Packed with minerals and heated naturally by the Earth’s core, thermal waters have captivated people for thousands of years.
Famed for their healing powers, a visit to the spa is said to cure a range of ailments from arthritis to dull skin; today many of the most popular thermal spas in the world also double as luxury facilities where visitors can enjoy pampering treatments of all kinds.
Whether you’re looking for history, architecture, natural beauty or just a great massage, here are five of the best destinations to experience the thermal waters around Europe.
Photo by Shawn Harquail on Flickr
Hungary’s capital city is famed for its culture, architecture and location, and if you’re planning a city break there’s another good reason to visit as well; the thermal waters bubbling up throughout the city’s 118 springs and boreholes have been a popular attraction with visitors for centuries. From the sparkling Gellert Baths to the neo-Baroque settings at Szechenyi Spa or the dramatic 16th-century Turkish pool at Rudas Spa, there are dozens of different options to choose from. For a more specialist experience, try the Lukacs Baths – there are indoor and outdoor pools and mud lounges to enjoy, as well as physiotherapy treatments available thanks to its connection to the neighbouring hospital.
Blue Lagoon, Grindavik, Iceland
Photo by Moyan Brenn on Flickr
Iceland’s Blue Lagoon is arguably one of the most picturesque destinations in the world – natural wonders combine with natural beauty to offer a truly incredible setting to take in the thermal waters. Located in the middle of a lava field on the southwestern side of the island, the stunning turquoise waters of the Blue Lagoon are just a short drive from Iceland’s charming capital city and easy to access on your own or with the help of a chartered tour. The best time to visit is in winter; the landscapes are stunning, and the steam rising off the natural wells offers a beautiful contrast to the crisp winter air. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, there are plenty of other great destinations to choose from – Iceland has more hot springs than any other country in the world.
Of course, if you aren’t interested in travelling, you can enjoy some of Europe’s finest thermal waters without ever leaving England. Famed for the thermal waters that inspired the city’s name, Roman soldiers used the waters to rest and recover from patrolling Hadrian’s Wall. The historic Roman Baths can still be visited, though not used; for that, you’ll need to head to the city’s incredible public spa instead. With beautiful indoor and outdoor pools, luxury spa treatments and famous aromatherapy rooms, you can enjoy the best of the modern facilities over the course of a few hours or a few days. Find more information at the Thermae Bath Spa website.
Therme Vals, Switzerland
Photo by WSI Francis on Flickr
Safely away from civilisation, just to get to the village of Vals you’ll need to take a 200km train journey. The effort is worth it, though; surrounded by the famous Swiss landscapes, this quartz-encased hot spring is the destination for no-holds barred luxury. Book into the adjacent hotel and you can swim in the waters until midnight then enjoy fresh, foraged food from one of four restaurants on site. A range of incredible treatments also help make a visit memorable; from a Ayurvedic treatment to special thermal water massage, if you want to live like a celebrity in incredibly trendy surroundings, the spa complex at Vals is just the ticket.
Photo by PRO ebiggs vancouver on Flickr
As if Tuscany doesn’t already have enough to recommend it, it’s also an excellent destination to take a dip in the local hot springs. There are a range of resorts around the region with their own pools on site, but for a really special experience head to the Saturnia springs an hour south of Siena. The dramatic landscapes give way to the incredible waterfalls and rock pools, all turned white by the minerals in the water. A small dirt track leads from the springs to a car park and changing facility, making it easy for visitors staying nearby or trekking from further afield to stop and enjoy the healing powers of this beautiful hot spring. Nearby, the river Albegna offers a chance to cool down during the summer if it all gets a bit too hot.
Have you ever visited any of the thermal waters on our list?