The best places to chill out in warm water – from Moorish splendour to coastal New Zealand
Termas de la Virgen, Baños
This small town in southern Ecuador, named for its hot springs, sits in the shadow of Tungurahua volcano. In the public pools backpackers mix with families immersing themselves in waters varying from cold to a scorchio 50C. It’s the perfect place to soothe aching muscles after a jungle trek.
WINNING TIP: Hot Water Beach and Kerosene Creek
Hot Water Beach (on the Coromandel Peninsula just off route 25 near Whitianga) is the only place I’ve ever been where you can dig your own Jacuzzi! At low tide, head to the middle of the beach with a spade and a bottle of wine. A few minutes’ digging and you’ll have a personal little bath drawn from the hot spring below (mercurybay.co.nz). Inland, Kerosene Creek (between Rotorua and Taupo just off route 5 in the North Island) has no museum, no gift shop, just a creek that’s incredibly hot. A large section of water sits just below a small fall, creating a natural pool that bubbles up at a toasty 35C. You might come out smelling a little of sulphur, but you can stay as long as you like and it’s free.
This spa has amazing outdoor hot pools on the edge of Lake Rotorua, with three or four pools of varying heat. Once you’ve finished soaking, you wander inside to enjoy the (very cheap) spa treatments. I recommend the hydrotherapy manuka honey body polish. And be sure to buy some of the special mud soap – looks bad, feels great. polynesianspa.co.nz
Baños Colina, Maipo Valley
At this hot spring in the Andes, a short drive from Santiago, the water cascades down a series of pools, each slightly less hot. You can walk in the mountains, then have a long, therapeutic wallow in milky-blue water while you gaze up at the snowy peaks.
A tranquil onsen in rural Japan. Photograph: Mitchell CosterNorikura hot springs
In the Japanese Alps you can combine onsen, or hot spring baths, with walking in the mountains. Stay at a traditional ryokan guesthouse and relax apres-hike by changing into a cotton robe and heading to the baths. In the communal bath, you place your robe in a basket and head naked to the washing area. Scrubbed clean, you slowly immerse yourself in the steaming cauldron and make friends with your fellow bathers. To get there, take a train from Tokyo to Shin-Shimashima and then catch a bus up to one of the resorts.
In Japan, onsen are part of everyday life, their temperature and mineral content state-regulated. In the town of Hakone there are several onsen ryokans – traditional inns with their own hot springs – and they allow day visits. Many of the pools are outdoors in beautiful wooded surroundings, some with views of Mount Fuji. The onsen at Hakone Kowakien Yunessun are split into two areas – a traditional, nude environment and a family zone requiring costumes. In one pool, coffee is added so caffeine can stimulate the skin; another has green tea, to boost weakened immune systems. yunessun.com/english
Hot Creek, Mono County, California
In the middle of a cold and rocky stream, you can move from warm to cold water as the fancy takes you. Hot Creek has parking and changing rooms, but is otherwise undeveloped. It is popular and there are signs warning you to avoid the areas of scalding hot water. Hot Creek is in a remote area, a few miles outside Mammoth Lakes. From US395, go east on Hot Creek Hatchery Road. After less than a mile, you will see a sign to “Hot Creek Geothermal Area”. The last mile or so, before the car park, is unpaved. hotspringsenthusiast.com/CA.asp#HC
Blackstone Hot Springs, New Mexico.Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Quirky Truth or Consequences is the small New Mexico town that changed its name for a radio programme in the 1950s. It used to be called Hot Springs and is built over thermal waters. There are plenty of small motels with their own hot tubs, some restored and some a little more genuinely “vintage”. The town is a wonderful base for exploring New Mexico and the spring waters are wonderful. And it’s cheap: lots of the motels let you pay just to use their hot springs even if you’re not staying.
Tassajara thermal baths, California
Tassajara is the mountain retreat of the late great Zen Master, Shunryu Suzuki. In the summer (from 29 April) it’s open to visitors, and a day’s visit to the Japanese-style thermal baths is unforgettable. Beautifully designed in every detail, the inside plunge pools of natural hot springs (separate pools for men and women, so clothes are optional) are properly hot and soothe both body and soul. Outdoor plunge pools too, sunny decks for relaxing, and a glorious cool plunge in the river. You won’t want to leave, which is why you can stay for a few days in the simple accommodation. sfzc.org/tassajara
Screw’s sulphur spa, Wotten Waven
The village of Wotten Waven is in the Roseau valley, an area of hot sulphur springs. This spa has four hot pools, with a constant flow of mineral-rich water. You lie in the natural pools looking up at a canopy of lianas and vines. Screw, the Rastafarian creator of this tropical paradise, has the warmest welcome, and charges from US$10 for a 45-minute session.
