As many a seasoned overlander knows, hot springs are a valuable resource. They provide a space to relax and luxuriate after what might be a week or longer without access to hot water. Unless you're the fancy kind of RVer with a shower somewhere in or on your rig, you look forward to a hot soak more than you look forward to almost anything else. More than a hot meal, more than a quiet night's sleep, more than a couch or a toilet, and maybe even more than a cold beer on a hot day (unless of course you're drinking that cold beer while soaking in a hot spring; nothing beats that).
As such, we felt the need to write about all of the hot springs we've visited over our two years on the road. There are many of them, and we had a lot to say about all of them. Over the course of the next several weeks, we will be posting about each hot spring in the order we visited them, giving each the credit it's due. Wherever we can, we will post pictures of the tubs and the environment around them, but sometimes it isn't possible to snap pictures at a hot spring. Most commercial hot springs have no camera signs posted everywhere, for the comfort and privacy of its patrons. Natural hot springs have etiquettes of their own, and if the hot spring is clothing optional, it goes without saying that photography is not welcome (unless you ask and the crowd complies). Sometimes the area surrounding the tubs was rocky or sopping wet, and out of concern over the damage this might do to our phones we left them behind. In cases such as these we will do our best to please the crowds with some shots of the beautiful scenery within the vicinity of the hot spring in lieu of photos of the tubs themselves.
Of course, not all hot springs are created equally, and so when we have finished telling you about all the hot springs we've been to, we'll complete our virtual hot spring tour with our official hot spring ranking. At the bottom of every hot spring article, we have evaluated the spring criteria such as cleanliness, amenities, scenery, etc. We tried to keep these rankings as objective as possible, and sometimes the scores that the springs garner don't coincide with our personal favourite places to soak. For example, a commercial hot spring will usually rank high for cleanliness and amenities, but to us they often lack the charm - that certain special something - that makes a "wild" hot spring appealing to us. Naturally, everyone has their own notions of what a perfect hot spring is, and so these objective evaluations are meant to help you find the perfect hot spring for you. At the bottom of this article, you'll find a legend for those evaluations, so you'll have a little context by the time you read the articles themselves. As you read through them, see if you can figure out which ones made the top of our list. You might be surprised.
Hotspring Evaluation Legend
Cleanliness 1 - 5 (1 = water and surrounding area are dirty/muddy/garbage strewn; 5 = pools and surrounding area are pristine.)
Amenities (1 = no bathrooms/showers/change area/potable water (a necessity when you're sweating like a champ in the pools); 5=bathrooms/showers/change area/potable water/canteen, etc.)
Exclusivity (1 = easy to find, get to, well attended/touristy; 5 = difficult to find or get to, not highly attended, die hard soakers only )
Natural Scenery (1 = not much to look at or obstructed views ; 5 = amazing views, how is it possible that there is ALSO a sweet hot spring here?!)
Community (1 = attendees keep to themselves and their group, no mingling; 5 = people come to make friends with other like-minded hot spring hippies, everyone chats with everyone else, people are often generous and caring)
Camping (1 = no camping allowed; 2 = loud/bright parking lot, incognito camping; 3 = secluded/quiet and dark parking lot, incognito camping OR basic, but quiet dry camping; 4 = nice open area camping for everything from tents to RVs, 5 = amazing campsites for all types of campers with amazing views close to the tubs)