When the weather outside is frightful, there are few things so tempting as calling in sick to work and heading to a natural hot springs spa to soak in warm mineral-rich water – or maybe just watch a bunch of monkeys doing it. Few of us are lucky enough to live adjacent to these earth-heated healing waters, from the Blue Lagoon of Iceland to the crystal-clear Mataranka Springs in Australia, but nobody can blame us for losing an hour or two daydreaming about it.
Mexico’s stunning Tolantongo is a box canyon and resort featuring shady heated pools that overlook the semi-desert landscape as well as two grottos where a small volcanically-heated river emerges from the canyon walls and spill down the sides to the floor below.
Steam rises from the 100-degree waters of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, beckoning visitors to immerse themselves when the outdoor temperatures dip. One of the nation’s most popular attractions, this man-made hot spring is fed by the water output of a nearby geothermal power plant. The water is rich in minerals thanks to the processes used by the plant to push water to the surface at a high pressure and temperature.
The world’s largest hot mineral springs pool is nestled into the Rocky Mountains in Colorado at Glenwood Hot Springs resort, kept at 93 degrees year-round. A smaller therapy pool full of healing minerals averages 104 degrees, and a spa at the adjacent lodge offers a range of natural mineral-based treatments. The pool is especially beautiful in the winter, when the mountains are covered in snow and the water gives off a steamy glow after dark.
You won’t get to soak in the water at this particular Japanese hot spring, but there’s another very compelling reason to visit. The warm waters of the natural onsen (hot springs) in the mountains of Yamanouchi in Nagano prefecture have become a snow monkey resort as hundreds of Japanese macaques come down from the steep snow-covered heights to warm up and relax. While they used to only appear in the winter, they’ve now taken to hanging out in their own private spa year-round, since they’re fed by park attendants. What a life.
Terraces of carbonate minerals left behind by flowing water have created a system of natural hot spring tubs in Pamukkale, Turkey. The city is named for this ‘cotton castle,’ which measures nearly 9,000 feet in height and can be seen from the hills on the other side of the valley. In the ‘60s, the Pamukkale pools were a booming tourist spot full of hotels that drained the thermal waters into their swimming pools, but it was all demolished to protect them, and today, bathing is only allowed in the smaller pools (images via: ana raquel s. hernandes, marcel oosterwijk.)