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Hot springs have been lauded for their therapeutic benefits since time immemorial, and stopping for a soak is a great way to add a little rest and relaxation to your vacation. From beautiful thermal resorts to historic bath house complexes, here are eight hot springs around the world—all of which are worth traveling for.
A short drive north of Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs offers lucky visitors the opportunity to take in views of the vibrant northern lights as they soak under the night sky. Even if you can’t stop by during the aurora borealis season, it’s still worth visiting to take a restorative soak surrounded by trees. And don’t leave before checking out the on-site Aurora Ice Museum, where you can sip an appletini from a glass made of ice or simply peruse the fantastic collection of intricately carved ice sculptures.
Situated in Hidalgo State, Grutas Tolantongo (or the Tolantongo Caves) offers a mix of human-made and natural features, including caves, a waterfall, a suspension bridge, and—of course—hot springs. You can go for a swim in the shallow thermal river or take in the views from one of the many terraced hillside pools. Best of all, the springs can easily be reached on a day trip from Mexico City, roughly a 4-hour car ride away.
The newest of Reykjavik’s thermal spa complexes, Sky Lagoon features a massive, hot springs–fed lagoon with an infinity edge and views out over the sea. There’s even a swim-up bar, tucked away in a cave. The best way to experience the lagoon is by participating in a 7-step spa ritual circuit, which includes a cold plunge and a sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows and the same fantastic sea views found in the main bath.
Situated in the aptly named city of Bath in the west of England, the Roman Baths are among the UK’s most celebrated historic attractions. Although the waters here have been used since pre-Roman times, the current bath complex dates to the 1st century AD, with additional street-level structures dating to the 18th and 19th centuries. While you can’t soak in the waters at the historic site, you can reap their benefits by heading over to the more recently constructed Thermae Bath Spa complex, a couple of blocks away.
Soaking in curative hot springs is an integral part of life in Budapest—you can even get a doctor’s prescription to soak away your aches and pains. As such, the Hungarian capital is chock-full of places to soak, from the art nouveau Gellért Thermal Bath and Spa to the 16th-century Rudas Thermal Baths. If you have to choose just one, go for Széchenyi Thermal Baths, which features a complex of indoor and outdoor pools housed in a palatial neo-baroque spa complex.
Turkey’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed Pamukkale Thermal Pools have been attracting hot springs fans since the Roman era with their white travertine terraced pools that bear a resemblance to flattened clouds. (Pamukkale actually means "cotton castle.") Most people combine a trip to the pools with a visit to the nearby Ruins at Hierapolis, and you can easily see both sites on a day tour from Kusadesi.
A short drive from Jordan's Dead Sea resorts, this thermal spring is fed by hot waterfalls that cascade into a deep soaking pool below. While some visitors opt to stay the night at the on-site hotel, if you’re short on time you can easily visit the springs on a day tour from Amman, or simply stop off for a soak on the way to Petra.
Northern Bali’s Banjar Hot Springs complex is worth visiting for both its sulfur-rich waters and its beautiful architectural features. Popular with Balinese locals and international visitors alike, the terraced bathing pools here are fed by rows of intricately carved dragon heads that shoot water through their mouths. Many northern Bali day trips include stops at the springs; for a more flexible option, simply charter a car with a driver for the day.
If you love hot springs, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Japan. Geothermal baths, known as onsen, can be found throughout the country, and many communities—such as Beppu and Kusatsu—have entire tourism industries based on soaking. Perhaps the most famous (or at least the most photographed) onsen in Japan is in Jigokudani Monkey Park. Here you can observe resident macaques as they warm up in the thermal waters. While you probably won’t want to join in on the fun, you’ll find plenty of human-friendly hot springs in the nearby resort town of Yudanaka Onsen.