When water is heated by the geothermal energy of our planet, hot springs are created. Since hot springs can vary in characteristics, it can be tricky to define them. Some people would say for one to be genuine, it has to be above the temperature of the human body, while others claim that natural water 11-14℉ above the air temperature is enough.
Geothermal energy can warm hot springs in two different ways. Most of them result from rain or groundwater seeping through fractures and cracks beneath the earth’s surface. The groundwater gathers in subterranean reservoirs known as aquafers or vents before moving further toward the earth’s mantle, which is warmed by magma.
Secondly, the earth’s radioactive decay deep below the soil generates a lot of heat that can directly warm up natural water as it comes in contact with it.
A hot spring is developed when hot water is forced back up through fissures and cracks by the combination of extreme temperatures and high pressure deep under the earth. Geysers and springs of all temperatures are made by groundwater that finally bubbles up to the surface.
The term “hot spring” is vague and is widely used across the board; however, many people associate thermal spring water with wellness spas and geothermal soaking spots.
Types of Hot Springs
There are many forms of hot springs around the globe. It’s critical to know their differences, as not all springs are safe to interact with.
Soaking Pools – Geothermal springs that are safe to submerge in are often marked as such. Most hot springs temperatures that are ok to get in hover around 104℉ and below, although you might find some slightly hotter, too (generally under 115℉).
The hotter they are the less time you should spend soaking in them. Many springs resorts have sourced natural spring waters to build soaking pools, but with a little research, you can find a primitive pool to relax in, too.
Hot Pools – Some hot springs pools are too hot and lethal to get in. If the water is too close to the source, it can reach boiling temperatures which can be unsafe.
Geysers – A geyser is a hot spring that has reached a boiling point and has a restrictive pathway out of the earth, causing it to spray several feet in the air. Some of the most famous ones are in Yellowstone National Park.
Warm Springs – The definition of a warm spring can be subjective. Usually, these are natural swimming areas that are temperate for getting in but aren’t hot enough to be considered a hot spring. These springs generally range anywhere from 68-95℉, give or take a few degrees.
Natural Mud Baths – Not all natural mud baths are safe for entering, but the ones that are heated by hot springs to comfortable temperatures are. Many people enjoy finding these baths to soak in and feel that the natural composite of the soil is excellent for their skin.
Hot Springs Healing Powers
Hot springs are popular tourist destinations because they are believed to have medicinal, therapeutic, and overall healing powers. For thousands of years, people across many cultures have been using geothermal water to cure common ailments and enhance their well-being.
Hot and warm springs are often infused with several minerals that emerge from deep beneath the surface. They have been shown to have significant effects on the skin and the whole body.
Some of the health benefits of soaking in hot springs include:
- Boosting blood circulation
- Relieving pain
- Heal and improve skin problems (like eczema and psoriasis)
- Reducing stress
- Promoting better sleep
- Decreasing blood pressure
How Long Should You Soak?
Depending on the season and the temperature of the hot springs, soaking should be done for shorter periods of time. Especially during hot weather, sitting in hot water can make you dehydrated pretty quickly. The best approach to using these waters is to limit yourself to 10-15 minutes each time, then allow your body to cool off before going in again.
It’s also wise to bring drinking water to help regulate your temperature and stay away from drugs and alcohol.
Risks of Getting in a Hot Spring
While there are more benefits to getting in hot springs than not, there are a few things that soakers have to keep in mind. Especially in rural or primitive natural springs, certain pools of water can house amoeba and microorganisms that are potentially harmful to humans. Rashes, skin irritations, gastrointestinal illnesses, and infections are possible, especially if you have an open wound or put your head under water.
Visitors must also be aware of possible high acidity levels in natural waters and extreme temperatures. If you have a heart condition, are pregnant, or have other health concerns, consult a doctor before attempting to go in hot springs.
Most Famous Hot Springs
Hot springs are located all around the world. Some are developed, partially developed, or even left rural for a fabulous outdoor experience. These are some of the most popular and frequently visited ones.
Blue Lagoon – Reykjavik, Iceland
The Blue Lagoon is one of the most famous hot springs pools in the world and a symbol of Iceland. Located about 1 hour away from the capital, this hot springs destination features azure 100℉ waters, a resort for lodging, and amazing Scandinavian scenery.
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa – New Mexico, USA
Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs is one of the country’s first natural health resorts. Their underground volcanic aquifer has provided visitors with sulfur-free geothermal mineral water for hundreds of years. Each day, more than 100,000 liters rise to the surface, rejuvenating anyone who soaks in the waters’ reputedly therapeutic properties.
Chena Hot Springs – Alaska, USA
These hot springs, which were found in 1905 by two gold-mining brothers, are the main draw to the area. Visitors can take a dip in the steamy 106° Fahrenheit waters of the boulder-encircled lake at Chena Hot Springs. And if they’re fortunate, they could even catch a sight of the aurora borealis.
Dunton Hot Springs – Colorado, USA
The Dunton Hot Springs is the perfect place to stay in the majestic San Juan Mountains for those looking for a luxurious, private soaking destination with overnight accommodations. The pools range from 85-106℉ and are a jewel of the state. It served as a film location for The Hateful Eight by Quentin Tarantino.
Termas Geométricas – Pucon, Chile
Featuring 17 pools, walkways, and numerous cooling waterfalls, these hot springs in Chile are a nature lover’s paradise. The pools at Termas Geométricas keep temperatures between 95 and 108℉ and are encompassed by stunning tropical scenery, adding to the relaxing vibe.
These are just a tiny sample of the hundreds of springs worldwide. Finding that sweet spot for soaking can be a very satisfying way to spend time in nature and promote a better quality of life. Always make sure that a natural pool is safe before getting inside!