Take a Dip in the Dead Sea
The lowest point in the world, the Dead Sea has been beckoning visitors to its waters for eons, from King David of biblical times to modern-day visitors in search of a novel experience. Because the Dead Sea is nearly 10 times saltier than the ocean, sea life doesn’t flourish here, but minerals do—the magnesium, sodium, potassium and bromine are hailed for easing a host of ailments, from dry skin and arthritis to allergies and stress. The rich black mud along the shoreline also has its benefits, which include increasing circulation and revitalizing skin.
The Dead Sea isn’t like other bodies of water. When you think of a sea (although it’s actually a lake), you probably think of swimming, but don’t break out your breaststroke here—due to the buoyancy in the water, swimming is difficult, but floating on your back is completely effortless.
The experience is similar on both the Israel and Jordan sides, although you’ll find more luxury hotels in Jordan, along with the famed Hammamat Ma’in hot springs. Nearby attractions in Israel include Qumran, an archaeological site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found; Ein Gedi, a nature reserve with a beautiful botanical garden; and Masada, an ancient fortress that dates back to BC times.
Pro Tip: Skip shaving for a couple of days before heading into the Dead Sea, and avoid getting water in your eyes—the salt does sting, as any minor cuts you have will attest to.
Bathe in the Blue Lagoon
Known for its otherworldly landscape, the Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most popular destinations. You’ll want to jump in, too, once you catch sight of the milky-blue hue of the water, which seems more likely to exist in Photoshop than it does in nature. It sits against a backdrop of rugged lava rock, with steam rising that lends an ethereal quality to the scene.
The seawater, which comes from 6,500 feet below ground before passing through a nearby geothermal plant, is chock-full of minerals, silica and algae, imbuing it with a variety of benefits—clearing up psoriasis and eczema among them. You can indulge in a spa treatment while floating, visit the new Silica Mud Bar to slather on skin-softening silica, take a break from the water in the Relaxation Area, stand beneath a man-made waterfall for a massage courtesy of the water, or sweat it out in one of the saunas or steam rooms carved into the surrounding rock. It’s easiest to visit on your way to or from Keflavík International Airport, as it’s much closer to the airport than to the city of Reykjavík—plus it’s a great way to say hello or good-bye to this fascinating country.
Pro Tip: Liberally apply conditioner to your hair before going into the Blue Lagoon, even if you don’t plan to dip your hair into the water—it’ll be much easier to brush afterward.
Treat Yourself at Tabacón Hot Springs
Boasting what it calls “the perfect combination of volume, temperature and mineral content,” Tabacón Hot Springs is a completely natural phenomenon near Arenal, a volcano in Costa Rica. Composed of 97 percent rain and 3 percent magma, the springs are located within the Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, one of the most luxurious properties in the country. The lush setting among tropical gardens might just be as therapeutic as the mineral-laden water flowing through the five main pools, which vary from about 77 degrees to 122 degrees Fahrenheit and run the gamut in size and privacy levels.
In addition to the pools, spa services are available in open-air bungalows, each with a Jacuzzi. Try a treatment with local flair, like the Rainforest Caress, which comes with a volcanic mud wrap and mask, or Coffee Passion, an energizing body treatment that will leave your skin soft and your mind relaxed.
You can visit the eco-conscious Tabacón via a day pass, but if you want a more immersive experience, book a couple of nights at the resort, which includes entrance into the springs. It’s worth taking the time to stroll the walking trails through the rain forest, where you’ll stumble across more pools, both hot and cold.
Pro Tip: Tabacón has a limited capacity, so be sure to book ahead, particularly if you’re going in high season. Fortunately, there are other hot springs in the Arenal area if Tabacón is full.