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As an avid traveler who has visited over 40 countries to date, one of my favorite things to do is visit hot springs. Growing up, we often traveled to the top spots and quite a few hidden gems across the U.S. to enjoy them. There’s really nothing like relaxing in soothing warm waters while surrounded by incredible scenery. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have explored many outside of the country too, with these destinations my favorite for an unforgettable soak.
Sao Miguel, Azores
The Azores is an archipelago known for its geothermal activity, home to fumaroles, geysers, and hot springs. Most of the hot springs in the islands can be found in Sao Miguel, the largest of the nine islands. They range in style and size, with the top spots in the village of Furnas. Poca da Dona Beija Hot Springs is a favorite, with multiple thermal pools tucked among gorgeous greenery and flowers. You can even kick back and let a cascade of hot water massage your back. As they’re open late, enjoy an even more tranquil experience after dark.
One of my favorite countries, I could visit Iceland again and again and never tire of it. Not only does Iceland have some of the most stunning scenery on the planet, but it’s also legendary for its geysers, active volcanoes, and hot springs. The most famous is the Blue Lagoon, just a short drive from Keflavik International Airport. But there are many spread across the country, like the Myvatn Nature Baths. While it does attract plenty of tourists, the numbers aren’t nearly as big as they are at the Blue Lagoon, thanks to its more remote location just a little over an hour’s drive from Akureyri in the north. Other spots include Hrunalaug hot spring near Flúði, the luxurious Sky Lagoon just minutes from Reykjavík’s city center, and the popular Reykjadalur Steam Valley.
Having lived in Colorado for over a decade, my goal was to visit every hot spring in the state, and there are many. Mount Princeton Hot Springs resort offers a hot springs river with pools created by rocks along with human-made pools, all heated by geothermal water. There are a wealth of amenities and facilities on-site, including various accommodation options, a spa, exercise classes, and an outstanding restaurant, making it ideal for a weekend or longer getaway. Strawberry Hot Springs is another favorite, located a short drive from Steamboat Springs, with natural rock sides separating the pools while sandbed floors are soothing to walk across. You can spend the night here too, in everything from riverside campsites and rustic cabins to a train caboose. Glenwood Springs, Hot Sulphur Springs, and Pagosa Springs are just a few of the other great options.
There are more than 3,000 hot springs in Japan, known as onsen, which can be found anywhere a volcano is looming above the landscape. One of the most popular is the Takaragawa Onsen which is an easy day trip from Tokyo. Tucked deep into the mountains of northern Gunma Prefecture, while most come for the soothing waters, they stay for the breathtaking views, surrounded by forest along the Tone River. Near Nagano, in northern Honshu, you can’t get into the hot springs as they’re for the famous snow monkeys only, but it’s always fun to watch and capture photos as the animals as they soak.
There are roughly 110 hot springs and pools throughout New Zealand, including in and around Rotorua, which is renowned for its geothermal activity. This is home to the geothermal reserves of Te Puia, Waiotapu, and Waimangu, with other-worldly landscapes that include bubbling mud pots, geysers, boiling pools, fumaroles, craters, and hot springs. One of the most unique places for a soak is Hot Water Beach on the North Island just south of Mercury Bay along the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. You’ll have to dig your own spot for a soak – before and after low tides, your hole will fill up with naturally warm, mineral-filled water. As the water can be as hot as 150 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll add cold seawater to regulate the temperature.
Montana is home to more than 60 known hot springs, which range from primitive springs for a soak in the wilderness to developed resorts with lavish pools fed by naturally warm, mineral-packed water. Norris Hot Springs is a favorite located near the popular town of Bozeman. It hosts the “Water of the Gods,” a series of artesian springs used to fill a 38,000-gallon pool with 120-degree water. A sprayer system creates the ideal temperature by circulating the water and cooling it to a comfortable temperature at around 106 degrees in the winter and about 100 degrees in the summer. Live poolside music, food, and drink are available too. Chico Hot Springs, Fairmont Hot Springs, and Lolo Hot Springs are just a few of the other options.
