Finally, I could unclench.
Step 8: The post-massage beverage
He came back with a special drink for me made with warm water, honey, and bee pollen. It was delicious!
(Until, I instantly had a severe allergic reaction to it. I literally thought I was going to have to Epipen myself – I do travel with one – and spend the night in the hospital instead. Thankfully, my symptoms died down with some Benadryl. Crisis averted. Luckily, I only took two sips.)
How I felt after my honey massage
So how did I feel after my honey massage? Did I feel detoxified? Could I feel the benefits of the honey coursing through my toxic veins? Not exactly.
While I’m sure the honey massage does have actual physiological benefits, I’d never know it. My muscles did feel relaxed and my skin did feel soft and buttery after the deep tissue massage, but that’s most likely because it was a deep tissue massage with a massage bar.
I don’t think I’ve ever been able to actually relax during a massage anyway. The whole situation is just too anxiety-inducing. And, if I’m being honest here, I just don’t think I’m mature enough to handle a massage like an adult.
I’d also like to point out that my honey masseur Andrej was nothing but professional the entire time. (The awkwardness I felt was entirely self-induced.) He is an excellent masseur and a kind host and I would recommend a stay at his bee house and a massage any day!
As for the honey portion of the honey massage, it was just too… weird. I’m sure the honey did what it was supposed to do, but it’s not like it was a noticeable improvement or anything. I still feel toxic AF. I will say that I slept like a baby that night… but that probably has more to do with the Benadryl right before bed.
Would I do it again?
So would I do another honey massage? No, thank you, I’m good. I did this exclusively for research and I think I’ve researched enough. However, I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to do something so in tune with the Slovenian beekeeping tradition. It most definitely was an experience I’ll never forget (or live down).
Not all honey massages are created equal… probably
Keep in mind that this was just my experience during my honey massage (in June 2023). I have issues, clearly, but know that your honey massage might be quite different. I think the honey portion of the massage is standard procedure, but there are a lot of variables here. Like, perhaps your honey massage will include a post-oven drizzle. Or maybe this:
From what I’ve found, prices and length of time are a bit different for each. The settings will vary also. If you have questions about a honey massage, I encourage you to reach out to your chosen provider for answers. (So you can be adequately prepared, physically and mentally.)
More info for your trip to Slovenia
- Heading to Slovenia? Read reviews and find great places to stay here on Booking.com and Expedia.
- Need a rental car? Check out the best Slovenia rental car deals here.
- Pick up a Slovenia guidebook for all your other sightseeing.
- And this Slovenia customs and culture guide (a must-have!)
Would you get a honey massage?
Let me know in the comments below!
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