Tuesday, November 30, 2010

As East as Possible

At the very end of Siberia lies the highly volcanic actively peninsula of Kamchatka, jutting south towards the Kuril islands and Japan.
Sparsely populated, there are still many hot springs in their natural undisturbed habitat as well as a couple of enhanced soaks catering to the increasing numbers of tourists.

Probably the best web based source of hot spring info on Kamchatka is the web page of
kamchatkatravers.ru. Besides the many references I will include below, it mentions that there are 124 hot springs mostly located on the eastern range. It has more extensive descriptions of about 20 hot springs complete with photo's.
Roughly coming to the same number is russiadiscovery.com:
'There are 274 mineral springs in Kamchatka, and more than half of them are hot'.
Another source of info on hot springs in Kamchatka is the website of the Geyser Hotel. Distinctive soak entries will be included.

Without infringing on the previous lists, the following will try to give a pretty complete picture of Kamchatka's hot springs. Unfortunately I have not been able to put the 30 mentioned soaks into pace some kind of system in the review, the list is more or less at random. Most though are located in the east close to the more populated parts of Kamchatka around the central valley and Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka's main city.

Valley gone?
One of Kamchatka's main tourist attractions is the Valley of Geysers which is claimed to be the second largest concentration of geysers in the world (
'For approximately 3.7 miles the narrow, winding Geysernaya steams, boils, erupts and smells. This single valley has more than 20 major geysers and dozens of smaller ones concentrated in just 1.5 square miles'.
It is unclear though whether these claims are still valid as earlier this century many geysers were covered during a mud slide. It's also not clear whether or not these geysers are soakable. Though presumably.

(Viluchinsky or Rodnikoviye) hot spring is one of Kamchatka's most often referred to hot springs, possibly due it's 2 hour distance from Petropavlovsk, and the skiing possibilities nearby.

site describe it as follows:
'Local headquarters [government] left the hot springs in their pristine state and built alongside several charming wooden changing rooms and outhouse. There are 2 not large pools with healing hot water. One pool is for 4-5 persons. The place is very cozy and picturesque'.
For some reality here is a description from a visitor:
'A guided tour of Vilyuchinsky thermal springs also known as Rodnikoviye springs leaves a long-lasting impression. In two hours after leaving the town the road runs up a steep pass, crosses a mountain plateau and smoothly goes down to the valley of the river Vilyuchi. The locals did their best to preserve this haunt untouched and not to cripple it with buildings and other civilization signs. There are two small shallow natural pools filled with real thermal water. The fact that the water is thermal is confirmed by the presence of thermofile fields floating on the surface (algae living in thermal water). A small pool for 4-5 persons is located on a volcano terrace right on a travertine cupola. The water in the pool is sulfate-chloride-hydracarbonate'.
Geyser Hotel's entry on Viluchinski. And Sannikov.org.

It's also well known for it's muddy qualities.

Nice taste

'Strategic meeting in Nalychevo Hot Spring'.
By Brruno

Nalychevo (Nalichevo) hot springs are
'the biggest thermal carbonic acid springs at Kamchatka' source.
The Geyser Hotel has an extensive entry on this hot spring complete with pictures of the pond like surroundings and the single bathing building.

The same
reference also mentions Talivoye hot spring, 6 km from Nalychevo:
'... the water tastes nice'.
Krayevedcheskiye are also located nearby Nalychevo (source).

Sannikov.org has this on Goryachie hot springs which are located in the central part of Nalychevo valley:
'On your way from Nalychevsky Priyut you cross another interesting place "Bear's tundra" covering with low bushes cranberry, blueberry, crowberry - a paradise for "a boss" of Kamchatka's forests. While bathing you'll admire vast expanses of tundra and mountainous peaks, glacial landscapes, richness and diversity of flora and fauna. You'll see a magnificent view of many summit Zhupanovsky volcano looks like fairy castle'.
Goryacherechenskie (Goryacherechensky), Talovskie (Talovsky), Aagskie (Aagsky; cool to warm springs) and Kraevedcheskie (Kraevedchesky) hot springs are mentioned just once by Kamchatkatravers. All are not far from Nalychevo.
Khodutka hot springs is another hot spring rumored to be popular with tourists (
source). The Geyser Hotel's entry on Khodutka puts quite some effort into describing this spring. Apparently this is a lake like section of the river (a km long, 20m wide) where temperatures vary from 37-80 Celsius.

