China's hot spring resorts are one of its best kept secrets. We're talking hot springs in tropical caves, exfoliating fish therapy, Himalayan hot springs, and springs next to China's best golf. So, if dipping in warm, mineral-rich waters by temples and beaches sounds good to you, read on for the lowdown on China's top ten spas, with hotel and attraction info to boot. Enjoy!
1. Jiuhua Spa and Resort
Formerly the private retreat of emperors, the Jiuhua Spa and Resort is one of the most popular hot spring spa destinations in the country, and it's open to all. Limpid pools fed by springs 1,230 meters underground emerge at a tension-melting 40°C. Untainted by the sulfurous odor common to most hot springs, Jiuhua's spring water has a slight yellowish tint, owing to micro-elements such as strontium, lithium, and metasilicic acid, earning it an emperor's epithet as "a basin of Golden Water."
Guests of this elegant four-star resort have a wealth of hot spring pools to choose from. The resort's two sections comprise 40 pools offering 21 distinct therapeutic applications including mud baths, herbal baths, an Egyptian-themed pool, a foot massage pool, a lotus pool, and a medical stone sauna. Those with tired muscles after treks along the Great Wall, exploring the nearby Ming Tombs, or hiking in Python Mountain National Park next door will be rewarded with head-to-toe relaxation as well as therapeutic benefits for a host of ailments including rheumatic arthritis, sciatic nerve pain, lumbar muscle strain, eczema and hypertension.
The resort also features a host of recreational and therapeutic facilities. Hydrotherapy, salt baths, massage services, Thai spas and skin care treatments revitalize and rejuvenate while bowling alleys, bumper cars, swimming pools, satellite TV, archery and nearby attractions entertain and invigorate.
2. Crown Spa Resort Hainan
Tel: 86-898-6596 6888, Email: email@example.com
Surrounded by lush Thai, Balinese and Caribbean gardens, the Crown Spa Resort Hainan (Hainan Huangguan Binhai Wenquan Jiudian) is a European-style leisure palace overlooking the South China Sea and boasting myriad exclusive spa and beauty treatments.
It's hard work living it up, but after a day's frolicking in the waves or taking advantage of this Haikou resort's luxury yachts, jet skis, windsurfing, parasailing or nearby golf course, you're bound to need some of the Crown's propriety spa treatments. The luxurious, five-story Tea Tree Spa complex is fed by natural mineral hot springs and houses meditation decks, garden pavilions, massage rooms and treatment suites.
And you won't want to miss the signature fish therapy—it's the most organic exfoliation there is. Just sit back and close your eyes and let the fish stimulate your nerves and nibble the bacteria from your skin. If you can't handle being kissed by fishes, there's always the exercise pool, Jacuzzi hot tubs, steam rooms, Thai massage and aromatherapy to unwind with.
3. Zhongshan Hot Springs Resort
Tel: 0760-668-3888, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Probably the best-known hot spring resort in China, the Zhongshan Hot Spring Resort has played host to China's most revered heads of state, Jiang Zemin and Deng Xiaoping, and is situated near a town named after the founder of the modern Chinese nation — Sun Zhongshan, known in the West as Sun Yat Sen. This four-star resort features over 30 hot springs and is also handy to the best golf in the country. What better way to justify an extended dip in warm, mineral-rich waters than by spending the day putting for birdies at a par 71, Palmer-designed, 18-hole golf course or a Nicklaus-designed 18-hole course at par 72? Talk about living the good life!
Zhongshan's mountains are dotted by numerous hot springs, one of which feeds the resort's massive 30,000 square meter outdoor spa. Once done mollifying muscles, dissolving stress and achieving Zen-like inner peace, guests can zip over to the seaside resort city of Zhuhai, just a 15-minute drive away, to soak up some rays, or train their newfound Zen focusing skills on the resort's shooting range.
4. Jinshan Hot Spring Holiday Resort
Situated by Naji, Enping County, Guangdong, this sprawling holiday village taps an incredible 300 hot spring sources to bring you some of the most mineral rich water in China. Endowed with approximately 35 grams of healing micro-elements per liter, the waters here are renowned for therapeutic benefits that combat everything from rheumatism to skin diseases to cardiovascular afflictions.
Luxurious condominiums surrounded by green hills, flowers and elegant gardens guarantee that guests of this leafy oasis get some much-deserved respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The place is well suited for businesspeople conducting tense negotiations; the well-equipped international conference center ensures presentations go smoothly. The rewards are obvious, even if things don't go as planned: Everyone wakes up fresh the next day after spending the evening hours luxuriating in this Jinshan resort's 28 Japanese-style hot spring pools, which are divided into high, mid and cool temperatures.
5. Hailuogou Hot Spring (Conch Gully Hot Spring)
Tel of Hailuogou Scenic Area Management Committee: 0836-326-6203; Hailuogou Changzheng Hotel Tel: 0836-326-6608
Western Sichuan's Gongga mountain is the scene for some of the hardiest, most majestic landscapes in China and include Hailuogou National Park, site of China's biggest glacier park. Rivaling any North American glacier park in size, the area is renowned as a place where you can see all four seasons in the same day.
If you love rustic, outdoor springs, rugged mountain views and chances to catch snowflakes on your tongue while dipping in hot spring water, Hailuogou is the place for you. Mineral-rich, therapeutic spring waters gush out at toasty temperatures ranging from 50° to 92°C and are said to be effective in combating diabetes, neuralgia and arthritis. And that's not to mention the obvious psychological benefits reaped by lounging in extreme comfort in a gorgeous setting.