Goudini spa resort, Cape Town
Goudini is a self-catering resort based around three oudoor thermally heated swimming pools (each one is a different temperature) and one indoor pool. The main pool also has a super tube. There are various accommodation options including four-bed rondavels with brai (bbq). It’s a great family resort with lovely mountain surroundings. If you can tear yourself away for a day visit the malaria free Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve or visit a few wine estates. Located one hour from Capetown on the Route 62 wine route, then off the N1 just North of Paarl. goudinispa.co.za
Hot springs, Dilla
On the main Hwassa/Dilla road, a few kilometres before reaching Dilla, stands a rusty iron notice with the unlikely proclamation of “swimming pool” and an arrow pointing in the direction of a dirt track dipping sharply down to the right. The track is steep, rough and winding but can be negotiated by local taxi and a careful driver in about 10 minutes. The “swimming pool” is still a figment of someone’s imagination but the hot springs are real and wonderful. Don’t expect any luxuries (take your own towel) but for 10 birr (40p) you get a ticket and a small bar of scented soap which entitles you to have piping hot shower and/or bath with enough steam in the small wooden cubicles for your own private sauna. Recover with chai or boona (tea or coffee) from the kiosk then walk the short distance along the river to the waterfall and natural pool where you can indeed swim.
Ma’in hot springs
Whether you go for a budget public bathe or to the luxurious hotel spa, you can benefit from the Ma’in hot springs. High thermal waterfalls – nature’s ultimate power shower – blissfully toasty pools and an underground rock sauna to soothe and relax. It’s a two-hour scenic drive from Amman by bus or taxi. sixsenses.com
Bab Al Harah, Petra
A hammam is blissful when muscles are weary and the body grubby. After a couple of days’ trekking in the desert at Wadi Rum, the hamman just before the site at Petra provides sublime refreshment. The staff are skilful and welcoming: you leave cleansed and reinvigorated, ready to explore the wonders of the ancient city. Close to the entrance of Petra, beside the Mövenpick hotel
Thap Ba mud baths, Nha Trang
An oasis of calm and relaxation awaits you at these mud baths and hot springs. Situated on the outskirts of the city and set in woodland, eucalyptus trees and gardens, this therapeutic experience is yours for £3.20p for the day. First you hop into a mud tub for 20 minutes, then you slop your way to a sunbathing area and let the mud dry on your skin before washing off in a vigorating hot mineral power shower. Your skin feels so smooth and any stress has faded away. That’s just the beginning. Into another tub of hot mineral spring water, 38C, which is pretty hot and lie and relax for 30 minutes. There are claims for good health and conditions like arthritis and rheumatism, but you will feel relaxed and refreshed. More power showers and then walk down through fragrant gardens to waterfalls and pools, one cool, one very hot, one for children. And, yes, the mud does rinse out of your swimming gear after a day or two. thapbahotspring.com.vn
Saturnia thermal water falls. Photograph: AlamySaturnia, Tuscany
At the small rocky village of Saturnia, close to the hill town of Pitigliano, you can wallow for free in the sulphurous spring water that gushes out of the ground at 37C and tumbles down a series of waterfalls. You can usually find a quiet rock pool and watch the Italians having fun. Go at dawn to have the place to yourself. saturniaonline.it
Carcalla Therme, Baden-Baden
Forgo any inhibitions and don your birthday suit in Germany’s thermal bath mecca. Caracalla spa has indoor and outdoor spas and saunas to keep you relaxed yet stimulated throughout the day. Nudity is the norm in the upstairs sauna level. In January the bath’s central building and surrounds light up at night, creating a glowing atmosphere. And if it snows during an outdoor bath session, even better.
Moorish baths in Cordoba, Spain.Hammams de al Andalus, Cordoba
Escape the heat of the day (and the hordes) in theses Moorish baths. Relax while enjoying a traditional massage or refresh in the clear blue pools while glimpsing the sky through the star-shaped roof lights. Top it off with Arabic pastries and tea. hammamspain.es/cordoba
Alhama de Granada
Alhama, 50km from Granada, has hot springs which the Arabs and Romans used. You can pay to use the hotel baths, but locals scramble down the banks of the river, where the hot springs gush out of a hole in the hotel walls, and bathe in natural pools. To get there, walk out of the town at its lower end, and follow the signposted road for about 2km.
