Ancient Egyptians did it. Romans did it. Even Beyoncé did it (in Iceland, for Jay-Z’s 42nd birthday).
Since the beginnings of civilization, humans have enjoyed soaking in mineral-rich, geothermally heated waters. In the past, communities formed around these natural resources, harnessing the steamy waters to create a hygienic social hub for religious ceremonies, celebrations, and small talk.
While public bathhouses may have lost some of their necessity with the advent of indoor plumbing, natural hot springs can still be found in all over the world. So, if you’re wanting to soak in the views, head to one of these seven locations for a dip in nature’s very own jacuzzi.
1. Jhinu Danda, Nepal
A favorite along the route to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal, Jhinu Danda is a Himalayan village that takes two days of trekking to reach. The path to the village is made of stone steps carved into the mountainside, so your backside will be aching for a dip in these pools by the time you get there. Spend the night in one of the many guesthouses in the village, then wake up with the sunrise and head down to the river at first light. Resist the temptation to go when you first arrive or else risk overcrowded, not-so-hot springs. You have to rinse off before entering the pools, so bring shampoo and make a shower out of it.
2. Termas Geometricas, Chile
These springs are located just south of the thrill-seeking capital of Pucón, where volcano trekking and whitewater rafting can get your adrenaline pumping before you slow it down in a valley of steaming pools. A red wooden walkway weaves between springs and waterfalls draped with tangled greenery, all set in the riverbed of a canyon. It’s drop-dead gorgeous and primed to give all of your Insta followers major FOMO. Work your way between the hot and cold pools before hitting up the cafe on site for a snack from their woodfire oven.
3. Dunton Hot Springs, Colorado
If you like a good dose of luxury alongside your relaxation, the Colorado town of Dunton Hot Springs should tick all your boxes. Back in its heyday, the town was filled with miners hunting for gold, but its remote location meant transport was near to impossible. The original log cabins, abandoned for decades, are now rustic-chic accommodations (with indoor plumbing!) where you can relax in the solitude of the San Juan Mountains. With no cell service, fill up your unplugged days with hiking on the nearby trails at Telluride, horseback riding through the woods, or fly fishing in the Dolores River — or just sit back and steep with a snow-capped backdrop in one of the indoor or outdoor hot springs.
4. Kurokawa Onsen, Japan
Japan is well-known for its hot spring culture, and this onsen in Kurokawa is one of the best ways to experience the seclusion and beauty of the tradition. The town sits in a forested gorge in the mountains of Kumamoto and has over 30 traditional ryokan dedicated to the hot springs. Stay at one of them to get access to the inn’s private hot springs or else go to one of the public bathhouses. If you have any tattoos, you’ll want to make sure they are covered, as many public hot springs in Japan won’t allow them to be visible.
5. Pamukkale, Turkey
Pamukkale — meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish — gets its name from the striking white limestone terraced pools that once warmed the citizens of ancient Hierapolis. The spa town is still one of the most popular places to visit in Turkey today (there are over 2 million visitors each year), so to escape the crowds, spend the night close by and hit the springs when they first open. No shoes are allowed, so be sure to bring a bag for your belongings.
6. Hveragerði, Iceland
If you want to sit in the same water as Beyonce, head to the Insta-famous Blue Lagoon, but those looking for a bit more of an adventure should try out Hveragerði, just 40-km outside of Reykjavik. The town is spread over a 5,000-year-old lava field, meaning almost everyone has a hot spring in their backyard. Visit the geothermal park to dig your feet in the hot springs and clay bath before enjoying the traditional black bread baked in the heat of the earth at nearby Kjöt og Kúnst, or hike the river trail to experience a soak in a warm river as it cuts between the verdant hills of Icelandic countryside.
7. Welcome Flat Hot Pools, New Zealand
Head to the Copland Track in New Zealand’s South Island to reach these secluded hot springs set against the backdrop of the Sierra Range. After the 7-hour hike (or “tramp” as the Kiwis call it) through forest and grasslands, drop your gear at the Department of Conversation hut nearby before resting your bones in some mud-bottomed pools. In winter, you might even have live entertainment in the form of far-off avalanches. Be sure to try the Champagne pool for a whole new sensory experience.
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