Addicted to that “beginning of time” feeling? Can’t get enough of sulphur’s rotten-egg smell? What follows is a list of areas around the world where you can still experience primordial earth goo by morning and be relaxing in a hot spring the same day.
10. El Tatio, Chile
The Tatio Geysers are found on the Andes Mountains. Setting them apart from the rest of the list is that they are at the highest altitude out of all the hotspots mentioned (although the Puchuldiza Geyser Field, also in Chile, is even higher up). At 4,200 meters up, El Tatio sports an impressive display of eighty plus geysers, making it the third largest geyser field in the world. Having numerous geysers in a relatively tight area means that none of them erupt with an excessive amount of force. Instead, they shoot only a handful of meters high, tops. The field is hazardous, though, since thin layers of dried crust can conceal boiling mud. A guide is highly recommended. Like many of the geothermal sites in the world, El Tatio has been a point of contention between those who would harness it for power and those who rely on the field for its touristic value.
9. The Great Rift, Kenya
Africa is a continent blessed with a plethora of geographical distinctions. There are many geothermal spots throughout, but The Great Rift in Kenya is one of the most impressive. This area provides utilitarian and pleasurable uses. It provides geothermal energy for the country and relaxation for travelers frequenting the resorts in the area. The Great Rift Valley Lodge is an ideal location for golfers to play a few rounds then explore the nearby bush and geothermal features via safari. If you are looking for other places to visit, the rift itself is a part of the East African Rift, which runs up the east coast of Africa. It is in Kenya, though, that perhaps The Great Rift exhibits its largest presence in everyday life.
8. Tuscany, Italy
Tuscany is the site where the first ever geothermal power plant was built (in “Devil’s Valley”). Early Romans used geothermal heated water for many uses including the warming of their houses and for public baths. Modern Italians have made similar use of this resource, running geothermal water to places such as hotels and medical centers. However, there remain many unaltered spots available to locals and informed travelers, such the Saturnia Springs. Rolling green hills are scattered in the area that once fed Rome and continues to grow food for Italians today. With ancient places such as Florence and Pisa to visit, Tuscany is a great place for history buffs to explore while taking time out to soak away their travel aches.
7. Beppu, Japan
Beppu is the second listing from Japan. What makes it distinct from the others on this list is that it is a thriving metropolis. Beppu is a city that encompasses eight (yes, eight) different zones of hot springs. Beppu’s city streets offer little clue as to the geothermal underground, but the mix of urbanity and nature makes for some special architectural designs. Numerous onsen steam bath and spas dot the city scape. From straw huts on the outskirts to modern buildings with a traditional twist, these hot springs are housed in many distinct structures. In Beppu, travelers get a mix of true Japanese culture (both urban and traditional) with geothermal curiosities and relaxation.
6. Camiguin Island, Philippines
The Philippines itself is probably small enough to warrant its own geothermic region, and it is a country that is surprisingly riddled with geothermal hot springs. However, there is one particular island off its coast that offers hot spring relaxation in an unspoiled setting. All it takes is a flight from the Manila Airport and you can be landing on the island of Camiguin. This jungle island paradise has a vast array of places for pleasure soakers to seek relaxation. The Tangub Hot Spring is a little off shore and a great place to view sea-life in the comfort of warmed waters. Other hot springs mixing with waterfalls makes for adventurous treks while world class resorts provide the comforts of civilization. The island is equally renowned for its cold springs that make for a cool alternative to the tropic atmosphere.
5. Geyser Valley, Kamchatka
Russia’s entry into the geothermal arena comes in the form of the straight-forwardly named Geyser Valley on the North Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula. This geothermal playground is perfect for “geo-philes” around the world. The high concentrate of rifts, hot springs and geysers make it an ideal place to explore if not for one reason: it is the most inaccessible place on our list! In fact, as a traveler you would be hard pressed to find any other way of reaching it outside of helicopter flight. That being said, if you are wealthy enough and truly want a unique experience then Geyser Valley should be on the top of your list. Just watch out for the bears.
4. Joshin’etsu-kogen (Joshinetsu) National Park, Japan
Japan’s Joshin’etsu-kogen National Park easily ranks high on our list for one famous reason: the monkeys! This geothermal treasure of Japan houses the Joshinetsu Monkey Park. Here, tucked away in this mountainous region, you can see Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) lazing around in hot springs (or onsen as the Japanese call them). Look on jealously as these monkeys pick through each other’s fur in search of juicy treats or just hang with their arms over the edge of the pool. The monkeys sit in the hot springs by day and retreat into the nearby forest at night. The Japanese macaque is the northernmost living monkey in the world. The area itself is interesting to experience being a mix of water in many forms whether running from a river, bubbling and boiling from the earth, or simply frozen.
3. Haukadalur, Iceland
Poetically called the “land of ice and fire”, Iceland’s elemental identity lives up to its billing. There are three Haukadalur (translates as Hawkdale) valleys, one of which is part of the Golden Circle, an accessible tourist route that also includes the awe-inspiring waterfall, Gullfoss. Featured in this Haukadalur are two famous geysers: Strokker and Geysir (which inspired the label “geyser” itself). Strokker tends to erupt routinely and often, always within 10 minutes of the last. Geysir takes a much longer time to build up, erupting only 4-5 times a day. Due in part to the longer period of time in between eruptions, Geysir’s boiling emissions top out at 70 meters, where Old Faithful’s limit is around 50 meters.
2. North Island, New Zealand (Rotorua, Taupo)
New Zealand’s North Island rivals USA’s Yellowstone National Park in many ways. It is where most New Zealanders choose to live, and they are privy to a geothermal wonderland. The hotspot of it all is in Rotorua, a city close to the center of the island that shares its name with the North Island’s second largest lake. The city sits along the shore of Lake Rotorua and is littered with geothermal motels. Most of the places to spend the night seem to have their own naturally heated hot pools and/or Roman baths. There is even a geothermal spot in Rotorua that has been dedicated as a public park where locals and tourists can walk among small rifts in the earth that emit steam. The outlying areas of Rotorua are the most impressive. You can find heated lakes, rivers, and even small waterfalls to bathe in (but look out for sandflies!). All of these features are highlighted by the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland, such as the Champagne Pool showed in the photo above. About an hour and a half or so to the southwest stands Lake Taupo with many of the features Rotorua offers on a smaller scale (including fewer tourists).
1. Yellowstone National Park
Perhaps the most famous geyser in the world, “Old Faithful” has influenced popular language and culture as a term of reliability. The geyser (discovered in 1870) can be found in the Old Faithful Historic District in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The geyser erupts at regular intervals at about an hour each. Old Faithful is just the poster child for the greater Yellowstone caldera, a volcanic hotspot caused by the inward collapse of land onto a geothermal layer caused by previous eruption. The end result is a super volcano that can potentially emit an eruption over a thousand times larger than regular volcanoes. Numerous steam shafts, geysers, and geothermal anomalies coat the area with intriguing features. For now, Yellowstone makes a great place to visit!