Immerse Yourself in the World’s Most Breathtaking Baths

From ice-encrusted hot tubs to baths made of beer, don’t miss these six spectacular soaks

A group enjoys an igloo hot tub at Iglu-dorf. (Courtesy of Iglu-dorf)
smithsonian.com

There’s more to travel than simply running around, and more to hot tubs than just sitting around. Why not combine the two on your next trip? Hot springs and warm baths can be destinations in and of themselves. Whether you prefer to bathe outdoors, in historical spots or in your favorite beverages (beer, anyone?), put these six soaks on your travel list now.

Blue Lagoon (Grindavik, Iceland)

Iceland's Blue Lagoon in the spring. (Daniel DeSlover/ZUMA Press/Corbis)

Milky blue water full of minerals, plenty of white silica mud, a stunning landscape of lava fields, a makeshift volcano—what’s not to love about the Blue Lagoon? This geothermal spa in Iceland formed accidentally when a pool of wastewater formed near the Svartsengi power plant. When people began to bathe in the white water, they noticed that their psoriasis symptoms cleared and a bathing destination was born. The location has grown into a full-blown resort and health spa complete with restaurants, a bar and in-water massages. The water itself is white, but takes on its characteristic blue-green appearance with the help of a mixture of silica, algae, minerals and sunlight.

The spa even has a dermatology clinic and a research and development team that’s always hunting for ways to use the lagoon’s water as a base ingredient for cosmetics and healing treatments. Pick up a bottle at the spa’s gift shop—if you can tear yourself away from the luxurious water.

Beer Baths (Europe)

A couple enjoys the Bernard Beer Spa in Prague. (Sergi Reboredo/dpa/Corbis)

Do you dream of enjoying a cold one while immersing yourself in a tub of warm beer? Thanks to Europe’s growing trend of beer baths in places like the Starkenberger Bier castle in Austria and Bernard Beer Spa in Prague, your fantasy can become reality. Bernard’s package includes a warm beer bath to soak in, unlimited beer to drink and a warm bed to relax in afterwards.

People don’t just try hot tubs filled with beer for the novelty—it’s rumored that washing your face with beer can alleviate acne symptoms. But board-certified dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann warns that beer actually dehydrates skin. “Apply moisturizer or oil after, otherwise [the moisture] will evaporate off,” she tells Smithsonian.com. “Beer does give the hair a glow, though. It has proteins that deposit between the scales on the hair’s surface that makes hair smoother and shinier.” Whether you do it for beauty or just for the booze, your beer bath will be a conversation starter for years to come.

Igloo Hot Tubs (Europe)

A group enjoys an igloo hot tub at Iglu-dorf. (Courtesy of Iglu-dorf)

In places all over Europe, elusive igloo villages pop up in winter and disappear again in spring. They’re called Iglu-Dorfs, and they can be found in Andorra, Germany and Switzerland. Just because you’re spending the night in a chilly structure doesn’t mean you have to forego a hot bath: Each of the seven villages, which are built each winter, features a hot tub igloo, and some private igloos even have their own hot bath.

Peek out the door while soaking for a glimpse of snow-capped mountains and other winter wonders. Don’t worry—steam from the bath won’t melt the walls. Bathing in an igloo could, however, make your bath at home seem like a disappointment.

Yunessun Spa Resort (Hakone, Japan)

Guests hold their glasses as they bathe in a pool of red at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort, one of Japan's most popular hot spring resorts. (Dai Kurokawa/epa/Corbis)

Billed as a “hot springs amusement park,” this Japanese spa is a bath lover’s dream destination. The spa features more than 25 water-based attractions, including hot tubs full of sake, green tea, coffee and wine. Worried about authenticity? Don’t be: Guests in both the coffee and wine hot tubs can watch staff members pour the real beverage into each tub several times daily.

Other highlights include a spa styled like an ancient Roman bath and an attraction called Rodeo Mountain, where hot water is pumped into toboggan-style outdoor water slides that run even in winter.

Chena Hot Springs (Fairbanks, Alaska)

A couple through steam enjoying the natural outdoor rock lake. (Denise Ferree)

Nestled high in the mountainous Alaskan wilderness, Chena Hot Springs is a naturally-occurring thermal tub that has long been used by indigenous Alaskans and intrepid settlers alike. The northern lights make a frequent appearance in this part of Alaska—don a bathing suit and soak in the spring at night for a steamy aurora show. Feeling more adventurous? Stay in an on-site yurt or in one of the handcrafted ice hotel rooms between soaks. 

The tubs don’t just benefit bath-crazy visitors: They power the entire resort with their geothermal energy. When the springs’ mineral composition was tested by curious scientists in 1913, it wasn't like any in North America at the time. Rather, it shares characteristics of Felsenquelle, a similar spot in Bohemia.

George Washington’s Bathtub (Berkeley Springs, West Virginia)

The only outdoor monument to presidential bathing. (AprilAndRandy)

Dip your feet in the very same water that the first U. S. president allegedly bathed in back in the 1780s. George Washington’s Bathtub is a little notch of rocks and naturally heated water in Berkeley Springs State Park and is said to be “the only outdoor monument to presidential bathing.” Washington came to this spot in West Virginia when he was only 16, fell in love with it, and returned throughout his life.

Although the tub is not the exact one Washington soaked in to freshen up (he would have used a pool now replaced by an attached health resort), it’s a great replica of the early bathing standards he enjoyed. The water, however, is absolutely the same—and arguably the most luxurious way to pay tribute to an American president without going indoors. If you'd rather bathe like a Roman emperor instead, head inside: The park has private Roman baths for rent that use the same water.

Tags

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus