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The Most Unusual Spa Destinations Around the World

By Fiona Mokry
Read time: 5 minutes

Some travelers prefer getting out in nature or exploring historic cities, while for others, relaxation is top of mind. Spas cater to these travelers seeking rejuvenation and other health benefits on their journeys, but not all spa treatments are the same. From Iceland to Japan to the lowest point on the planet, you’ll find a range of far-from-ordinary spa treatments rooted in local landscapes and traditions. These are five of the most unique spa destinations around the world. 

Beer Spa – Iceland

Cups of beer sitting on ledge overlooking hot springs in Iceland
Credit: Drop Zone Drone/ Shutterstock 

With its famous Blue Lagoon attracting hot springs enthusiasts from all over the world, Iceland is well known for its spa culture. But if you’re looking for an even more unforgettable spa experience in this Nordic country, check out Beer Spa (or Bjorboðin) in Árskógssandur. Trek five hours north of Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, and spend a luxurious day soaking in one of the spa’s seven beer tubs filled with warm water, beer, hops, and yeast — all while drinking drafts from the tubside beer taps.

Soaking in beer isn’t just a novelty — the hops and barley contain nutrients and antioxidants, while the warmth promotes relaxation. After a soak, head to the steam room, sauna, or outdoor hot tubs complete with breathtaking views over the Tröllaskagi peninsula and Eyjafjordur fjord. 

Dead Sea Soak – Jordan

Image of the Dead Sea
Credit: DC_Colombia/ iStock via Getty Images 

With an average salinity of 34%, the Dead Sea is one of the saltiest seas on the planet. The salt density allows people who swim in the Dead Sea to float effortlessly in the water, which is a unique experience in itself. Pair that with the otherworldly desert scenery of Jordan’s Dead Sea coast, however, and you’ve arrived at one of the most memorable spa locations around the world. 

Several miles south of Amman, Jordan, resorts and spas line the Dead Sea in villages such as Sweimeh and Ma’in. These resorts offer private access to the sea, where hotel guests can soak in the healing waters to soothe joint and muscle pain and lather in Dead Sea mud. Visitors can also indulge in scrubs, wraps, or a traditional hammam at the on-site spas. Even if you opt not to stay in one of these luxury accommodations, there are public beaches that offer free access to the sea — and plenty of mud for all your natural spa needs.  

Sand Bathing at Ibusuki Beach – Japan

Aerial view of sand bathing on beach in Japan
Credit: Yiming Chen/ Moment via Getty Images 

Bathing in beer and salty water is one thing, but have you ever heard of sand bathing (suna-mushi in Japanese)? For more than 300 years, people have come to Ibusuki Beach on Kyushu Island to engage in this healing ritual. The healing properties of the beach’s black volcanic sand come from an infusion of minerals from the nearby volcanic hot springs, and are said to treat a myriad of health conditions.

With the infamous Kaimondake volcano looming in the background, sand bathers make their way from the beachfront spas to the sand — which is heated naturally by volcanic activity to a balmy 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit — and cover themselves up to the neck with warm black sand. A typical sand bath lasts 10 to 20 minutes, enough time to reap the benefits of the geothermal steam emanating from the sand and for the body to expunge toxins. Cap off the experience with a freshwater rinse and a soak in one of Japan’s famous onsen, or hot spring pools. 

Sauna and Cold Dipping – Finland

Snow-covered sauna house in Finland
Credit: Nino Marcutti/ Alamy Stock Photo

The earliest saunas in Finland are thought to date back to 7000 BCE, and the tradition remains an important part of Finnish culture today. It is estimated that Finland has 3 million saunas for a population of 5.5 million people, and they’re found everywhere from residential apartments to spas and even a Burger King in Helsinki. Finns use saunas for all sorts of reasons, from warming their bodies during the country’s chilly winters, to unlocking a plethora of health benefits and building a shared community with other sauna-goers. 

In Finland, a sauna session is not complete without a cold dip in icy water immediately afterward, and for this reason, many saunas are located near an icy lake or a human-made pool. Finns believe that the combination of hot and cold does wonders for the body, such as improving heart health, relieving pain and inflammation, and boosting the immune and cardiovascular systems. Some of the best sauna experiences can be found in Tampere, considered “the sauna capital of the world” and a must-visit destination for sauna seekers in Finland. 

Temazcal Ceremony – Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Traditional temazcal sweat lodge in Mexico
Credit: Space_Cat/ iStock via Getty Images 

Also known as a Mayan sweat lodge, the word temazcal means “house of heat” in Spanish, which is a fitting name for these dome-shaped structures made from brick or stone. Traditional temazcal ceremonies are led by a shaman who guides participants on a spiritual journey. To enter, one must crawl through the small entrance, which symbolizes entering the womb of Mother Earth. Inside the temazcal, participants sit or lie in a circle around a pit of hot volcanic stones while inhaling steam from eucalyptus-infused water that’s poured over the stones. The heat, steam, and surroundings are said to purify and cleanse the mind and body of toxins, and have respiratory and circulatory benefits, too. Temazcales are found throughout Mexico, but the ancient practice originates in the Yucatán Peninsula

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