Relax in the Very Best Hot Springs in Colombia
I’ll admit I was rather surprised at the number of opportunities I had to dip into a hot spring throughout South America. I suppose this is because I arrived with the determination to hike my way through the continent rather than to relax in steamy thermal pools. But of course with all those epic mountains come plenty of waterfalls and – even better – the occasional natural thermal spring. So before I even had time to acclimate to the altitude, I was hot-springing it up in the middle of the Peruvian Andes and at 4,000 metres in the pristine Uyuni dessert. But my absolute favourite thermal springs experience was in none other than beautiful and biodiverse Colombia, at Santa Rosa de Cabal, an adorable town found in the heart of the country’s coffee region.
After exploring Salento and hiking through the Cocora Valley, my friend and I decided to treat ourselves to a little (natural) spa break at the San Vincente Reserva Termal hotel and spa. Only an hour’s drive from Salento and approximately 30 minutes from Pereira, Santa Rosa is the perfect spot to take a little break from your travel adventures in Colombia's Zona Cafetera. We shared a private taxi to get into town for about 170,000 COP (around £45) but you can also get there more cheaply by bus. There are buses direct from Pereira or Medellin to Santa Rosa de Cabal. Once you arrive in town, you can catch a local bus direct to the springs themselves or share a jeep with fellow travellers. Whichever way you travel, the drive to the springs itself is incredible, with views of misty, verdant mountains to entertain you along the way.
The springs are pretty extensive, so you’ve got a couple alternatives to gain entry. If you’re on a tighter budget, your best bet is to stay in one of the local hostels (there are many running along the hill near the springs) and walk to the main thermal springs. Entry will cost you approximately 20,000 COP (£5). Once inside, it’s a bit of a hike to the springs themselves but the views make it worth your while. Just try and visit off-peak - ideally during the middle of the day - to avoid the crowds as the pools tend to fill up quickly in the evening. But springs are open late, until 10.30pm, so you'll have plenty of time to make the most of your visit.
Another alternative, if you’re able (and willing) to splurge, is to book yourself a night or two at the lovely San Vincente Reserva Termal hotel. We did just that and had the pleasure of staying in a room that overlooked one of the streams and also gave us full access to the hotel’s private springs which draw a much smaller crowd. One night’s stay at San Vincente will set you back 244,000 COP (about £63) but you’ll leave so relaxed you won’t really care about blowing your backpacker budget. The hotel also offers a range of additional spa services such as facials and massages if you want the full-on spa experience during your Colombian adventures.
Santa Rosa’s thermal springs are particularly good because they’re telluric instead of magmatic. In other words, they don’t have direct contact with volcanic magma which makes them odourless, tasteless and drinkable. However, they still provide all the fabulous benefits you’d expect from a long thermal soak like stress relief and relaxation. You'll also find hot steamy pools, ice cold streams and everything in between at Santa Rosa, so you can create your own Finish-style circuit and get the full health benefits from your visit.
Whatever you decide, a trip to Santa Rosa’s thermal springs is certainly worth your while. You’ll have the pleasure of some epic mountain views, a brilliant soak in therapeutic waters and the opportunity to really switch off. You know, from carrying that heavy backpack.
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