Written By Morgan Tilton
Soaking in natural hot springs has been a cultural practice for humans around the world for centuries, and for some, thousands of years. The oldest sites discovered are thought to be in India and Pakistan, built prior to 2000 B.C., according to James Cook University.
The health benefits of mineral baths, and the beautiful natural landscapes that hold the pools, have been absorbed by civilizations in Greece, Germany, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand and Taiwan amongst other countries—including Chile and Argentina.
Here are a handful of minerals pools in the Andes where you can take a dip to ease sore ski-day muscles and promote a healthy travel vibe.
Baños Colina Hot Springs
Photo courtesy of This Is Chile
No relaxation compares to soaking sore muscles in natural hot springs at Banos Colina, surrounded by a steeply cut valley at the foot of the Andes Mountains. This picturesque experience and peaceful solitude lies 40 kilometers north (a 45-minute drive) of Santiago in the Andean foothills at 8,200 feet in elevation.
After a two mile hike, you’ll reach the terrace of therapeutic pools, composed of calcareous deposits, according to Lonely Planet. The soothing mineral water reaches up to 50 degrees Celsius (122 degree Fahrenheit), and includes views of the San Jose Volcano among the stunning landscape.
Several tours can be booked, including variations via Cascada Expediciones, Ando Andes, and Viator.
Photo courtesy of Ruta Chile Tour Operator
The whimsical forest that surrounds these thermal pools is one that could inspire the magical realism of Gabriel Marquez or the fantastical stories of C. S. Lewis. Situated inside the 150,000-acre Villarrica National Park, the hot springs are 450 miles south of Santiago. In an area also known as the Lake District and nicknamed Green Patagonia, the national park boasts several volcanoes—Villarrica, Quetrupillan and Lanin—and humongous trees, according to Cascada Expediciones.
17 slate-covered natural pools and two cascading waterfalls are connected by wooden walkways and bridges, which sit above the streams, so that clouds of heat move off of the water and dance around the pathways. The name “Termas Geometricas,” is a reflection of the intentional geometric design features, which compliment the natural landscape of the rocks and forest. Visitors can also lounge next to open fires, drink tea and snack on sandwiches near the pools.
Termas De Chillan
If you plan to ski at Nevados de Chillan (formerly called Termas de Chillan), then you’re in for a bonus treat with post-ski thermal pools. The outdoor soaking baths are full of mineral water heated by the area’s volcanoes, and range between 80–149 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Chilean Ski Tour Operator. The ski area is about 50 miles from the city of Chillán and features hotel and spa accommodations, restaurants and bars.
Termas de Jahuel
The stories of wellness from the thermal waters of Jahuel run far into history. Sir Charles Darwin wrote an account of spending five days here in 1834 to climb, relax and soak up the purity of the environment, according to Go Chile.
The thermal waters are composed of a pH level that’s alkaline, which is said to help heal stress, joints, digestion, rheumatic problems and prevent cavities. The three pools range from 71–98 degrees Fahrenheit, and are located 60 miles outside of Santiago.
About the Author, Morgan Tilton
An award-winning journalist, Morgan Tilton is a Bronze medalist and two-time Finalist of the 2015 North American Travel Journalists Association Awards Competition for her travel writing. She covers adventure travel and outdoor industry news with work featured in Outside, Teton Gravity Research, SUP Magazine, Backpacker, TransWorld Snowboarding, 5280 (Denver’s city magazine), and CoBiz among others. Raised in Colorado’s stunning San Juan Mountains, she’s a mountain-ultra-trail runner and snowboarder that loves Bluegrass shows, avocados and trucker hats. Her most recent summit: she and four paddlers made the first SUP descent of Utah’s wild Escalante River. Follow Morgan’s trail @motilton and morgantilton.com.
Born in Texas, but raised in the beautiful Salt Lake Valley, I've always known the mountains of Utah to be home. After pursuing duel marketing and business degrees in the Great White North of Logan, Utah, I re-settled near downtown Salt Lake City where I can enjoy the best of both worlds: city life and world-class mountain ranges. You can always find me exploring Salt Lake's foodie scene, skiing at Alta, rock climbing or hiking in the breathtaking Wasatch mountains.