Before the days of high-tech spa treatments, wellness seekers headed for the hot springs—and modern-day soakers can, too. From an ancient pool near the Dead Sea to the picturesque American West, join us on a world tour of the most stunning spots to take a dip.
Iceland's Blue Lagoon is one of the picturesque places in the world to have a soak.(Courtesy Blue Lagoon)
In the world of spa treatments, it all goes back to water-and travel. After all, the word "spa" itself comes from Spa, Belgium, a popular watering spot back in the 1600s. In the centuries since, cultures all over the globe turned to natural, mineral-rich waters to treat a wide array of concerns, from the medical (sinus issues, muscle and joint pain) to cosmetic (skin clarity, psoriasis). The ancient Romans turned soaking into an art form-and a part of daily life-and as the Roman Empire grew, baths known as thermae were established wherever mineral springs were discovered. Over the years, many of these ancient hot spring towns grew into wellness resorts, particularly once European doctors started recommending "water cures" in the 18th century. With so many steamy spots to choose from in the world, we've narrowed our list down to natural hot, mineral, and geothermal springs in historic, picturesque locations, including two right here in the U.S. Here are some of the prettiest places to jump in and say "ahhh."
Soak in the Rockies at this national park.
Surrounded by dramatic alpine views, these hot springs in western Canada were considered a sacred healing site by the area's native residents. In 1882, workers building the Canadian Pacific Railway happened upon two of the spring pools at the base of Sulphur Mountain-and the news quickly spread. The first European visitors arrived in 1884, and two years later construction on a bathhouse begun. The Banff Upper Hot Springs bathhouse, completed in the mid-1930s, has been declared a protected Heritage Building.
The Benefits: Located at 5, 200 feet above sea level, Canada's highest natural springs are rich in key minerals like sodium, magnesium, bicarbonate, calcium and sulfate, which have skin healing and muscle-relaxing properties. Despite their long journey from the center of the earth, these waters are also the hottest in the Rocky Mountain range, clocking in at up to a muscle-warming 104 degrees.