In our travels around the world, we have found that some of the most beautiful places on earth are located in earth’s geothermal hotspots. In these places where the earth’s crust is thinnest, the water, steam and minerals that spew from beneath the ground create fantastic landscapes filled with lakes of brightly colored water, where vaporous white clouds hang above the landscape. Water filled cracks and tears in the surface of the land, cliffs and rugged chasms, caldera lakes and waterfalls add distinctive charm to these areas.
Yellowstone National Park is the most geothermally active place on earth. It is a place of extraordinary beauty, a natural wonderland. Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the world’s oldest national park.
Spanning nearly five thousand square kilometers, the park has more than ten thousand geothermal features and five hundred geysers, more than sixty percent of the geysers on earth. Yellowstone Lake is the largest mountain lake in North America. Bubbling mud pots, hot water pools and steam vents are scattered across the park. In the presence thermophile microbes, some of the pools are unlikely shades of blue, yellow and green. The upper geyser basin contains the biggest collection of colorful thermal pools anywhere on earth.
Three hundred and fifty waterfalls cascade down cliffs as steep as 94 metres. Over five thousand bison roam the park, the largest herd on public land, and the only herd in the United States to have lived continuously in the area since prehistory. Grey wolves, elk, grizzly bears and moose have made the forests and the slopes of the park their home.
With nearly one thousand five hundred kilometers of hiking trails the best way to experience Yellowstone is off the beaten track.
Located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island, Rotorua is nicknamed “Sulphur City”, due to the ever-present smell of sulphur dioxide that hangs around this area. Besides the thermal pools and geysers, the area has seventeen lakes. The biggest, the sixteen-kilometer Lake Rotorua is in a caldera formed thousands of years ago the magma chamber beneath the volcano collapsed.
The town of Rotorua is not very exciting, but the surrounding areas are endowed with natural beauty that draws visitors around the year to outdoor activities. The lakes are popular fishing destinations and are good for a multitude of water sports.
Close by the Whakarewarewa Forest, fifteen acres of enormous Red Wood trees has a network of cycling and walking trails that are great for mountain biking. The forest was listed as one of world’s eight top places by Red Bull in 2012.
Thirty-four percent of the population of Rotorua is Maori so this is the perfect place to get to know the rich Maori culture. In the local traditional village, visitors are treated to ceremonial rituals and traditional food.
Whaka Thermal Reserve is famed for its geysers and hot springs. Not far from Rotorua, the “Hidden Valley” boasts one of the largest and most spectacular geothermal areas in New Zealand, with thirty-five active geysers, thermal pools and bubbling mud pools. Millions of liters of water tumble down silica terraces which hot water algae have painted in startling shades of green, black, yellow and blue.
Against a backdrop of volcanoes, the quaint and charming town of Beppu in central Oita lies on Beppu Bay. Second only to Yellowstone, in daily thermal water volumes, Beppu has more than one hundred hot springs. Most hotels in the town have their own hot spas, and at some, it is possible to organize your own private spa. Many hotels also offer traditional food cooked in mineral-rich spa water.
Here on a tour of Hell, you’ll find Blood Pond Hell, so called because the water gushes red with melted clay and the cobalt blue waters of the Sea Hell. The geyser is named Tornado Hell.
On Shoningahama Beach, the sands are heated by the geothermal water that runs beneath. Here you are encouraged to take a hot sand bath buried up to your neck in warm sand.
The Takanawa Bathhouse was built in 1879 and you can still have either a hot soak or a hot sand bath at this splendid old bathhouse. Whilst in the area make sure to visit the monkey park on the slopes of a mountain. It is home to one and half thousand Japanese Macaques all of whom have free range of the park. End the day at a Karaoke Bar or stop off at Beppu Park, in autumn the golden leaves make a splendid show and in the spring the air is redolent with the fragrance of cherry blossoms.
In ancient times the Romans used the many thermal springs and spas that lie scattered over the Tuscan countryside believing them to have come from the Hades. In some areas, the remnants of Ancient Roman baths can still be seen.
The biggest geothermal fields can be found at Petriolo, Saturnia and San Filippo. Around these areas, the countryside is full of vineyards, and olive groves and the towns and valleys boast splendid medieval architecture ensuring a multi-dimensional trip to the region.
Devil’s Valley has been known to the Italians for centuries and was the inspiration for the landscapes of hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The ancient Romans relaxed in the thermal waters and here the world’s first geothermal power station was built. The Larderello Geothermal Museum is in a nineteenth-century palace and it offers great insights into the history of the area.
Like many geothermal areas, the territory around the spas are alien and otherworldly. Fumaroles escape from fissures in the earth’s crust and steam hangs above the ground in ghostly swathes.
The third biggest geyser field in the world is located in El Tatio in Chile in a volcanic area in the Andes Mountains in the middle of the Atacama Desert. At 4320 meters above sea level, these are also the highest altitude geysers in the southern hemisphere.
The bronzed landscapes are full of crevices bubbling with warm waters and geysers blast steam into the atmosphere at regular intervals. Here you can get up close to the geyser, where you can hear, touch and smell the hot waters as they trickle out of the vents in the earth’s crust. Most tours to the area take place at sunrise as this is when the geysers are most active. The sun rising from behind the mountain peak wraps the steamy landscape in ethereal beauty.
Geothermal areas are to be found in many places around the world. In these areas, we find fascinating evidence of the furious activity of the inner core of the earth. Wherever the earth’s warm life reaches up onto the land it carves and sculpts natural wonders unique and magical, creating landscapes like no other.
Have you ever been to any of these beautiful Earth’s Hot Spots? If so, please don’t be shy and share your experience with us in the comment section below.