Famous for therapeutic healing properties, thermal baths are a relaxing addition to any travel itinerary. Enjoyed by different peoples and cultures across millennia, many thermal bathhouses have a rich and storied history. Location dependent, the architectural style and properties of the waters are often very different – ample excuse for visiting them all.
Király Baths, Budapest, Hungary
Known as the ‘City of Spas’, Budapest is a prime destination for a thermal retreat. Situated over 125 thermal hot springs, Budapest has a hearty handful of Bath Houses ranging from traditional Turkish to Art Nouveau. The Király Baths are not the most exclusive or chic in town, but remain as a worn and authentic local experience. Built in the mid sixteenth during Ottoman rule, the bath is comprised of four pools ranging from 26-40 degrees Celsius. The main pool is an octagonal chamber situated below a classic Turkish dome. Resting in the pool, the deep stone and blue waters are illuminated by streams of natural light cascading down from pinholes in the dome - creating an atmosphere similar to what it would’ve been 400 years ago.
Terme di Saturnia, Tuscany, Italy
Located a few kilometers from the small Italian village of Saturnia, the Terme di Saturnia is a luxury thermal experience under the sky. Supposedly, the thermal springs were created by lighting bolts from the God Jupiter in a fit of rage toward the Earth. In reality the thermal springs are fed by a vast aquifer network spanning across the adjacent southeastern valley, eventually cascading down the Waterfalls of Gorello into the pools below. The springs have publicly been enjoyed as early as 700 BCE by the Etruscans but are now privately experienced through the luxury spa of Terme di Saturnia. The properties of the water are claimed to treat natural skin, liver, vascular, and lung ailments alongside reducing blood pressure and tension in the joints. While scientifically unproven, the thermal spring certainly does wash away daily stresses and allows for a relaxing time floating in 37.5 degree Celsius waters. Check out the spa for a selection of mineral based treatments.
Hammam Al Ándalus Granada, Granada, Spain
For a visually mesmerizing experience, this Hammam in Granada, Spain offers truly lavish bathing in the shadow of Alhambra. Originally founded in the 14th century, the baths were eventually closed 200 years later due to Christian Spanish rule. A revival in the 1990s has restored the baths to its former Moorish splendor. Soft Andalusian music plays in a series of pool and rest rooms ranging from 40 degree to 18 degree Celsius. The spa follows a strict circuit of 90 minutes, upon which a massage can be included upon request. Book in advance as space is limited.
Aqua Dome, Tyrol, Austria
One the most modern bath houses in Europe, the Aqua Dome is an Alpine thermal spa nestled in between gorgeous mountain scenery. With a futuristic design and feel, the outdoor pools levitate over one another along a central sauna cone in the open air. It can be enjoyed regardless of season, as it is open year round. Sunbath in beach chairs along the manicured green spaces in summer, or enjoy the stunning snow covered vistas by winter. The main dome is a tropical retreat with towering palm trees and glowing main pool. The facility also includes aqua fitness machines, massage pools, a giant whirl pool, and 2000m2 spa service space.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
One of Iceland’s most famous attractions, the Blue Lagoon has a much less glamorous past than other thermal wells. Created in 1976 by a geothermal power plant venting wastewater, the lagoon quickly became popular with locals for its healing powers. Less than 20 years later the Blue Lagoon was commercialized and has since become a family friendly attraction for travellers and locals alike. The water ranges between 37 and 39 degrees Celsius and glows a milky blue color due to the high silica mineral content. The lagoon itself is situated over a vast lava field, making for a striking contrast to the powdery waters.