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Any reputable day spa can provide a full menu of water therapies, mud baths, reflexology treatments, and aromatherapy sessions. But what if you could experience an even purer level of relaxation and rejuvenation in the pristine beauty of nature while you travel? If you’ve ever soaked in hot springs, you know what a wonderfully relaxing feel that can be. Spending an hour or two in a thermal pool surrounded by natural beauty and fresh air is one of the best ways to relax, recharge, and experience a new destination.
Natural hot springs can be found anywhere there is volcanic activity, magma chambers, or fault lines on the Earth. They’re high in minerals like calcium, magnesium, silica, and lithium, which can help soothe muscles and even promote healing. These are some of the most stunning natural hot springs worldwide to soothe your mind, body, and soul.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon has become a bucket list destination for many. The unique lagoon is filled with mineral-rich, milky aquamarine waters and surrounded by black lava rocks. No matter what time of year you visit, it’s wonderful to bathe in those extraordinary warm waters, although it may be most ideal when snowflakes are gently falling or on a chilly rainy day when the mist rises off the lagoon. Visitors can also indulge in in-water massages, and enjoy skin enhancing treatments such as an algae face mask or a volcanic rock scrub. In the middle is a small cafe to pick up drinks like a healthy smoothie, a glass of wine or a beer.
There are hot springs all over Greenland, but the island of Uunartoq, located on the eastern side of South Greenland, is the only place where they’re warm enough to soak in. The uninhabited isle is home to three naturally heated springs which run together in a pool that was created by encircling it with stones. Visitors can bathe in the 99 to 101-degree water while gazing out at icebergs and dramatic mountain peaks among incredibly surreal surroundings.
Klong Thom Hot Springs, Thailand
Klong Thom, or Krabi Hot Springs, is considered one of Thailand’s most spectacular natural wonders, located in the heart of a small jungle preserve. This top attraction in Krabi is made up of naturally hollowed-out ‘bathtubs’ that sit in smooth stone, filling with natural fresh running spring water in temperatures that range from 95 to 107 degrees. After a soak, you can enjoy a refreshingly cool dip in the river below or visit nearby Khao Phra Bang Khram Nature Reserve, home to a large natural pool with cool spring water for swimming.
Takaragawa Onsen, Japan
There are more than 3,000 onsen, or hot springs spots, in Japan and some of them can easily be visited from Tokyo on a day trip. Takaragawa Onsen, deep in the mountains of northern Gunma Prefecture, is one of the best. While people come for the healing waters, they stay for the magnificent views, surrounded by tranquil forest along the Tone River.
Chena Hot Springs, Alaska
Chena Hot Springs in Fairbanks offers the wonderful experience of enjoying the warmth of the water while surrounded by snow, and possibly Mother Nature’s own colorful light show, the aurora borealis, which frequently appears in the dark skies above in fall, winter and well into early spring. Located at Chena Hot Springs Resort, a stay here also brings the opportunity to join a dog sled ride or a horse-drawn sleigh ride, ice skate or take an unforgettable flight over the Arctic wilderness.
Travertine Hot Springs, California
Travertine Hot Springs, located just south of the town of Bridgeport near the east entrance of Yosemite National Park, offers the chance to enjoy breathtaking views of the Sierra Mountains while relaxing in the soothing, perfectly-warmed 103-degree waters. Rocks segregate the spring-fed pools that flow from a cool mountain stream, and while the springs are designated as “clothing optional” most bathers soak in their swimsuits. There are no facilities of any kind in this remote wilderness, no snack bars, vending machines, so you’ll need to bring your own food and drink.
Glenwood Hot Springs, Colorado
Glenwood Springs is located in the heart of the Colorado Rockies and it hosts one of the world’s hottest springs. It flows from Yampah spring which produces over three million gallons of water every day at temperatures of 122 degrees Fahrenheit. By the time it reaches to the pools, it’s cooled to an idyllic 104 degrees. The Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is the largest hot spring pool on the planet, providing plenty of room to soak, swim and splash around. It even has a lap lane and diving area on the west end. During warmer months of the year, the brand new, family-friendly Sopris Splash Zone is open on the west end and features three distinct areas for aquatic fun. Shoshone Chutes is a fast-moving river ride on tubes; Hanging Lake has a waterfall, wading pool and small slides for younger kids; and the Grand Fountain is a splash pad by day and a show fountain after hours.
