9 spa destinations with healing waters
These mineral-rich springs and lakes may help treat a variety of conditions as they relax and rejuvenate bathers.
Hot springs and mineral-rich lakes often tout their health benefits, but most of them merely relax muscles and lower blood pressure, which are benefits you can get from soaking in hot water anywhere. However, a few springs, lakes and seas do actually provide additional health benefits, thanks to the high concentration of certain minerals and other helpful substances in them. While these waters are not cure-alls, people who soak in them may find a range of conditions, from arthritis to wrinkles, improved after a visit.
Here are nine destinations whose waters can provide healthful benefits.
1. Terme di Saturnia – Italy
The springs at Terme di Saturnia in Tuscany (Photo: Raimond Spekking /Wikimedia Commons)
The Terme di Saturnia sits in the scenic Italian province of Tuscany. It is difficult to separate the healing benefits of the region's hot springs from the timeless Tuscan ambiance that people come from all over the world to experience. The picturesque main pools at Saturnia are located in front of a historic mill. The water here is about 100 degrees. Because they are rich in sulfur and alkaline, the pools are thought to be beneficial for people suffering from skin allergies and respiratory ailments. The heat, coupled with these substances, is also known to improve circulation.
Terme di Saturnia is a great place for sightseeing. The waterfalls and pools provide amazing views of the Tuscan countryside. Meanwhile, a high-tech health center is located at the spa so that guests can get even more out of the water's therapeutic properties.
2. Kusatsu – Japan
Japan's hot springs have long been thought to have healing properties (Photo: Em7/Shutterstock)
Japan is famous for its thermal spring spas (called onsen in Japanese). These venues are located throughout the country. Kusatsu, a town in the heart of the Kanto region, boasts a high concentration of onsen. Thanks to volcanic and geothermal activity, hot spring water is plentiful, and there are more than 100 spas in the town.
Many of the most traditional complexes consist of wooden structures. In addition to the standard soaking pools, these venues sometimes offer extra health and beauty services. Smaller onsen dot the landscape, but Kusatsu also has large public baths and outdoor foot baths that feature cheap admission prices. The spring waters are said to open skin pores and bestow a general sense of relaxation on bathers. The high concentration of beneficial acids and sulfur are thought to provide a wide range of health benefits.
3. Dead Sea – Israel
Ein Bokek, a resort town on the Dead Sea (Photo: irisphoto1/Shutterstock)
Sitting at more than 1,400 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea has one of the lowest elevations of any place on Earth. The waters here are unique because the concentration of salt is 10 times higher than it is in the world's oceans. The most visible aspect of this unbelievable saltiness is that swimmers can remain buoyant with no effort. Even people who are not able to swim simply float on the surface of the sea.
Many travelers come to the Dead Sea seeking health benefits. High levels of magnesium, calcium and bromine can provide relief for swimmers with skin allergies, bronchial problems, and even arthritis. Mineral-rich mud, meanwhile, is found in the base of hot springs streams in the area. Applying the mud and then soaking in the sea is a popular cure-all treatment plan. The Dead Sea resort town of Ein Bokek is one of the best places to come to enjoy access to all the area's healing substances. As a bonus, there are plenty of places to shop and dine once your soaking session and mud bath are complete.
4. Myvatn – Iceland
Northern Iceland's Myvatn Nature Baths (Photo: Sylvia Adams/Shutterstock)
Myvatn is a lake in Northern Iceland that boasts stunning surroundings. During the summer, the wetlands around the lake, which is a mere 65 miles from the Arctic Circle, are teeming with migrating birds. Myvatn was originally formed by volcanic activity, and geothermal energy still courses through the land. The Myvatn Nature Baths, part of a relatively new facility, offer guests a chance to take a dip in steaming pools that are heated naturally by this energy.
