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5x the finest wellness, hot springs and saunas worldwide

by Elisa Flitter Fever
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Wellness, sauna, hot spring… who doesn’t love it?! Anyway, I’m crazy about it. I like to visit saunas in The Netherlands, but also abroad. When I’m on vacation I always check to see if there is a nice wellness area. Onsen, lagoon, or whatever it may be called there. It more or less comes down to the same thing: nice and relaxing wellness. Definitely a plus for me if a destination has something like this! In this article my favorite wellness in the world, which I have visited so far.

Myvatn Nature Baths a.k.a. Blue Lagoon of the North
Myvatn Nature Baths a.k.a. Blue Lagoon of the North

Japanese wellness

Japan is a paradise for wellness enthusiasts. In Japan, a hot spring is called an onsen. You can often find these at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. Onsen can be found all over the country, there are even a number of villages known for many onsens together. During my trip through Japan I visited several.

My favorite was the onsen at ryokan Fuki no Mori in Nagiso, near the Nakasendo Trail between Edo villages of Magome and Tsumago. There I wore a traditional kimono and high wooden flip flops. This is how you walk from your room to the entrance of the onsen. In a Japanese onsen, the men and women are separated from each other. And there is an indoor and an outdoor section.

Indoor onsen bath at Hotel Fuki no Mori
Fuki no Mori onsen
Yudanaka Yumoto onsen near Snow Monkey forest
Yudanaka Yumoto onsen

There was a very nice atmosphere in the onsen. You can gaze out wonderfully at the surrounding forest. Also had a nice conversation with a female doctor from Sweden, who was on holiday there with her family. My muscles relaxed in the warm water after the long walk of the ancient mail route. To enjoy!

Good to know: beware of tattoos in Japanese wellness. The Japanese consider tattoos as something of the mafia. It is not uncommon for people to be refused entry as a result. If you have one, or at most a few, you can try taping them. Or rent a private onsen. This policy is reportedly becoming more flexible in the major cities and tourist hotspots.

Read more about Japanese onsen experience in these two specific articles:

Outdoor onsen Ryokan  Fuki no Mori Japan
Outdoor onsen @ Ryokan Fuki no Mori

Icelandic wellness

Like Japan, Iceland is a volcanic island. That means there are hot springs to be found. And how! The whole country is dotted with beautiful hot springs, sometimes with bright blue milky water. These are often called lagoon (lagoon), with a water temperature between 36 and 40°C.

The most popular are in the southwest of Iceland:

Sky Lagoon is the latest wellness hotspot on Iceland

We ourselves visited the hot springs Myvatn Nature Baths and Vök Baths near Egilsstaðir. These are both located in the east of the country, in beautiful locations with wide views. At Myvatn Nature Baths there is also a steam bath and a restaurant. The entrance is between EUR 38-44 p.p. for an adult. Discounted rates are often available for teenagers, students, seniors and the disabled. Reservations are recommended.

It is wonderful to enjoy such a lagoon. Especially after long walks in the breathtaking nature, or after a long day of driving the Diamond Circle route, for example. I could write a whole article about Iceland’s fantastic hot springs…I will in the future. The middle photo below was taken at Krauma Geothermal Baths & Spa in Reykholt, in northwestern Iceland.

Italian wellness

Terme San Giovanni is located in the Tuscan town of Rapolano Terme, in the province of Siena. They call themselves a thermal bath center. In addition to a beautiful outdoor area with pool and mud pool, there is also a spa and a hotel. The massage I’ve had here was truly one of the best ever.

In the spring, fragrant roses and lavender bloom outside in the garden. The outdoor pool is fantastic, it is lit up at night. But it is also beautiful inside, with atmospheric, high wooden ceilings, for example. In short, Terme San Giovanni is a must!

Terme San Giovanni in Rapolano Tuscany wellness
One of the outdoor pools at Terme San Giovanni

Unfortunately, the prices of hotel rooms at Terme San Giovanni are bizarrely high these days (as in €642 per night for an economy double room). Then I think you better sleep at Fattoria Poggio Alloro, near San Gimignano (<60 min drive).

Of course, Italy has much more wellness to offer than Terme San Giovanni alone. Anyway, I’ve been there, so I can really tell you something about that from my own experience. Anyway, there is much more wellness to discover in Bella Italia.

San Giovanni Terme Rapolano Tuscany
San Giovanni Terme Rapolano Tuscany (photo credits booking.com)

New Zealand wellness

For those who love a bubble, will enjoy New Zealand. And I’m not talking about wine, although they can also do something with it, as we discovered in the wine village of Blenheim, Marlborough. No, I am referring to the geysers, hot springs and mud pools that you find all over New Zealand.

These hot springs are often found in Rotorua and the surrounding area, on the southern half of the North Island. The town of about 50,000 inhabitants sits on top of an active volcanic zone. I’ve been there twice so far, the smell you’ll never forget. Rotten eggs!

