16TH JUN 2017
OUR FAVOURITE NATURAL HOT SPRINGS
We’re firm believers that there's nothing better to clear the mind and sooth the soul than sinking into a nice hot bath after a long day. But if you want to take it to the next level then you need to experience the wonders of thermal hot springs.
Balneology is the scientific study of the therapeutic benefits of naturally occurring mineral waters. And yes, it’s really a thing! In fact, throughout Europe and Japan, balneology, or hot springs therapy, is widely used as part of routine medical care.
Recently the benefits of hot springs therapy have become pretty popular amongst wellness seekers and adventurous travellers alike. So, if your keen to work a little self-care into your next travel itinerary, we’ve rounded up our favourite spots for you to try.
1. NORIKURA KOGEN ONSEN, Japan
As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens (hot springs) scattered throughout all of its major islands. Japanese people believe that a good soak in proper onsen heals all manner of aches, pains and diseases. The Japanese even have a word for this called "Onsen Therapy".
Our favourite is Nestled deep within the Northern Japan Alps, at the foot of Mt. Norikura, in a small ryokan called Miharashi. The best time to visit is autumn, where you can bath outside in the unique white sulphuric blend of soothing water and watch the red and yellow leaves falling down around you.
2. THE TERMAS DE POLQUES, Bolivia
The Bolivia Salt Flats, or Salar de Uyuni, might be one of the most stunning places on Earth, and is pretty much a photographer’s (and Instagrammer’s) dream.
One of it’s attractions is the naturally occurring hot springs that are formed outside the many lagoons in the area. The only manmade developments are walls to contain the water and some small shacks with see-through curtains that you can change behind. If you can get there just after sunrise, you can usually have the pools to yourself, to enjoy getting warm and toasty in the pristine waters whilst taking in the breath-taking views in peace. At only 60 cents an entry, it’s well worth a visit.
3. SELJAVALLALAUG, Iceland
Like Japan, Iceland is a hotbed of volcanic activity, and so hot springs are somewhat of a national pastime. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, or know someone who’s been there, then you’ve probably heard of The Blue Lagoon Spa, which undoubtabley is worth a visit. But if you’re willing to get off the beaten track, there are far less crowded and more hidden gems to explore. Seljavallalaug is one of these, and it’s certainly not featured on the typical tour bus route. It’s the oldest and most authentic outdoor bathing pool in Iceland. It’s nestled deep in a narrow valley below the infamous Eyjafjallajökull, in the southern part of the Island. The pool‘s water stems from a natural hot spring close by and it’s completely surrounded by green mountain ranges, with not a soul in site. Better yet it’s free.
4. PANTELLERIA, Italy
Pantelleria is a little-known Island in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisa. Sometimes referred to as the 'black pearl of the Mediterranean’ – it’s a fairly rugged and remote volcanic outcrop. With its only beach in-land and made of mud, it’s remained relatively immune from the hordes of sun-seeking tourists that descend on the Mediterranean every summer. But for those in the know the Islands secret attraction is the Specchio di Venere (“Mirror of Venus”), and is the reason why celebrities such as Giorgio Armani, Truman Capote, Sting and Madonna visit here every year.
This naturally occurring heart-shaped lake, fed by rainwater and hot springs, and of a colour that changes from emerald to turquoise to deep blue – is both luxuriously self-indulgent and gratifyingly therapeutic. A favourite pastime of locals is slathering themselves in the mineral-rich mud, rinsing off with a swim to the centre, and emerging, regenerated, with silky soft skin. The pièce de résistance? Pantelleria also has a natural hot sauna located in a grotto on the island’s highest peak.
5. WELCOME FLAT HOT POOLS, NZ
New Zealand is geothermal hot bed of activity, with 100’s of naturally occurring hot springs throughout it’s famously beautiful wilderness. One of these, The Welcome Flat Hot Pools, has one of the best views in the country, being settled in a valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks and native forest. To get here it’s a bit of a mission, with an 18km hike that takes you up Copland Valley through beech forest, across grassy clearings and rivers, with stunning alpine views along the way. At the end, you’ll be rewarded with a soak in four naturally heated thermal pools, where can relax your tired muscles, whilst taking in the pristine and breath-taking nature. In November, you can soak whilst watching avalanches cascading down the opposite face of the mountains surrounding you – a pretty epic experience!