When you’re due a dose of rest and relaxation, nothing sounds more enticing than an indulgent day at a luxurious spa… but we might have found some even better options to provide that much-needed blast of pampering. We’re talking about a session with one of nature’s spas – destinations that not only showcase the breathtaking beauty of nature, but also deliver incredible health and wellness benefits too.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Located amidst the mystical mists of an ancient lava field on the Reykjanes Peninsula, this geothermal wonder is a must-visit when you’re in the land of fire and ice. Its mesmerising milky blue waters – which originate some 2000 metres below the earth, before being harnessed by a nearby geothermal power plant – are rich in silica, algae and minerals, which are renowned for their fantastic skin-restorative properties. Max out your pampering with a purifying mud mask, a skyr smoothie at the in-water bar or a fabulous floating massage on the lagoon’s waters... definitely not your average spa day!
The name of this UNESCO World Heritage Site literally means “cotton castle” in Turkish; its stunningly surreal combination of dramatic limestone terraces and limpid aqua pools looks like something out a sci-fi fantasy. These calcium-rich thermal pools cascade down the cliffs in planes towards the ancient ruins of Roman city Hierapolis below (including the legendary “Antique Pool” that Marc Anthony gave as a gift to Cleopatra), making this a destination truly like no other. In order to preserve the area’s natural beauty, all visitors must remove their shoes to traverse the travertines at their leisure… but trust us, there’s no better place to experience barefoot bliss than Pamukkale.
Beitou Hot Springs, Taiwan
Ready to turn up the temperature? Conveniently located on Taiwan’s super-efficient MRT line, Beitou is home to a lushly tranquil park, historic museums and of course, hot springs galore. A relaxing soak in these steamingly hot, sulphur-rich waters is believed to cure skin problems and ease aches and pains, with three types of spring (green, white and iron sulphur) all boasting slightly different benefits. Don’t forget to stop by “Hell Valley” on your visit; sunken into a volcanic crater, these magical jade-green waters are far too hot for swimming… but do look amazing in photos!
The Dead Sea, Israel
Known in Hebrew as Yam Ha-Melah (literally: The Sea Of Salt), chances are that you’ve seen plenty of pictures of people floating effortlessly in this most quirky of natural wonders. At the lowest point on earth, the waters are too saline-heavy to sustain fish and plant life, giving the Dead Sea (actually an inland lake) its name. The high concentration of potassium, magnesium and calcium found in its mud is known to help with a myriad of health concerns from eczema to joint pain, while also exfoliating and deep cleansing the skin, making this a one-stop shop for natural health and beauty fans.
Nestled in the rolling greenery of the Tuscan hillside, the town of Saturnia has been renowned for its natural hot springs since Roman times, and today draws visitors from around the world to steam away their aches and pains in its therapeutic waters. Splurge on a private bath at one of Saturnia’s many exclusive day spas, or make like the locals and head to the Cascate del Mulino and Cascate del Gorello, two naturally hot waterfalls that cascade into invitingly steamy open-air pools. Open to the public year-round and free of charge, no Tuscan tour should be without a soak in Saturnia.
The onsen town of Ibusuki is renowned for stunning views from nearby Cape Nagasakibana, the bright blooms of native hibiscus flowers… and the curious habit of burying visitors neck-deep in sand! Guests at the Saraku Sand Bath Hall are clad in traditional blue Yukata robes before members of staff shovel hot volcanic sand over them; after around 20 minutes of grainy relaxation, guests rinse off before a more conventional soak in Ibusuki’s natural hot springs. With sand baths said to help joint and breathing issues, plus offer natural exfoliation for the skin, quell your claustrophobia and lie back for a human sandcastle experience.
Milky Way Lagoon, Palau
As if a trip to the palm-fringed paradise island of Palau wasn’t relaxing enough, tucked away in the rocky islets of this far-flung Micronesian country you’ll find the Milky Way Lagoon, one of Mother Nature’s most rewarding – and remote – spas. The mineral-infused limestone mud that lines the bottom of this aquamarine cove may smell a little sulphuric, but it is reputed to have powerful healing properties while softening skin and hair with its dense, clay-like texture. The lagoon’s warm waters will soothe away any aches in the most spectacular of settings, so make sure you bring your underwater camera for some ultimate #spaday snaps.