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15 of the world’s most enchanting natural hot springs

The therapeutic benefits and serenity of these outdoor wonderlands is unparalleled.

natural hot springs

With public pools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, it seems that wild swimming – swimming, for instance, in seas, rivers and lakes – has become a trend with a 94 per cent increase in the search term ‘wild swimming’ between 2019 and 2020.

In the UK, organised groups of hardy individuals are reaping the mental and physical health benefits of immersing oneself into rivers, lakes, the wild ocean and just about any natural body of water.

The thrill of discovering a new destination and waking up the senses offers a compelling reason to adopt this sport. However, not all of us are built to tackle the elements and embrace the surge of coldness that often accompanies this experience.

That’s where natural hot springs come into play. They offer a perfect compromise between being outdoors yet with the promise of comfort and relaxation attached.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

natural hot springs
Mask Bar. Image: Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Best for serenity and luxury

Renowned for its healing properties and mesmerising blue hue, the pristine geothermal seawaters of the lagoon are enriched with silica, algae and minerals that have remarkable rejuvenating powers. Warmed to a comfortable 38℃, bathers can rest their eyes on the moss-covered lava fields and volcanic landscape surrounding the lagoon. Whether you are seeking serenity or pleasure, some highlights include an in-water bar, where you can choose from an array of both non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverages, and a mask bar, ideal for those who value natural beauty and a healthy glow with algae and silica in abundance. For a more pampering experience, indulge in a massage suspended in the warm blue waters or head over to the sauna and steam room.

How to get there:

Blue Lagoon is located 20 minutes from Keflavík Airport (Iceland’s largest airport) and 50 minutes from the capital, Reykjavík. It has an official transport partner that can be booked in advance that departs from these locations.

Castle Hot Springs, US

natural hot springs
Unplug from the world in this tranquil desert oasis. Image: Castle Hot Springs

Best for relaxation

Castle Hot Springs is recognised as one of the top luxury outdoor destination resorts in the US with a long and rich history. Located in the heart of the Sonoran Desert with the Bradshaw Mountains providing a stunning backdrop, the natural hot springs pools have been visited by indigenous tribes, celebrities and dignitaries around the globe, who found their way to this remote desert oasis. Each hot spring contains its own unique blend of naturally occurring minerals that have beneficial properties for guests who choose to soak in the geothermal waters before heading over to the property’s farm where you find an impressive array of produce used across the menus at the resort’s restaurant.

How to get there:

Castle Hot Springs is around two hours by car from Phoenix with 30 minutes on an unpaved road. For those intending to travel in style, a luxury SUV or helicopter service is available on request.

Cascate del Mulino, Italy

natural hot springs
One of Tuscany's most popular attractions. Image: Cascate del Mulino.

Best for families

This group of hot springs in Tuscany, of which the Cascate del Mulino is the most well-known site, boasts an old stone mill nestled behind a staircase of tranquil blue pools at a constant temperature of 37.5℃. Born from a crater, according to mythology, that the god Saturn is believed to have created with his thunderbolt, the thermal water is rich in sulphur and beneficial minerals for the lungs and cardiovascular system.

How to get there:

The most convenient way to reach Cascate del Mulino is by car. From Rome you can expect a two-hour drive whereas from Florence the commute will be around three hours. Part of the journey will be on unpaved roads with beautiful views of the countryside.

Termas Geométricas, Chile

natural hot springs
The famous walkways at the hot springs. Image: Termas Geométricas, Chile

Best for couples

A maze of red planked walkways amid verdant greenery is the best way to describe the hot spring site, which consists of pure thermal water fed from more than 60 springs. With a choice of 20 pools in total from which mist rises eerily into the forested Chilean landscape, finding a suitable spot makes the journey almost as intriguing as the destination; being at the bottom of a canyon.

How to get there:

If you don’t intend to visit the hot springs with a tour, the closest town is Coñaripe, which is around half an hour by car. If you’re arriving from Pucón the commute will take approximately two hours and involves driving on a windy mountain road.

