There's nothing like a bath at the end of a long day, and it's a tradition with some serious clout behind it.
The ancient Greeks used 'the water cure' to promote their vision of healing the mind and body in tandem, while in the 19th Century, 'taking the waters' became something of an obsession.
Doctors on both sides of the Atlantic prescribed hydropathy as a cure for everything from ulcers to hysteria, as well to-do urbanites flocked to al fresco hot spots. And it wasn't just quackery, either; even with the advances of modern medicine, recent research shows therapeutic bathing to be a powerful elixir.
Dr. Nigma Talib, a naturopathic doctor with clinics in London and LA, says that warm water bathing is a great way of relieving chronic pain, inflammation and stress.
'Hot water can get your heart pumping in a similar way to when you're working out,' she says. 'It causes vasodilation [the dilation of blood vessels] and increases blood to the muscles. It can improve sleep for people who have poor circulation and tense muscles. And it helps clear the mind, by getting blood flowing and removing tension from the body.'
Of course, it's not just about the therapeutic benefits. As the Romans knew well, outdoor bathing is just a fun thing to do. It helps us to reconnect with nature and unwind in the Great Outdoors.
'Al fresco bathing is always a highlight of our trips,' says Lee Thompson, co-founder of adventure travel company Flash Pack. 'Hot springs offer a brilliant and unique viewpoint on the world, whether you're halfway up a Balinese mountain or hanging out in the snowy wilderness of Quebec. They bring a different kind of energy to the experience of travel.'
Scroll down to browse through our pick of the world's most spectacular hot springs and get set to bask in the delights of al fresco bathing.
Aqua Dome, Austria
With its sweeping mountain valleys and wild flower meadows, the Tyrol region is stunning at any time of year. This sprawling retreat is a great way to appreciate its Beauty, with outdoor thermal pools offering a front-row seat to the vast Alpine landscape. It's particularly popular in winter, when water bubbling up from 1,800 meters below ground sends great gusts of steam across snow-capped trees and icy peaks
Kuroyu Onsen, Japan
If you want to live the rich Japanese tradition of hot spring healing, look no further than Kuroyu Onsen. Tucked away in the mountains of Japan's northern Akita province, this wonderful old bathing spot dates to the early 17th Century. Step back in time as you soak in the mineral-rich waters of the wooden rotenburo (outdoor bath), surrounded by ancient forest and a serene mountain stream
Tabacón Hot Springs, Costa Rica
A natural playground of more than 20 waterfalls and in-river pools, Tabacón Hot Springs is the perfect place to get lost in. Secluded nooks and gushing ravines weave between thick tropical foliage, with the sun bouncing off the palm trees above. Wallow in the warm, cascading waterway as it snakes its way from Arenal Volcano in northwest Costa Rica through the heart of a private rainforest reserve
Dunton Hot Springs, United States
This bathing spot surely wins the prize for the most unique location at all: a lovingly reconstructed 19th Century mining town set deep in the Colorado Rockies. The hot springs spread out in a basin framed by miles of shrubland and forest, with boutique wooden cabins (including a 'saloon' and 'dance hall') nearby. Fall brings an extra dash of magic, as the steam clouds rise against a blanket of golden trees
Parco dei Mulini, Italy
There can be few finer backdrops for a bathe than the rolling hills of Tuscany. The hot springs around Bagno Vignoni are famed for their therapeutic powers, and pilgrims used to stop at Parco dei Mulini on their way to Rome in the Middle Ages. Take a dip in this invitingly turquoise pool, flanked by cliff shrubs and greenery, to evoke a strong sense of the past
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