The real reason to visit this complex is to bathe in a pool that is filled with water pumped from a geothermal spring that is more than a mile under the Earth’s surface. The sulfur and silicate-rich water is thought to have microorganisms that offer health benefits. Even people who aren't seeking some sort of cure like to tout Myvatn as an alternative to the ever-crowded Blue Lagoon thermal pools in Reykjavik.
5. Széchenyi Baths and Spa – Hungary
Széchenyi Bath and Spa in Budapest (Photo: Neef - 2/Wikimedia Commons)
The Széchenyi Baths and Spa sits in the middle of the Hungarian capital, Budapest. This is a classic hot springs attraction that draws both tourists and locals. The palatial Baroque-style building and pools were built more than a century ago and were extensively renovated between 1999 and 2009. Budapest's thermal bath history goes back over a millennium. Romans built bath houses here when they occupied the area, and Turkish baths sprung up during the era of the Ottoman Empire.
At Széchenyi, water is pumped into both indoor and outdoor pools from two hot springs (a second spring had to be added in the 1930s to keep up with demand). Additional features like saunas and massage rooms are also located inside the complex. Besides sulfur and magnesium, the spring water has a high concentration of beneficial acids. Temperatures in the main outdoor baths are about 100 degrees, with some indoor pools featuring slightly cooler waters.
6. Bath – United Kingdom
Roman baths in Bath, England (Photo: Pawika Tongtavee /Shutterstock)
Fittingly named, Bath is a city in Southwestern England about 100 miles away from London. Because of its rich history, Bath has been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The hot springs in the area were first used by the Romans, who built a bathhouse there almost two millennia ago. Remnants of this structure still stand today, and though you can't bathe at this particular location (now part of a museum), there is a place in the city where you can enjoy soaking in waters from the same historic source. The Thermae Bath Spa is the Roman bath's modern equivalent. This venue offers several different pools, including a rooftop one that overlooks the historic skyline.
7. Hamat Gader – Israel
Israel's oldest hot springs complex at Hamat Gader (Photo: tourismisrael /Flickr)
The thermal springs at Israel's Hamat Gader have been used since ancient times. The site is mentioned extensively in accounts that date back to the Roman occupation of the Levan, and some of the ruins of the original Roman-era structures remain today. The modern spa complex was first opened in 1977. The temperature in the pools at Hamat Gader reaches about 120 degrees.
The water has a very high concentration of sulfur, even by thermal-spring standards. This gives it curative properties for people with joint problems, skin issues and respiratory illnesses like asthma. Another attraction sits alongside the pool in Hamat Gader: a large reptile farm adjacent to the spa area. In addition to an impressive number of crocodiles, the farm houses alligators and caimans.
8. Beitou Hot Springs and Jinshan Hot Springs – Taiwan
Mineral springs in Keelung, Taiwan (Photo: outcast85/Shutterstock)
Lying directly on the Pacific Rim's Ring of Fire, Taiwan has a great deal of geothermal activity. Hot springs are everywhere, including within walking distance of the capital city of Taipei. In fact, some of the best springs in East Asia are located in the Taipei and Keelung areas. Two headliners are the Beitou Hot Springs and the Jinshan Hot Springs. These destinations draw tourists and locals alike.
Jinshan is home to four different types of water. In addition to pools fed by sulfur springs, there are salty seawater-fed springs, springs rich in carbonic acid, and a few that have a high concentration of iron oxide. Health benefits are associated with each of the different types of water. Jinshan has a number of spas and bathhouses, including some that offer a chance to soak in a natural rock pool.
9. Bear Lake – Romania
Mineral-rich waters in Romania's Bear Lake (Photo: Botond Horvath /Shutterstock)
The salty, warm waters of Romania's Bear Lake, located in the famous region of Transylvania, are thought to be good for the nervous system and for general circulation.
This body of water has a very high sodium content, but the surface of the lake is covered with fresh water from precipitation. This liquid does not mix with the salt water below it because of a difference in density. However, it acts as an insulator, allowing the salty water to retain a great deal of heat. When people wade in the lake, their feet will feel much warmer than their upper bodies.
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