22 Jun Healing Hot Springs and Thermal Baths: Our Bathing Bucket List From Around the World
The healing powers of hot springs and thermal baths have been used for thousands of years. From the Romans and Egyptians to modern day European bathhouses and Japanese Onsen, cultures from all around the world agree: hot baths are bliss. And after our first visit to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, which is a short drive south of Reykjavik (pictured above), we totally agree. Not content with just one, we’ve made our own bucket list of bathing spots around the world, and hope it brings inspiration to those of you with a soft-spot for a good soak.
According to folklore and tradition (and some science), soaking in hot springs and thermal baths can have a whole range of healing powers. It even has its own name: Balneotherapy. Yep, it’s a thing. Increased circulation and blood flow, improved metabolism, absorption of essential minerals and reduced stress levels are just some of the potential health benefits of natural hot baths.
Having said that, most of us probably don’t need much convincing to get into the habit of finding hot springs on our travels. Any excuse to chillax in nature without access to work emails, right? If you’re with me, check out these other wanderlust-inducing wellness spots from around the globe.
Banff Upper Hot Springs, Alberta, Canada
Who cares about the whiff of a pungent sulphur aroma when you’re surrounded by glacier-studded views of Banff National Park and soaking in up to 40°C (104°F) of pure bliss. Discovered in 1884, the spring-fed pools are now serviced by a 1930’s bath house and loaded with sulphate, magnesium, calcium, sodium and bicarbonate. The ultimate reward after the 5.5 km (3.5 mile) hike up Sulphur Mountain (or short drive from town for the less adventurous among us).
Image by @noelhendrickson.
Terme di Saturnia, Tuscany, Italy
Red wine and hot baths… No, I’m not talking about the perfect end to a busy week. I’m talking about the geothermal pools of the Terme di Saturnia which have somehow managed to make Tuscany, the land of Chianti and sunshine, even more appealing.
Legend has it that the pools, created by lightning bolts thrown by the god Jupiter, were once enjoyed by Roman nobles as far back as the 2nd century B.C. Today, commoners like you and me are free to enjoy the waterfalls and sulphur-rich springs like the roman empresses we wish we were.
Image by @finduslost.
Takaragawa Onsen, Japan
While you won’t see the world’s cutest snow monkeys enjoying a day at the spa (that’s here), you will get to enjoy the healing powers of a Japanese onsen for yourself. Set along the Takaragawa River in the hills of Minakami, Takaragawa is one of Japan’s most famous rotemburo (outside onsen). And with cascading rock pools, lush forest and paths that wind past traditional wooden huts, it’s not hard to see why.
With three of the four baths being konnyoku (mixed baths), you’ll probably want to be comfortable in your skin in front of strangers. But, there is a women-only option and ‘modesty’ towels available. All you have to do is sit back and relax like samurais of generations past and let the ancient waters work their magic.
Image by @tthum.
Termas Geometricas, Chile
Hidden at the bottom of a lush forest canyon in Chile’s Villarrica National Park, you’ll find the Japanese-inspired hot springs known as Termas Geometricas. Winding above a flowing stream, the maze of red wooden walkways connect seventeen slate-paved pools, each fed directly from a natural hot spring.
But, if you’re looking for something a little more chilly (pun intended…), head to one of the two cooling waterfalls for a refreshing dip.
Image by @alanxelmundo.
Umpqua Hot Spring, Oregon, USA
Ok, so Umpqua seems to have a bit of a mixed reputation. If you’re happy to look past the ‘care-free’ types (some reviews aren’t so kind) who frequent these famous hot springs, then it looks well worth the short but steep hike from the parking lot.
Overlooking the North Umpqua River and a short distance from Toketee waterfall, the main pool is around 2 square metres and sheltered by a shingled roof enclosure. Starting at around 42°C (108°F), each of the six pools that tier down the hillside get progressively cooler. Being a forest in Oregon, clothing is definitely optional.
Image by @reneeroaming.
Grutas Tolantongo, Mexico
About three hours north of Mexico City, you’ll find the geothermal playground of Grutas Tolantongo. Set along the edge of a box canyon near Ixmiquilpan (eesh-mee-qwil-pan), these famous spas are fed from the surrounding volcanic mountains.
While there’s lots of ways to take your relaxation game to the next level, the stars of the show are undoubtedly the waterfall pools and cliffside travertine terraces, each with steamy natural spring water, infused with rich minerals for bathing and relaxing. Not to mention the views…
Image by @nik_ewing310.
Hot Water Beach, Waikato, New Zealand
A fan of DIY? Grab a bucket and shovel, head to New Zealand’s Kawhia Hot Water Beach and dig a thermal bath of your own. Just south of the North Island’s Mercury Bay, this Kiwi hotspot (see what I did there?) fills with spring-fed hot water for two hours either side of low tide.
Here, you’ll find magnesium, potassium and calcium-rich water bubbling through the golden sand. At temperatures as high as 64°C (147°F), bringing a bucket to regulate the temperature with the cool seawater is a local tip not to be ignored.
Image by @sushi_perez.
Thermae Bath Spa, Bath, England
If you’re looking for a place that appreciates a good soak, look no further than the town named after everyone’s favourite stress-reliever. Bath, originally named Aquae Sulis by the Romans around 60 A.D., is the perfect place to enjoy a splash of British history and escape the famously cold, dreary English weather.
You can tour the restored original baths, but if you’re looking to take a dip like conquerors of millennia past, a trip to Thermae Bath Spa in the centre of town is the place to be. It’s a cosy 34°C (93°F), rich in minerals and set on a rooftop that overlooks a town straight out of a Jane Austen novel. It might just be the wellness pool party of my introverted book-worm dreams.
Image by @bansri_dattani.
Peninsula Hot Springs, Victoria, Australia
For those who dream of getting hot and steamy Down Under, this is the place for you. Located ninety minutes south of Melbourne on the picturesque Mornington Peninsula, the Peninsula Hot Springs offers twenty different bathing experiences including a cave pool, turkish hamam, reflexology walk and hilltop pool with 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape.
Image by @peninsulahotsprings.
Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Budapest, Hungary
This place screams ‘best college pool party location ever’. And, with 21 pools supplied by two thermal springs, this century old medicinal bath is one of the largest in Europe.
So, if you’re hungry for a relaxing soak in up to 38°C (100°F) while exploring one of Europe’s most vibrant up-and-coming cities, add Széchenyi Thermal Bath to your bathing bucket list.
Image by @lightloadtravelers.
Do you have any of your own favourite hot springs or thermal baths from around the world? Share them with us in the comments or on social media!