After a day of hiking the verdant forests on the slopes of Mt. Gonggar, trekking across icy fields, listening to thunderous avalanches, skipping across the Conch Gully's milky rivers, and dipping in the hot springs, the four-star Hailuogou Changzheng Hotel, with its dedications to the Long March and ethnic Tibetan décor, offers a little comfort, luxury and plenty of atmosphere in which to spend the remains of the day.
6. E'mei Lingxiu Hot Spring / Lingxiu Hot Spring
Li Bai is one of China's most celebrated poets, and when he took in Emei Shan's (Mt. Emei) temple-studded peaks and mist-shrouded valleys, he found no shortage of inspiration for his superlative stanzas. Of all the mountains in the Shu kingdom, "Mount Emei stands above them all," he wrote. A setting for scenes from the legendary Monkey King's journey to the West, this magnificent landscape now serves as backdrop for bathers in Lingxiu Hot Spring's pellucid pools.
Claims abound of the water's therapeutic benefits. Sourced 3,000 meters underground, the springs are said to be helpful in combating diseases affecting digestive, neural, respiratory, vasomotor and cardiovascular systems. High concentrations of radon and huge volumes of water ensure that everyone gets in on the therapeutic action.
The five-star Emei Hot Spring Resort is ideally located to take advantage of this and the other hot springs in the area. You'll need the fine dining and creature comforts because every day in this area is guaranteed to be a full one. Whether you decide to make the climb to Golden Peak Temple, or run the monkey-ruled trails to other historical and natural points of interest, there'll be no shortage of opportunities to pump those thighs until they're screaming for a little hot spring love.
7. Tibetan Dezong Hot Spring Resort
(Tel for Lhasa tourism bureau: 0891-634-2884)
Want to lounge around in a warm, waterfall-fed pool at the roof of the world? Then look no further than the Tibetan Dezong Hot Spring Resort. Perched at a lofty 4,300 meters and nestled in the majestic slopes of the Himalayas, the Tibetan Dezong Hot Spring Resort offers visitors an experience that is simply incomparable. Is there anywhere else you can bathe in curative, calcite and tussilago-infused waters while gazing upon the most rugged, photogenic landscapes on the planet?
The Dezong Hot Springs are arranged in simple, rustic fashion, divided into a men's pool, above, and a women's pool, below. 40° C, jade-colored spring waters cascade 20 meters into the resort's pools.
Once you've had enough (if there is such a thing), other worthy attractions are within reach (if you're driving), such as the Zhigongi and Dezong Temples, and Tianzangtai, while Nam-tso Lake (Namu Lake in Tibetan); Potala Palace, Bakuo Street and Dazhao Temple are further off. Accommodations are somewhat limited, but the five-star Yaluzangbu hotel features creature comforts and cars for hire for the drive to the springs 170 kilometers away.
8. Tibetan Paillong Hot Spring
(Tel of Linzhi tourism bureau: 0894-582-2469)
About 40 kilometers down state highway 318 from the four-star Linzhi Fujian Hotel, Paillong Sulfur Hot Spring, near Pailong village, flows from the holy Brahmaputra river at a steamy 45-60 degrees centigrade. Extremely simple, and practically unknown, Paillong consists of just one small stone and brick pool. One of Tibet's best kept secrets, you're not likely to see crowds here.
The water issues directly into the pool from the rock, all you need do is let the water flow over your body and let the spring vapors clear your lungs and skin. Just sit and let your ego dissipate. Then, turn your gaze upon the verdant river valley below. Radiant organic energy illuminates your mind, revealing the universe in measureless fractals.... Dizzy yet? Do remember to breathe slowly as you slip into the infinite...
9. Jinping Mengla Hot Spring
(Tel of Gejiu Tourism Bureau: 0873-212-5699)
Yunnan's jungle-covered karst towers jut out of tropical forests and stand like unearthly sentinels keeping watch over otherworldly landscapes. Awe-inspiring and oft photographed to be sure, Yunnan's got something for hot springs lovers too: the Jinping Mengla Hot Spring.
Gushing forth from caves in southern Yunnan, 50-60 degree centigrade waters flush with curative elements stream over colorful rocks. Lying in the bubbling baths, visitors will find several "masseuse rocks." Muscles are naturally kneaded as water flows provide movement and shallow pebble beds provide texture and traction.
Beauty abounds in these lush forests: You'll find ravines, waterfalls, mirror-like lakes, karst landforms and jutting green mountains. The four-star Century Plaza Gejiu (0873-216-8888) is just seven kilometers from the hot spring.
10. Guangdong Conghua Hot Spring
Guangdong province's Conghua Hot Spring Scenic Area was originally built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. 75 kilometers from Guangzhou, it is now a nationally renowned tourist attraction and health resort. Warm water enriched with ten kinds of minerals bubbles to the surface at 12 different springs, ranging between 30 to 71°C.
A large area replete with historical landmarks such as the Bi Lang Bridge, Di Cui Pavilion and Tao Ran Hall, the springs are surrounded by waterfalls, slow-moving rivers, and tranquil forests. Try the Guangdong Hot Spring Hotel, a sprawling property comprising over 40 buildings set lakeside amidst pine forests with hot spring water piped into rooms. You'll find everything from villas to presidential suites, along with squash courts, bowling alleys and a host of mountain trails to keep you busy when you're not lounging in the springs.