Top 10 Hot Springs

Chris’ personal picks from places in the world that he has visited.

St Lucia’s Drive-in Volcano: Don’t worry, the last major eruption was 40,000 years ago! These days there are boiling mud pots colourfully stained by mineral deposits and once the rotten egg smell becomes too much to bear, you can retreat to the Diamond Botanical Gardens to soak in the hot spring waters amidst gorgeous tropical flora.

Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey: Cascading hot spring waters have created a panorama of gleaming white terraces like opera balconies made of icing sugar which coat the hillside – a spectacular site. Next door, you can soak in the Sacred Pool, floating in crystal clear yet lusciously warm (34°C) waters amidst Greek and Roman columns.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland: Worth the trip to Iceland by itself! This is the number one attraction in the country: 400,000 visitors annually enjoy this massive geothermal pool which is suffused with silica, minerals and algae in a powder-blue soupy steam bath at a constant 38°C. Winter or summer, it’s also a great place to meet the locals too.

Banff Upper Hot Springs, Alberta: Imagine a frosty cold winter’s night, floating in warm, curative waters of a hot spring pool as you look up through the falling snowflakes to moonlight on majestic Mount Rundle… The spring-fed pools are serviced by a retro-rustic 1930s bathhouse, surrounded by Rocky Mountain glaciers.

Sao Miguel, Azores: Surely one of the most beautifully sited hot springs in the world, the Caldeiras are beside stunning Furnas Lake and are surrounded by a kaleidoscope of flowers. Geysers of boiling water spring from many openings and are used as an open-air kitchen. Pots of food are still buried in the hot ground in the traditional way.

Thermae Bath Spa, Bath, England: History and a soak at Britain’s only natural thermal springs which have been enjoyed through the ages: the Celts were succeeded by the Romans who built a very civilized bath house, which is now a museum. Today’s spas – the intimate Cross Bath and rooftop New Royal Bath - are a warming 34°C.

Rotorua, NZ: There is something endlessly watchable about boiling hot mud pots belching their fetid bubbles of gunk in Rotorua’s thermal region. You can feel the spirit of the earth, as it rumbles beneath your feet and escapes, hissing, through fumaroles and geysers. Then soak in one of countless natural hot springs to rejuvenate your spirit.

Budapest, Hungary: In the heart of one of Europe’s most historical and romantic capital cities are a number of bath houses fed by healing hot springs. My favourite is the Gellert Spa Baths (XI. Kelenhegyi út 4-6) which is decorated with a wealth of original Art Nouveau furnishings, artistic mosaics, stained glass windows and sculptures.

Tabacon, Costa Rica: Awe-inspiring, fun and instructive. Awe-inspiring, because these hot waters are dominated by the very active Arenal Volcano, belching smoke and lava. Fun, because the super-heated underground river has been channeled into pools and waterfalls of varying temperatures. Instructive: this is raw volcanic energy!

Poring Hot Springs, Sabah: In the heart of Borneo, these springs have therapeutic properties and the waters with their sulphate minerals ease the aching muscles of climbers returning from nearby Mount Kinabalu. There’s also a butterfly farm, an orchid conservation centre, tropical gardens, a waterfall and a canopy walkway above the forest.