A roundup of the world’s best hot spring destinations
written by Julia Hammond
After a tiring day sightseeing there’s nothing better than soaking in a warm tub. Some of the world’s best thermal hotspots allow you to do just that amid spectacular surroundings, while others are strictly for your eyes only with temperatures far too high to be safe for human skin. Travel to destinations as far flung as Iceland, Chile and New Zealand to experience these magical places for yourself. Here’s our roundup of the world’s best hot spring destinations.
The colourful one: Yellowstone, USA
The brightly coloured Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the US and the third biggest in the world. Located in Yellowstone National Park, its rainbow is down to microbial mats – the pigments are produced by plants and algae. Meanwhile the deep blue pool in the middle is sterile, thanks to the intense heat emanating from the ground. Temperatures reach around the 70 °C mark so this is one to admire from a distance – no bathing permitted.
The photogenic one: Pamukkale, Turkey
Its name translates to “cotton castle” and this series of geothermal pools atop travertine terraces is one of the prettiest places in Turkey. In all, there are 17 hot springs. The coolest have a temperature of 35 °C, while others reach 100 °C. As the water flows, it deposits calcium carbonate, which eventually hardens to form travertine. Its simple beauty ensures a steady stream of visitors keen to relax in this incredible place and grab a souvenir photo or two.
The evening one: Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Iceland has many geothermally heated baths but none wins over the visiting tourists quite like the Blue Lagoon. Using the waste water from a nearby power station and surrounded by cooled lava, the place has a raw, industrial vibe. But this spa is the best in the country and you’d be foolish to overlook it. Time your visit for an autumn or winter evening, grab a glass of wine from the swim-up bar and hope the Northern Lights show up to the party.
The wildlife one: Jigokudani valley, Japan
For most visitors, winter at the Jigokudani Monkey Park means one thing: the chance to see snow monkeys warming up in the onsen. Stay at the Korakukan Inn and you might even find yourself sharing the tub with these fluffy creatures who are very used to human company. Be warned though, if you leave your clothes lying around there’s a good chance these light-fingered macaques might make off with them.
The DIY one: Hot Water Beach, New Zealand
Yes, you read that right: visit New Zealand’s Hot Water Beach and you will have to dig your own thermal bath from the sand. A couple of hours either side of low tide, it’s possible to wallow in a hollow with a view of the ocean. Local hotels will lend you a spade, but be prepared: the water can get a little warm. Those in the know bring a bucket too so they can throw in some sea water. And keep an eye on the time. As soon as the tide comes in all traces of your little plunge pool will be swept away by the waves.
The high altitude one: El Tatio, Chile
High in the Chilean Andes you’ll find the El Tatio geyser field, altitude 4320 metres above sea level. It’s best viewed at dawn, so you’ll need to be an early riser to appreciate its steam to best effect. Alongside the geysers and mudpots are a series of thermal pools suitable for bathing. Grab your snaps and then chuck on a swimsuit for the ultimate dip.
Which will you visit first? Why not get it touch with Mundana to firm up your plans?