'Russian banya
... in the thermal hot waters of the Khodutka River (the largest wild hot springs in Kamchatka)'.
By freddiebernard.
Paratunka (Paratunskie) is synonymous for it's soaks. Located even closer to Petropavlovsk this website mentions
'There are several natural outlets of thermal hot waters in the valley of Paratunka Valley: Nizhne-Paratunkskie (Low) Hot Springs, Sredne-Paratunkskie (Middle) Hot Springs and Verkhne-Paratunkskie (Upper) Hot Springs'.
This site claims
'In this area are nearly 30 hot swimming pools fed by wells drilled to bring un the naturally hot and mineralized waters'.
The Moscow Times haste's to add that these are Soviet-style sanatoria, though other's in a more natural state. Then there's a Blue lagoon, Golubaya Laguna, to entertain all:
'At present it is one of the most popular touristic centres of Kamchatka among both its residents and visitors of the island'. source
It's therefore difficult to attribute descriptions to a particular Paratunka soak. Some are more developed than others. The upper springs are less developed and include a waterfall (source) with a soaking pool below. The local government website includes a number of links to resorts, mostly in Russian.
Not so popular
The village of Malki (Malky) is the name giver of the Malkinski (Malkinsky) hot spring. The springs located 5 km from the village are located further away than Paratunka along the Klyuchevka river (source). Russiadiscovery adds:
'The valley is 0.5 km wide, on its both sides there are volcanoes covered with stone birch forest. On big thermal platforms covered with pebbles, near a creek there are several groups of springs, thermal waters of which stream down into small reservoirs dug in pebble soil. Hundreds of people come here on weekends. There is a recreation center near the springs, on its territory there are cottages and a comfortable thermal pool'.
It must be said that these springs are more rustic but on the evidence of this photo they do seem to attract quite a few soakers. Sannikov.org adds:
'Often on weekends the are is packed with picnicking and camping Russians'.
The Geyser Hotel entry of Malkinski. A traveler must have appreciated the soak:
'Then we drove to the Malki hot springs to take a bath, and a second, and a third next morning'.
Also located close to the Kamchatka capital are the Zhirovskie (Zhirovski) hot springs which Kamchatkatravers describes as one of the most beautiful valleys of Kamchatka. There are two sets of springs, Nizhne-Zhirovski (lower springs, Geyser Hotel entry) and Verchne-Zhirovski (upper springs along mountain stream, Geyser Hotel entry).
Located nearby (presumed?) is the
Apacha hot springs hotel.

(Tumroksky) is a very off the map place (well, it's about half way up the peninsula) to which are very few references.
Tichavsky though treks here and gives this description:
'The times when Tumroks hot springs resort was just a few huts are past now. New hotel style wooden builidngs with luxury rooms were built there in summer 2003 for rich tourists comming by helicopter. Most of the building are now owned by "WelcomeTour" travel agency. I didn't like the light color of these buildings, located in still total wilderness with no road around'.

'Hot springs pools at Tumroks. What a pleasure after our unpleasant trek!'
From Tichavsky's photo page.

There is this
source on no less than 14 hot springs of Apapel which is near the town of Esso. Sputnik Mania has a photo.

The Lesser valley of Geysers is another term for the hot spring (fields?) of
Dachnye located in South Kamchatka (kamchatkatravers), 100 km west of Kamchatka's capital. A series of photo's can be observed from the kamchatintour website.

Kamchatkatravers has a very attractive description for the Verkhne Opalskie hot spring:
'Verkhne-Opalskie hot springs are located in the left bank part of the valley of the Levaya Opala river, on a small river that flows from the north-west slope of ancient Asacha volcano. The springs are located in the forest'.
The Karymskie (Karymsky) hot springs are located near Kamchatka's most active volcano with the same name. Again the most informative info available is from Kamchatkatravers. There's a personal experience:
'We concluded the day with a bath in a hot spring near the little stream. Next to the house was a wooden hut in which one could change clothes. In there one could get relief from millions of mosquitoes which lived at the swamp and which must have been pleased to hit on five humans to tired to care. In any case such a bath in such an environment is just wonderful. We watched the sun go down behind Karymsky as we relaxed to the max'.
Photo by Alexander Belousov. Caption:
'Alexander takes a rest in the Karymsky hot springs'.
Nearby are the hot springs of Academii Nauk (Akademii Nauk) which like Karymsky also refer to an active volcano. Again only referred to by Kamchatkatravers.The Kharimchinski hot springs are also awarded by an entry on the website of Geyser Hotel. It's location though is unclear. Luckily panoramio now has an entry (see photo below).

