Pools, hot tubs, showers, and bathtubs are a thriving industry because humans have a deeply ingrained love for all things water. We drink it, we consume its creatures, and we love a good ol' swim. We also love washing as a ritual to start our mornings on a fresh note, to dissolve our problems when the day is done, and to cleanse and protect us from pathogens.
The world's best hot springs and open-air baths do all this and more. They reconnect us with nature, the cultures of yore, and the people around us. And hydrotherapy can be healing and intensely comforting.
You'd be hardpressed not to find Pamukkale on a Turkish tourism brochure. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, these hot spring terraces are a stone's throw away from the ruins of Hierapolis, a former Roman spa city. The travertine cliffs that form Denizli's famous tiered pools are white, which is why the warm waters here can look so icy blue on a sunny day.
Six hours south of Istanbul, Pamukkale is well worth a visit. Stay the night in the region to avert the day-tripping crowds, and you'll get more time in proximity to the ancient past.
When it's not the rainy season in Zambia, you can live life on the edge and take a dip in Devil's Pool. Overlooking Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, this spectacular spot on Livingstone Island takes the concept of an infinity pool to a whole new level. If you're brave enough, you can crane your neck to get an eyeful of the 100m plunge to the bottom.
October and November are the best months to visit.
There are thousands of Japanese hot springs or onsen. Visiting one of the country's onsen ryokan is sure to melt away life's stresses, at least for a day or two.
Kurokawa Onsen is a picturesque hot spring town in central Kyushu offering mixed or women-only bathing in cave and riverside baths. You can purchase a pass that allows you to visit three different baths in one day.
In the snowy region of Pucon, Chile, you will find a charming Japanese-inspired hot spring spa with waters that stay warm and toasty throughout the year. Well, the waters in the natural pool, at least. This lake district attraction's waterfalls can plummet to 43 degrees Fahrenheit.
Termas Geométricas is situated in verdant Villarrica National Park a few hours south of Santiago. It's sure to be a highlight of any trip to this South American nation.
In a frosty corner of the globe, there's a South Greenland island called Uunartoq that no human soul calls home. Uunartoq's remote hot spring offers year-round bathing overlooking mountaintops and moving icebergs. Cruise ships make frequent trips to Qaqortoq, where you'll find boats to deliver you to your destination. If you like the idea of luxuriating in an almost otherworldly environment, this is the bath for you.
Hévíz presents a truly unique prospect; the chance to sink into the world's largest thermal lake. Embrace halcyon days in this gorgeous Hungarian town. You'll get used to dunking your body into healing mineral-rich water for half an hour and sleeping like a baby. Imagine water lilies, lots of them. And throw in winter-time water vapor that can soothe your throat and vocal cords when inhaled.
No list of hot springs and open-air baths is complete without a mention of Iceland's Blue Lagoon. This steamy tourist magnet is worth the hype. Just half an hour from Reykjavík, Blue Lagoon is an artificial pool filled with recycled mineral-rich water from a geothermal power plant. Evening swims amidst black lava rocks and under star-studded skies will leave both your spirit and skin feeling great.
Southern Tuscany casts a spell on many who venture there with its vine-covered hills, idyllic countryside, and rugged hills. Terme di Saturnia is one more reason to visit this Italian region. Once a jaunt for the Roman elite, the thermal resort now boasts a large golf course. The volcanic hot spring's waters can supposedly cure many a malady, but you'll have to deal with the accompanying whiffs of sulfur.
Venture into Australia's Northern Territory, and you'll find jewel after jewel. One of these is the sacred Uluru. Mataranka's hot mineral springs are another treasure, albeit a less known one among foreigners. Sparkling waters fringed by palm trees entice visitors to linger in the spring's delicious warmth.
The attraction can get pretty busy, but a short trek to swim in refreshing Stevie's Hole more than makes up for the change of plans.
Mexico's cenotes are the stuff Instagram dreams are made of. Cenote Ik-Kil, in particular, looks as good in real life as it does in pictures. It has a lush color palette, and palpable energy derived, in part, from the hanging vines and sheets of water falling from the open ringed roof. The waters here were considered sacred by the ancient Mayans, and the ruins of Chichén Itzá are also in this nook of the Yucatán peninsula. Did anyone say bucket-list double-whammy?