For many of us, common side effects of the pandemic have included traveling less (or not at all in many cases) and doubling up on self-care practices as a way of dealing with all the chaos. There’s no doubt the past year has been stressful/exhausting/trying/<insert how you’re feeling here>. Two ways I like to get my mind off things is by daydreaming about traveling—whether it’s reminiscing about past trips or visualizing my future international adventures—and enjoying a hot bath. Sometimes, I like to do both at the same time!
That’s how the idea for this article came about. As an avid bath-taker and extremely enthusiastic frequenter of onsen (hot springs) in Japan, it got me thinking about some of the other places in the world that also have bath-centric traditions I’d like to explore someday. So, until I can experience them in person, I thought I’d get a head start by researching a few bathing destinations, and take you along for the adventure. Ready? Grab your towel, bathrobe, skincare essentials, and let’s go!
As an avid bath-taker and enthusiastic frequenter of hot springs in Japan, it got me thinking about other places in the world that also have bath-centric traditions.
One of my photographer friends told me that her trip to Iceland was one of her favorites in terms of unique and interesting scenery to capture. Personally, if I ever go, I’ll be making a beeline for The Blue Lagoon! The water at Iceland’s most famous hot spring is said to be rich in minerals and have regenerative qualities. And apparently, the country has a long history of bathing in hot springs, as well as a generalized love of swimming, so beautiful pools and hot springs abound. Sign me up for an extensive tour!
As soon as the international health crisis is under control, I’ll be hopping on a flight to Japan … and heading straight for one of the many onsen towns around the country.
One of the best ones I’ve visited so far is Ginzan Onsen. It is located in Yamagata Prefecture, and I was lucky enough to spend a night there a few years ago while on a family trip. The indoor and outdoor hot spring bathing was nothing short of heavenly, the traditional food was delicious, and the accommodations very comfortable (sleeping on a futon is like sleeping on a cloud!)—something you can expect from most onsen destinations.
But here, the beautiful ryokan (Japanese inns) face each other across a river and are connected by small bridges, with a waterfall at the back of the town, making for not only a serene and peaceful atmosphere but breathtakingly beautiful views, too. I highly recommend visiting this bathing destination someday if you get the opportunity!
If you’ve ever visited a spa, chances are they had a Finnish sauna. A ritual dating back thousands of years, the sauna seems to be a ubiquitous part of Finnish culture. And although it isn’t like taking a bath per se, it has many similar benefits, such as relaxing your muscles, making your pores sweat (they are typically heated between 158° and 212° F, after all!), and calming your mind.
Plus, it is recommended to jump into a cold lake or pool afterward, to create a hot and cold cycle that stimulates blood circulation—so you’re still getting some bathing in (although from experience going to spas here in Quebec in winter, the cold water dip is pretty much an in-and-out thing). And aside from the fact that it is supposed to improve your cardiovascular health and reduces stress, the whole sauna experience is just so relaxing. It would be incredible to get to try it in Finland someday.
A Turkish bath is all about cleansing and relaxation but also has a social aspect, much, it seems, like saunas in Finland. And again, the tradition dates back thousands of years, making it an important part of Turkish culture—and therefore, a worthwhile experience to try (someday!) in my opinion. Apparently, visiting a Turkish bath or hammam involves an attendant scrubbing and massaging you while you lie on a marble slab in a hot steam room, before they bathe you. You then get to rest for a while in a cooler room. Sounds super luxurious and oh-so relaxing!
Thermal springs in France are said to have beneficial—even therapeutic—effects on the body and skin. It’s where brands like Vichy (which is from Vichy) and Avène (from—you guessed it—Avène!) originated. Apparently, there are spa towns located around the country. The idea of enjoying the water’s soothing properties and relaxing in a hot bath nestled somewhere in the mountains is enough to put France’s hot springs first on my need-to-visit list the next time I’m able to fly over the Atlantic.
Are you more of a bath or shower kind of person? Which of these bathing destinations would you visit first? Share in the comments below!