Let’s face it, the one best activity in winter is visiting the springs and bathhouses. There probably is no better time to visit the spas, onsens, and bathhouses around the world than winter.
Shibu Onsen (Yamanouchi, Japan)
While it is not one specific onsen but an entire hot spring town, Shibu Onsen is one of the most famous places in Japan. Aside from the historic public bathhouses that fill the town, they are also particularly known for the Japanese macaques that love soaking in the onsens around the nearby Jigokudani Monkey Park.
However, if you do plan to visit, do try to stay overnight as all but one of the nine public bathhouses are open only to locals and overnight guests. One popular tradition is to visit all nine bathhouses, which is believed by the locals to bring about good luck.
Personally, I think soaking in the relaxing waters of nine different onsens is incentive enough.
Fleur de Chine Hotel (Yuchi, Taiwan)
Located right on Sun Moon Lake, the Fleur de Chine Hotel’s reputation for its hot spring was only discovered during its construction.
In Mandarin, hot springs are known as 溫泉 (wēn quán), and the hot spring on Fleur de Chine Hotel’s property was found to contain sodium bicarbonate, which is believed to be beneficial for the skin and general health.
The hotel boasts of large windows with balconies that either overlooks the verdant greenery or the serene Sun Moon Lake, offering great views from any point in a luxurious setting. On top of the hot spring facilities that the hotel has, there are also plenty of kid-friendly facilities. Psst, it’s pet-friendly, too!
Chena Hot Springs (Alaska, USA)
The mineral-rich waters of Chena Hot Springs Resort were initially discovered by gold miners but now has turned into a quaint cabin resort with expansive hot spring facilities.
The highlight of the property is the stunning outdoor rock lake, where visitors can relax in a warm hot spring under the stars, and if you’re lucky, under the Aurora Borealis.
The drive up to the resort itself is a treat, with a beautifully scenic drive from Fairbanks through the verdant forest of the Chena River State Recreation Area to the idyllic grounds of the Chena Hot Springs Resort. You could also take part in various activities in the area like fishing, horseback riding, hiking, and even ATV rides.
Blue Lagoon Iceland)
One of the most iconic and photographed hot springs in the world, the Blue Lagoon sees thousands of visitors pouring in throughout the year. So, it’s wise to book early to secure a spot.
What gives the unique pool its iconic color is the blue-green algae, which, along with minerals and fine mud, create a soothing broth perfect for a relaxing soak.
On top of the lagoon, the attraction also boasts other complementary facilities. There is the Retreat Spa, where you would be able to get an algae mask, the Moss Restaurant where you could get a champagne dinner, and also the handsomely appointed The Retreat at Blue Lagoon Iceland for some 5-star extended rest and relaxation.
Pamukkale thermal waters (Pamukkale, Turkey)
The otherworldly-looking terraces of Pamukkale may look like they’re snowy ridges, but they’re actually calcite that has formed over the travertine terraces. Pamukkale translates into ‘cotton castle,’ and it’s easy to see why with the smooth rounded white edges across its surface.
While the sights may be beautiful at Pamukkale, but take a walk down the gentle slopes, and you’ll arrive in the nearby village where you can find hotels and eateries to set up base to explore the area at your own time. Do remember to pay a visit to the Antique Pool as well, where hot spring pools have the ruins of Roman buildings in it, making it a beautiful and mystical looking setting.
Thermae Bath Spa (Bath, United Kingdom)
While the world-famous, UNESCO-listed site of the Roman Baths are no longer accessible to the aching bodies of far-flung visitors, you can still soak in the same energizing waters from Bath at Thermae Bath Spa.
The spa, unlike the ruins of the Roman Baths, are sleek, modern, and contain up-to-date facilities. It’s also housed in a historic Roman building, with elaborate detailing contrasting with the contemporary updates and installations.
The centerpiece of the spa is the open-air rooftop pool, where you can overlook the beautiful city of Bath while soaking or swimming in the naturally warm and nourishing waters.