Geyser Hotel also has references to 2 hot springs near the Bannaya river. These are Maliye Banniye (Geyser Hotel entry) and Bolshiye Banniye (entry).

Others receiving a descriptive addition in kamchatkatravers are Zheltorechenskie, Shaibinskie, Timovoskie, Oksinskie, Ksudachinskie, Golyginskie.

For those of you requiring more photo graphic evidence the following are a number of links and captions to photo's from Iain Masterton:

'Group of babushkas enjoying a soak in natural hot spring baths at Ozerki near city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Kamchatka in Russian Far East' source.
'People soaking in natural hot spring with beer chilling on ice during winter in southern Kamchatka in Russian Far East'. source
(Most probably the upper Paratunka hot spring)
'Two people soaking in natural outdoor hot spring with mineral mud face masks in Kamchatka in Russian Far East'. source
'Woman bathing in natural outdoor hot spring bath during winter in Kamchatka in Russian Far East'. source
'Outdoor hot natural hot spring bath in deep snow at a countryside Dacha in Kamchatka in the Russian Far East'. source
No people?
The absence of inhabitants has been well read by geothermal energy investors. A very recent development has been the teaming up of Icelandic geothermal energy specialists and Russian investors to seek to power up the peninsula such that metallurgic facilities will be run on the earths heat.

barabanov2006's photographic memory of a recent heliski adventure

[updated October 2011]

Friday, November 12, 2010


Siberia is definitely a wide expanse of openness, and what with the many hot springs situated in the area around the Baikal lake, one would expect a couple of hundred hot springs to be located in Siberia. At least.
Wrong. After much research there only seem to be a few. Or at least there is so little info available on internet. Or there may be hot springs still waiting to be discovered.

Cold Fame
Superlatives assume Siberia to be very cold. And apparently no place on earth gets colder than Oymyakon (Wikipedia). Located 3 days drive from Yakutsk,
'Oymyakon boasts an average winter temperature of -45C, with a one-time world record low of -71.2C
Ironically, Oymyakon means “non-freezing water”, situated as it is to a nearby hot spring'. source
Even though this is ironic and might lead one to think that there can be no better way of illustrating the contrast by looking into more 'depth', alas the cold wins from the heat, at least in reporting on internet. Even such absurd news such as
'Nippy cows wear bras in Russia'
get a blog entry.

Possibly dinets.travel.ru refers to Oymyakon (Oimyakon) when focusing on orchids but mentions:
'Some rare and beautiful flowers, normally found only in Southern and Western Siberia, can be seen around hot springs in the uninhabited area between Suntar-Hayata and Verhoyansky Range. In this mountain chain, 3 times as long as Sierra Nevada, there are only two small villages and three mines. Hot springs do not freeze in winter, and I discovered a wintering population of brown dippers (Cinclus pallasi), diving in the water despite the frost'.
Possibly referring to the same, is the mention of Tjoply Kljuch (Tyoply Kljuch), which this Italian blogger refers to as having a 'fonte tiepida' (warm source). LP Thorn Tree also mentions:
'There's a small village called Tjoply Kljuch where there's a hot spring'.
Btw. Tyoply Kljuch is yet again mentioned by Wikipedia as a 'warm spring' on the Sea of Japan coast, north of Vladivostok, south of the Amur, somewhere totally different.

Complicating things even more is this blog entry mentioning that the near by Oymyakon, Tomtor, has a hot spring by wideview.it:
'A stream that never freezes, because of hot springs. The vapour, coming out continuously, freezes instantly over the trees all around, creating very bizzarre shapes'.
The most western most hot springs of Siberia are located near the city of Tyumen. More published and probably seeing a lot more visitors. There is a hot spring located just 5 km's from the city and it
'... is well developed to accept tourists. Accommodation, meals are readily available. The water is highly mineralized having temperature of 45 degrees Celsius and cures many unhealthy conditions'. source
There are a few soak experiences on internet such as the blogs by englishrussia.com and this from Sergey Gershtein:
'There are hot natural springs that are said to be funny to visit in winter. It was funny indeed'.
He unfortunately fails to expand why they are funny. More photo's on panaramio.

