19 Best Thermal Spas In The World For Ultimate Relaxation

Thermal spas have been a popular destination for relaxation and rejuvenation for centuries. Known for their natural geothermal waters, these spas offer a unique experience that combines the healing properties of mineral-rich water with a tranquil environment. Visitors often flock to these therapeutic retreats in search of relief from various ailments or simply to unwind and enjoy the serenity.

The healing benefits of thermal spas are attributed to the high mineral content and temperature of the water, which can vary from lukewarm to very hot. These waters are believed to aid in alleviating muscle and joint pain, boosting circulation, and promoting overall health and well-being. Additionally, many spas incorporate additional wellness treatments, such as massages, mud baths, and aromatherapy, enhancing the overall experience and benefits for visitors.

Located across the globe, thermal spas can be found in diverse settings, from secluded natural landscapes to luxurious city resorts. These geothermal wonders attract a wide range of visitors, from spa enthusiasts to travelers seeking a unique experience, making them an appealing and invigorating destination for people of all backgrounds and interests.

History of Thermal Spas

Roman Times

The history of thermal spas can be traced back to ancient Rome, where they played a significant role in society and culture. Romans highly valued the healing properties of thermal waters, and they constructed numerous bathhouses throughout their vast empire.

The most famous ancient Roman spa is the Baths of Caracalla, built in the early 3rd century AD. It was a marvel of engineering, with complex water supply systems and sophisticated heating mechanisms.

In addition to promoting physical and mental wellbeing, Roman baths also served as places for socializing and conducting business. The bathhouse was an integral part of daily life, with people of all social classes visiting them regularly for relaxation, grooming, and networking.

The ruins of Caracalla
The ruins of Caracalla

Turkish Baths

The tradition of thermal spas continued into the medieval period, most notably with the development of Turkish Baths. These were inspired by the Roman tradition but adapted to suit the Islamic culture in which cleanliness and ritual purification were highly prioritized. The architectural design of Turkish baths was focused on the provision of warmth, humidity, and a series of bathing chambers that followed a specific progression.

  • Cold room: Bathers entered the bathhouse through this chamber, where they left their clothing and began the process of relaxation.
  • Tepid room: This was the transitional space where bathers acclimated to the rising heat and humidity while receiving a gentle massage.
  • Hot room: Here, bathers experienced the most intense heat and steam, and received an invigorating scrub to exfoliate dead skin cells.

Turkish baths became popular throughout the Middle East and the Ottoman Empire, symbolizing a fusion of Roman and Islamic bathing traditions. They remain an enduring cultural practice in Turkey and continue to influence spa designs around the world.

Health Benefits of Thermal Spas

Mineral-Rich Water

Thermal spas are well-known for their mineral-rich water, which can offer various health benefits. These waters are typically high in minerals like calcium, sodium, magnesium, and sulfur.

Soaking in mineral-rich water can help promote skin health, detoxify the body, and improve various skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. The presence of these minerals in the water also makes it an excellent natural way to alleviate certain respiratory problems, including allergies and asthma.

Lake Hévíz in Hungary - the largest biologically-active natural thermal lake
Lake Hévíz in Hungary – the largest biologically-active natural thermal lake 

Blood Circulation

One of the main health benefits of visiting a thermal spa is its ability to improve blood circulation. The warm water in a hydrotherapy pool helps the blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow throughout the body. This increased circulation can lead to:

  • Reduced inflammation: Improved blood flow helps to decrease inflammation, which can help with pain and stiffness caused by various medical conditions.
  • Improved oxygen delivery: Better circulation means increased oxygen delivery to the cells, which supports the body’s natural healing process.
  • Relaxation: The increased circulation also aids in the relaxation of muscles, reducing stress levels and promoting a greater sense of overall well-being.

Joint Pain

Thermal spas can be particularly beneficial for those suffering from joint pain. The warm water in a hydrotherapy pool supports the body’s joints, reducing the pressure and strain on them.

This can provide immense relief for those with arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other joint-related conditions. Additionally, thermal spas often incorporate water exercise programs that provide low-impact exercises.

