Keeping the romance a little steamy is a little easier South of The Border. After all Mexico is steeped in romantic traditions from the love ballads of Norteno music to the magnificent beaches, majestic mountain getaways, and romantic historical haciendas you would be hard pressed not to have an inkling of romantic feelings blossom during your adventures in this magical land. But if your really want to feel the heat you must experience Mexico's balnerios (hot springs) there are more than 1000 of these natural warm water, mineral springs, pools and rivers throughout the nation as well as more than a dozen Mexican Spas.
Since the time of Montezuma's reign (who had his own personal spa resort to escape the rigors of government rule), the Mexican people have long known the benefits of their mineral-rich waters, volcanic mud, and native herbs, not to mention their beautiful scenic and varied landscapes. Visiting local balenearios
(pronounced bal-knee-air-rios) continues to be a common practice for Mexico's people, from ruling class (who now prefer spas) to the village locals it is a revered custom that will continue for generations to come.
Do not confuse Mexico's hot springs with spas....there is a big difference. In fact few hot springs in Mexico have spas connected to them. Traditional balnearios have a public swimming pool filled with hot mineral water from warm springs. There may be local accommodations in the near vicinity but few are first class and few offer "spa" type services. However there is generally a quaint little restaurant nearby to offer local refreshments. The menu is usually very health oriented offering light meals with fresh fruits, tortillos, and local cuisine.
Finding a local balneario that is a true hot spring can be a little tricky. To locals the term balneario means bathing place so you might find yourself at a local riverside with no hot mineral water. To the upper class of Mexico the term balneario means you obviously want to go to a spa...since they generally do not go to the natural hot springs. So here's another spanish term for you to use and clarify what you are trying to find. First ask where to find a balneario and then ask if it is un lugar con aguas termales (thermal waters). If you are serious about finding these beautiful natural hot springs I would highly recommend a fine book by Mike Nelson entitled "Spas and Hot Springs of Mexico". He's done all the research for you but if you're the more adventurous type now you know what to ask for.
While these hot springs are often found in isolated and magical areas and you may feel like you are in the Garden of Eden don't be tempted to go "au Natural". Nudity is frowned upon and can land you in a local jail, not a fitting end to a romantic and healthy retreat.
The best time to visit balnearios for a quiet romantic retreat is during the week as most Mexican families bring their children with them on the weekends. If your are visiting a balnearios that has a pool area they may be closed on Monday or Tuesdays for cleaning so plan your trip accordingly.
Balnearios can be found all across the country in the states of Aquascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Mexico, Morelos, Puebla, Queretaro, Hidalgo and San Luis Potosi. Here are just a few to check out:
Perhaps one of the most plush balnearios and spas in Mexico. Located just outside the romantic city of San Miguel de Allende. Unlike other more natural hot springs areas this is trully a modern spa resort offering 70 rooms with a balcony or open patio. The hotel sits on 15 acres of lush manicured grounds for visitors to stroll around after their "soaks". Gourment meals are planned daily and other activities are available like horseback riding, golf and tennis.
Its' most noted feature is it's olympic-sized pool of hot mineral water has the same chemical composition of the famous Baden-Baden hot spring pool in Germany. The waters are believed to slow aging....what a romantic notion, there are alot of visitors here for this reason. It is open 24 hours a day so you may soak when ever you get the urge.
This area of Mexico has a long been known for it's many balnearios and spas. In fact the Aztecs used these waters first followed by the Spanish and then the Mexican people. The waters of Ixtapan have long been known to cure a wide range of diseases and salt has been extracted from these waters for creating these cures.
There are two local balnearios here as well as a fine spa resort.
The Balneario Municipal and the Balneario Nuevo Ixtapan are the smaller but nice local balnearios. The latter, located next to the Ixtapan Resort, offers 20 private rooms with whirlpools that can be rented for an hour at a time. Mineral waters are piped into the marble whirlpool tubs set into decadently elegant rooms with Italian statues, while classical music plays over loudspeakers. Visitors may also soak in two large pools, one of which is covered.