The source above, roadtripsacrossrussia.com, describes there being another less developed hot spring 30 km from Tyumen, most probably a reference to Yalutorovsk (or Zavodoukovsk). Yalutorovsk is 70 km from Tyumen (wikipedia).
An entry on virtualtourist describes Yalutorovsk as follows:
'In some dozen kilometers from Yalutorovsk there is a hot spring. It is just in the forest, so the correct destination I can't say. In any way if you ask residents, they will tell you I suppose. It was funny to sit in the hot water when the snow was everywhere around. If you're in the center of the spring you may light it up because there is gas. It is not dangerous :-)'.

'it is fired'.
by bugulma

Other translated information reads:
'A comfortable hot spring is located 11 kilometers from Tyumen - in the Upper Forest. There is a marble pool in the open air is filled year-round warm water. Pool length of 20 meters, a width of 6 meters and a depth of 1.5 meters is divided into two tracks, the temperature of water in them is different. It is surrounded by pines and ornamental palms, near the falls beautiful artificial waterfall.
Near the hot spring are changing rooms and showers. This source is considered to be landscaped, as located near hotels, lodges and cabins for tourists, as well as all the amenities - gazebos, barbecues, and equipped with slides, ski and skate, skating rink, as well as a cafe, billiards, sauna, solarium, Karaoke and much more.
Wild hot spring is located 30 kilometers from Tyumen. There are no facilities - it is possible to live in tents or go to the city'.

Moving eastwards, Krasnodar region has a few hot springs with not so much more info other than this:
'Mineral springs are of great interest and form the basis of health resorts in Goryachy Klyuch [the name means "hot spring"], Khadyzhensk, and Maikop and the Krasnodar Hydropathic Center. The mineral waters of Goryachy Klyuch and Maikop have a well-deserved reputation as table waters. The territory's hotel business is expanding. A favorable climate, warm seas, mineral and mud springs, and scenic mountain and coastal landscapes have combined to make Krasnodar Territory one of the most important tourist regions of Russia and the CIS'. source
On Goryachy Klyuch Wikipedia adds little, but the above is about all the info available on Krasnodars hot spring resorts.

So where does this leave us?
With most of the Asian continent close or north of the Himal already featured, it seems the only place left is Russia's eastern frontier, Kamchatka. So look forward to an expansive entry on this including the Kuril islands.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Going Baikal

Due North
Heading northward anywhere in Asia and you'll end up in Russia. And in Russia the hot soaks keep on coming; there's no better way to brave the chill and cold than enjoying a hot spring!

 I'll start off this journey by going north of Mongolia.

Often travelled, often used as a lay-over on the Trans-Sib / Trans-Mongolian, there's quite a bit of information on the internet about hot springs in the Baikal region. What's more the quality of information is better, less blog reports more tourist and/or other official info.

Getting acquainted with the area is not an issue. It starts off with this general
'Baikal area is still seismically active. There are 35 hot springs around the lake, mostly located in the north-east of Baikal and in Tunka valley'.
That's quite a lot for such an area. Even as this web entry claims:
'The Baikal basin nature is rich in medicinal mineral springs, there are more than 300 mineral springs-arshans on the territory of Buryatia. The word arshan means “holy water” in the Buryat language. In such a way the people highlight the medicinal force of the natural springs. According to the Buryat traditions, having come to the arshan it is necessary to pay tribute to the “holy water” and worship it. Each arshan has got a special place for sacrifice. The rite is started with fastening a band-zalaa to a tree with the request of giving health, t hen some milk is sprinkled about, some sweet things and coins are placed under the tree. Only after that the arshan is tasted and medical treatment is started'.
Saint Spring?
The mention of Arshan leads us to the first soak site of the Baikal region. Another
link adds to our understanding:
'From a language of Buryat people the name of the settlement «Arshan» is translated as «Saint spring». This place was called so because of numerous natural mineral water springs appearing right from the ground'
According to wikitravel Arshan
'... is a small hot spring resort located at the foot of the Sayan Mountains in Buryatia'.
Which means to the west of Irkutsk and the Baikal lake. The following is all derived from baikal-center.ru:
'Arshan is balneological, with a mountain climate, of a total capacity 895 bed places. It includes resorts "Sayany", "Arshan" and a camp for children, which is run all year round, "Edelweiss". The resort is situated in Tunkinskaya Valley at the foot of the Sayan Mountains, on the banks of the purest mountain river Kyngyrga, known for its cascade of gorgeous wa­terfalls.
The main natural medicinal properties of Arshan's waters are carbonate thermal waters of low mineraliza­tion and acidity that contain silicon, sulfate, hydrocar­bon, magnesium, calcium and sulfide silt muds.
Visitors are offered to use a swimming pool, gyms, sauna, library with a reading room, club, dance and sports facilities (grounds), concert hall, caf, sports equipment rental services, playroom for children, res­taurant, drug-store, parking lot, hairdresser and place for Terrainkur [?]'.
It continues to list why Arshan's water are curative:
'Cutaneous (skin) diseases and hypoderm, Diseases of the genitor-urinary system (except for female genital diseases), Diseases of the respiratory system, Diseases of the digestive apparatus, Diseases of the blood circulation system, Diseases of the endocrine system, eating and metabolic disorders'.
'To take warm mineral water baths one should agree upon with the re­sort administration. The only natural mineral spring out­let, so called eye spring, has been preserved at one place which is easy to find as it is situated in a sacred grove (with ribbons on trees). The eye spring contains iron, up to 600 mg/l'.
Less serious is the following article promoting Arshan and it's environ:
'Arshan is not quiet even at nights, as bright discos and dance parties welcome everybody who wants to join in. The “Miss Arshan” contest is held there. You will be unforgettably impressed, once seeing this show. Majestic ladies in evening dresses are doing their best to win the crown, waiting for wonderful time to begin. Well, think of your wardrobe carefully when going to Arshan! And don’t forget your bathing costume!
Few minutes spent in car – and you are in Zhemchug village (~38km), where a geyser, gushing forth from 766m slit, makes you forget about rheumatism! Not far from it a small pool invites people to get dirty head over heels with healing mud. Not everyone can overcome this temptation!
So, as you can see, there are many different ways to have a really good time in Arshan !'
Closeby is another hot spring Nilova Pustyn. The information on internet is quite similar to the above with the same reference, baikal-center.ru. More info is available from baikaltravel.ru.