Banff Upper Hot Springs, Canada
Banff is famous for its outdoor adventures like hiking and skiing in Banff National Park, and after a day at play, there may be no better way to soothe those sore muscles than with a visit to Upper Banff Springs. The hot springs were discovered in 1884 and continue to draw visitors with year-round temperatures between 98 and 104 degrees and a magnificent backdrop of the mountains to gaze at. The First Nation people regarded the springs as sacred waters that could cure ailments and support good health, and over the decades since, they’ve become one of the park’s most popular attractions.
For thousands of years, people have bathed in Pamukkale hot springs, located just north of the city of Denizli in southwestern Turkey. This UNESCO World Heritage site was famous as a spa center during Roman times, with the formation of the “castle” taking place after a number of earthquakes that led to the emergence of the mineral-filled hot springs. The calcium and hydrogen carbonate react to create calcium carbonate, or travertine, and limestone, which is what gives the area its whites color and helped to create the pools. Accessed via a gate reached by a 30-minute hike, there are multiple pools, all no more than a foot deep.
Las Grutas Tolantongo, Mexico
About 125 miles northeast of Mexico City is Las Grutas Tolantongo, or the Tolantongo caves. Run by the local residents as a cooperative, they’re a collection of hot spring pools and waterfalls that range in temperatures from around 97 to 101 degrees, flowing down the steep walls of a picturesque box canyon. There’s a hot springs river, a tunnel to explore and a pool for the kids with a water slide. Visitors can also take a guided tour to nearby caves and hike scenic trails.
Szechenyi Bath – Budapest, Hungary
With 15 indoor baths and three outdoor pools, Hungary’s Szechenyi Bath is one of the largest and best bath spas in Europe and a top attraction in Budapest. Over a million bathers travel to Budapest to visit these baths because they are relaxing, romantic, affordable, and near lots of other attractions. If you’re looking to fully experience every aspect of an elite thermal spa, you can take advantage of on-site massage therapies, facial treatments, and steam cabins. If you want to learn a bit more about Hungarian bath traditions, book a quick 15-minute guided tour of Szechenyi Bath when before taking the plunge.
The Boiling River – Yellowstone National Park, Montana
The U.S. National Park Service doesn’t exactly advertise the Boiling River as a public bathing area, but you’ll often find visitors parked along the road near the “45th Parallel of Latitude – Halfway Between Equator and the North Pole” sign at the Montana/Wyoming state line inside Yellowstone National Park. Follow the clouds of rising steam and walk about a half-mile upstream along the trail. Cold water from the Gardiner River and hot water from the Boiling River meet at this point and swirl around to create a wonderful temperature – even when snow still graces the mountaintops.
Arenal Hot Springs – Costa Rica
Arenal used to be one of the most active volcanoes in the world, but today it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Costa Rica. This region is known for its luxurious resorts, but you can still visit the Arenal Hot Springs if you’re traveling on a budget. If you walk across the road from the famous Tabacón resort, you can hike down a gentle hill and access natural springs that are free and open to the public. Climb up on the larger rocks to access a big pool of volcano-heated spring water, but be mindful of slippery surfaces and varying temperatures.
Cascate del Mulino – Saturnia, Italy
What better way to end a day of wine tasting in southern Tuscany than by taking a dip in the Cascate del Mulino natural springs? These warm Italian waters stay at a comfortable 99.5 degrees throughout the year and contain minerals known to boost digestive, circulatory, and skin health. Popular since Roman times, these hot springs remain free and open to the public.
Hot Water Beach – Waikato, New Zealand
If you’re looking for a little workout with your relaxation, head to New Zealand’s Hot Water Beach, where you have to dig your own spot to soak. Before and after low tides, the hole you dig will fill with spring-fed water that contains plenty of natural minerals. Located south of the North Island’s Mercury Bay, this is a communal beach area that’s especially popular during the December-to-March summer months. Keep in mind that the waters can rush in at nearly 150°F, so many people bring buckets of cold seawater to help regulate the temperature.