These exercises help to increase flexibility and muscle strength without putting excessive pressure on joints. Some benefits to joint health at thermal spas include:

  • Decreased pain and stiffness: The warm water and buoyancy help to alleviate pain and stiffness by reducing the weight on joints.
  • Improved range of motion: The gentle exercises often performed in a hydrotherapy pool can gradually improve joint flexibility and overall mobility.
  • Enhanced muscle strength: Water resistance exercises can help strengthen the muscles around the joints, increasing stability and decreasing the risk of injury.
Bania Thermal Bath in Bialka, Zakopane Poland
Bania Thermal Bath in Bialka, Zakopane Poland

Types of Thermal Spas

Thermal Springs

Thermal springs are natural water sources that are heated by the Earth’s geothermal energy. They typically contain minerals, making them popular destinations for relaxation and therapeutic treatments.

These springs can be found in various forms such as hot tubs, natural hot springs, steam rooms, and thermal pools. Some locations may offer both indoor and outdoor pools, allowing visitors to enjoy the benefits of thermal springs in diverse environments.

Kusatsu Onsen hot springs in Japan
Kusatsu Onsen hot springs in Japan

Geothermal Springs

Geothermal springs are a type of thermal spring characterized by their heat source, which is the Earth’s geothermal energy. These springs are formed when groundwater is heated by the Earth’s magma and subsequently rises to the surface.

Geothermal springs often contain minerals and offer numerous health benefits, making them popular destinations for wellness retreats. Examples of geothermal springs can include outdoor pools and hot baths that draw their water directly from underground sources.

A geothermal spa in Iceland
A geothermal spa in Iceland

Hydrothermal Springs

Hydrothermal springs are hot water sources created by the interaction between hot rocks and groundwater. Like other thermal springs, hydrothermal springs can contain minerals, and their temperatures can range from warm to boiling hot.

These springs are often used for relaxation and therapeutic purposes, providing benefits through their mineral-rich composition and heat. Commonly seen in the form of steam rooms, hot baths, and thermal pools, hydrothermal springs offer a unique experience for those seeking a natural rejuvenation.

Most Famous Thermal Spas

We’ve grouped these thermal spas by their country’s alphabetical order. It’s hard to choose one as being better than the others!

Most of these incredible thermal spas are natural, although we have included a manmade one located next to water cascades, as it’s too good to leave out!

1. Peninsula Hot Springs, Fingal, Australia

Set amongst the picturesque Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia, Peninsula Hot Springs offers a variety of geothermal pools and wellness experiences. The award-winning resort boasts natural thermal pools, an ice cave, and a multitude of relaxation options, providing a serene sanctuary for visitors.

Peninsula Hot Springs on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia
Peninsula Hot Springs on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia

2. AQUA DOME – Tirol Therme Längenfeld, Austria

Located in the picturesque Ötztal Valley, AQUA DOME – Tirol Therme Längenfeld offers stunning alpine scenery alongside modern spa facilities. The outdoor thermal pools boast breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, while the indoor area features a variety of water-based activities and relaxation options.

AQUA DOME - Tirol Therme Längenfeld in Summer
AQUA DOME – Tirol Therme Längenfeld in Summer

3. Thermes de Spa, Brussels, Belgium

Situated in the heart of Brussels, Thermes de Spa combines historic charm and contemporary comfort. With over a century of tradition, guests can unwind in the mineral-rich spring water and enjoy various spa treatments for a truly revitalizing experience.

Thermes de Spa by day
Thermes de Spa by day

4. Baldi Hot Springs, Costa Rica

Located near the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica, Baldi Hot Springs offers 25 thermal pools, each with varying temperatures to cater to individual preferences. Surrounded by lush Costa Rican rainforest, visitors can unwind in the soothing waters while taking in the breathtaking natural scenery.

Baldi Hot Springs in Costa Rica
Baldi Hot Springs in Costa Rica – photo: John Menard, Wikimedia

5. Friedrichsbad Baden-Baden, Germany

Friedrichsbad Baden-Baden is an iconic thermal spa, built in 1877 and inspired by ancient Roman architecture. The 17-step bathing ritual incorporates a blend of Irish and Roman bathing traditions, featuring thermal water, steam baths, and scrub massages, providing a unique and refreshing experience.

