We’re trading out claw-foot for open-air.
Bathfluencers have turned tiled tubs lit by glowing candles into public domain, where bath bombs and bath teas steep and bubble beneath blankets of rose petals and CBD sprinkles for all of social media to see. Public bathing is nothing new, but many of the world’s most stunning baths don’t involve four claws. They can instead be found smoldering beneath the open-air out in nature. From ancient onsens to a hike-in thermal spring hidden in the Andes Mountains, these open-air baths are what bathfluencer dreams are made of.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Villarica Sur National Park, Chile
The 20 hot spring pools of Termas Geometricas are hidden in a Valdivian temperate rainforest ravine beneath a crimson walkway that winds like a labyrinth through this mountainous region of Chile. The waters are naturally fed by an active volcano, where the pools range from 86-113 degrees Fahrenheit. Waterfalls, jungle foliage, and a natural soundtrack of native birds create the unreal ambiance of this magical place.
INSIDER TIPBe aware that the pools close when temperatures are too high
WHERE: Hévíz, Hungary
This mountain-side turquoise oasis is the largest thermal lake in the world with an extremely mineral-rich composition, making it a hotspot for visitors looking to explore its healing properties. Bathers are encouraged to spend no more than 30 minutes at a time soaking in the water—which ranges from 73-100.4 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the season—especially in the winter when the steam forms a cap over this Hungarian lake to create a natural “inhalatorium” that is praised for its ability to rejuvenate tired vocal cords.
WHERE: Gunma Prefecture, Japan
There are nearly 3,000 onsens throughout Japan, but the remote waters at Takaragawa Onsen are among the most prized. The water’s healing properties and the scenic location among the mountains of Minakami bring tourists year-round. There are five different hot baths at the Takaragawa Onsen, including mixed and gender-separated baths, but the most famous is the outdoor Maka bath set among the Takaragawa stream and immersed in an impressively unspoiled natural setting. The hot springs bubble up during all four seasons, and it’s a truly spectacular sight to see the snow falling on the trees from the basin in the winter. The baths follow traditional Japanese onsen bathing customs, and the entrance fee includes the required traditional bathing dress.
Reykjadalur Thermal River
WHERE: Reykjadalur, Iceland
Finding a hot spring, a thermal pool, or even a hot tub is as easy as pulling over on the side of the road while on the actively volcanic island of Iceland, but finding the Reykjadalur Thermal River is not quite as simple. The river is only accessible by foot, where a 4.4-mile out-and-back trail takes hikers through a landscape of waterfalls, boiling mud pools, and steep canyon terrain. The ground appears as if it’s on fire as the river nears, where steam rises from the valley floor (Reykjadalur roughly translates to “steam valley”) and Blue Lagoon-like pools of milky blue dot the landscape–careful, they’re much too hot for swimming. The swimming holes are located further upriver, where a cold river trickles down to cool the boiling water and there’s no charge to hop in and soak in the warm water and stunning views.
Dismal River’s Boiling Sand Springs
WHERE: The Sandhills, Nebraska
A pit of boiling sand springs along the Dismal River in Nebraska may sound like the setting for a John Wayne movie, but these rare phenomena are very much real and are only found in a handful of places around the world. The best way to find them is by kayaking or canoeing down Nebraska’s Dismal River (since much of the surrounding land is privately owned) and sticking the paddle down every so often until it pops right back up…then jumping right in! Unlike actual boiling water (i.e., crazy hot temps, tons of bubbles, etc.), these boiling sand pits are created from water bubbling up from the Ogallala Aquifer below. The pits are generally around 30 feet wide and 100-140 feet deep, where the constant rise of the water pushes the sand up to the surface, making it somewhat like a reverse quicksand.
WHERE: Copenhagen, Denmark
From the creators of Copenhagen’s floating “parkipelagos” comes this moveable open-air bath. The Dyppezone (“dipping zone”) can be found floating in the pristinely clean waters of the Port of Copenhagen, where there are currently five permanent public harbor pools and bathing zones for summer swimming. For anyone looking for a safe way to soak in the cool waters of the harbor, the designer bath is free to use year-round, but for a warmer soak, book one of the floating hot tubs from CopenHot instead.
