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.
The Benefits: The area around San Miguel de Allende features thermal, alkaline, sulfur and fresh water springs, though the first two are most popular for bathing. Despite legends that these waters have "age-reversing" effects, most bathers come to relax under the heated falls and soak up the generally therapeutic natural minerals.
How to Soak: There are several mineral springs along the road from San Miguel de Allende to Dolores Hidalgo that are open to the public for a fee. Escondido Place is a favorite and has five open-air thermal pools, three covered springs, and lush grounds perfect for picnics. escondidoplace.com; $7.50 entrance fee.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
The scenery, and the effects, are otherworldly.
A heating company formed the lagoon (which holds 1.5 million gallons of sea- and freshwater) to explore geothermal heating methods in the late 1970s. By 1981, people were bathing in the lagoon-and noticing marked improvements in skin conditions. The site became a popular tourist attraction, with official public facilities opening in 1987 and a full spa in 1999.
The Benefits: With its volcanic rocks, electric green moss, and steaming waters, the area around the Blue Lagoon looks like something from another planet. Fans of the waters agree that the results are otherworldly. High amounts of silica help exfoliate skin, strengthen its barrier function, and heal inflammation, while minerals from the seawater revitalize skin. Microorganisms found here also help reduce signs of UV damage and stimulate collagen production. Skin care products made with the therapeutic waters make great souvenirs.
How to Soak: The facility, 40 minutes from the center of Reykjavik, includes steam baths, sauna, relaxation areas, and lagoon pools. Enjoy the massaging waterfalls and lather on some pure geothermal silica mud (provided free of charge). In-water massages and other spa treatments are available for an additional fee. bluelagoon.com; $39 entrance fee.
Drinking the water is as healing as soaking in it.
Ancient Celtic settlers were the first to make use of the therapeutic waters (they named the area Ak-Ink, or "ample water"), followed by the Romans, who built the first official baths and re-dubbed the place Aquincum. Though the bathing culture continued through centuries of Hungarian and Turkish rule, the traditions floundered in the 18th century-until the re-discovery of some thermal springs in the 1800s. A scientific interest in the benefits led to the construction of some of the city's most famous bathhouses, some which remain today.
The Benefits: The thermal waters are rich in a variety of minerals, including fluoride, calcium, hydro-carbonate, sodium, magnesium, sulphate, and metabolic acid. The combination has proved effective in treating chronic arthritis and other joint illnesses and orthopedic issues. The water from drinking wells is also high in similar minerals, and is good for treating gastric ulcers and various internal inflammations.
How to Soak: There are enough mineral springs under the city of Budapest to feed more than 50 public baths and pools, numerous private spas, and countless drinking fountains. We suggest the stunning Szechenyi Bath, which opened in 1913. The complex includes three large outdoor pools, heated to varying degrees, plus several pools with jets and waterfalls, saunas, and spots for aqua-aerobics and other therapies. szechenyibath.com; entrance fee from $12.50
Take the cure among Roman ruins.
Archeological evidence suggests activity around these springs in southwest England as far back as 8,000 B.C. Those water-crazy Romans constructed the first formal baths in the first century AD (visitors can tour the remains today) and the baths' popularity didn't wane in the centuries that followed. As Jane Austen fans know, the waters were popular throughout the 1700s and 1800s with travelers looking to "take the waters." In 2006, after more than a decade of renovations, the Thermae Bath Spa complex opened in some of the most historic bath sites.
The Benefits: The three wellheads under the center of Bath are sourced by ancient rainwater that has made its way up through the region's limestone faults. The waters (which can be as warm as 117 degrees) contain more than 42 minerals, including sulphate, calcium, silica, iron, and chloride. Doctors have sent patients here for centuries to treat rheumatism, psoriasis, gout, and even infertility; injured WWII servicemen also came here for rehab. These days, most soakers seek relaxation and relief from skin issues.