Of course I couldn’t resist visiting wellness when in Rotorua. For example, I visited Polynesian Spa, one of the largest and nowadays one of the most popular hot springs in the area. In 2018 they were nominated for the World’s Best Mineral & Hot Springs Awards.

The plumes of smoke rise above Rotarua
The plumes of smoke rise above Rotarua
Rare snapshot of me and my mother at Polynesian Spa Rotorua
Rare snapshot of me and my mother at Polynesian Spa

In addition to paid hot springs, such as Polynesian Spa and Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, you will also find free hot springs in New Zealand, including at Kerosene Creek. And you can also sleep at a number of wellness locations, for example at Jet Park Hotel Rotorua.

At the paid hot springs, things like mud baths, massage, etc. are also offered. Or a private bath for example. It is certainly not free, but it is a nice experience. Take your time because at Polynesian Spa for example, they already have 28 hot water mineral baths. Check their virtual tour for an impression.

Wellness and hot springs can also be found elsewhere in New Zealand, including in Turangi, a village near the Tongariro Crossing. You have to be careful with sand flies, they leave behind lumps that will leave you itchy for weeks.

View from the whirlpool in Queenstown NZ
View from the whirlpool in Queenstown NZ

Finnish wellness

Well, Finland is of course known for its saunas. As far as I’m concerned, a very important part of the world of wellness. Finnish people often have a sauna at home. When we went to Finnish Lapland I of course wanted a wooden house with a sauna in it, nice cliché. After the warmth of the sauna, you can dive into the snow outside or into your warm bed. What a pleasure!

In the village where we were, Levi, there was also a swimming pool with saunas. I was curious. And did feel like a relaxing wellness day. We look; it was more of an ordinary public swimming pool, complete with 90s style tile walls and screaming, running children. There were a few saunas and steam baths, but not much. And I personally do not find it a relaxing experience with children.

Private sauna in our cozy Levilehto cottage Finnish Lapland
A private sauna is very common in Finnish Lapland
From the sauna you can roll straight into your igloo house

Next time look elsewhere in Finland. At Hotel Jeris in the northwest of Finland, for example, it seems to be a good place to stay. There are saunas and you have a beautiful view from the water right in front of the hotel. In winter, the lake freezes over and you can jump into the ice sheet!

The ice sauna of Rukan Salonki in Ruka also seems very cool to me. Chalets have their own sauna, there are larger saunas, hot tubs, etc. At least it looks inviting in the pictures, so it’s on the bucket list.

Hotel Jeris Finland
Do you have the guts? (Hotel Jaris)
The ice sauna at Rukan Salonki Finland
The ice sauna at Rukan Salonki

Other wellness experiences

As mentioned, I have already visited quite a few wellness, saunas and thermal baths in the Netherlands. You can read all about this in the article Relax at my favorite saunas in the Netherlands. Top favorites are: Spa Sereen, Fort Beemster and Leeuwerik Hoeve.

When we were in Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of Argentina, we slept at a beautiful hotel, Los Cauquenes Resort & Spa. The hotel is located on the Beagle Channel, over which you have a sublime view from your hot tub. In the evening you step into the warm water together, look at the stars at the sky, wine within reach… Really enjoying, something like that stays with me for a long time.

In Istanbul, the capital of Turkey, I went to the Cağaloğlu Hamam. This is the last Turkish bath house built during the Ottoman Empire in 1741. Interesting and beautiful to see. I did not like the real traditional Turkish hammam treatment to be honest (very rough).

When we were in Thailand, we went on a day trip from Pai to Lod Cave. Then we also stopped at the hot springs Sai Ngam. Super beautifully situated in nature and wonderfully warm water! Nice to have seen, only of course we cannot not really call such a place a ‘wellness’.

And sometimes it just doesn’t work. For example, a few years ago we were in Baden-Baden, a classic wellness resort in the Black Forest in Germany. But unfortunately we didn’t bring our bathing gear and my boyfriend didn’t have one that day. Ah well, I’m sure there will be another opportunity in the future.

Wellness bucketlist

There are several wellness locations I would like to go to. Anyway, a number of onsen in Japan, at Semboku, Shibu Onsen and Hokkaido for example. I also have a bucket list for Dutch saunas.

In Austria you have many beautiful wellness places that I would like to visit. Think, for example, of the Tyrol Therme Längenfeld. And in Slovenia there seems to be great wellness too. In short, there is still plenty to discover in this beautiful world!

Have you ever been to a wellness or hot spring abroad? Or would you like to do that? Which saunas have you already visited? Feel free to share your additional tips or a question by commenting at the bottom of this article!

Vök Baths bar pool
Vök Baths bar pool
Vök Baths infinity pool
Vök Baths infinity pool

You might also like to read these articles on my website:


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Last Updated on 04/25/2022 by Elisa Flitter Fever

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