This authentic hammam is located in London's vibrant Turkish community, and is a brilliant place to unwind. I went on one of the ladies' days (Wednesday and Saturday) and was encouraged to spend as much time as I wished in the calm, marbled steam room. A foaming scrub followed, after which an 'anti-stress massage' of my back and legs left me feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, all for £35. Other packages include deep tissue massage and full-body aromatherapy.
Located less than an hour's drive from the popular destination of the bay of Islands in Northlands NZ, is Ngawha Springs an authentic and inexpensive thermal spa owned and operated by Maoris.
Ngawha features eight bubbling thermal pools which, unlike other more popular spas, are not cleaned or sanitised for cosmetic appearance but left as they have always been thereby retaining the essential restorative qualities contained in the variety of salts and minerals present in the muddy waters which fluctuate in colour from creamy white to deep black and in temperature from a tepid 26c to a hot 40c.
Although this unique resource is under promoted in NZ it is very popular with Maori families who are under no illusions as to the healing properties of these pools and encourage willing and adventurous visitors to daub their bodies in mud and dry naturally before showering off and emerging refreshed and invigorated by the experience. Highly recommended!
Ngawha Springs Road, Ngawha Springs
+64 (0)9 405 2245
Google map: bit.ly/giUVtd
The smell of sulphur assaults the senses long before you turn into the natural amphitheatre where the Bains de Saint Thomas nestle into the snowclad foothills of the Pyrenees. Celebrated as ‘Les Sources d’eaux chaudes naturelles’, these baths provide everything you could wish for and more: a range of pools, water jets, showers and jacuzzis plus a pair of swimming trunks for my husband who had managed to forget his. Stretched out in the warm, softly bubbling water, gazing at the mountains and deep blue sky above, you do not want not want to be anywhere else in the whole world. Very friendly staff and a nice little café to boot.
Gorgeously hot mineral water springs, relaxing mud baths and local massages.
Not the most comfortable journey, but the appeal of locally endorsed Thap Ba Hot Springs in Nha Trang, Vietnam is well worth a winding, bumpy bicycle ride.
Relax in wooden bathtubs full with hot mineral mud, or share a larger pool with your pals, enjoy wonderfully warm and refreshing hot waterfall showers. In case you hadn’t chilled out enough, feel free to unwind further in soothing thermal mineral water baths, hour long massages for less than a fiver and an outdoor heated swimming pool, all whilst admiring the backdrop of eucalyptus trees, striking tropical flowers and an on-site lake. Still not enough? The pristine beaches of Nha Trang are merely a stone’s throw away.
Ngoc Son Hamlet,
Ngoc Hiep Ward,
Nha Trang City ,
Khanh Hoa Province
Directions: Leave Nha Trang town by crossing the Xom Bong and Ha Ra bridges, turn right after the Thap Ba temple and on your left there should be a sign for Thap Ba Hot Spring there, follow from there.
The natural spa is just outside the village of Wotten Waven in the Roseau valley, an area of outstanding natural beauty and geothermic activity which creates hot sulphur springs.The spa has four hot pools with a constant flow of mineral rich water. The surroundings are very beautiful. You lie in the natural pools looking up at a canopy of lianas and vines. All the construction of pools and showers and a changing area is from natural materials and blends into the landscape. Screw, the Rastafarian creator of this tropical paradise, has the warmest welcome and makes bathers feel at ease. The spa is popular with locals and visitors alike, costing from 10 US dollars for a 45 minute session. After lounging in the pools and perhaps enjoying a lava scrub fresh local fruits and juices are offered to guests. A small bar provides other local drinks such a cocoa tea. It really is the most relaxing and beautiful place, once visited you have to return.
On the road from Wotten Waven to Trafalgar, there is a well sign-posted car park, or take the local bus the driver will know where to drop you. +767-440-4478
open 10am-10pm, except Mondays, arrive early or late if you want to avoid cruise-ship parties.
Google map: bit.ly/hefwed
Sauna near Tampere, Finland.
Only 30 minutes casual walk away from the centre of Tampere, Kaupinoja sauna will always be a fond memory. Every wood-burning sauna in Finland seems to claim it is "Finland's Best Sauna!", however the friendly atmosphere, beautiful surroundings and casual vibe (regardless of whether you're a local or not) make Kaupinoja my favourite place to spend the weekend, let alone an hour or two. Take trunks, a towel and be ready to get really hot, really cold, then just relax.
