Photo: Getty Images / Alex Eggermont
Anyone who's ever taken their sweet time luxuriating in a bath knows how good soaking in a hot tub can be—both for physical aches (hello, sore running legs) and mental stress (eucalyptus bath salts, anyone?). But more and more people are seeking that kind of relaxation outside the house at high-end resorts or just out in nature. According to Pinterest's 2019 trend report, searches for hot springs have soared by 32 percent.
That's because soaking in thermal water is one of the most soothing natural experiences you can have. Because the water in hot springs contains tons of minerals like calcium, sodium bicarbonate, silica, and sulfur, it can do everything from increase your circulation and overall oxygen flow to aid in relief of widespread pain, as well as soften dry and rough skin and ease skin issues like psoriasis. Even the temperature itself can help relax tight, sore muscles.
Next time you really want to bliss out on a vacation, make sure you head somewhere near these *literal* hot spots. (Related: Stunning Pictures of the Most Instagram-Worthy Places On Earth)
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Iceland's most famous tourist destination is actually man-made: The Blue Lagoon was formed in 1976 when the geothermal power plant next door started creating a giant pool of excess water. Now, visits to the milky-blue lagoon—which sits in the middle of a lava field—are booked weeks in advance, and the on-site spa offers spa treatments (including a floating massage) that use silica, algae, and minerals from the water, which is naturally heated to a warm 102°F. (Related: How to Spend a Healthy Weekend In Iceland)
Terme di Saturnia, Italy
Soak in the Tuscan sun at Italy's Instagram-famous thermal waters outside of Saturnia. You can access the springs—said to have been created by the Roman god Jupiter's lightning bolts—via the luxury spa Terme di Saturnia or a free entrance called Cascate di Mulino, just 6 kilometers outside of town. The spring water, naturally heated to 99.5°F, is full of sulfur and alkaline, which is why bathing here is thought to help with skin and respiratory issues.
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Termas de Puritama, Atacama Desert, Chile
Chile's Termas de Puritama is an oasis in the middle of the ochre Atacama desert. Half-hidden by pampas grass, these eight thermal pools—with temperatures ranging between 77°F and 86°F—are fed by the hot water river Puritama and full of minerals like calcium, magnesium, sodium, and boron. Centuries ago, the Atacama people used them to cure ailments like rheumatism, arthritis, and fatigue; now, the area is managed by the nearby hotel, Explora.
Conundrum Hot Springs, Colorado
You have to earn the right to soak in Colorado's Conundrum Hot Springs, a collection of mineral-rich thermal pools that can only be reached via a steep 8.5-mile hike through the picturesque valleys, meadows, and aspen forests of the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness. With a soothing average temperature of 102°F, Conundrum is the perfect spot to break on a day hike, but you can't beat camping in the Rockies—although you will need a permit for an overnight stay. (Related: The Best Places to Adventure, Refuel, and Recover In Boulder, Colorado)
Chena Hot Springs, Alaska
Warm up an hour outside of Fairbanks at Chena Hot Springs, where the natural geothermal pools hover around 106°F year-round. The resort goes back to the early 1900s, when gold miners eased their aches in the silica- and sulfate-rich water, but there's evidence indigenous people were bathing there long before that. Snag a day pass or stay overnight. If you're there in the winter, you might catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis (northern lights) from the pools.
Uunartoq Island, Greenland
Over 1,000 years ago, the Norse discovered countless thermal pools covering southern Greenland. But the only one warm enough to bathe in is on the uninhabited island of Uunartoq (you have to take a boat from the mainland towns of Qaqortoq and Nanortalik to get there). Even in Greenland's frigid winter, three natural hot springs heat the pool to around 100°F—a cozy spot not just for soaking in mineral-rich water, but for enjoying epic views of nearby icebergs.
Banjar Hot Springs, Bali
Bali is Indonesia's spiritual center, and it's not all yoga and açaí bowls. At what the locals call Air Panas Banjar, natural hot springs—which reach 102°F and have a sulfur content of 26 percent—flow through carved stone naga, or fierce-looking animal heads, into three terraced pools. The milky green water is actually considered holy. The Brahmavihara Arama Buddhist monastery is just about a mile away.
Travertine Hot Springs, California
Travertine Hot Springs—named for the limestone deposited by the mineral-rich water—is an iconic stop for road-trippers trekking through California State Park land. There are a number of pools, but the most popular is the one closest to Jack Sawyer Road. By the time the water flows down from the surrounding rock formations, it's a toasty 103°F. And despite its easy accessibility, Travertine feels positively remote thanks to 360-degree views of the Sawtooth Ridge and Sierra Mountains. FYI: It's clothing optional. (Related: What Bathing Naked In Front of Strangers Taught Me About Body Confidence)
Hot Springs Cove, British Columbia
To get to Hot Springs Cove in the mountains of Maquinna Provincial Park, you'll have to fly 20 minutes or take an hour-long boat trip, then hike 30 minutes over a boardwalk trail into the forest. It's worth it because at the end of the trek is a 10-foot-high, hot, sulfurous waterfall that heats the natural pools below. The closer you go to the Clayoquot Sound, the cooler the water will be. (Related: Outdoor Adventure Travel Trips for Vacations That Are Anything but Relaxing)
Take a deep breath in as you relax at Hot Springs Cove on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Your journey starts on a 1.5 hour zodiac tour departing from Tofino with @oceanoutfitterstofino. You’ll cruise along the coastline keeping an eye out for seals, whales and other wildlife. Once you arrive to Hot Springs Cove it’s a 1.5 kilometre walk down the boardwalk to these famous hot springs. Then sit back and soak it all in before enjoying the return journey back to Tofino. #ExploreCanada : @josefinasantos : @tourismtofino, @tourismvancouverisland, @hellobc . Vivez un moment de détente inégalé à l’anse Hot Springs, sur l’île de Vancouver en Colombie-Britannique. L’aventure commence à Tofino par une excursion d’une heure et demie en Zodiac avec l’entreprise @oceanoutfitterstofino. Vous longerez la côte pour y surprendre phoques, baleines et autres animaux avant d’arriver à l’anse Hot Springs, où une courte randonnée de 1,5 km sur des trottoirs de bois vous mènera aux fameuses sources thermales. Il ne vous restera plus qu’à vous laisser bercer dans l’eau avant de prendre le chemin du retour jusqu’à Tofino. #ExploreCanada : @josefinasantos : @tourismtofino @tourismvancouverisland @hellobc #YourTofino #ExploreVancouverIsland #ExploreBC
Ma'in Hot Springs, Jordan
Between the ancient city of Madaba and Israel's Dead Sea, you'll find Jordan's Ma'in Hot Springs, a series of waterfalls that can heat up to 145°F. Part of a desert oases nearly 900 feet below sea level, the water—which contains calcium, chloride, radon, and hydrogen sulfide—is warmed by underground lava fissures in the valley en route to the Zarqa River. Climb your own way to the springs, or take the luxury route via the five-star Ma'in Spa Resort.