Unique Spas Around the World

This post reviews five of the most unique spas I have visited around the world. When I was in college I liked to travel to big cities, and this meant pounding the pavement all day and exploring the nightlife late into the evening. Big cities are great. They offer views into the beating heart of life in the cultural hub of a country. They can also be overwhelming, and sometimes after a trip to a big city you feel like you need another vacation to recover.

Recently, I have been drawn to more relaxing and natural travel destinations: Iceland and New Zealand, for example. Such locations offer an escape from the grind of the city where you can slow down and revel in all that mother nature has to offer.

The spas I have visited around the globe offer the best of both worlds. They provide an amazing combination of modern comforts and natural beauty. So whether you decide to head to the city or make a beeline for the wilderness, each of these spas has something for you.

Blue Lagoon, Grindavik, Iceland

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The Blue Lagoon is truly a unique experience.  While some say this spa is overrated and overrun with tourists, I think it is a must visit spa. And if you plan your trip accordingly you can avoid the crowds and have a truly serene experience.

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The Blue Lagoon is by far a unique location. You will not find another spa like it in the world. One thing to note is that while the waters and minerals of the Blue Lagoon are natural, the lagoon itself is not a naturally occurring phenomenon. Iceland has many natural hot springs, but the Blue Lagoon is not one of them. The water that supplies the Blue Lagoon is actually runoff from a nearby geothermal power plant. That, however, does not take away from its beauty and relaxation qualities (and it is not dangerous or harmful). And the water is naturally heated by geothermal power. It also has a unique natural composition, featuring three active ingredients – silica, algae, and minerals. The water’s blue color comes from the silica and the way it reflects the sunlight (the water is actually white). White silica mud adds to the unique color scheme of this spa, and is provided at a wooden swim-up bar in the pool for visitors to apply to their faces for a free in-pool facial. The natural black lava rock surrounding the pool also makes a great contrast to the striking blue of the water and the white silica.

This spa can get very crowded and pre-booking is required. If you visit during the high tourist season, June to August, you will need to plan your trip to avoid the crowds. I had a friend visit recently and she said it was packed and the atmosphere was like spring break in Cancun, complete with beach balls and beer swigging frat guys. Not exactly a tranquil spa experience. Not to worry. If you plan ahead you can avoid this situation, even during peak season. Unfortunately for my friend, she visited on a Saturday and didn’t arrive until 10am. I recommend going as soon as they open in the morning (7am during peak season), and avoid weekends if you can. Most flights from the U.S. arrive in Iceland very early and the Blue Lagoon is only a 20 minute drive from the airport so you can easily make this your first stop. I visited just two weeks after my friend on a Thursday, 7am entrance, and the atmosphere was great. When we first got in the water around 7:30am there were a few other people around, but the lagoon is big enough that we could all spread out and have little nooks to ourselves. The number of people steadily increased throughout the morning, and by the time we were ready to leave at 10:30am it was starting to get crowded, but not unbearably so (and I didn’t see any beach balls).

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This spa also has a restaurant featuring healthy meals and offers in-water massages and other spa services.

Visit their webpage for more information.

Bota-Bota, spa-sur-l’eau, Montreal, Canada

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This is hands down one of my favorite spas in the world. While not a natural spa like many of the others on this list, Bota-Bota is a unique experience unto itself. Created from a converted ferryboat, Bota-Bota sits serenely in the St. Lawrence River. In the winter the boat is surrounded by ice, but once inside it is a warm and tranquil experience. Their quiet relaxation rooms, saunas, and steam rooms make for an extremely relaxing experience. As a Nordic style spa, you can also take a brave plunge in one of their cold pools before warming back up in a hot pool, sauna, or steam room.

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The garden (above), reached by crossing a causeway to the land nearby, is absolutely beautiful and boasts its own hot pool, cold plunge pools with waterfalls, relaxation rooms with individual hammock chairs hanging from the ceiling, sauna and steam rooms, and two lounge areas with fire pits. From the rooftops of the boat you can relax in hot pools while taking in expansive views of the Montreal skyline. This spa also has a restaurant featuring healthy meals and offers massage and other spa services.

Visit their webpage for more information.

Thermae Bath Spa, Bath, United Kingdom

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For centuries people have flocked to Bath to take advantage of its naturally warm, mineral-rich waters. Thermae Bath Spa draws its waters from nearby underground springs. Just steps from the ancient Roman baths, this spa has a surprisingly more modern feel once inside. The Minerva bath, one of the main pools, features ambient lights that change color, and even a lazy river area that will push you around as you enjoy the warm water. All of the modernness slips away, however, when you reach the roof. The rooftop pool provides amazing ambiance and views of Bath’s regal skyline. Views of hot air balloons off in the distance create a feeling of adventure while you relax and contemplate the incredible stonework of the Bath cathedral. The spa also features various steam rooms each with a different aromatic scent. And of course there are cold water showers to get your blood pumping before settling back into a relaxing hot pool. This spa also has a restaurant featuring healthy meals and offers massage and other spa services.

Cameras are not allowed inside but you can see photos of the interior online.

Visit their webpage for more information.

Polynesian Spa, Rotorua, New Zealand

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This spa is a tropical oasis. Waters from two natural springs are fed into the 28 mineral pools at the Polynesian Spa, allowing visitors to relax in a variety of different pools. A spectacular and unique feature of this spa is that it overlooks Lake Rotorua (pictured), so you can relax in a hot pool while enjoying some amazing views.

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Another unique feature of this spa is the private rooms available to enjoy after a massage treatment. These are small, secluded rooms with private stone hot pools that you and your partner can enjoy alone (meaning clothing is optional) after experiencing a massage or treatment. The rooms are entirely private but also have open-air roofs so you can look up at the sky (or stargaze in the evening). A truly relaxing experience, this spa also features a healthy menu with lots of delicious and fresh smoothie options to enjoy during your visit. This spa offers massage and other spa services.

Visit their webpage for more information.

Centralbadet, Stockholm, Sweden

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This is a traditional Swedish spa with hot and cold pools, and even a lap pool. The main draw of this spa is its unique art nouveau interior. In fact, this is the only spa on the list that is entirely indoors, but that is made up for by the masterfully maintained art nouveau architecture and decoration. You will feel like a character out of the Great Gatsby as you lounge in one of the bungalow areas watching swimmers in the pool and admiring the frescoes. There are Nordic-style saunas and steams rooms to enjoy here as well. This spa also has a restaurant featuring healthy meals and offers massage and other spa services.

Cameras are not allowed inside but you can see photos of the interior online.

Visit their webpage for more information.

If you could go right now, which of these amazing spas would you choose? Let me know in the comments below!

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Unique Spas Around the World

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