There are healing places, as in, the restorative properties of a hotel balcony whilst sipping a glass of pinot grigio with your spouse on the balcony after your little one is dropped off at the kid’s club. And then there are capital-H Healing places of the enchanted ilk. These magical destinations, from mineral springs in the Empire State to primordial forests in Japan, fit the uppercase bill. Some may possess powers said to soothe various ailments, others may restore your spirits. Whatever the tonic on offer, expect magic at these 10 spots around the world — no pinot grigio required.
The Dead Sea, Israel
Besides being absolutely breathtaking, this landlocked salt lake has long been touted for its health-giving properties. From slathering the black mud over your skin for exfoliation and alleviating skin conditions like psoriasis, to its professed natural power to remedy asthma, arthritis, osteoporosis, and other issues, the body of water also boasts a low content of pollen and other allergens. Another unique feature? At 400 meters below sea level, harmful UV rays are filtered through an evaporation layer above the Dead Sea, the ozone layer, and an extra atmospheric layer. This is said to mean that sunbathers can absorb the beneficial effects of vitamin D from the sun’s rays, without risk of sunburn and ensuing skin damage.
And lest we omit a little mythic tale, it’s also believed that Cleopatra journeyed here with her ancient Egyptian entourage to bathe in the waters and let the gentle waves do their thing. This healing ritual continues to modern times, as countless wellness seekers arrive at this site to pile on the storied mud.
Yakushima Island, Japan
If forest bathing is good for the soul, then being one with nature under the watchful shade of trees from time immemorial must really supercharge your cells. This special mountainous rainforest region that covers one-fifth of the island is a popular “power spot” in Japan, celebrated by the Japanese for its healing ability. At the UNESCO World Heritage Site — 35 miles south of the southernmost tip of Kyushu Island — each peak is worshipped as the home to gods, and there are many holy shrines around the island. A giant cedar tree known as Jōmon Sugi, which scientists estimate to be between 2,000 and 7,200-years-old resides here and is said to be the single oldest tree on the island. Jōmon Sugi, and a slew of millennia-old trees, are also reported to have remedial properties.
The Healing Hole, Bimini, The Bahamas
A freshwater pond unlike any other, and accessible only by boat, this tranquil space is situated in East Bimini. The cold channel of freshwater that swirls together with warm saltwater outside the Bahamian mangroves is purported by some to be quite the panacea. It’s no easy feat to find this mineral-rich nostrum on your own, so hire a guide in a shallow boat to lead the way to salvation.
And it’s worth noting that neurophysiology researcher Dr. Richard Wingate tested the Healing Hole’s composition, finding that it contains high levels of lithium, sulfur, and magnesium. Lithium is used to treat mood disorders, magnesium is used to help muscle function and energy production, and sulfur is necessary for your body to function, which makes the Healing Hole a triple wellness threat.
Taos, New Mexico
Getting us to a health resort isn’t a tough sell — especially when it’s got natural mineral springs bursting with healthful properties. At Taos’s Ojo Caliente, one of the oldest health resorts in America, you can take in the craggy desert cliffs and Cottonwood-studded bosque (a type of forest in the Southwestern United States), between dips in the mud, arsenic, or Kiva pools, each touting their own healing properties and aura. Ojo Caliente’s claim to fame is its apparent status as the only hot springs in the world with four different types of sulfur-free mineral waters, including iron, arsenic, soda, and lithium. The iron-based spring is supposedly beneficial for immune health, and the arsenic spring is recommended for those who are searching for arthritis and ulcer pain relief. Hop into the rock-enclosed soda pool if you’re hoping to calm your frazzled mind, or the lithium-rich pool for potential help with digestion and depression.
While in town, head to El Santuario de Chimayo, lauded for its so-called “holy dirt,” located in a round well within a small room, with salubrious effects in every drop. They don’t call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment for nothing, folks.
Salt Flats, Jan Thiel, Curaçao
The moment you arrive at this Dutch-Caribbean island, the spiritual hum is practically palpable. Yes, the wild flamingos are a sight to behold, but they don’t hold a candle to the transformation alleged to take place at these storied salt flats. Guests will find that it’s almost impossible to sink to the bottom of these natural mineral pools (much like the Dead Sea) due to the high mineral concentration and rejoice in these invigorating waters on the Eastern end of the island.