Chena Hot Springs, Alaska

natural hot springs
The iconic northern lights viewed close to the Chena Hot Springs Resort location. Image: Sherman Hogue, Explore Fairbanks

Best spot for viewing the northern lights

Chena Hot Springs are a world famous feature of the Chena Hot Springs Resort, situated in the Alaskan wilderness surrounded by enchanting forests and mountains – a landscape that offers a Narnia-like experience in the winter from the steamy comfort of a 41℃ outdoor lake or hot tub. This unique remote location provides the ideal conditions and vantage point for viewing the spectacular northern lights from August to April while soaking away your troubles. Rich in minerals, the waters have been used for over 100 years to cure aches and pains, as it continues to do today. It’s also considered one of Alaska’s more easily accessible hot springs and has plenty of diverse activities on offer, including geothermal renewable energy tours, an ice museum with a bar and horse-drawn sleigh rides.

How to get there:

Chena Hot Springs is located at the end of Chena Hot Springs Road, a scenic route where you’ll be able to spot wildlife or take a hike. The commute from Fairbanks is around an hour, with a shuttle service also available.

Ma’in Hot Springs, Jordan

natural hot springs
In close proximity to the hot waterfall. Image: Ma’In Hot Springs Resort & Spa

Best location

This lush desert oasis with its breathtaking waterfalls and hot springs that date back to biblical times is a feast for the eyes within an otherwise arid landscape. In close proximity to the Dead Sea, Ma’In Hot Springs Resort & Spa offers a stunning backdrop of the main hot waterfall cascading down a cliff at searing temperatures of up to 60 degrees celsius, which guests can view from the natural thermal pool. For the ultimate authentic adventure, the Bedouin dining experience is a must after bathing in the healing waters that ancient kings frequented to improve their health.

How to get there:

The waterfalls are an hour’s drive from Amman Queen Alia International Airport or 15 minutes from Madaba.

Travertine Hot Springs, US

natural hot springs
Natural rock pools bordered by limestone. Image: Mono County, California

Best for explorers

For travellers who plan to take a road trip in the US, Travertine Hot Springs in California is a popular destination for visitors and locals alike and features captivating views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. In the past, the site held significance for Ute Indians, who bathed in the warm mineral spring waters for their healing properties. Today, the rock pools are still characterised by their limestone formations and wide open skies in the heart of nature.

How to get there:

From Bridgeport the best way to access the springs is to travel south on Highway 395 and thereafter you can expect to travel on dirt roads.

Pamukkale Thermal Pools, Turkey

natural hot springs
The crystal-clear waters of Pamukkale. Image: Go Türkiye

Best for groups

What first appears to be a snow-filled landscape, which explains the meaning of Pamukkale; which translates to ‘cotton castle’, and is the result of solidified calcium carbonate rich water. These iconic white terraces with crystal-clear blue water are one of the nation’s most popular tourist attractions and this is partly a result of the site’s location, neighbouring the Roman spa city of Heiropolis where ancient ruins abound. Cleopatra herself is believed to have bathed in the pools. Collectively the ruins and the thermal pools were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988.

How to get there:

The closest city to the hot springs is Denizli, which involves a 15-minute drive or there is also a bus service available. If you’re arriving from Istanbul, Denizli can be reached in one hour by plane.

Bagby Hot Springs, US

natural hot springs
Open-air bathhouses with hot soaking tubs. Image: Soak Oregon

Best for hikers

Situated in the dense and magical woodlands of the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon, Bagby Hot Springs can be accessed by foot along a picturesque 2.4-kilometre walking trail that leads to a generous flow of hot mineral water from two underground springs that bathers can enjoy within a selection of private and communal tubs of cedar bathtubs. For natural lovers, the open-air bathhouses and the secluded location is a restorative experience like no other.

How to get there:

Bagby Hot Springs can only be accessed via a short hike in the Mount Hood National Forest, which is around 100 kilometres south-west of Oregon.