The Ixtapan Resort and Spa sprawls amidst manicured gardens and exquisitely landscaped grounds that are terraced to heighten the drama and supplemented with fountains, interesting arches and neoclassical statuary. Two hundred fifty rooms and suites, some with balconies, serve the guests well when they retire from their daily submergence in the thermal waters. This resort has a mineral water pool, sauna, whirlpool, steam room, gym with free weights, treadmills, stair climbers. It also features a full service bar with entertainment, dining room, and a nightclub, plus golf and tennis. Four thermal pools (two of them indoor), a freshwater pool, private pools, and a large beauty clinic add to the facilities. The hotel also offers spa packages designed to enhance the beauty of men and women.
This lovely town got it's name from the Indian word Tequisquiapan meaning "River with water of Tequesquite" (carbonated water). According to local history the Indian Chieftans of the time would come to the springs to conduct affairs of the state, settle disputes and other matters of importance.
Since that time the wonderful Hotel El Relox has been developed converting the balnearios in the middle of town into a nice resort. The 110 room facility is quaint and the rooms are arranged around tropical gardens and quiet courtyards. There are four large pool and 17 private indoor pools all with varying tempeature ranges. The hotel also offers several restaurants, bars, snack bars and even a gymnasium.
Located near Queretaro is a wonderful day trip for balnearios seekers. This unique spot features a geyser known for its' spouting waters which are diverted into nearby soaking pools. Since there are no hotels in the immediate area you do need to plan for a day excursion only.
State of Morelos
Perhaps the largest number of balnearios lie within the beautiful and lucious
state of Morelos. One unique spot to dip your cares away is Las Estacas, a pristine crystal river outfitted for guests to tube float down into a large pool. The film Tarzan was shot here and nearby stands a fine hotel (Hacienda Tempila) with cabin suites and a nice restaurant. Other activities in the area include horseback riding and minature golf.
The aroma of sulphur fills the air here which is also the site of the largest swimming pool in Mexico...equal to six olympic size pools which features water slides, hydro pools and waterfalls. The water is warmed by nearby volcanoes of Popocatepetl and Ixtazluatl.
Hedionda's main claim is its waters high concentration of chlorosulfates and the second highest concentration of radioactivity of any spa in the world except for Brembach of Germany. For just $2 per adult these waters may cure arthritis, rheumatism, nervous disorders, circulation problems, stomach ailments, psoriasis and just about everything else.
Termas de Atotonilco
Though its curative powers are said to be the same as Hedionda's it is not as radioactive which may leave some people feeling more comfortable about the whole experience. This balnearios area is more of a park with a series of pool areas one even deep enough to dive in. The cost here is just $3/day but can be over crowded on the weekends as it is a favorite spot for Mexico City residents to escape to. Near the area is The Gran Hotel Las Termas which sits atop a hill overlooking all the pools and includes its own pool and restaurant.
Aquascalientes means hot waters. While they’re not as hot as they used to be, those in the city of Aquascalientes, capital of the state of the same name, are pleasant enough. Visitors will find the three public mineral pools at Balneario Ojocaliente, as well as 11 cabanas with private pools, changing facilities, steam baths and a restaurant.
The Balneario de Valladolid, set out in the country on the road to Zacatecas, offers an Olympic-sized pool filled with odorless, colorless 38-40' C. (100-104' F.) water set in a carpet of soft grass surrounded by old, towering leafy green trees. Unfortunately, there aren’t any services except changing rooms and a snack bar.
The old Spa Penafiel has closed, but the waters in the three pools of the Balneario San Lorenzo Teotipilco, Tehuacan, Puebla, have the same mineral content as the best bottled waters in Mexico - San Lorenzo and Penafiel. According to Nelson, they’re noted for their high lithium content, which is supposed to have a calming effect and are especially good for kidney and liver disorders.
So take in the "waters" of Old Mexico and keep the romance hot in Mexico's fine balnearios!