Before the days of jetted tubs, spas, and heated pools, the only real place to soak in hot water not in your bath tub was to visit a geothermal hot spring. Although not an option for some, you might be surprised to learn that you live closer to a hot spring than you think. In fact, there are hot springs on every continent produced by superheated groundwater pushed to the surface by the extreme heat from the Earth’s core. So pass on what is likely a coal-powered soak and visit one of these classic all-natural spring-fed soaks.
The Blue Lagoon – Iceland
(images via big-ashb; diego cupelo; bonus1up)
One of the most visited tourist destinations in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon or Bláa lónið is fed by the output of nearby Svartsengi geothermal power plant. Superheated water is vented from the ground as steam near a lava flow and used to spin turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger, providing heat for a municipal hot water. Then the water is fed into the lagoon at a very agreeable 104°F for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs – Colorado, USA
(images via Strawberry Park Hot Springs)
A favorite stopover for sore-muscled skiers and snowboarders, Strawberry Park Hot Springs, just outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado has a series of hot soaking pools crafted out of locally-sourced river rocks. The pools vary in temperature from warm to hot and are open to families and kids of all ages, but no one under eighteen is permitted after dark, when the hot springs become clothing optional.
Jigokudani Hot Springs – Japan
(images via melanie-m; kool-kini; krapp1979; seancrane)
Part of the Joshinetsu Kogen National Park, the “Jigokudani Monkey Park” is located in the valley of the Yokoyu-River and is the chosen home of more than 100 Japanese Macaques, Japan’s indigenous monkeys. The monkeys enjoy bathing especially during the cold winter months when temperatures drop below freezing and the valley is covered by a thick layer of snow. The monkeys are usually quite happy to share their little slice of heaven with human soakers.
The Roman Baths – Bath, UK
(images via Alun Salt)
Located in the City of Bath in southwest England, the springs at Bath were first discovered in 836 by the British king Bladud who built the first baths. After centuries of use, the water that flows through the Roman Baths are now considered unsafe for bathing, partly because the water passes through the original lead pipes. However, the nearby Thermae Bath Spa allows modern-day bathers to experience the waters via a series of more recently-drilled boreholes.
Snorralaug Hot Spring – Iceland
(images via zorglubb; Inga Sig.; Gretar Willam)
First built by the elder statesman of Icelandic geothermal energy, Snorri Sturlusson, the recently restored pool at Snorralaug sits atop a grassy hill in the. The round hot spring pool at Snorralaug is about 15 feet across, paved with gray and brown basalt tiles, and is the same temperature as it was when Snorri first dipped his toe in it a thousand years ago.
Glenwood Hot Springs – Colorado, USA
(images via Beinecke Library; Bill Dayton; Christoph Schrey)
Located in an area of abundant geothermic activity, at the juncture of the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers, the pools at Glenwood Hot Springs are one of several spots in and around Glenwood Springs, Colorado where you can get a hot soak or a good sit in a vapor cave. First “discovered” by Capt. Richard Sopris in 1860, the hot springs at Glenwood were long visited by the Ute Indians before they were resettled in reservations in western Colorado. Situated on I-70 and just a few short blocks from an Amtrak stop, Glenwood Hot Springs are easily accessible for travelers.
Sakurajima Hot Springs – Japan
(images via danny bean; ; Kagoshima Travel Guide; TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋)
Sakurajima is an active composite volcano and a former island which is now connected to the mainland of Japan. Bathers enjoying either the inside or outside pools can enjoy a view of the volcanic activity across the water.
Ouray Hot Springs – Colorado, USA
(images via cw_anderson; photojq; narrowgauge.org; DMOE)
Nestled in a rocky canyon of southwestern Colorado, Ouray’s 250 foot public pool contains over a million gallons of crystal clear natural hot springs water, free from the strong smell of sulfur typical of many hot springs. If you visit Ouray, be sure to drink lots of water, as soaking in these baths 8,000 feet above sea level will quickly dehydrate flatlanders and contribute to altitude sickness.
Baños del Inca – Cajamarca, Peru
(images via bioramas; thousandflavorscom; sumaqperu)
Los Baños del Inca are mineral hot springs located about 3.5mi east of Cajamarca. Los Baños del Inca is also famous for its role in the capture of Atahualpa, the last emperor of the Incan Empire. He is said to have been camped at the springs, or according to some stories, bathing here with a number of women, at the time Spaniard Francisco Pizarro arrived.
Liard River Hot Springs – British Columbia, Canada
(images via ; Jennifer Stephenson; Sue Thomas; Tourism Northern Rockies; DrTusk)
Considered by some as one of the best stops on the Alaskan Highway, Liard River Hot Springs in the Canadian province of British Columbia, has two hot spring pools: Alpha and Beta. The pools are a steamy 107°-126°F, making them enjoyable in even the coldest of Canadian winters.