14 Hot Springs Worth Traveling For

These natural healing waters also happen to be in some of the most beautiful places on earth.

An overhead shot of a woman bathing in a hot tub surrounded by plants

Alba Thermal Springs and Spa is part of Australia’s new Great Victorian Bathing Trail.

Courtesy of Alba Thermal Springs and Spa

Across millennia and continents, despite differing cultural traditions and medical practices, there’s one thing we can all agree on: There’s no better cure for what ails you than a long soak in a hot spring. And while “taking the waters” is always delightful, some thermal pools earn bonus points for their gorgeous historic architecture and natural terrain that run the gamut from lush jungles to rugged mountain valleys—which are even more special when covered in snow. The following 14 hot spots are no mere man-made hot tubs, either; they mix straight-from-the-earth healing waters with straight-out-of-your-dreams surroundings for a downright magical experience.

1. Alba Thermal Springs and Spa

Fingal, Australia

In recent years, the region around Melbourne has emerged as one of the most exciting geothermal hot spots in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Great Victorian Bathing Trail now connects such springs and day spas as Peninsula Hot Springs and Metung Hot Springs, with more in the works coming to Phillip Island and 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. Among the newcomers is the stylish Alba Thermal Springs and Spa (pictured above), which opened in late 2022 on the Mornington Peninsula, about 40 miles south of the Melbourne CBD. The naturally heated sodium chloride bicarbonate spring water, between 99 and 109 degrees, is sourced from 1,800 feet underground. Once it’s pumped above ground, it feeds a series of picturesque pools, including an herb-infused botanical pool, a salt pool that makes you feel weightless, and others surrounded by native bush plants or modernist concrete pavilions. Don’t miss the on-site restaurant Thyme, where dishes draw on the full bounty of Victoria, including house-made ocean trout gravlax, spanner crab with burnt butter, and an extensive list of local wines, beers, and spirits.

A series of terraced pools next to an old stone house, surrounded by green trees

The Cascate del Mulino, a series of thermal waterfalls, sit next to an ancient mill in southern Tuscany.

Photo by Ulf Meyer/Unsplash

2. Terme di Saturnia

Saturnia, Italy

Etruscan and Roman legend holds that the Terme di Saturnia springs were created during a battle between Jupiter and Saturn, when Jupiter hurled his lightning bolts at Saturn but missed, instead striking the ground in what is now southern Tuscany. Although there is a spa hotel, aptly named the Terme di Saturnia hotel, which harnesses the thermal power of the springs, locals prefer to wander upriver and take the waters at the Cascate del Mulino (Mill Waterfalls), which sit right next to an ancient mill with views of the surrounding Tuscan landscape. Note that there is a slightly eggy smell from the presence of sulfur, which led medieval visitors to believe that this area was the gate to hell, but that’s not keeping anyone away these days: The bath, which steams away at 99.5 degrees, is free and open 24 hours a day, with crowds at all times of day and night.

The highest natural spring pool at Castle Hot Springs in Arizona

Take in the minerals of the natural spring waters at Castle Hot Springs, an oasis in the Sonoran Desert.

Courtesy of Paul Markow/Castle Hot Springs

3. Castle Hot Springs

Morristown, Arizona

    The legacy of Castle Hot Springs, about one hour north of Phoenix in a beautiful, secluded valley of the Sonoran Desert, dates back to the late 19th century, when it was first transformed into a wellness destination where travelers could experience the curative benefits of its healing waters. A fire in 1976 and another in 1996 brought operations to a halt. But Castle Hot Springs found new life in the 21st century when the luxury all-inclusive resort reopened in 2019 following an extensive restoration. There are three hot springs: The highest (and closest to the source) is about 106 degrees. One tier down is a 96-degree pool, and a bit further along the canyon is the deepest pool, with a temperature of 86 degrees. The spring water also supplies the resort’s central swimming pool.

    Terraced pools with milky blue waters surrounded by chalky white stone

    The terraced pools at Pamukkale are made of travertine, a type of limestone often found around mineral springs.

    Photo by Arnaud Civray/Unsplash

    4. Pamukkale

    Pamukkale, Türkiye

    Pamukkale translates to “cotton castle” in Turkish, but with its dreamy hues of white, pastel pink, and baby blue, we’re wondering if “cotton candy castle” wouldn’t be a better moniker. Whatever they’re called, the hot springs boast an alien beauty that has drawn visitors since the 2nd century B.C.E., when the Romans built the nearby spa city of Hierapolis. Today, you can climb around the pearly travertine terraces (barefoot, to protect the delicate carbon deposits) and splash in the shallow pools. At the top of the 8,860-foot-long slope of stepped pools are man-made baths fed by the same source, including the Cleopatra Antique Pools—a warm, mineral-rich bath built by the Romans, which is now filled with submerged columns from the city’s ruins.

    A nighttime view of a cabin with a triangle rooftop and lots of windows set into a mountainside at Dunton Hot Springs

    At Dunton Hot Springs, guests stay in a collection of 15 beautiful, uniquely decorated log cabins.

    Courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs

    5. Dunton Hot Springs

    Dolores, Colorado

    Located in southwest Colorado’s highly mineralized San Juan Mountains, Dunton Hot Springs is a collection of 15 beautiful, uniquely decorated log cabins from which resort guests can access the property’s 19th-century bathhouse and natural mineral springs. Against the cozy alpine backdrop lie 85- to 106-degree springs rich in iron, manganese, and calcium bicarbonate. Guests can go for a dip in the bathhouse, in the two outdoor pools, in the more natural setting at the source of the springs, or—if they book the Well House cabin—in their own private hot-spring bath and cold-plunge pool. Regardless of which cabin you choose, you’ll have mountain and meadow views for days.

    A lake surrounded by trees with red-roofed buildings in the center of the water, connected by red-roofed bridges

    Lake Hévíz welcomed its first bathhouses as early as the 1790s.

    Photo by ZGPhotography/Shutterstock

    6. Lake Hévíz

    Hévíz, Hungary

    Yes, there is such a thing as a geothermal lake, and it’s just as incredible as you’d imagine. About a two-hour drive southwest of Budapest, Lake Hévíz is Europe’s largest thermal lake and one of the most sizeable, swimmable thermal lakes in the world. It is also the ultimate rehabilitation destination, home to Spa Hévíz and the Szent András hospital. The lake is fed from both cold and hot underground springs, and the water fluctuates from about 73 to 77 degrees in the winter up to about 91 to 97 degrees in the summer. You can spend your days floating among the water lilies or sinking up to your thighs in the therapeutic peaty mud along the lake’s edges. Spa Hévíz opens the lake to visitors and retains its 18th-century charm throughout its modernized facilities, including indoor pools, hot tubs, and saunas.

    The Aurora Ice Museum at Chena Hot Springs in Alaska

    Come for the hot springs, stay for the Northern Lights and the Aurora Ice Museum.

    Courtesy of Marquise de Photographie/Unsplash

    7. Chena Hot Springs

    Fairbanks, Alaska

      These thermal springs, located 60 miles outside of central Fairbanks, were discovered in 1905 by gold miners; six years later, a bathhouse and 12 small cabins were installed for visitors seeking a warm bath in waters rich in sulfate, chloride, and sodium bicarbonate. Since then, Chena Hot Springs has expanded to include the 40-room Moose Lodge—with 32 standard Fox Rooms that sleep up to four people, and eight Bear Family Suites that sleep up to six—as well as rustic cabins, camping, and yurt accommodations. The property uses geothermal energy for heating and electricity and to keep its on-site Aurora Ice Museum cold year-round. This employee-owned establishment also offers massage services, an on-site restaurant, northern lights tours, dogsled rides, and horseback riding, among other activities. The main draw, however, is the chance to see the dancing aurora borealis from the beauty and warmth of the hot springs.

      Milky blue water under a gray sky with mountains in the background and steam rising

      One of the best parts of the Myvátn Nature Baths is the incredible natural surroundings.

      Photo by Nuno Antunes/Unsplash

      8. Myvátn Nature Baths

      Myvátn, Iceland

      Thanks to its easily accessible location near the international airport, the world-famous Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s top attractions, drawing more than 1 million visitors in some years. It’s a can’t-miss for first-timers to the rugged Nordic country, but if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, head to the Myvátn Nature Baths, which are in a designated nature reserve in Northeast Iceland off the Diamond Circle. With the same milky blue water as the Blue Lagoon and a fraction of the crowd, these are the hot springs of your dreams, fed from a bore hole at a scorching 266 degrees before the water cools to between 96 and 104 degrees. There’s a high concentration of sulfur—not enough to smell strongly, but just enough to be good for your respiratory system. The lagoon has a few small alcoves and underwater benches to enjoy, as well as a cold plunge, a smaller hot bath, and natural steam baths. But what takes the Myvátn Nature Baths from wonderful to the stuff of fantasy is the scenic view: The baths look out over a valley dotted with craters, volcanic rock formations and, of course, the occasional Icelandic horse.

      An underground hot spring with a walkway on the left and a rock wall in the background

      Think of Banjaran’s thermal steam cave as a natural sauna.

      Courtesy of The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

      9. The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

      Ipoh, Malaysia

      The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat is nestled in a nearly 23-acre valley and sheltered by rugged limestone karst towers and a tropical rainforest. It’s two hours outside of Kuala Lumpur, but with each of the 44 villas featuring lush garden views or perched over the neighboring lazy river, it’s like a world of its own. The retreat is built around a large, emerald geothermal pond, shaded by a canopy of jungle trees, and features dipping pools, a waterfall, and a complex of geothermal caves. While the caves’ pools are too hot to bathe in, one chamber functions as a natural sauna and the others as mystical, naturally warmed meditation rooms, lounges, and even a restaurant.