Friedrichsbad Baden-Baden - thermal spas
Friedrichsbad Baden-Baden – G. Eichmann, Wikimedia

6. Rudas Thermal Baths, Budapest, Hungary

Dating back to the 16th century, Rudas Thermal Baths in Budapest is an oasis of calm within the bustling city. The historic Turkish baths feature a stunning octagonal pool, while the recently renovated wellness area offers a range of modern treatments to its visitors.

Rudas Thermal Spa
Rudas Thermal Spa – Christo, Wikimedia

7. Széchenyi Thermal Baths, Budapest, Hungary

As the largest medicinal baths in Europe, Széchenyi Thermal Baths boast 18 pools filled with naturally warm mineral waters. Nestled in the heart of Budapest, the neo-Baroque architecture and lush gardens provide a picturesque setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Szechenyi thermal baths in Budapest, Hungary
Szechenyi thermal baths in Budapest, Hungary

8. Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland is a world-famous geothermal spa renowned for its mineral-rich waters and otherworldly landscape. The bright blue waters, heated by geothermal energy, are known for their healing properties, making it a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike.

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa

9. Banjar Hot Springs, Bali, Indonesia

Nestled within a lush tropical landscape, Banjar Hot Springs in Bali presents an idyllic escape from the hustle of everyday life. The volcanic mineral waters, heated by nearby Mount Banjar, flow through beautifully carved stone spouts, providing guests with the ultimate relaxation experience.

Banjar Hot Springs in Bali, Indonesia
Banjar Hot Springs in Bali, Indonesia

10. Montecatini Terme, Italy

Montecatini Terme is a historic spa town in Tuscany, Italy, known for its elegant thermal establishments. Visitors can experience the curative powers of the thermal waters while soaking in the opulent surroundings and indulging in various wellness treatments.

Montecatini Terme in Siena, Italy
Montecatini Terme in Siena, Italy

11. Saturnia Hot Springs, Italy

Located in the beautiful Maremma region of Tuscany, the Terme di Saturnia features cascading thermal waterfalls and steaming pools. The mineral-rich waters, renowned for their health benefits, offer visitors an unforgettable thermal spa experience in a unique natural setting.

Also known as Cascate del Mulino, this natural hot spring is free and can therefore get extremely busy. For a more relaxed ambiance, book yourself into one of the thermal spa hotels in the area such as Terme di Saturnia Natural Spa & Golf Resort.

Natural spa with waterfalls and hot springs at Saturnia, Grosseto, Tuscany
Natural spa with waterfalls and hot springs at Saturnia, Grosseto, Tuscany

12. Umi Jigoku, Beppu, Japan

Located in the city of Beppu, in the prefecture of Oita on the island of Kyushu, lies a fascinating natural wonder known as the Umi Jigoku, or “Sea Hell”. This unique hot spring is part of a larger collection of thermal ponds known as the “Eight Hells of Beppu” or “Jigoku meguri”.

With its vibrant blue-green waters, the Umi Jigoku is a breathtaking sight to behold, measuring up to 200 meters in circumference and maintained at a constant temperature around 98 degrees Celsius. Known for its high sulfur content, this vivid hot spring not only presents an incredible spectacle for visitors to Beppu, but also has long been cherished for its supposed medicinal properties. Come explore the extraordinary beauty and healing properties of the Umi Jigoku for yourself.

Sea Hell thermal spa in Umi-Zigoku in Beppu, Oita, Japan
Sea Hell thermal spa in Umi-Zigoku in Beppu, Oita, Japan

13. Therme Bucuresti, Romania

Therme Bucharest, nestled in the bustling city of Bucharest, Romania, is a stunning complex. The thermal pools, which are kept warm with thermal water sourced from 3,000 meters depth beneath the surface of the Earth, offer visitors a unique and rejuvenating bath experience.

Therme Bucharest is equipped with 10 pools of varying sizes and temperatures, making it the perfect destination for individuals, couples and even families.

Therme Bucarest thermal spa
Therme Bucarest thermal spa – Dronepicr, Wikimedia

14. Galgorm, Ballymena, United Kingdom

Galgorm Resort and Spa, located in Northern Ireland, provides a luxurious escape amidst tranquil gardens and woodlands. Although it is not a natural thermal spa, the The thermal village includes indoor and outdoor elements, such as steam rooms, hot tubs, and hydrotherapy pools, blending seamlessly with the surrounding natural environment.