PL 17, 33501 Tampere
+358 (0)3 - 2614572
Goudini is a self-catering resort based around three oudoor thermally heated swimming pools (each one is a different temperature) and one indoor pool. The main pool also has a super tube. There are various accommodation options including four bed rondavels with brai (bbq) facilities as well as duplex flats. Other facilities include trampolines, putting, volleyball, hiking trails and a games arcade. It's a great family resort and with such lovely mountain surroundings and beautiful warm pools you will never want to leave! If you can tear yourself away for a day visit the malaria free Fairy Glen Private Game Reserve or visit a few wine estates.
Located one hour from Capetown on the Route 62 wine route,then off the N1 just North of Paarl.
Wyzersdrift Road, Rawsonville, 6845, Capetown SA
Google map: bit.ly/e6swvf
In a tiny bay at the end of the path from the village of Sorgeto is a thermal vent which heats the sea all year round. There are small pools marked out by stones and a really great bar where you can buy beer and Ischian food - what more could you want?
Take a water taxi from Sant'Angelo or use the clockwise/anti-clockwise bus and walk down to the sea from Panza.
An oasis of calm and relaxation awaits you at Thap Ba mud baths and hot springs. Situated on the outskirts of the city and set in woodland, eucalyptus trees and gardens, this therapeutic experience is yours for the vast cost of £3.20p for the day. It's well equipped with lockers, changing rooms, restaurants and bar. First you hop into a tub for 20 minutes filled with warmed mineral mud rich in sodium silicate carbonate, stimulating the nerves under the skin. Then slop your way to a sunbathing area and let the mud dry on your skin before washing off in a vigoating hot mineral power shower. Your skin feels so smooth afterward and any stress you had has faded away. That's just the beginning. Into another tub of hot mineral spring water, 38 degrees, which is pretty hot and lie and relax for 30 minutes. There are claims for good health and conditions like arthritis and rheumatism, but you will feel relaxed and refreshed. More power showers and then down through fragrant gardens to waterfalls, pools, one cool, one very hot, one for children. If you really can't unwind after all that go for one of the massages [£6]. The places is ideal for singles, couples, friends, romantics of any age and children. Go early/mid morning when it is less busy. And, yes, the mud does rinse out of your swimming gear after a day or two.
On your way back call into the ancient Ponagar Cham Towers and watch Cham dancing, have a marvellous view of the city and catch the afternoon breeze. Smile and sleep well, not all of Vietnam is hectic!
15 Ngọc Sơn – Ngọc Hiệp – Nha Trang, Khánh Hoà
+84 58 3835335
Mcleod Ganj. Home of the Dalai Lama. The most serene, beautiful, loving and appreciative community I have ever set foot into. This feeling of enchanting serenity encompasses you, like the mountain cloud that swirls around this magical village. Establishments that really stuck out for me are: Jimmy's Italian (best food, and SO cheap), the Underground Cinema, Yong Ling Creche where the kids will perform on demand for any walker by and Chocolate Log cafe...incredible. The likes of Uma Thermen, Natalie Portman and Richard Gere have houses here to escape to. It's utterly enchanting. The only and best word I can think to describe this jewel of a place. It beat Simla anyday.
Travellers to Japan rarely venture out of its cities. Kyoto, Hiroshima and Tokyo may well have a wealth of historic and cultural sights, but do take some time to visit the other side of Japan - rural Japan and in particular Hokkaido.
I stayed in the Akan-ko national park in North-Eastern Hokkaido. There are plenty of hiking opportunities. The lakes are beautiful, especially Oneto ko near Akan-ko.
You must not leave without the sublime experience of soaking in an outdoor onsen (geothermal pool). Stay warm and toasty in the onsen even in the cooler months while you enjoy the view of Hokkaido's mountains.
Also not to be missed while you are in the area is a bowl of rice topped with crab, uni (sea urchin roe) and salmon roe fresh out of the sea of Okhotsk - every town on Hokkaido's north and eastern coasts will have several little cafes serving this.
Air - fly from Tokyo (Haneda) to Kushiro (1 hr 20 mins), rent a car here and drive out to Akan-ko national park (about 70km) - easy pleasant drive.
Rail - Train from Ueno (Tokyo) to Sapporo (9 hours), change here and catch a train to Kushiro (4 hours), change here and take a train to Kawayu onsen (2 hours). Kawayu onsen is in the heart of the Akan-ko national park.
Google map: bit.ly/auoBut
A secluded tranquil haven - almost taking a step back in time, except that the food and furnishings are modern and stylish. The hospitality directly from the owners is awesome, and the wine cellar is fantastic - a walk-in refridgerated room! Eat from the set menu every night and you will not see the same food twice and you will not leave an empty plate. Yum!