El Hammam, Malaga
This hammam is the antithesis of the Costa del Sol. Calm, dimly lit, it is as authentic as I have found outside of Turkey. You can have a steam – no time limit – or book a massage as part of a package. The massage takes place either in the hammam itself on a marble slab, or (for more privacy) in a separate room. Afterward you can rest on the outside terrace with herbal tea. elhammam.com
Burgerbad thermal baths, Leukerbad
The largest alpine thermal spa in Europe, with 10 indoor and outdoor pools on four levels, ranging from blissfully warm to an almost-can’t-stand-it natural watery sauna at 43C. Water jets pummel and massage every part of your body. It’s family-friendly, with a huge curly waterslide. And the view! At 1,400m high, you can stare across the valleys to the Matterhorn as you soak away the day’s hiking or skiing. burgerbad.ch/en/welcome.cfm
Sulphur pool, Terra Nostra park
Bathe in the warm and yellowy waters of the sulphur pool in the beautiful park of Terra Nostra, surrounded by exotic plantings of primeval ferns, listening to the sounds of the peacocks. If you are lucky enough to be staying at the Terra Nostra hotel you can take a dip at anytime, otherwise you just pay a minimal fee for entry into this beautiful park. The locals in this area bathe in the warm waters of the Ribeira Quente and even cook their stews by burying them in the earth and letting them simmer. Also visit the more dramatic boiling geysers in the same town.terranostragardenhotel.com
Thermal pool at Caldeira Velha park
I had this little mineral pool all to myself one March day, after visiting the Lake of Fire in the centre of Sao Miguel island. It’s nicely warm on a cold day, with a pretty waterfall, all surrounded by lush vegetation. A high iron content has coloured the water and surrounding rocks orange. There are a few changing huts, picnic tables, and steaming fumaroles (geysers) nearby. magical-azores-islands.com/Caldeira-Velha-Sao-Miguel.html
Kilcullen seaweed baths, Sligo
The seaweed baths in Enniscrone are Ireland’s earthy answer to a hammam. It’s refreshingly simple: steam yourself in a cabinet straight out of silent films, and then step into a hot bath infused with fresh seaweed. If you want to wake yourself up afterwards, have a cold shower or jump into the sea. The oils leave the skin silky, and the ambience is unfussy. The prices are pre-crazy and there is no time limit. Open all year round. kilcullenseaweedbaths.com
Sultaniye Baths, Lake Koycegiz
These outdoor baths are right on the shore of this lake on the Lycian coast. Last October chilly rain encouraged me to wallow straight down into the shallow bath of warm mud. In summer apparently, the form is to allow the air to dry you afterwards. Instead, I lowered myself gingerly into a very hot (40C) thermal mineral pool and read the long list of what exactly was benefiting my skin. It’s apparently “radioactive, hyperthermal, hypertonic” – good for arthritis, rheumatism, and skin complaints. There are tourists here – it is a short boat ride from the Carian cliff tombs and the ruins of Kaunos. But there are also many locals, taking their “cure” seriously. godalyan.com/mudbath.htm
Old Turkish Bath, Fethiye
Built in the 16th century, this is a beautiful mixed hammam – a fantastic place to be steamed, scrubbed and massaged. With most hammams now based in hotels this is an original alternative with its traditional Moorish design and architecture (check out the brass fittings). It is professional and welcoming, swimwear is worn, and girls can request a female masseuse. You really do feel amazing, afterwards: radiant and squeaky clean. oldturkishbath.com
Lake Vouliagmeni, near Athens
About an hour’s drive south of Athens lies Voulgiameni Lake:(sunken lake in English), a mineral/thermal lake (at a constant temperature of around 25C with therapeutic properties. Story has it that millions of years ago it was a cave. But its roof collapsed due to the heat and moisture generated by the hot springs. So now it’s an open crater in which you can swim/bathe, exercise and lounge around. There are change/shower facilities and a cafe/restaurant on site. And if you get bored at any stage, there’s always the beach opposite or the trendy suburb of Glyfada not far away for a spot of shopping. Poseidonos Avenue, Voulgiameni
Rennes les Bains
Nestled in a valley of the River Sals, Rennes-les-Bains is a picturesque retreat for those in search of relaxation. This Roman spa town has a Turkish bath and hot and cold springs with the strong bath or “bain fort” reaching temperatures of up to 46C, perfect for soaking in on a chilly winter’s night. The popular waters are still used today as a natural cure for joint problems and skin conditions. renneslesbains.org/renneslesbains/
Gellert Baths, Budapest
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to visiting a spa in Budapest. The Gellert Baths, though, are revered by many and their grandeur means they are the most iconic in the city. The image that stands out for me though is not the still blue waters flagged by magnificent pillars, but that of the outdoor pool and its wave machine.The turbines gear up every hour and their force is unrivalled. You barely have enough time to stand up before the next wave comes crashing in. gellertbath.com
Kaupinoja sauna, Tampere
Only 30 minutes’ stroll from the centre of Tampere, Kaupinoja sauna will always be a fond memory. Every sauna in Finland seems to claim it is Finland’s best, but the friendly atmosphere, beautiful surroundings and casual vibe (regardless of whether you’re a local or not) make Kaupinoja my favourite place to spend the weekend, let alone an hour or two. Take trunks, a towel and be ready to get really hot, really cold, really relaxed.
Article from: guardian.co.uk
For more info about Baños visit: www.visitecuador.com.ec