Yufuin Onsen, Japan

natural hot springs
Image: Visit Kyushu

Best for spa fanatics

This centuries-old resort town at the foot of Mount Yufu is teeming with shops, cafes, galleries and restaurants with an array of hotels with hot springs to choose from. Renowned for its morning mist and lake, Lake Kinrin, Yufuin Onsen is particularly popular among women as it is believed that the waters of Yufuin beautify the skin with an acidic pH of 1.4. At some locations it’s even possible to drink the water, which is beneficial for certain conditions.

Whether you intend to stay for a day or longer, the town accommodates both with stunning views of Mount Yufu if you settle on either Musoen or Baien. Close to Lake Kinrin there is also a public bath surrounded by greenery. Plus, if you’re accompanied by kids, the Snoopy-themed tea house is a must.

How to get there:

Yufuin is around 45 minutes from the town of Beppu by bus or car. However, you can also travel by train from Oita station, which is covered by the Japan Rail Pass and will take around one hour and fifteen minutes via Beppu.

Banjar Hot Springs, Indonesia

natural hot springs

Best for culture enthusiasts

Located in northern Bali, 5 kilometres south-west of Lovina, Banjar Hot Springs is nestled within lush tropical gardens. The complex is unique, featuring eight dragon spouts and four pools with a restaurant overlooking the grounds. The hot springs are ideally paired with a visit to the nearby Brahmavihara Arama Buddhist monastery.

How to get there:

Banjar is around 30 minutes by car from Munduk or a 15-minute drive from Lovina Beach. There are several transport options: hiring a motorbike, taking a taxi or a bemo (open-air minibus).

Yangpachen Hot Springs, Tibet

natural hot springs
Image: Tibet Travel

Best for mountain lovers

If you’ve ever fancied the experience of snowflakes falling from the sky with a full view of snow-capped mountains in the distance while your body is submerged in steamy hot waters, Yangpachen Hot Springs is likely to delight all your senses at once. Located in a lush green valley surrounded by grazing yaks and nomad dwellings, the springs are situated north-west of Lhasa. Let your travel fatigue or altitude stress melt away by taking a plunge in the outdoor pool.

How to get there:

Yangpachen Hot Springs is around two hours drive from Lhasa City, which has an international airport (Lhasa Gonggar Airport) that is the most common point of entry into Tibet.

Pagosa Springs, US

natural hot springs
Image: The Springs Resort

Best for outdoor adventure

This small mountain town is open to visitors during every season where you can delight in the autumn foliage, explore a winter wonderland or a sea of wildflowers during spring. Based in southern Colorado, along the San Juan River, there are plenty of ways to bathe in the mineral rich waters of the Pagosa Springs – one being the Mother Spring, the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring, which feeds into 25 secluded pools that vary in temperature. This natural paradise is ideal for snowboarding in the winter and trout fishing or whitewater rafting in the summer.

How to get there:

Pagosa Springs is approximately two hours drive from Santa Fe and five hours from Denver by car. If you’re arriving by plane, Durango-La Plata County Airport is the closest airport – around an hour’s drive from the springs.

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, New Mexico

natural hot springs
Image: Ojo Caliente, New Mexico

Best for detoxing

For those who are seeking more of an exclusive experience in a natural setting, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs offers twelve different sulphur-free pools – each with their own healing properties. The property additionally provides its guests access to a detoxifying Mud Pool and the Kiva Pool, which is rich in iron and arsenic minerals. If that doesn’t work, the restorative Native American body therapy with blue corn and prickly pear or the Sacred Journey Aroma Wrap are bound to rejuvenate you. Accommodation is also available for those intending to stay longer.

How to get there:

The property is located around an hour north of Santa Fe in Ojo Caliente, New Mexico.

Kerosene Creek, New Zealand

natural hot springs
Image: 100% Pure New Zealand

Best for romantic escapes

This natural geothermal gem is nestled in the pristine New Zealand bushland, south of Rotorua. Warmed to around 30 degrees celsius, the creek allows visitors to float with the current or cool off at the head of the waterfall once you’ve fully enjoyed gazing up at a forested canopy.

How to get there:

Kerosene Creek makes for a pleasant detour as you head towards Lake Taupo on the State Highway 5. It includes a short walk in order to reach the creek.

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