BY SUSAN HANSON
Mineral baths and thermal pools have provided natural spa relief since at least Roman times. Here, a few of our favorite hot springs around the world that are sure to reduce stress, increase blood flow, and improve your overall sense of wellbeing.
BLUE LAGOON, ICELAND
Runoff water from a nearby geothermal plant, rich in minerals such as silica and sulfur, infuse this luminous blue pool
’s milky waters with healing properties, particularly for eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. Its proximity to Reykjavik and extensive spa services available (including in-water massages) make the Blue Lagoon one of Iceland’s most popular attractions; an expansion in 2016 added two new coves for its ever-burgeoning number of bathers.
Looking to avoid the crowds? New York City-based Virtuoso travel advisor Crystal Warner also points clients to the pools at Landmannalaugar
, a region she describes as “otherworldly,” adding, “It’s one of the most beautiful places to visit in Iceland, with an amazingly colorful, moonlike landscape.”
The name Pamukkale translates to “cotton castle
,” an apt descriptor of the white travertine pools terracing cliffsides in this otherwise barren southwestern countryside. The site is just a day trip from UNESCO-designated Ephesus, and Seattle-based advisor Shawn Kirschenman suggests visiting in the morning: “You’ll have the pools to yourself, and, with the bright sunlight at a low angle, it’s the perfect time for pictures.”
Pamukkale’s springs cascade down into the site of the ancient Greek-Roman city of Hierapolis, whose remarkably well-preserved ruins include a theater, temple, and necropolis. The aquamarine Apollo Pool contains submerged Roman columns
Plan Your Trip:
You can bathe at Pamukkale year-round, but winter months – when the region is much warmer than the rest of the country – provide added allure. Be sure to visit the nearby Laodicean Church (an early center of Christianity) during a ten-day tailor-made tour with Turkey at Its Best
ARENAL HOT SPRINGS, COSTA RICA
Magma beneath Arenal Volcano
heats up a number of natural springs in its eponymous national park. Resorts, spas, and water parks offer everything from waterslides to swim-up bars. Locals prefer to take to the still-free waters along Rio Agua Caliente, where bathers have formed little pools with rocks along the river.
While dry season (December through May) brings sunshine, clear skies, and high temperatures, the wet season (April through November) finds the rain forest all the more alive, says Giovanna Jiménez, a Virtuoso advisor from San José, Costa Rica. “Fog from the cold raindrops falling into the hot springs creates a magical ambience
Plan Your Trip
: Floats along the Peñas Blancas River, forest hikes over lava flows, and other active adventures earn dips during Ladatco Tours’
ten-day customizable Costa Rica expedition.
KUROKAWA ONSEN, JAPAN
The mineral-rich waters at this small spa village
in the mountains of Kyushu are as therapeutic as the scenery. Ryokans
(inns) here feature elaborate, open-air onsens
(hot springs and surrounding bath facilities). Izumi Ogawa, a Virtuoso advisor from Vancouver, British Columbia, says it’s worth purchasing a nyuto tegata
(bathing pass) “so you can enjoy onsen
hopping at multiple ryokans
Plan Your Trip:
Three days at Kurokawa leave plenty of time for dips during Remote Lands’
14-day tailor-made Japanese adventure. Our favorite time to visit: between October and November to see autumn’s changing colors.
BANFF UPPER HOT SPRINGS, CANADA
The only hot springs open in Alberta’s Banff National Park
are Canada’s highest, at 5,200 feet. They’re also one of the country’s most popular and can get quite crowded with tourists, which is why Calgary-based Virtuoso advisor Jodi Fox suggests doing as the locals do and visiting during shoulder seasons (midspring or midfall).
In the park, Fox also recommends you simply set out on foot, on a bike, or by car “to happen upon your own spot for a picnic or hike.” August and September are the best months for seeing the northern lights
, she adds.
Plan Your Trip:
The castlelike Fairmont Banff Springs
is just minutes away, although the 768-room hotel’s heated outdoor pool provides its own Rocky Mountain therapy. “Enjoying the crisp mountain air while relaxing poolside is as good as it gets,” says Fox.
Plus, hot baths in California and Jordan:
Northern California’s indigenous Wappo tribe healed many ills by mixing the ashy soil and warm waters that gushed up in Calistoga
. The area’s first health resort appeared just after the gold rush, and now these rejuvenating mud baths are as much a staple of the Napa Valley experience as wine tastings and hard-to-get tables. Stay at Solage Calistoga
, beloved for its geothermal bathhouse and mudslide spa treatment, and Calistoga Ranch
– try the Water Therapy treatment in the spa’s mineral pool.
Jordan’s Ma’in Hot Springs
offer healing of biblical proportions: King Herod was said to be a frequent bather. A modern spa complex on the site keeps today’s feet nimble for exploring the hundreds of prehistoric chamber tombs in the nearby Al Megheirat dolmen field.
Photo Credits: (JORDAN) OSTILL/GETTY IMAGES; (PAMUKKALE) JAN WLODARCZYK/ALAMY