From flothetta to snake massages, there are many wellness rituals that different cultures believe to be vital for good health. One common treatment ingredient that shows up throughout history and around the world is mud. Ancient Greeks believed that mud could heal ulcers and migraines. In Bulgarian culture, mud is also said to have anti-inflammatory and detoxifying properties. Whether these claims are to be fully believed or not, one thing is undeniable — soaking in a mud bath can be an incredibly relaxing, and oftentimes joy-inducing, experience. Here are nine mud baths to try around the world.
1. Hell’s Gate — New Zealand
Also known as “the center of Earth,” Hell’s Gate is one of New Zealand’s most historic spots, fabled for the healing properties of its mud. According to the Māori who have ritualized the practice for over 800 years, the thermal mud and sulfur-rich mineral water revitalize the whole body. At Hell’s Gate, travelers can choose their own experience, such as having a private mud bath or going for a semi-private sulfur spa. A “Tikitere Experience” includes a walk through the geothermal reserve where land coral, active mud volcanoes, and geysers can be found, followed by a sulfur soak.
2. El Totumo — Colombia
Colombia’s El Totumo volcano offers a messy, fully immersive mud bath experience. As legend has it, a local priest “tamed” this volcano hundreds of years ago, and turned it from a deadly force of nature into a revitalizing spa. Descending down a steep ladder into the mud, visitors will soon realize the intimacy of the experience given the modest size of the pool. Nobody comes out of El Totumo clean — wellness-enthusiasts will be fully covered in mud, head to toe. There is a place to wash up after the experience, where the local women hand out towels and help remove the mud from bathers’ hair.
3. Boryeong Mud Festival — Boryeong, South Korea
When it comes to skincare, no one gets more creative than South Korea. Believed to soften skin and give it that coveted glisten, mud has been properly celebrated here for centuries. Every July, there is even a festival dedicated to the stuff. Boryeong Mud Festival takes the love for mud to a whole new level, celebrating it with face painting, mudslides, mud pools, bouncy castles, and events which travelers can (and should) attend fully covered in mud.
4. Lake Techirghiol — Romania
Romanian legend has it that an old man got stuck in the mud while crossing Lake Techirghiol and to his surprise, upon getting out, he realized that his eyes were cured and he could see like a young man again. Since then, locals have frequented the lake hoping to feel rejuvenated. A popular summer vacation spot, Lake Techirghiol makes for a great day trip for those who want to see if the legend is true and experience Romania’s vibrant and affordable Black Sea coast.
5. Milky Way Lagoon — Palau
Palau is an island full of surprises and its Milky Way Lagoon is not what one might expect a mud bath to look like. Turquoise blue water covers a smooth clay bottom tucked into a secluded area of the island that can only be reached by boat. Here, travelers will find the type of clay that has gained a great level of popularity in the beauty and wellness world for its said properties of rejuvenating skin and making it appear younger.
6. Lake Atanasovsko — Burgas, Bulgaria
Bulgarians believe in the healing power of mud baths as a way to cure rheumatism, with more than 5,000 locals visiting Lake Atanasovsko during a three-day wellness weekend in August. Located just under two miles out of Burgas, locals and travelers can hike to the lake as a part of their wellness routine.
7. Miravalles Volcano — Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s pura vida lifestyle translates into the reverence of wellness as a part of local culture and values. Located in the Guanacaste Province just 30 miles out of Liberia, Miravalles Volcano is a hotspot for mud baths and soaks. Locals and travelers come here to experience the healthy properties of the mud’s minerals. Make a day out of it by going for a hike and visiting the area’s Yoko Termales hot springs.
8. Lake Köyceğiz — Dalyan, Turkey
Turkish culture highly values mud baths as a way to remove eczema and heal arthritis. The mud in Lake Köyceğiz has a very high density and salt content, making bodies float right up — providing an added relaxation benefit. The bottom of the lake is covered in stones that prevent slipping, so there is no need for special shoes.
9. Askja Volcano — Iceland
Located in a remote part of Iceland, Askja is a much more low-key spot than the famous Blue Lagoon when health and wellness are the priority. Hike 30 minutes up to the crater of Víti Volcano to enjoy a full-on mud soak. Many prefer Askja for its turquoise water that makes for the perfect background panorama to accompany the bath.