12 Hot Springs Worth Traveling For
Before the days of high-tech spa treatments, wellness seekers headed for the hot springs—and modern-day soakers can, too. From an ancient pool near the Dead Sea to the picturesque American West, join us on a world tour of the most stunning spots to take a dip.
How to Soak: The Thermae Bath Complex is right in the center of Bath, about a 15-minute walk from the railway station. The main building houses the largest of the thermal baths, the New Royal Bath, has a whirlpool as well as a "lazy river," a heated rooftop pool, aromatherapy steam rooms, and a full-service spa (thermaebathspa.com; entrance fees from $34). Across the street, the smaller (and very basic) thermal Cross Bath stands at the site where ancient Celts and Romans honored their respective goddesses (thermaebathspa.com; $21 for 90 minutes).
Arenal Hot Springs, Costa Rica
Where the volcano views are as stunning as the waters are relaxing.
Costa Rica is home to six active volcanoes and 61 more that are dormant or extinct. Thanks to all this geothermal activity, the country also boasts several hot springs sites, most notably around the Arenal Volcano in the northwest. Technically still active (it's said to be "resting"), Arenal's heat and minerals infuse streams that flow through the marshes and grasslands at its base. Several hotels offer access to the springs, but the original-and the gold standard-is the Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, opened in 1993.
The Benefits: Tabacón's hot springs are 97 percent rainwater that has sunk to the earth's core and been heated, and the remaining three percent is magma-based. As the mixture rises back to the surface, it brings with it the minerals imbedded in the earth. The springs are naturally heated to a muscle-relaxing 77 to 122 degrees and the high levels of hydrothermal flora and fauna strengthen the skin's defense system and repair surface damage. Even better, the springs are low in sulfur. Meaning you won't stink after taking a dip.
How to Soak: If staying at the luxury resort is not in the budget, buy a day pass to enjoy the dozen mineral pools (including one with thermal water slide and another with a swim-up bar), three thermal waterfalls, and sweeping volcano views. tabacon.com; from $60 for a day pass.
Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado
An old mining town is reborn as a spa haven.
Back in the early 1500s the Ute Indians enjoyed these southwest Colorado hot springs, which sit about 8,600 feet above sea level. Ore miners (and speculators) came to the region in the 1880s, and a private homestead was established on the land that's now Dunton. The owners recognized the hot springs' moneymaking potential and started charging a nickel to take a dip. The first "hot tub" was built in a log-lined pit, followed by various shack bathhouses. By 1918, though, the mining boom was bust and the town deserted. The current owners took over in 994 and spent seven years turning the whole town into an upscale resort.
The Benefits: Controlled by tectonic forces, the naturally heated Dunton springs are high in iron and magnesium, with trace amounts of lithium. Along with the therapeutic benefits of the minerals and heat (temps range from 85 to 106 degrees), soakers get the added bonus of calcium bicarbonate, which helps open peripheral blood vessels and improve circulation.
How to Soak: Dunton's deluxe cabins start at $550, but day passes are available for travelers who aren't spending the night or booked in the spa (treatments are $185). Once on site, you can choose to soak in one of several pools, including the renovated 19th Century bathhouse, two outdoor pools, or directly at the source. duntonhotsprings.com; $115 for a day pass, including lunch.
Thank the gods for these healing waters.
Legend has it that hilltop Saturnia's thermal springs bubble up at the exact spot where Jupiter's thunderbolt fell in a battle with Saturn. The Bronze Age Etruscans were the first to partake of the waters, and even built a temple on the site to thank the gods for this gift; later, the Romans constructed what some say was the world's first public bathhouse. After getting a bad rep in the more puritanical 14th century (some thought the hot waters marked the gates of Hell), the springs were re-discovered in the 1800s and continue to be the Tuscan town's claim to fame.
The Benefits: The waters originate from Monte Amiata, a dormant volcano that still pumps water from its craters and rivers. Along with a mineral mix including sulfur, bicarbonate, and alkaline, the water contains plankton, known for its ability to calm and strengthen skin. The combination has also proven beneficial for muscle, joint, cardiovascular and respiratory issues.