Think a hot tub filled with bathing salts and bubbles is passé? So do we! Jonathan Dias goes in search of 11 bathing spots worth taking a flight out to. And boy, do we agree!
A bath is never just a bath. Each country has its own history and its own tradition that gives a bath a whole new meaning. Far from just cleansing the body, these baths are meant to rejuvenate, re-energize, help you socialize and literally transform you into a brand new person. So suit up and read on, the waters already running…
# 1 BEPPU HOT SPRINGS, JAPAN
Home to one of the most famous hot springs in Japan, Beppu has something other springs don’t offer. Variety. Steam baths, mud water baths, immersions in hot, black sand or all three.Start off with a conventional steam bath heated by the steam of the hot spring. Then get down and dirty, Japanese-style, by being buried, neck down in naturally heated, black sand. The weight of the sand and the heat massages your pressure points and gets the blood flowing. Besides, all the immobility gives you enough time to contemplate the finer things in life (like how to scratch any possible itches, for starters). You could also opt for a mud bath, which is essentially a hot,muddy water bath. The minerals in the mud are said to cure joint and skin problems and is one of the most healthful baths you will even take.
# 2 HOT WATER BEACH, NEW ZEALAND
Start your own spa with minimum capital. All you need is a spade and a ticket to New-Zealand.
Make your way to the hot water beach located on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, look for steam rising out of the ground, start digging, and you’re set!
It’s the easiest business venture, albeit a temporary one, as your spa will be washed away once the tide comes back in. Spades can be rented on the beach, and people take their digging seriously.
This is one DIY from Mother Nature we’d love to try.
# 3 THERMAL POOLS, BUDAPEST, HUNGARY
One would guess that archaeologists digging deep within the enigmatic city of Budapest would perhaps find answers to some of the world’s great mysteries. Uncovering 14 thermal spas, what they did find was that the Turks who built these spas, were really fond of their baths.
The Neo-Baroque styled Széchenyi Spa is the largest thermal bath in Budapest with a series of indoor and outdoor pools. With water temperatures going up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, you’d be forgiven for thinking the pools were meant for health-conscious cannibals who liked to boil their meals thoroughly. These pools are however, the best place to mingle with the locals. And how do the locals keep busy while soaking?
It’s best you brush up on your chess skills, because that’s what they do here. And no, the rules don’t change underwater.
# 4 BLUE LAGOON, ICELAND
When the whole country was more or less formed by lava, it’s no great surprise that you would find one of the best geo-thermal spas in Iceland.Blue Lagoon is set amidst a series of lava fields. Surrounded by pristine white snow in the middle of winter, you step into warm waters that are rich in silica, and said to do wonders for your skin.
You could also head there during summer, but what’s the fun in that?
# 5 VINOTHERAPY, BORDEAUX, FRANCE
If they handed out Nobel prizes for innovation with waste, the person who invented Vinotherapy should surely get one.
Vinotherapy, a specialty in Bordeaux, France, uses the leftovers from wine making—grape seed extracts, vine leaves, pulp and skin. Masseurs rub the antioxidants-rich leftovers, onto your skin and bury you neck-deep in a wine casket.
The therapy is believed to have anti-aging, rejuvenating and detoxifying properties.A three day package could easily cost up to 800 Euros, so just close your eyes and hope that what comes out of the casket is a year or two younger than what went in.
Whatever the result, how many people can actually say they bathed in wine?
# 6 CHAMPAGNE-GLASS WHIRLPOOL BATH, PENNSYLVANIA, USA
If you’re the sort who thinks champagne and heart-shapes are the epitome of romance, then Pocono Palace Resort, a short drive from New York City is the place for you.
A couples-only retreat, their Roman Tower suites host a seven foot-tall champagne-glass whirlpool bath for two, a romantic fire place, floor-to-ceiling faux Roman columns, circular beds, mirrored walls and a heart-shaped private pool.
For honeymooning couples who want to break out the bubbly, this one goes all the way!
# 7 LES BAINS DE MARRAKECH, MOROCCO
In Morocco, years ago, having a bath at home was a luxury only a handful could afford. The rest did away with their qualms of performing ablutions in public and scrubbed down in common hammams.
These days however, hammams such as Les Bains De Marrakech, are for the privileged few.Here, amongst the glitter and decadence of tinkling fountains, heady incense,and scattered rose petals, you can get a traditional scrub with black soap made from olive resin and a wire mitt, or more modern, gentle therapies like a chocolate massage or an oriental bath for two.
Either way, it’s your very own ‘Thousand and One Nights’ experience.
# 8 CHODOVAR BREWARY BEER BATH, CZECH REPUBLIC
Imagine yourself in a Victorian style tub filled with beer where your skin soaks in the goodness of malt and hops. Perhaps lesser mortals serving you caviar and fanning you with peacock feathers would complete this surreal experience.
But back in the Czech Republic, it’s a relaxing soak in warm, watered-down beer with a glass in hand that does it.
While beer-therapy may do wonders for your skin because of the vitamin and the yeast, beer aficionados swear to its soul-healing properties as well.
# 9 THE DEAD SEA, JORDAN & ISRAEL
The Dead Sea with Jordan in the East and Israel in the West is one of the world’s oldest health resorts. The healing properties of the Dead Sea are not much of a secret. Even Cleopatra and Herod have taken a dip here to exploit the advantages of its rejuvenating powers.
Rich in several elements that occupy space on the periodic table, visitors usually cover themselves with sediments and let the minerals do their magic. The exceptional amount of salt content makes it near impossible to sink. So this is a place where accomplished swimmers and those with zero swimming skills can have a normal discussion without any bruised egos.
# 10 THE GANGA, VARANASI
The Ghats of Varanasi lead to the holy water of the Ganges, believed to be both pure as well as purifying.
According to Hindu beliefs, the moving water of the river is supposed to absorb and take away all the human impurities.
Look out for chains at the upper levels of the river to anchor yourself down, or else the impurities won’t be the only thing the river takes away with it.
# 11 ICE-BATHS, RUSSIA
A combination of dry sauna, steam bath, massage and a plunge into ice-cold water, the Russian Banya or sauna is not for the faint-hearted.
Here’s how it works: You hop into a Banya and beat your entire body with a bunch of birch leaves. Unless you’re really upset with yourself, do it gently. This is supposed to open the pores of the skin. Then when you think you’ve had enough of the heat, run out into the freezing cold. And before your literally smoking body can really interpret what’s happening, plunge into a pool of ice-cold water.
Okay, so it’s a little over the top, but you know what they say about taking risks, if you don’t go out on a limb, how will you ever get to the fruit?
Jonathan Dias is a copywriter, traveller and wannabe philosopher.
His dad wanted him to get into engineering. He wanted to taste beer from all over the world.
Now, when he's not trying to sell you a pressure cooker at 20% discount, he takes off to wherever he can. Purely for scientific beer research, of course.
He prefers travelling alone and has learned plenty of lessons through many mistakes. It's the fun way, he says.
Jonathan has written for Femina and Maxim as well.
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