      A woman sits at the edge of a mineral pool at Ojo Caliente with a rocky mountain in the background and lounge chairs

      For a distinctly New Mexico take on hot springs, head to Ojo Caliente.

      Courtesy of Ojo Caliente

      10. Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Spa Resort

      Ojo Caliente, New Mexico

      Whether you’re in New Mexico for skiing or for a dose of Southwestern architecture, cuisine, and culture, the pools fed by natural spring water at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs and Spa Resort offer a tonic retreat. Here, at 6,000 feet, the geothermal waters range in temperature from 97 to 102 degrees, and there are eight pools to choose from. They include an iron pool, believed to aid the body’s immune system, a mud pool for purifying the skin, and cliffside pools for a dramatic setting. Guests can check into a Pueblo-style suite complete with a private soaking tub, one of the Ojo cottages or homes, a room in the Historic Hotel, the newly renovated Inn at Ojo, or even a vintage trailer. Ojo Caliente resort’s roots go back 155 years, when the bathhouse first opened.

      A glowing wooden structure next to a steaming rocky pool with forested mountains in the background

      The historic Takaragawa Onsen will celebrate its 70th birthday next year.

      Courtesy of Takaragawa Onsen

      11. Takaragawa Onsen

      Minakami, Japan

      According to local myth, legendary Japanese prince Yamato Takeru no Mikoto once fell ill near modern-day Minakami and followed a white hawk to a nearby hot spring, where he was cured. About a 2.5-hour drive north of Tokyo, the area is still a popular hot-spring destination today. In particular, Takaragawa Onsen is a jewel of an onsen hidden along the Takaraga River. The traditional, charming pinewood lodge was built in 1955 under the shade of cherry trees and later expanded. The spa boasts four large outdoor thermal pools and two indoor baths, as well as the largest open-air bath in Japan. But despite the pools’ roomy capacities, Takaragawa’s remote riverside location makes it an utterly tranquil destination.

      An overhead shot of a round pool surrounded by Renaissance-style interiors with columns and carved statues

      Friedrichsbad is one of the historic spa complexes that earned Baden-Baden UNESCO World Heritage status in 2021.

      Courtesy of Carasana

      12. Friedrichsbad

      Baden-Baden, Germany

      Friedrichsbad may look like it was built in Roman times, but the spa opened in 1877, and at that time it was the most modern and luxurious bathhouse in the world. (However, there are well-preserved Roman ruins below the complex at the Museum of Ancient Bathing Culture.) All of that neo-Renaissance-style elegance and opulence remains, from the 19th-century shower fittings to the hand-painted majolica tiling and the magnificent sculpted and domed poolroom. Visitors feel as if they’re melting away through time as they move along the spa’s 17 stations from warm showers to various saunas, thermal pools drawn from the famously curative hot spring water of Baden-Baden, and cold plunges. Mark Twain once wrote to a friend that Friedrichsbad is a place where you lose track of time in 10 minutes and track of the world in 20. It seems that nothing has changed. The resort is run by Carasana Bäderbetriebe GmbH, which also operates the more modern Caracalla Therme.

      A futuristic complex of steaming pools and modern concrete buildings surrounded by snow, forests, and mountains

      The Aqua Dome, quite possibly the world’s most futuristic thermal pool complex, has 12 indoor and outdoor pools.

      Courtesy of Aqua Dome Hotel

      13. The Aqua Dome

      Oberlängenfeld, Austria

      If the Jetsons ever vacationed at a thermal spa, it would look exactly like the Aqua Dome Hotel. The waters that bubble beneath this particular part of the Tyrolean landscape have been known for their healing powers since the 16th century. These days, the 12 indoor and outdoor pools form what is quite possibly the world’s most futuristic thermal pool complex, with three raised pools with temperatures ranging from 93 to 97 degrees, a river basin with a gentle current, and two centerpiece thermal baths encased in an illuminated, faceted-glass cone. All that and a panoramic view of the surrounding Ötztal mountains make for an out-of-this-world geothermal experience.

      A stepped waterfall surrounded by lush vegetation

      The waters at Tabacón are heated by the neighboring Arenal volcano.

      Photo by Michael Zysman/Shutterstock

      14. Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa

      La Fortuna, Costa Rica
      Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa is a true jungle paradise, a series of stepped, naturally flowing waterfalls and river pools tucked away in the shadow of Arenal volcano in Costa Rica’s rugged northwest. While the water has a high mineral content, the sulfur content is (thankfully) low, keeping the area smelling as fresh as the surrounding tropical flowers. Tabacón is home to pools of different shapes and sizes, from large pools with waterfalls you can hide behind to smaller, more private pools; most dips range from 72 to 105 degrees, but there are also a few cold pools that provide an invigoratingly icy plunge.

      Additional reporting by Michelle Baran and Nicholas DeRenzo.

      Maggie Fuller is a San Francisco–based but globally oriented writer driven to provoke multicultural worldviews as a multimedia journalist. She covers sustainability, responsible travel, and outdoor adventure.
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