People have been enjoying the benefits of thermal spas, bathing in the water from natural hot springs, across the globe for thousands of years. Floating in the mineral-rich water as steam rises up around you is a pleasure I’d highly recommend.
One of my first experiences of a luxurious thermal spa was in Austria at the quirky Rogner Bad Blumau. The numerous pools with water temperatures ranging from chilly to sizzling were a revelation.
In Japan, I discovered traditional Onsen. Here, stripping naked is a requirement that was surprisingly less embarrassing than I expected it to be. In the majority of thermal spas, however, I would recommend keeping something on!
While the mineral content in the water varies from one hot spring to another, they all claim to be beneficial to your health and well being in many ways. When I asked my fellow bloggers about their favourite hot springs around the world, it was the variety of experiences that most struck me. From Iceland to Mexico here’s our round-up of some of the best thermal spas in the world.
Our favourite thermal spas and hot springs in Europe and beyond
Rogner Bad Blumau, Austria
Recommended by Kathryn, Travel With Kat
An overnight stay costs from 99 euros | Day packages are also available
This colourful and unique hotel and thermal spa was designed by the famous Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. In this quirky setting, a series of indoor and outdoor pools wil transport you, in temperature at least, from the North Sea to the South Sea. The highly mineralised water is constantly replenished from the Vulkania Spring where the water temperature is over 47 degrees celsius as it leaves the ground.
The waters throughout this stunning thermal spa are said to have many curative effects including improving blood circulation, metabolism, and skin.
In addition to the numerous thermal pools, there’s also a large outdoor sports pool and wave pool and all the pools are kept at a constant temperature throughout the year.
Onsite, there’s a superb restaurant while the surrounding countryside in the rolling Styrian hills is excellent for walking and cycling between trips to the spa and pools. The Roger Bad Blumau in the Styria region of Austria is the perfect place to escape for a relaxing and rejuvenating break.
How to get there: Roger Bad Blumau is off the highway A2 linking Graz and Vienna. Take the exit Sebersdorf/Bad Waltersdorf and drive through Bad Waltersdorf in the direction of Leitersdorf. After a short while, you will see Rogner Bad Blumau on the righthand side.
Secret Lagoon, Flúðir, Iceland
Recommended by Mayuri, To Some Place New
3000 ISK (about £17 GBP) | Onsite restaurant | Onsite toilets
Secret Lagoon is a beautiful hot spring in a scenic setting, said to be one of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland. It is located in the southern part of the country and is a perfect stop on the popular Golden Circle Route.
There are no lifeguards here, but the pool is not deep, and children are allowed in. Flotation aids are available for visitors to use.
There are changing facilities and a nice café on site selling light snacks and sandwiches
How to get there: There is no public transport to the lagoon. The best way to visit the Secret Lagoon is on an organised tour or you can self-drive. There is an onsite car park.
Saturnia Hot Springs, Italy
Recommended by Martina, Places of Juma
FREE | Onsite restaurant | Onsite toilets
One of the most beautiful places to swim in Tuscany is Saturnia Springs in Italy. A unique panorama awaits you here!
Naturally formed, steaming white sinter baths form turquoise blue pools and are open to the public free of charge. Instagrammers, families with children, the elderly and couples meet here to swim together, take great photos and or just to picnic by the river.
Bathing in this natural thermal spa is said to be very good for you. Thanks to its high sulphur content, it works well against inflammatory diseases such as rheumatism and arthritis. And this spa is also said to have a rejuvenating effect, making your skin soft and smooth. It is advised that you do not stay in any longer than 15 minutes.
You can visit Saturnia Springs all year round. However, you should try to avoid the weekends as this is definitely the busiest time. The best time to take a dip is early in the morning when you have this natural spring almost all to yourself and the scenery is also at its best!
How to get there: The easiest way to get here is by driving as there is no public transport to the springs in the far south of Tuscany. There is a public car park outside the entrance.
Las Grutas Tolantongo, Mexico
Recommended by Shelley, Travel Mexico Solo
150 pesos (about £4.50) | Onsite restaurant, toilets and parking | Swimming shoes required
Las Grutas Tolantongo is among the best off the beaten track Mexican destinations. Located in the Central Mexico state of Hidalgo, many visit on an overnight trip from Mexico City or San Miguel de Allende, as its about four hours from both cities.
For swimmers, the Tolantongo Grutas (AKA Tolantongo Caves) is a watery paradise! The entire park is very large, with several distinct areas including the River, the Cave and Tunnel, the Hot Springs/Pools, and more.
The Tolantongo Pools, built onto the side of a cliff, are the ones seen most in photos. The River, however, is better for swimming and equally as beautiful. The Cave and Tunnel, located next to one another, is where the hot water comes from that feeds out to the whole site.
