Steam rising in the the crisp autumn air. Can there be anything more relaxing than an open air bath in a hot spring?
On our way to Portugal we decided to visit Galicia to do just that. The city of Ourense can be found on the banks of the river Minho. It was originally settled by the Romans because of the Burgas, its geothermal spring. The area is renowned in Europe for the amount of thermal water it produces. Water emerges from the granite rock alongside the river and can reach temperature as high as 60C.
We chose to visit the free baths of Outariz on the outskirts of the city. We parked Ronnie on the other side of the river and made our way across the footbridge as it started to drizzle. Would the baths be open? Would they still be warm in the cold and the rain? Our first sight of the baths relieved us of our concerns, steam rose from the pools and several bathers were already enjoying their warmth.
The Burgas de Outariz are free and open to public, but are very well maintained. There are changing rooms, toilets and outdoor showers. You are expected to wear swimming costumes and flipflops. The temperature is regulated and the water quality is regularly monitored. There’s a range of pools of different temperatures, Hot, very Hot and Cold. We watched as one local completed his morning ritual, soaking in the hot pools before fully immersing in the cold water pool, and repeating 5 times. Now that’s a way to wake up.
At night the atmosphere becomes even more magical. The steam rises in the floodlights and off into the dark. The clouds even parted to give us a glimpse of the full moon. With the baths almost completely to ourselves, we sat and meditated, mesmerised by the simple things we observed. The way the steam moved across the water – imagining you were floating above the clouds and watching them pass below you. The refreshing sensation of cold raindrops as they hit your hot skin. The awareness of blood rushing through your body. In the baths your senses are heightened and you become very mindful.
When we finally emerged from the waters, Paul had a look of total bliss on his face. That was one of the best things I have done, in my whole life. Getting naturally high on the hot springs.
We departed very happily the next day and headed south towards Portugal. But not before a little detour to Bande to check out another hot spring we had heard rumours of.
And it was worth the diversion. The Termas de Bande are simply magical. Set overlooking a lake on the edge of a mossy covered forest, you can imagine you have been transported back in time. The Romans certainly knew what they were doing when they designed this place which they named Aquis Querquennis.
There’s a large pool deep enough to swim in, where you can also watch the bubbles from the spring come up to the surface. Another area has shallower pools perfect for sitting in and observing the lake and the changing weather in The Valley. There’s even stone bath tubs for the ultimate personal relaxation.
If you visit Galicia, you should visit the Burgas de Outariz and the Termas de Bande. I would even say you should visit Galicia because of its hot springs. They are not to be missed. You will wake up feeling like a god or goddess.
Sophie and Paul x