WHERE: Victoria Falls, Zambia
This natural infinity pool is located at the top of one of the world’s largest waterfalls and offers a heart-pumping view from the water’s edge over the falls. The pool is enclosed by sloping rock sides, which make the pictures look more dangerous than it actually is, but the raging Zambezi waters that rush over the edge make this soak no joke. Reaching the pool is no easy feat either, as swimmers need to pass a rocky walk and swim through the river to reach the swimming hole, but there’s always the option of an easier route to the pool via a guided tour from the Royal Chundu Zambezi Island Lodge on a private boat.
Spence Hot Springs
WHERE: Jemez Springs, New Mexico
Although the waters at Spence Hot Springs are no longer hot (they average around 95-98 degrees), they still offer a scenic place to soak in bathwater-warmth among the quaking aspens and conifer-ridden red rock canyons. From the parking lot off Highway 4, it’s just a short hike alongside the river to the springs. The Spence Hot Springs are relatively small and are located nearby six other hot spring pools—the four pools at Jemez Springs and the two pools at McCauley Hot Springs—that make great alternatives if this site is too full.
WHERE: Denizli Province, Turkey
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most photographed landscapes in Turkey (read: busy!), where terraced pools of healing hot spring water appear like steps 200 meters above the plain of Curuksu. The cliffs appear white due to the high amount of calcium bicarbonate in the waters that cascaded down the cliff centuries ago, cooling and hardening the mineral deposits. Fresh deposits continue to color the cliff white, leaving the waters in the pools a brilliant sky blue.
WHERE: Egerszalók, Hungary
This stunning salt hill is located between the Matra and Bukk mountain ranges in northeastern Hungary, where the 1,200-square-meter limestone hill is covered in shiny, white mineral deposits. Although the hill is not open for bathers, the waters directly below the hill at the Saliris Resort Medicinal and Wellness Spa are open for bathers to soak in, with 30 different minerals of the hot spring water brought in from the salty hill in the background.
Beho Beho Springs
WHERE: Nyerere National Park, Tanzania
This secluded spot has become a favorite for Alluring Africa’s guests staying at Tanzania’s Sand Rivers Selous, and for good reason. The bath is hidden in the middle of the trees, surrounded by trickling waterfalls and rocks that have been shaped by lava. The Beho Beho Springs are set off a game drive in Nyerere National Park along a tree-lined nature trail, where they are heated by a lava flow that isn’t quite active enough to erupt but is active enough to heat the water to the perfect temperature for a mid-game-drive soak.
Las Grutas Tolantongo
WHERE: Hidalgo, Mexico
The thermal infinity pools at Las Grutas Tolantongo were built into a cliff overlooking the Mezquital Valley in Mexico to catch the hot waters flowing from the valley walls. For 150 pesos, visitors have access to the cliffside pools, as well as to all the natural thermal waters from the warm River Tolantongo that flow through the winding system of caves and steamy tunnels.
WHERE: Midway, Utah
This 55-foot-tall, beehive-like cone-formed nearly 10,000 years ago in Heber Valley as limestone mineral deposits piled high from melting snow, percolating in the crater, and rising back up hot and laden with minerals. A tunnel was created in the 1990s for easier access (instead of rappelling down from the opening of the dome), and today the Homestead Crater is one of Utah’s best-kept secrets. Soak in the 90–96-degree Fahrenheit water year-round and peer up at the blue skies above through a 30-foot-wide hole at the top of the crater, stick around for a SUP yoga class, or dive down 65 feet below the surface to experience the only warm scuba diving location in the U.S.
Rainbow Hot Springs
WHERE: Pagosa Springs, Colorado
These charmingly primitive hot springs are the reward for making it up the 4.5-mile hike through the Weminuche Wilderness Area in the San Juan National Forest. There are an upper springs and a lower springs located along the San Juan River, sectioned off by a wall made from stacked river rocks. Reservations aren’t necessary…and neither are clothes.
Mataranka Hot Springs
WHERE: Kakadu National Park, Australia
A hot bath in the heat of the day in Australia’s red center is way more refreshing than it may sound. This spring-fed swimming hole averages around 93 degrees, and winds around like a river beneath towering Mataranka palm trees and lush foliage. There’s an uncanny sense of serenity at this Kakadu National Park hot spot, perhaps due to its crocodile-free waters.