A private hot tub at Galgorm Thermal Village
A private hot tub at Galgorm Thermal Village

15. Thermae Bath Spa, Bath, United Kingdom

Thermae Bath Spa is a historic thermal spa in the center of Bath, where visitors can experience the same waters that have drawn people for over 2,000 years. The spa features a rooftop pool with stunning views of the city, as well as various traditional steam rooms and treatments.

Relaxing in the rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa
Relaxing in the rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa

16. Buckstaff Bathhouse, United States

As a part of Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, Buckstaff Bathhouse has been providing traditional thermal water treatments since 1912.

Guests can relax in the historic building and enjoy a range of soaks, scrubs, and massages to experience the recuperative powers of the mineral-rich waters.

The exterior of Buckstaff Bathhouse
The exterior of Buckstaff Bathhouse – Daveynin, Wikimedia

17. Chena Hot Springs Resort, United States

Located in the Alaskan wilderness, Chena Hot Springs Resort draws visitors with its unique combination of geothermal hot springs and breathtaking scenery. The resort offers therapeutic soaking pools, providing a rejuvenating experience in a truly remote and serene setting.

Chena Hot Spring in Alaska during Winter
Chena Hot Spring in Alaska during Winter

18. Riverbend Hot Springs, United States

Overlooking the Rio Grande in New Mexico, Riverbend Hot Springs blends calming mineral waters with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and desert. Located in the unusually named city of Truth or Consequences, Riverbend offers hot springs on the majestic river banks.

The spa’s rustic yet elegant atmosphere ensures a relaxing and soothing retreat. There are bookable private pools as well as communal pools, and some unique hotel rooms.

A hot tub at Riverbend Hot Springs
A hot tub at Riverbend Hot Springs – Pattie, Wikimedia Commons

19. Yellowstone Hot Springs, United States

Bear in mind that you cannot bathe in the actual natural hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. It is unsafe for visitors, and could cause damage to the environment.

However, situated just 8 miles from Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone Hot Springs offers mineral-rich thermal pools surrounded by the beauty of Montana’s wilderness. With various pools and temperatures to choose from, guests can find the perfect balance of relaxation and rejuvenation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a thermal spa the same as a natural spring?

A thermal spa and a natural spring are not exactly the same, although they share similarities. Both involve water sources heated by the Earth’s geothermal energy.

A natural spring typically refers to a location where heated water flows naturally from the ground, while a thermal spa utilizes these naturally heated waters to offer various spa treatments and facilities. For example, Pamukkale (meaning Cotton Castles) in Turkey is a historic collection of natural springs in white travertine pools. For a small fee, you can swim in Cleopatra’s Pool, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pamukkale travertine terraces and natural hot spring
Pamukkale travertine terraces and natural hot spring

How long can you spend in a thermal spa?

The recommended duration in a thermal spa can vary depending on individual preferences and comfort levels. Generally, it is advised to spend around 15 to 20 minutes per session in a thermal pool, followed by a rest period to allow the body to cool down. Overexposure to hot water can cause dizziness, dehydration, and heat exhaustion, so it is important to monitor your own health and listen to your body’s signals.

Are thermal spas safe?

Thermal spas are generally safe for most individuals, as they offer numerous health benefits such as relieving stress, improving circulation, and easing muscle tension. However, certain individuals may need to take extra precautions or avoid thermal spas altogether. Pregnant women, people with heart conditions, and individuals with skin or respiratory issues should consult their doctor before visiting a thermal spa to ensure their safety.

What is the largest thermal spa in the world?

The Therme Erding, located in Erding, Germany, is considered the largest thermal spa in the world. This expansive facility covers a total area of 145,000 square meters and offers a variety of attractions, including thermal pools, saunas, slides, restaurants, and more. Visitors can experience numerous themed areas, such as Roman-inspired saunas and a tropical paradise, which cater to different interests and preferences.

What is the oldest thermal spa in the world?

The oldest known thermal spa in the world is in Belgium. A natural spring was discovered in 1326in the Belgian town of Spa. This is where the modern word “spa” comes from.

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