Hot baths across the world
For centuries, water has been seen as the elixir of life, and used in numerous therapies to rid the body and mind of ailments. References to the primordial connection between water and spirituality have existed since time itself.
Across the world, the belief in holy water and sacred springs continues to hold sway. Reasons to take a dip vary from washing away sins to simply feeling rejuvenated and happy to be alive!
While the concept of public baths has largely shifted over to private spas and saunas, the lure of ancient bathing rituals and nature’s therapeutic powers persist. Below, some of the best baths across cultures to bookmark as you plan your next holiday:
The Russian proverb goes, “The day you spend in the banya is the day you do not age.”
Moscow’s oldest functioning banyas like the historic Sandunovsky banya (sauna) are a dream for spa aficionados. With hothouses, Roman pools and Turkish baths to choose from, visitors can marvel at Baroque columns while their skin emerges cleaner and softer from the steam room.
Image: Hammam Essalihine
Hammam Essalihine, or Bath of the Righteous, is an ancient Roman Bath built on pre-existing hot and cold springs that hold mineral-rich waters. Once a gathering place to discuss matters of importance – politics, sports and local gossip – this 2000-year-old bathhouse-turned-spa is a feat of engineering, architecture and natural beauty.
Image: Blue Lagoon geothermal spa
THE BLUE LAGOON
An important part of Icelandic culture, the Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa is a delightful tonic for the body and mind. With its gorgeous milky-blue shade that comes from the density of silica and minerals in the water, it offers a warm soak to relax tense muscles with the right temperature year-round.
Image: The trek to Kheerganga, Trip Shelf
KHEERGANGA HOT SPRINGS
Himachal Pradesh, India
The most gorgeous of India’s many hot springs is in Kheerganga, where one must trek deep into Parvati Valley to arrive at this mystical setting. Its sulfur-rich water makes this communal bath great for relaxation, while healing skin problems with its natural restorative properties.
Image: Friedrichsbad, Baden Baden
Baden Baden, Germany
In the spa town of Baden Baden at the foot of the Black Forest in south Germany, Friedrichsbad offers a 17-step ritual combining Roman-Irish bathing traditions. It is known to aid blood circulation and those with cardiovascular, metabolic and respiratory problems.
Image: Aga Hamami, Istanbul
Ağa Hamami, the first Turkish hamam (bath) built in 1454, has been open to the public since 1923. One can bathe themselves or opt for the authentic hamam experience, where an attendant scrubs and washes you on a slab of marble called göbektaşi. Traditional massages complete the historic experience.
Image: Temazcal, OOPAL Cabo, Ocean Blue World
Mexican Temazcals (translated to ‘House of Heat’), built by the indigenous Mesoamerican people, are rooted in ritual and spiritual practice. They involve entering a stone igloo and being part of an ancient ceremony led by a shaman. Said to purify the body and mind and heal the sick, our recommendation is One&Only Palmilla in Cabo, Mexico.
Image: Kurama Onsen, Kyoto, Japan Guide
As a volcanically active country, Onsen or hot springs are intrinsic to Japanese culture. Located in the quaint village of Kurama, Kurama Onsen is known for indoor and outdoor baths, surrounded by breathtaking forested mountains.