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11 of the World’s Dreamiest Steamiest Hot Springs

1. The AQUA DOME
11 of the World’s Dreamiest Steamiest Hot Springs
Across millennia and continents, despite differing cultural traditions and medical practices, there’s one thing we can all agree on: There are few cures better for what ails you than a long soak in a hot spring. While “taking on the waters” at a natural thermal pool is almost always delightful, the experience feels particularly fairy-tale-like during the winter.

The following 11 warm water soaking pools are no mere man-made hot tubs; they mix straight-from-the-earth healing waters with stunning views for an experience that’s not only rejuvenating, but also downright magical.
By Maggie Fuller, AFAR Staff
Courtesy of AQUA DOME Hotel
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    1. The AQUA DOME
    1. The AQUA DOME
    Oberlängenfeld, Austria

    If the Jetsons ever vacationed at a hot springs resort, it would look exactly like the AQUA DOME Hotel. Formerly known as the Längenfelder Baths, the thermal 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 AQUA DOME consists of 12 indoor and outdoor pools that form what is possibly the world’s most futuristic thermal pool complex, with three raised pools with temperatures ranging from 93°F to 97°F, a river basin complete with gentle current, and two centerpiece thermal baths encased in a towering, illuminated, faceted glass cone. All that and a panoramic view of the surrounding Ötztal mountains make for an out-of-this-world geothermal experience.
    Courtesy of AQUA DOME Hotel
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    2. Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa
    2. Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa
    La Fortuna, Costa Rica

    Costa Rica’s oldest thermal spa, Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, is a jungle paradise. The springs are actually a series of stepped, naturally flowing waterfalls and river pools buried deep in the jungle. The springs have views of Arenal volcano on one side and Arenal Volcano National Park on the other, and while the water has a high mineral content, the sulfur content is (thankfully) low, keeping the area as fresh as the surrounding tropical flowers. Tabacón is home to mineral pools of all different shapes and sizes, from large pools with waterfalls you can hide behind to smaller, more private pools; most dips range from 72°F to 105°F, but there are also a few cold pools that provide an invigorating ice plunge.
    Courtesy of Tabacón Hot Springs
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    3. The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat
    3. The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat
    Ipoh, Malaysia

    The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat is nestled in a 22.7-acre valley and sheltered by towering Paleozoic limestone karsts. The natural hot springs resort is just a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur, but with each of its 45 villas—some featuring lush garden views and others perched over the neighboring lazy river—the serene sanctuary feels like a world of its own. The retreat is built around a large, emerald geothermal pond, shaded by a canopy of jungle trees, also featuring spring water dipping pools ranging from 98°C to 128°F, a waterfall, and a complex of natural 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.
    Courtesy of The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat
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    4. Takaragawa Onsen
    4. Takaragawa Onsen
    Minakami, Japan

    According to local myth, the 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. To this day, the area is still a popular hot spring destination. In particular, Takaragawa Onsen Osenkaku is a jewel of an onsen hidden along a peaceful river. The traditional pinewood ryokan was built in 1955 under the shade of cherry trees and later expanded. Today, the hot spring resort and 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. Before you go: Read up on the specific rules you need to know to enter (and enjoy) Japan’s traditional onsen.
    Courtesy of Takaragawa Onsen
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    5. Lake Heviz
    5. Lake Heviz
    Hévíz, Hungary 

    Yes, there is such a thing as a geothermal lake and it’s just as incredible as you’d imagine. Located just two hours from 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: The famous spa town is home to Spa Hévíz and the Szent András Hospital. Because the lake is fed from both cold and hot underground springs, the temperature evens out at a perfect 90°F, so you could really spend all day floating in the mineral water or sinking up to your thighs in the therapeutic peaty mud along the lake’s edges. Spa Hévíz opens the healing lake to visitors at the hotel, which retains all of its 18th-century charm throughout its thoroughly modernized facilities, including nine indoor pools.
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    6. Myvátn Nature Baths (Jarðböðin)
    6. Myvátn Nature Baths (Jarðböðin)
    Myvátn, Iceland

    The Myvátn Nature Baths are like the Blue Lagoon’s better-looking sibling, with the same milky blue water and a fraction of the crowds. (So, in other words, basically the Icelandic hot spring of your dreams.) Fed from a bore hold in Bjarnarflag, the lagoon’s waters average between 96°F and 104°F and have 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 surrounding view: The baths look out over a valley dotted with craters, volcanic rock formations, and, of course, the occasional Icelandic horse.
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    7. Pamukkale
    7. Pamukkale
    Pamukkale, Turkey

    Pamukkale translates into “cotton castle” in Turkish, but with its dreamy white, pastel pink, and baby blue hues, “cotton candy castle” might be the most appropriate moniker for this 8,860-foot-long slope of hot springs. The natural pools’ alien beauty 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 steep slope of stepped pools are man-made baths fed by the same mineral-rich source, including the antique pool—a warm bath built by the Romans, which is now filled with submerged columns from the city’s ruins.
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    8. Friedrichsbad
    8. Friedrichsbad
    Baden-Baden, Germany

    Carasana’s Roman-Irish bathhouse, Friedrichsbad, may look like it was built in Roman times, but the spa actually opened in 1877, and at that time it was the most modern and luxurious bathhouse in the world. All of that elegance and opulence remains, from the 19th-century shower fittings, to the hand-painted majolica tiling, to the magnificent sculpted and domed poolroom. Visitors will feel like they’re passing 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.
    Courtesy of Carasana
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    9. Peninsula Hot Springs
    9. Peninsula Hot Springs
    Fingal, Australia

    Peninsula Hot Springs is Victoria’s first natural hot spring. Tapped from an aquifer deep underground, the water emerges at 122°F and is pumped into the different shared thermal pools and small private mineral pools across the two facilities, a bathhouse, and a spa with a Moroccan hammam. The bathhouse includes thermal mineral, hydrojet, hydrotherapy, and cold plunge pools, but its crown jewel is a hilltop thermal pool surrounded by spectacular 360° views of the Victorian countryside’s rolling hills. After a long dip at sunrise or sunset, you’ll feel on top of the world.
    Courtesy of Peninsula Hot Springs
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    10. Terme di Saturnia
    10. 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, striking the ground instead. Although the area now has a spa hotel that harnesses the thermal magic of the springs—aptly named the Terme di Saturnia hotel—locals prefer to wander up river to “take the waters” at two idyllic cascading waterfalls, one of which is right next to an old mill with views of the surrounding Tuscan landscape.
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    11. Dunton Hot Springs
    11. Dunton Hot Springs
    Dolores, Colorado

    The Dunton Hot Springs are a glamping dream come true. Just across from Telluride in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest, the resort has been a mining town, ghost town, and dude ranch, but its most recent incarnation is a remote luxury retreat that balances the rugged aesthetic of camping in the Rockies with exquisite furnishings and amenities. Guests can relax in complete solitude at one of the six thermal pools on the property, which range from 85°F to 107°F. The property’s secluded bathing spots include pools within and outside of a restored 19th-century bathhouse, a private cabin built around one of the hot springs, and a hot pool directly above the source of the mineral water spring under the stars.
    Courtesy of Dunton Hot Springs
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