That said, if your favorite part of a vacation is the hotel room hot tub, why not opt for a traditional bathing experience? To inspire wanderlust and celebrate bathing cultures scattered around the world, read on for an insight into what seven spa pools look like in different locations.
Balinese flower baths
Yes, Bali’s famous flower baths make for a great Instagram photo, but the tradition is much more than just posing in a flower-covered bathtub. In Balinese culture, flower baths were traditionally used as healing rituals, in addition to a luxurious spa day. Spend some time in a bath of beautiful petals and natural oils, and emerge refreshed in body and mind.
The Party Baths of Budapest
Budapest’s well-deserved nickname is the ‘city of spas’. The Hungarian capital has attracted spa enthusiasts since the Ottoman Empire, but the ‘sparty’ is a 21st-century invention. Imagine a nightclub complete with DJ sets and cocktails, except the entire shack is set in a geothermal hot spring. Pack your cutest bathing suit and buy tickets to one of these backpackers favorite events, or visit during the day for a more relaxed swim.
“Many Finns think you can’t understand Finland or its culture without bathing in a sauna,” reads a Visit Finland guidebook. In that case, all you need to do is add a spa day to your Finland itinerary. Expect a bare-bones sweat lodge with no frills like jingling spa muzak or, well, clothes. To get the full Finnish experience, use the included bundles of “vasta” (birch twigs) to gently pat your skin and stimulate circulation.
A temazcal is a healing, purifying sweat lodge ritual led by a shaman, originating from the Mayan tradition. Today you can find them all over Mexico and Central America. You enter (read: crawl) into a medium-high circular dome structure heated by smoldering rocks, and once the door closes, the group sits in pitch-black darkness to sing, chant, and share intentions. For about two hours, the heat becomes intense and traditions say that the sweat promotes healing and growth.
Calistoga mud baths
That same mineral-rich soil that makes Napa Valley wine so delicious also enhances the mud baths of Calistoga, California, a Napa Valley town. Local spas use water from the 212-degree Fahrenheit hot springs in mud baths designed to purify the skin, improve circulation and relieve muscle tension. Plus, it’s an adult excuse to play in the mud – with a glass of wine in hand.
Japanese culture takes full advantage of the country’s active volcanoes, using geothermal water to fill onsen baths in public baths known as ryokans. The tradition dates back to the 8th century, when Buddhism took root in Japan. Now tourists and locals alike head to the pools for a day of purification, relaxation, and hanging out naked (no clothes allowed) in the heated waters. Most onsen are segregated by gender, and you’ll be given a bathrobe and wooden sandals to wear if you’re not soaked.
In Turkey, you will find the traditional hammam bathing ritual in both local bathhouses and adapted for tourists in hotel spas. According to Istanbul Insider, a day in the hammam means either a self-guided day of relaxation in the steam bath or a paid treatment by a masseuse. If you pop in for the treatment, a spa attendant will bathe and massage you — certain bathhouses also have specialized massages and facials. Be sure to check the schedule before you go as some locations allow men and women to enter at different times.
Ginger baths are also a must if you are taking a bath at home and this is the final verdict on whether Epsom salts are really good for you.