Much of Nevada is rural with vast stretches where you won’t see another soul and it’s also home to over 300 natural hot springs, more than any other state in the entire country. As my father grew up here and often went exploring to find the hidden gems, we spent many weekends while I was growing up enjoying his favorites like Spencer Hot Springs. Located near the tiny town of Austin, while it’s no longer “hidden,” it still provides a unique experience, and visitors can pitch a tent here to spend a night under the stars too. There are multiple spots with cattle troughs used to hold the water that’s piped in from the source, with the temperature controlled by pushing the pipe in and out.
The Andes Mountains and their chain of volcanoes across Chile have resulted in numerous hot springs with an estimated 275 scattered from north to south. The Atacama Desert in its northern reaches may be the world’s driest place, but it’s home to multiple hot springs. This region is also one of the top spots in the country for stargazing which means you can do it right from one of the eight pools at Termas de Puritama. Used by indigenous people for centuries to soothe all types of ailments, they sit at 11,400 feet above sea level and are a constant 91 degrees.
Peru is stunning and diverse with hot springs found everywhere from its underrated north to its southern stretches. The Baños Termales de Lare are some of the best, nestled next to a river in the Andes at an altitude of almost 10,600 feet, but if you’re planning to hike Machu Picchu, the springs in Aguas Calientes, a town that’s name translates to “Hot Waters,” are an ideal spot to soothe sore muscles afterward. Baños Termales Machu Picchu is just a few miles from the ancient ruins and hosts baths that provide a heavenly respite for those going up or down the mountain.
The Canadian provinces of Alberta, the Yukon, and British Columbia, Yukon are home to nearly three dozen hot springs with everything from free, undeveloped pools to pools at luxurious manmade resorts. One of the most famous is only a few miles from the town of Banff in Banff National Park – Banff Upper Hot Springs is the highest elevated hot springs in the country at over 5,200 feet and surrounded by dramatic Canadian Rockies scenery. Two hours south of Banff, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort offers pools available at a cost, but there are also free springs here which even include a hot springs waterfall. It’s tucked along a riverbed accessed via a path between the resort and Fairmont Hot Springs RV Park. Or, head to Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Provincial Park on Vancouver Island, where boiling spring water bubbles up from deep within the earth, cascading down a small cliff into a series of natural layered rock pools, cooled by the Pacific to an idyllic temperature.
Greenland is an adventure lover’s dream with many natural hot springs, but not all of them are good for soaking. If you’re looking for a unique, bucket-list kind of experience, head to Uunartoq Island which has many natural pools where visitors can immerse themselves in hot water with temperatures ranging from about 90 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Italy is home to three active volcanoes so it’s no surprise that it offers hot springs too. Combined with its incredible history, scenic landscapes, food and wine, Terme di Saturnia is one you’ll definitely want to put on your bucket list. Located in the south of Tuscany, the water reaches temperatures of up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit, making them warm and inviting no matter what it’s like outside. A favorite of the Romans over 2,000 years ago, they’ve been popular among locals and visitors alike ever since and they’re even free of charge.
Ecuador has the highest concentration of volcanoes in the world along with plenty of hot springs. If you want to visit one near the capital city of Quito, head to the small town of Papallacta. The highest town in the country at nearly 11,000 feet, it’s about an hour’s drive away. Not only is the drive awe-inspiring, bringing views of Cotopaxi Volcano on a clear day, when you get there you can relax in a thermal pool at Papallacta Hot Springs.
The volcanic activity throughout much of Mexico means you’ll find many spectacular hot springs for a soak. One of the favorites is located in the state of Hidalgo. Grutas Tolantongo is a thermal water park immersed among breathtaking scenery. Ranging in temperatures between 96.8 and 100.4 degrees, the rock-walled pools are tiered and sit high along a mountain face providing sweeping vistas while you soak. The Mayan Baths in Guanajuato are just one of the many other options. The hot springs are surrounded by quartz and other semi-precious stones – plus, you can even soak up the minerals while swimming through tunnels illuminated by hundreds of candles.