LONDON - Whether you're looking to ease the aches and pains of a hard day on the ski slopes or simply after a bit of relaxation in chilly February, a trip to a hot spring will rejuvenate the senses.
For centuries people have flocked to known thermal hot spots for the reported health benefits of their healing waters and while there are thousands of hot springs around the world, online travel consultants Cheapflights.com (www.cheapflights.com) as picked its Top 10 hot springs around the world.
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|Bains Romains de Dorres photo from http://www.bains-de-dorres.com
1. Bains De Dorres, France
While the French typically like their thermal spas complete with doctors and clinical cleanliness you'll find something much more natural and beautiful at Bains de Dorres.
Situated in the Pyrenees, close to the Spanish border, the baths date back to Roman times and offer visitors the chance to soak away their worries in water surrounded by stunning views of the valleys below from an altitude of 4,800 feet.
Except for a break from the end of November to the beginning of December, the pools are open daily from 8:45 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tickets cost 4.50 euros ($5.95).
2. Wiesbaden, Germany
Here's your chance for a bit of German-style bathing: FKK-Baden (au natural) at the Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme near Stuttgart. Around 2,000 years ago, the area was popular with Romans who came to bathe in the 26 hot springs of the Mattiaci (a local German tribe). The modern day complex was opened as an "orthopedic healing institute" in 1836, and since then guests have come for a spot of recreation and relaxation and for relief from rheumatic and orthopedic diseases.
Decorated in the art nouveau style with lavish ceramics and frescos, you'll find an Irish-Roman bath, Russian steam bath and hot rooms. While bathing suits are only completely forbidden in the sauna, if you want to relax like the locals, ditch the coverings and take a dip in your birthday suit.
Entry costs 4.50 euros an hour in the summer, 6 euros in the winter. The bathing area is open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Sunday; from 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday; and from 8:00 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. The summer season runs from May 1 to August 31 and the winter season lasts from September 1 to April 30.
3. Waikite Valley Thermal Pools, New Zealand
Clean and green New Zealand offers a truly back-to-basics spa experience at the lush Waikite Valley Thermal Pools surrounded by the fresh country air.
Experience the 'Living Waters' of Te Manaroa Spring (the largest source of pure boiling water in New Zealand). The pure spring waters cascade into the main splash pool, the soak pool and the luxurious tranquil garden pool.
Waikite Valley is a family-friendly facility and also offers wheelchair access.
The pools are open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (except Christmas Day). Entry is NZ$15 ($12.52) for adults, NZ$8 for children up to 15 years old and NZ$3 for children younger than five. You can also rent a private pool and camp on site.
4. Therme Vals, Switzerland
For a soak-in style, Therme Vals spa and hotel in Switzerland offers therapeutic bathing in an architecturally designed minimalist setting.
The exact age of the thermal spring remains unknown, but artifacts in the area date back to 1500 and 1300 B.C. suggesting people knew about the spring even back then.
Designed by award-winning architect Peter Zumthor, the spa complex is set into the mountain slope and the baths are meant to look as though they pre-date the hotel.
If that wasn't enough sensory bliss for you, Swiss composer Fritz Hauser has created a musical score specifically for the relaxation room.
The pools are open to visitors every day from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and for hotel guests from 7:00 a.m. Tickets cost 40 Swiss Francs ($43.04) for adults and 26 Swiss Francs for children aged five to 16 years.
5. Myvatn Nature Baths, Iceland
Opened on June 30, 2004, Myvatn Naturebaths in Iceland are perfect year round. Laze in the temperate waters on a long summer's day when the sun never sets, or under a delicate sprinkling of snow in the dark of winter when you may catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Located in the heart of northeast Iceland, a mere 65 miles south of the Arctic Circle, Lake Mvatn was shaped through the years by repeated volcanic eruptions and seismic activity. At an altitude of more than 900 feet, the landscape around the lake is a panorama of lava, crater and cave formations, mountains, and sweeping wetlands.
The spa is open year round. Summer hours are 9:00 a.m. to midnight and winter hours are 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
6. Takaragawa Onsen, Japan
One of the best onsen (hot pools) in Japan is also one of the most scenic. The beautiful riverside setting of Takaragawa Onsen, combined with its healing waters, has secured its place in our top 10.
Two hours from Tokyo, the onsen has four large outdoor baths (three mixed and one women-only), two indoor areas and several baths. The water has a reputation for helping nervous disorders, bad circulation, skin irritation, sore muscles and joints, aches, bruises and fatigue.
Takaragawa Onsen is beautiful in every season, but it's in autumn when the leaves turn a golden red that the views are truly spectacular.
The Onsen is open year round from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Day visit tickets cost about 1,500 Yen ($16.15).
7. Strawberry Springs, Colorado, USA
Just outside Steamboat Springs, Colo. nestled alongside Hot Springs Creek in the beautiful Colorado forest you'll find the stone pools of Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
These spectacular mineral springs will warm you to a wonderful 104 degrees, and if you're here in winter when the famous Champagne Powder snow settles, you'll never want to leave.
The pools are perfect for relaxing after a long day of skiing, boarding or hiking, or simply to warm your bones.
Strawberry Park is open year round 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:00 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. Entry is $10 for adults, $7 for teens and $5 for children.
8. Héviz, Hungary
The Romans knew all about the wellness benefits of Hévíz when the waters were not just used for bathing, but a range of every day activities including treating animal skins.
Hungary's largest thermal lake gives its name to the spa town of Héviz and thanks to a hot spring almost 131 feet below ground. To relax like a local, it's traditional to rent a rubber ring and soak for a few hours, before taking a rest on one of the spa loungers.
The spa opens daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and a daily ticket costs 3,800 Hungarian forint ($17.22)
9. Peninsula Hot Springs, Victoria, Australia
You might not think there'd be a need for hot pools in the land of endless sunshine, but there's nothing like soaking away your troubles and staring up at a starry night sky or gazing out over the bush on a winter's day.
Peninsula Hot Springs is a peaceful sanctuary just 90 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Melbourne. The thermal mineral water temperature varies from pool to pool, though cooler pools are available in the summer and for younger family members.
The first natural hot springs and day spa center in Victoria, Peninsula Hot Springs has more than 20 bathing experiences to offer with areas suitable for visitors of all ages including a Hilltop pool with 360-degree views, reflexology walk, Turkish steam room, sauna, cave pool and a family area.
The Bath House is open from 7:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. daily and prices start at A$30 ($30.76) for adults and A$15 for children.
10. Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada
Radium Hot Springs pool, located in Kootenay National Park, is Canada's largest hot springs pool. Its soothing waters and breathtaking setting in the Rocky Mountains make it the perfect place to relax and recharge.
The mineral water at Radium is odorless, clear and rich in silica, magnesium, sulfate, fluoride, calcium and bicarbonate, making this a great hot spring for a relaxing soak.
In winter, the pools are open from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Summer hours are 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily. Entry is C$6.30 ($6.18) for adults and C$5.40 for children and seniors.