Deep from within the crack of the Earth, from volcanic bedrock and natural mineral deposits flows the water of the best hot springs around the world. Infused with elements like iron and sulphur (even arsenic), our favorite hot springs offer therapeutic properties relied on by ancient civilizations for healing ailments — plus they make for some of the most surreal geological visions you’ll ever seen.
Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa (Iceland)
You’ve likely seen Instagram shots of this ethereal icy blue heaven, where white steam rises up from the vibrant water, closed in by black snow-capped rocks. Yes, the Blue Lagoon is one of those forever bucket-list experiences — hands down one of the best hot springs in the world. Booking is required to soak in these geothermal waters, originating 1.2 miles below the surface where freshwater and seawater combine at extreme temperatures. On its way to the surface, the water picks up silica, algae, and therapeutic minerals, which account for the lagoon’s healing reputation as well as its brilliant blue coloring.
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs (New Mexico)
Hidden in the hills of New Mexico is one of the oldest natural health resorts in the U.S., built around even older (naturally-occurring) geothermal mineral springs that have flowed from a subterranean volcanic aquifer for thousands of years. More than 100,000 gallons rise to the surface each day, infused with four different types of minerals, including lithia, iron, soda, and arsenic, all of which have purported healing powers. Sulphur-free, unlike most natural springs, Ojo Caliente’s arsenic pool is believed to be beneficial for relief from arthritis, stomach ulcers, and various skin conditions, while lithia water is believed to relieve depression and aid digestion. If any of this sounds hokey, that’s fine — more healing for us. A weekend at Ojo Caliente can only be compared to a year of sleep and the deepest massage you’ve ever had. (And then some.)
Banjar Hot Springs (Bali)
Across the globe, surrounded by lush tropical gardens is the hot springs complex of Banjar, or Air Panas Banjar as the locals call it. Tucked away in the hills of the village of Banjar, natural hot spring water pours out of the stone-carved mouths of animal heads, filling a pool with what is considered “holy” water. The milky aqua water in this bath overflows into a second and then third pool, where the current pummels down for a warm shoulder massage under the falls.
The Grand Prismatic Spring (Wyoming)
As if Yellowstone National Park couldn’t get more picturesque, its Grand Prismatic Spring may be the most hypnotizing spring on the entire planet. Currently the largest hot spring in the U.S. and third largest in the world, intensely bright bands of blues, green, yellows, and oranges expand outward from the center in a gobstopper illusion that then steams its own fog of hovering white cloud. However, this isn’t a spring you’ll want to dip into, as extremely hot water travels 121 feet from a crack in the Earth to reach the surface.
Pamukkale Thermal Pools (Turkey)
What at first sight appears to be glacial ice pools is in fact naturally formed travertine limestone terraces that have been built up over the past millennia. Filling these 17 tubs is hot (we mean hot) thermal water the color of pure turquoise. Alas, these pools are no longer open for relaxing, although you can walk around them, which is fine seeing as their temperatures range from 95-212 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring your trunks anyway, because a special swimming pool sits close to the terraces.
Hot Springs Cove, British Colombia (British Colombia)
If you’re among the school that hot springs must be earned not given, trek north to Hot Springs Cove situated in the mountains of Maquinna Provincial Park, smack dab in the middle of pure nature. Hike for a half hour through dense forest to find the intimate hot springs. Each little pool is separated naturally by dark slate formations and is filled with crystal clear water bubbling up from the rocks. Float to the view of the Northern Clayoquot Sound, sighting for animals like whales, black bears, seals, sea lions, puffins, sea otters, and bald eagles.
Ma’in Hot Springs, Jordan (Jordan)
The quality test of any hot spring is whether the locals go. Here, at the sprawling Ma’in springs, you’ll find both native and tourist alike, soaking away their ailments and worries in the pools which are accessible from a variety of routes. (Don’t expect an easy sign, but you’ll figure it out with some light climbing.) A surprise among the hot desert landscape, these springs contain elements such as sodium, calcium, chloride, radon, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon dioxide, and can hit an upwards of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Technically their own region located between Madaba and the Dead Sea, the springs’ crowning jewel is the multitude of tall heated waterfalls that pour down into the pools. The spring is heated by hot water that comes from the top of the basaltic mountain.
Cascate del Mulino (Italy)
With a welcoming and laid-back vibe, the free Cascate del Mulino springs have plenty of room (and parking) for all to join. Plus, they don’t have as many rules and customs as traditional springs. Great to visit no matter the season, these stairway pools get hotter the higher you sit and pour downhill in a foggy, magical blue water. The waterfalls are naturally brimming with sulphur and other minerals thought to cure ailments since the Roman era, and are situated just outside of the village of Saturnia, surrounded by pastoral Tuscan land. Just up the road, the same water bubbles into man-made pools at the luxurious Terme di Saturnia Spa where you can see the thermal plankton micro-critters swimming about in the water. Honestly, we like the free, au nautral springs much better (bugs or not).
Travertine Hot Springs (California)
Along the beat-up Jack Sawyer Road in California State Park land is a dirt path that leads to one of the most iconic hot springs in the country. Travertine is a staple for cross-country road trippers and solo adventurers, as it’s easy to get to and often frequented by friendly travelers seeking adventure and retreat. (You’ll probably make a new balneology friend, one who practices bathing in natural springs). Surrounded by absolutely nothing but mountains and sun, this geothermal pool is adequately named after the limestone deposited by hot mineral springs. Emerge from the water with greater blood flow, improved circulation, and a peaceful, smiling mind.
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