The word Tolantongo comes from a Nahuatl/Aztec word meaning, “where it feels warm,” as its water is warm all year long.
It’s the perfect year-round destination, and you can camp there or rent a hotel room onsite. There are about 10 restaurants at Las Grutas Tolantongo, as well as convenience stores, medical facilities and lockers. They even have a zipline (for an additional $200 pesos), a suspension bridge and some hiking trails — for those who want to do more than just swim.
How to get there: The nearest bus station is in Ixmiquilpan, Mexico, about an hour away.
Pamukkale Travertines, Turkey
Recommended by De Wet & Jin, Museum of Wander
100 Turkish Lyra | Onsite restaurant and toilet facilities | Swimming shoes recommended as the travertines can have sharp edges
Surreal is the only way to describe Pamukkale. These hot springs in Turkey have welcomed bathers since Roman times. The warm, mineral-rich waters flow down the hillside, leaving behind small amounts of calcium deposits. Over the centuries these deposits have built up to create the dazzling white Pamukkale or Cotton Castle.
Pale blue pools and travertines intersect the Cotton Castle, where visitors can swim, bathe and splash around. It truly is a surreal experience swimming in these warm pools, surrounded by what look like fluffy mountains of frozen cotton candy.
How to get there: Pamukkale is easily reached from Denizli airport, about 20 km away. It’s also possible to visit Pamukkale on a day trip from the nearby coastal resort towns of Kusadasi or Bodrum. Once in the small town, you can walk to the springs. If driving, there is a car park at the North Entrance. Many hotels provide free shuttle buses.
Cleopatra’s Pool, Turkey
Recommended by JB, Will Fly for Food
50TL | Onsite toilets
How often do you get the opportunity to swim with Roman columns that date back thousands of years?
Above the famed calcium travertine pools in Pamukkale (see above), is the Antique Pool, an open-air thermal spa surrounded by palm trees, oleanders, and cypresses. It dates back to Roman times when Hierapolis was still a thriving health centre.
Filled with mineral-rich waters from Pamukkale’s hot springs, bathers would flock to the area to swim in its warm calcium-laden waters that were said to benefit people with various ailments like skin diseases, circulation problems, and rheumatism.
What makes the Antique Pool truly unique are the marble Doric columns and plinths that litter its bottom. They’re remnants of the Roman Temple of Apollo that once stood near the pool. A massive earthquake in the 7th century AD toppled the temple, causing some of its columns to fall into the pool where they remain to this day. The Antique Pool was a gift from Marc Anthony to Cleopatra, hence the more popular name “Cleopatra’s Pool”.
How to get there: Most bathers will reach the pool by walking uphill and crossing the calcium travertines via the Pamukkale Town Entrance. If you have a car, then the easiest way would be to park and enter through the South Entrance. People taking the minibus (dolmus) from Denizli can take it all the way to the North Entrance and walk to the Antique Pool. Just tell the driver you’d like to get off at Örenyeri kuzey giriş (uh-REHN-yeh-ree koo-ZEY gee-reesh), which means “archaeological site north entrance”.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Recommended by Victoria, Iceland Trippers
From 6,990 kr (about £40) | Luxury packages also available | Onsite restaurant, toilets and changing facilities | Lifeguards
The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is one of the coolest places to swim in the world! It is unique because the silica in the water makes it appear a pristine blue colour! The water is hot from geothermal energy which makes it perfect for swimming all year round. You can enjoy the Blue Lagoon in Iceland in both summer with the midnight sun, and in winter in the snow and maybe even the Northern Lights overhead!
The Blue Lagoon is quite large which means that although it is a popular tourist attraction, there are many nooks that you can have to yourself if you so desire. When you aren’t swimming in the lagoon, there are free steam and dry saunas for your use. The steam sauna is heated with geothermal energy.
The Lava Restaurant is included in some ticket packages, depending on which one you pick. For lunch, you can eat in your robe, but after 4 pm, you must wear clothes appropriate for dinner. The restaurant features floor to ceiling windows of the lagoon.
When visiting the Blue Lagoon, budget at least 2-4 hours for a magical experience.
What ages can visit: Blue Lagoon in Iceland is suitable for everyone over the age of two. Children younger than two years of age are sensitive to the mineral content in the water and are not allowed to enter the water.
Children under the age of eight are required to wear floaties which are available free of charge.
How to get there: Transfer buses connect Reykjavik city centre and Keflavik Airport to the Blue Lagoon but the best way to get to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland is to drive yourself in a rental car. Alternatively, day trips often include Blue Lagoon on their route.
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