Hot Springs Cheat Sheet: 5 Spots for a Steamy Soak
For centuries, residents and travelers alike have turned to hot baths for relaxation and cures from various diseases. The tradition of soaking in mineral-rich water remains today, and we’ve rounded up some of the steamiest spots around the world.
1. Takaragawa Onsen, Japan
A mere two hours from Tokyo, this onsen – or hot pool — is located in a beautiful riverside setting with water said to help nervous disorders, bad circulation, skin irritation, sore muscles and joints, aches, bruises and fatigue. The area is extremely picturesque and slightly hidden, but is considered the best open hot spa in Japan. There are a variety of choices, too. The onsen is comprised of four large outdoor baths – three mixed and one women-only — all with natural, untreated water flowing from the origin, no additional heat, and no additives. Though Takaragawa is beautiful in any setting, “There is nothing more relaxing than a long soak with your family in a gorgeous hot outdoor onsen with the snow gently falling,” wrote one reviewer.
2. Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Though other hot springs in Iceland are certainly more remote and decidedly less touristy, the Blue Lagoon has been called one of the world’s “coolest” hot springs sites for its scenery and effects. After it was started by a heating company in the 1970s to explore geothermal heating methods, the lagoon shot to popularity after visitors began noticing improvements in skin conditions. Today, the lagoon holds approximately 1.5 million gallons of 99 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit geothermal seawater laced with silica, minerals, and algae, and the results remain. High amounts of silica are thought to exfoliate skin and heal inflammation, while minerals from the seawater revitalize skin and stimulate collagen production. Entry to the lagoon begins with slathering silky mud on yourself — fun!
3. Lake Hévíz, Hungary
Approximately two hours from Budapest, Hévíz is the second largest thermal lake in the world, and one of the largest biologically active natural thermal lakes. With a water temperature that varies — but is usually around 90 degrees Fahrenheit — the lake is fed by hot springs some 0.6 miles beneath the ground. The water has a high concentration of sulfur, radium, and minerals, and as a result, is thought to have a positive effect on physiotherapy and the treatment of all forms of rheumatic and locomotive disorders. Remarkably, due to the high water output of the springs feeding the lake, the water within the lake is estimated to completely change naturally within 85 hours. Even more remarkable? It is estimated to be some 2,000 years old.
4. Strawberry Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Nestled in the Colorado forest, you’ll find an enclave of stone pools that comprise Strawberry Springs. The mineral springs here are a toasty 104 degrees, perfect for when the snow begins to fall and settle, or to help you relax after a long day on the slopes or hiking, biking or snowshoeing in the nearby forest. Historically, the Ute and Arapaho tribes believed the springs were “sacred places where the Great Spirit lived deep below the earth’s surface,” calling the area “Medicine Springs” where they would soak away their soreness after battle and to rejuvenate their strength. Today, much of the tranquility and rejuvenation elements remain intact. With high canyon walls surrounding the springs, waterfalls descending into various pools, and soft sand underfoot, the springs here are truly a respite from the outside world.
5. Pamukkale, Turkey
The Turkish name Pamukkale, meaning “cotton castle,” is derived from this visually stunning landscape, which was created when mineralized waters falling from a cliff above created a series of petrified waterfalls, stalactites, and pools with step-like terraces. The pools vary in height, and fresh deposits of calcium carbonate give the formations a dazzling white coating. Even if you’re not interested in relaxing in the waters, a walk up the limestone terrain still requires you remove your shoes, as Turkish authorities are intent on keeping this UNESCO World Heritage site clean. A historical bonus? The ruins of the baths, temples and other Greek monuments can be seen at the site.