Mind, Body, Aqua: Four of the World’s Most Healing Waters

Mind, Body, Aqua: Four of the World’s Most Healing Waters

From the lake that’s said to have given an Egyptian queen her good looks to a river with curative powers, these four bodies of water offer a tonic for both body and mind

no doubt about it, water is having a moment in the
wellness world. From the benefits of wild swimming and cold-water surfing to the rise of thermal spas
and hydrotherapy centres, the healing properties of this powerful
element are increasingly being harnessed to help with our health,
both mental and physical.

Yet thousands of years before our modern spas and retreats were built, the curative effects of
water were known about and sought from their very source. Whether
it was bathing in ancient salt lakes or drinking from divinely
blessed springs, the ritual of seeking water-based healing is a
centuries-old practice. Ready to make the pilgrimage? Take a plunge
into one of these.

Spiritual spas: healing waters around the world

Lourdes, France

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes


It was while collecting firewood in 1858 that 14-year-old
Bernadette Soubirous – now a saint in the Catholic church – is said
to have been led to the source of a holy spring by the Virgin Mary.
Appearing to the young peasant girl a further 17 times in the
following years, Our Lady of Lourdes is believed by pilgrims to
have blessed the waters that flow from this spring, which is hidden
within an unassuming grotto in Lourdes, a small provincial town in
the Pyrenees.

Now one of the most visited Catholic pilgrimage sites in the
world, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is a complex of Marian
shrines that draws over six million visitors a year for its healing
waters. To this day, the Catholic church has confirmed 70 of the
miracles that are said to have taken place at the site, where
pilgrims drink from free-flowing taps and are dunked into blessed
waters at the grotto. To properly get to grips with the legends of
Lourdes, you’ll want to spend several days strolling its spiritual
streets and take a walking tour, the best of which can be booked
during a stay at boutique bolthole
Belfry & Spa

The pool at Rogaška Slatina, Slovenia

Rogaška Slatina


Slovenia’s spa culture might be a little under-radar when
compared with Europe’s big-hitting wellness destinations, but this
nature-rich sliver of land is in fact home to some of the most
curative natural hot springs in the world, thanks to a variety of
geographical quirks. One of the largest of the country’s springs is
Rogaška Slatina, discovered to have healing properties by the
Romans, when legend told that the mythological winged horse Pegasus
struck the ground with his hoof and uncovered Donat Mg – the
mineral water that bubbles from this very spring.

Now known to contain the highest concentration of magnesium in
any drinkable water anywhere, the divine water is tapped by
Rogaška Resort, where guests are prescribed
water-drinking therapy as part of their stay. The experience begins
with a medical assessment, which is followed by a bespoke regime,
where glasses of Donat Mg are prescribed at different temperatures
throughout the day.

Swimmers in the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

Israel, Jordan and the West Bank

Revered for its restorative powers ever since Queen Cleopatra
first bathed in its hypersaline waters, this landlocked lake is one
of the most mineral-rich bodies of water on Earth. Attributing her
coveted beauty to the salt lake’s mystical cleansing properties,
the Ancient Egyptian pharaoh built the world’s first spa on its
shores, and even made several attempts to buy the land for her own
country. Today, the Dead Sea is still as popular as it was all
those centuries ago, although science has since unveiled the
mystery behind its magical healing abilities.

Made up of a one-of-a-kind combination of 21 essential minerals
(12 of which can only be found in the Dead Sea), the saline water
is a powerful natural exfoliant, with high levels of magnesium and
potassium soothing muscles and joints, and a low pollen count
providing relief from countless allergies. The coolest bit? As the
lowest land point on the planet, the lake also filters harmful UV
rays through a special evaporation layer just above its surface, so
bathers can drink in all the benefits of the sun’s vitamin D
without risk of sunburn or skin damage. For a luxurious head-to-toe
skin detox, bed down at Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea and make a
beeline for the hotel’s Dead Sea pool, where you’ll be slathered in
natural mud, then cleansed and massaged to emerge renewed.

A rower on the Ganges River, India
Photo credit: Avuz Sariyildiz / Shutterstock.com

Ganges River

India and Bangladesh

A spiritual site for Hindus around the world, the Ganges River
is referred to as a goddess in holy scriptures – one that provides
daily healing, as well as forgiveness and salvation for believers
on certain days of the year. Beyond the river’s religious
significance, exciting scientific advances have also proven the
water’s antimicrobial and antibacterial properties are helpful in
fighting a number of diseases, including tuberculosis, typhoid,
pneumonia, cholera and meningitis. This can only be good news,
considering that the waters receive a staggering 10 million bathers
each day (although, you might want to be careful partaking in
similar spiritual ceremonies as the river is considered one of the
world’s most polluted).

The best place from which to witness the river’s religious
splendour is Varanasi, where devotees gather daily along the bank
to bathe and spread the ashes of loved ones. Take an evening boat
ride along the river to watch Aarti – a spectacular Hindu light
ceremony involving candles and burning lamps – or stay at the
show-stopping BrijRama Palace and you’ll see all this and
more right from your bedroom window.

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