Admiring the interior of this 1929 building from the loungers in the lobby, or just swimming in the pool, is relaxing in itself. But head downstairs for the steam rooms, saunas and an array of private rubdowns in a treatment room (salt scrub, sugar scrub, olive soap) to fully indulge. The Porchester Spa's architectural grandeur is offset by its down-to-earth feel; it has a distinctly unpretentious tea kitchen for when you need a bit of refreshment. Keeping cash on your person to pay for a private treatment poses a bit of a dilemma - where to put it? - but don't let that stop you!
Britain's traditional Victorian Turkish baths are great places to relax, recharge and escape. Many are council run and reasonably priced. Newcastle's Turkish Bath has a steam room (Suditorium), three dry rooms (Tepidarium, Calidarium, Laconium), a shampoo room (Lavarium) with cooling spa (28°C) and a lounge and rest area (Frigidarium). If you wish it is possible to have a massage. As well as dedicated male and female sessions there are monthly naturist sessions combined with use of the swimming pool.
In an ordinary street, with large residential houses, lies the Relaxation Centre. It's tucked away from the city centre in peaceful Cliftonand is quite small, with a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and outside hot tub, sauna and plunge pool. However, somehow, it never seems crowded. Upstairs there is a cafe bar where wonderfully relaxing teas and toasted teacakes are offered. With a choice of beds, beanbags and sofas overlooking the beautifully tended gardens.
Varying between women only, mixed and couples sessions, at varying prices, it is an inexpensive spa, where a few hours can help weeks of troubles drift away.
The Thermae Spa in Bath offers what most do not – flexibility. A visit is easily slotted in before a shopping trip, after lunch or when your feet need a rest after exploring this stunning Georgian city. There is no need to book.
Although there are full ranges of treatments available, it is not really necessary to book one to have the full spa experience. A two-hour spa session at £24 is a relatively cheap and wonderful way to relax. That gives you plenty of time to use the four scented steam rooms, swim in the enclosed thermal ‘Minerva’ pool and have a glass of something in the Springs café. Finish the visit by floating in the naturally warm spring water Rooftop Pool overlooking the picture perfect Bath Spa rooftops.
The modern spa does feel a little utilitarian in places, after all, the council part owns it, but that adds to a unisex vibe that means men won’t feel as though they landed in the middle of an episode of ‘Sex and the City’. But remember, Bath being a tourist magnet, it is worth avoiding during the busiest times of the week.
It is a lush sprawling cultural park on the outskirts of Bangkok in Samut Prakan. It is a great way to see all the major monuments of Thailand in three hours or so. But more than this, it is a green, cool peaceful oasis. Try to avoid Thai public holidays as it can be crowded then. You can hire bicycles, take a golf buggy or hop on a tram. There are plenty of places to buy food around the park. There is a street market and floating village and prices of souvenirs are cheap. Children will love it as they can run around. In nine years of living in Bangkok this was always on my list of must-sees for visitors. At around 350 baht plus bike or golf buggy hire t is excellent value for money as you will spend at least four hours here.
A truly wonderful place for relaxing. Everything about it is conducive to a nurturing atmosphere. The sunny, country location. Crisp sheets, cosy rooms, deliciously nutritious vegetarian food. The yoga room has its own special energy and the salon a tented Moroccan feel. The pool was fresh on a very hot day! The hosts Alex and Adrian are friendly and warm and their attention to detail amazing. I wish I could bottle the smells of the beautiful garden, the wafting incense and the spices of the yoga tea. If stressed I could inhale and be transported back to paradise. This centre shines out as an example to all others.
Om beach is a low key backpacker paradise, which has managed to remain undeveloped so far. Avoid the crowds with a beautiful quiet beach fringed by woodland, turquoise sea and great shack restaurants all along the shore. Yet, you can walk to the holy, buzzing town of Gokarna in 45 minutes over the stunning cliffs. Great people watching opportunities, before returning to laid back Om Beach to watch the sunset with a Kingfisher, and chat to new friends whilst eating delicious curry!
Om Beach, Gokarna, Karnataka, India
Google map: tinyurl.com/25jjyln
Beautiful Riad and Kasbah about 15km outside of Marrakech that is the perfect place to get away from it all for a few days once you have explored the city. The service is impeccable, the rooms are pure luxury and the food is very good (although not the best we had on our trip). The thing that makes this place stand out is the peace and quiet and it gives you the opportunity to just really chill out after the madness of they city itself.
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