Whether it’s a bubbling tub in California or a boiling pool on the Tibetan plateau, hot springs are a therapeutic addition to any vacation.
Take a dip into mineral-rich waters that soak away your aches and pains. An hour or two in one of these pools promises softer skin, relaxed muscles, and a more calm state of mind.Tack onto that the incredible views from most of these springs, and you’ve got yourself a natural spa day you won’t soon forget.
7 Of The World’s Most Breathtaking Hot Springs.
1. Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Seawater laced with silica and algae give this lagoon in Iceland its skin healing powers.
The lagoon was created in the 1970’s by an Icelandic heating company as part of a geothermal project. Word spread about a huge tub of hot, soothing seawater, and people answered in the thousands. By 1987 the Icelandic government took the hint and made the lagoon an official tourism site.
Blue Lagoon has been a favorite of hot spring enthusiasts ever since. Microorganisms in the water are known to heal damaged skin and even reduce signs of UV damage, while the silica exfoliates and lessens inflammation.
With 400,000 visitors a year, some days this place can feel more like a waterpark than a spa. Just look at this as a communal hot tub party, with you and a few thousand people you haven’t met yet.
Courtesy of Felix Garcia Vila via Flickr
2. Pammukale, Turkey
Like a set of stairs carved into the stone, the divine pools of Turkey’s Pammukale can lead you to a higher self, or at least to a more relaxed one.
The name Pammukale means “cotton castle” in Turkish, although the many levels of this dazzling white hot spring are actually made from calcium deposits. Chalk in the water also helps to give these terraces their white appearance.
Pammukale has been used as a spa since the 2nd century BC. Today you can take in history first hand as you gaze at the statues and ruins spotting the land around these springs. Take off your shoes and walk the terraces to the Antique Pool, where you’ll bathe amongst fallen pillars that once supported buildings for the areas ruling class.
Courtesy of Craig Jenkins via Flickr
3. Banff Hot Springs, Alberta
High up in the Rocky Mountains is Canada’s most scenic place to soak.
Sitting at 5,200 feet above sea level and surrounded by alpine peaks, the mineral rich waters of Banff Hot Springs help melt away worries and make your skin shine. The crisp mountain air clears the lungs, while the stunning views are great for putting things into perspective.
The baths were discovered in 1882 by workers building the Canadian Pacific Railway, although local natives had been using them for healing rituals long before then.
These waters rise up from deep in the earth, and at 104 degrees they’re the hottest in the Rockies. It’s a bit of a trek to get there, but the views from the top are well worth the trip.
Courtesy of Fancy Lady via Flickr
4. Budapest, Hungary
A nation wide culture of hot spring bathing makes Budapest the ideal place for hot-tub-hopping.
It’s not just one hot spring that makes this city a paradise for communal bathers. A network of different ‘bath houses’ and pools are located around the city, and fed by underwater springs. When the Romans came here and discovered how many hot springs there were, they renamed it Aquincum, declaring it the hot spring capital of the world.
Budapest’s waters are rich in magnesium, calcium, and sulphate, and help to treat arthritis and a host of skin conditions.
Swim past proud white columns like the philosophers of Greece, or bath under the stars at an outdoor spring in the city. Soaking under the moonlight, the sound of nearby city traffic melts away into the background.
Courtesy of Xavier Rigaux via Flickr
5. Calistoga Hot Springs, California
It’s not just long haired hippies that fill the tubs at these blissful California hot springs. Everyone from honeymooners to weekend jet-setters are coming to the call of Calistoga’s healing waters.
The first resort was built here in 1872, with the aim of rivaling New York’s Saratoga Springs. Since then the waters of Calistoga have been a regular get away spot for Northern Californians looking for a bit of rest and relaxation.
While the crowd here in Napa Valley has diversified, it holds onto its reputation for visitors who aren’t afraid to bare it all, even with plenty of guests around. The constant flow of delicious wines grown in the region help to lessen inhibitions, which is probably what’s led to the sultry stories that surround this legendary place.
Of course the Calistoga of today has a wide range of hotels, each with their own character. So if you’d prefer for a quiet night under the stars, it’ll be easy to find.
Courtesy of JNP via Shutterstock
6. Jigokudani Hot springs, Japan
You might be surprised to find the pools at Japan’s Jigokudani already occupied when you get there – with monkeys.
These red faced primates learned a long time ago just how nice it is to lounge in the steaming waters here. Nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find a seat, and even if you could, the monkey infested waters are off limits to humans.
But the hike from Nagano is still worth while, especially in the winter time, when these playful monkeys run down from the snowy mountains to warm up, making for some incredible wildlife viewing. Once you’ve had your fill, take the train back to town, where there are plenty of other hot springs – without all the fur.
Courtesy of Manuel ROMARIS via Flickr
7. Yambajan, Tibet
Visiting the Dalai Lama isn’t the only reason to go to Tibet. The boiling hot springs of Yambajan, famous for its revitalizing minerals, are a steamy escape from the cold plateau.
Glaciers and snow capped mountains surround the hot springs at Yambajan, making for a stunning view while you soak. Choose your spring based on their peculiar but fitting names. Bread-Steaming Hot Spring is so named because you could bake bread in its steam, while Fish-Cooking River got that name because it’s so hot that… well, you get the idea.
Tibet isn’t the easiest country to travel in, which makes the relaxing, sulphur rich waters of Yambajan even more welcoming. Go early in the morning for the best views, and remember to pace yourself – high elevations can take some getting used to, and intense hikes followed by high temperature soaking isn’t recommended. Maybe just stick with the relaxation part for now.
Courtesy of Vladmir Zhoga via Shutterstock