Thanks to Curaçao’s “dushi” (the word for sweet in the country’s native tongue) magic, a spiritual transformation at healing vortexes, as they’re called, around the island is pretty par for the course. Bathing in these salt flats may quell skin flare-ups, make you feel more attuned to yourself, and cleanse you of whatever negative energy clings to you.
Saratoga Springs, New York
Geyser Island Spouter? Hayes Well Spring? Charlie Spring? There are so many mineral waters to see in this ever-charming town named after its famed spring waters. In Saratoga Spa State Park, bike or walk your way around the verdant acres to sample the many springs, which contain iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and more. Alleged to treat skin conditions, help with digestive problems, and all-around make you feel better, visitors have come to Saratoga Springs to “take the cure” since the 1700s. During your trip, in addition to touring the springs to drink the waters, you can also take a private mineral bath in the bubbly, carbonated waters at the Roosevelt Mineral Baths and Spa for a treatment that will bliss you out for years to come.
Spotted Lake, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
The town of Osoyoos is home to the mineral-rich Spotted Lake, which is known to the First Nations People of the Osoyoos area as Kliluk, a sacred spot that’s been used for healing for centuries. The shimmering, shifting blue-green-yellow lake is simply otherworldly (the spotted surface changes in the hot, summer months as the minerals in the water evaporate). It’s also brimming with some of the highest quantities in the world of calcium, sodium sulfates and magnesium sulfate. Additionally, the lake also contains astoundingly high levels of eight other minerals, as well as small doses of four others, including silver and titanium.
Each circle or “spot” in the water is alleged to have its own set of medicinal and healing properties. The land surrounding the lake was privately owned for 40 years, but in 2001, the federal government acquired it for the Okanagan Nation, thereby protecting it from development. Worth noting: out of respect for this hallowed area and for the native communities who reside here, visitors are not permitted beyond the viewpoint, but the vantage point from the highway is nevertheless stunning.
Ibusuki Sand Bath, Kagoshima, Japan
What’s a sand bath, you ask? Kagoshima Prefecture’s Ibusuki sand bath onsen is the only natural sand bath in the world. On this idyllic strip of Ibusuki’s coastline, people from Japan and beyond have traveled for more than 300 years to lie in a shallow hole on the beach. Since volcanic hot springs line the shore, the sand is warmed to a toasty 122-131°F.
This unique style of TLC has some science backing it up. The Faculty of Medicine department at Kagoshima University have found that these sand baths improve blood circulation and decrease bodily inflammation. No wonder so many locals visit regularly for a Japanese-style sauna treatment. We’re feeling refreshed just reading about it.
Niagara Falls, New York
As anyone who has visited these towering falls can attest to, the views are stop-you-in-your-tracks spectacular. But did you know that it’s believed that waterfalls are a natural source of negative ions, and Niagara Falls is considered one of the world’s largest sources? For those who aren’t well-versed in their earthly particles, negative ions are molecules in the air charged with electricity that may have positive physiological effects on mood and stress levels. Translation: the cascading avalanche of water at Niagara Falls releases negative ions into the air, and perhaps a feel-good feeling into your heart and soul.
Lithia Fountain, Ashland, Oregon
Journey to Lithia Park, nestled along Ashland Creek in Southern Oregon, and you’ll find a fountain filled with Lithia water, named for the natural lithium oxide deposits in the spring. These waters have been revered as health-supportive since the late 19th century, and in 1911, Ashland personnel discovered it was situated next to the second most lithium-loaded spring water. Officials decided to pipe the spring water into town with a multi-spouted drinking fountain near the city center. Since 1982, it’s been designated a landmark by the American Water Works Association.
Therapeutic properties ascribed to the sulfur and other minerals in the springs include supposedly helping cure skin diseases, digestive disorders, arthritis, sore muscles, and poison oak. Even if you’re a skeptic about the spring water’s detoxification abilities, it’s safe to say you’ll feel calmer and less burdened by the stressors of daily life at Lithia Springs Resort & Wine Garden, a great place to experience this mystical H2O. The property has implemented a process of aeration that works to minimize the strength of the pungent sulfur odor while preserving the beneficial minerals. During your stay, you can drink the water or bathe in it. You can also grab an Adirondack chair by the landscaped pond in the wine garden and chase your vino with glasses of this rejuvenating water. Who said pinot grigio and healing can’t go hand in hand?