Another hot spring in this locality is Shumak. Shumak, the more remoter of the hot springs in this area, is also more folksy, witness this
'One such sacred spot is Shumak, a fairy-tale like collection of medicinal hot springs and shaman shrines nestled high in the Sayan Mountains to the south of Baikal. Shumak, as the legend goes, was a valley merchant who fell in love with a beautiful woman in the mountains. When he went back to claim his bride, he learned that she and her entire tribe had been wiped out by fever. Heartbroken, Shumak threw away the jewels he had carried as a wedding gift. As he did so, dozens of healing springs are said to have appeared where each of the jewels landed'.
Access info plus more:
'It is necessary to walk 70 km and get over the Shumak mountain pass which is exclusively difficult to access (2,932 m), on foot, on horseback or by helicopter. But the beauty of the mountain landscape, the air and the medicinal springs are worth of it. The thermal carbonaceous waters of Shumak are displayed on the surface in three groups looking as numerous griffins [=body of a lion + head/wings of an eagle according to wikipedia]'.
There is an actually visitor experience from Shumak:
'The springs themselves are a scattering of cottages built around the 80+ separate fountains. The Russians are very sure that each line exudes a separate mineral and comes from a unique source. There's probably a bit of truth to it. The big thing is to take a cup around to each spring and drink from each one to build up your health...It's amazing, people hike in with sick children etc...just to feed them this water..C'est La Vie. At most I'd expect 100 people to be in the valley at one time. We saw perhaps 40 during our stay. There is also one spring that is big enough to sit in..they actually built a house around it. It is NOT a hot spring...more of a lukewarm spring...I'd guess about 80 deg F'.

'The warm spring (NOT HOT)'.
From tjschmidty

On all 3 hot springs mentioned above, the Freiburg Technical University, Germany, has extensive geological info. See for instance their entries on

Muddy waters 
The above mentioned Uni has put a lot of effort into geologically mapping the various hot springs in this region.More of this effort can be found in and around the Baikal lake. The Zhemchug hot springs (geo. info) are not only known for their water but as well as for their mud.
'They are situated in the Tunka district on the right bank of the Irkut river. The medicinal hot springs and mud baths are popular with people'. (source)
Not everybody understands the mud:
'There was a place you could go which was basically a big hot tub, fed by water from the hot springs. It was nice, but the whole village was extremely muddy (the rain the previous night didn't help) and the mud came all the way up to the pool, which made for everything being a bit messy'.
'Daniel and I made our way to the hot springs of Zhemchug, a ghost town after the arrival of the winter season. We drank vodka with our Russia friends, and hopped back and forth between the freezing pool to the right and sulfur scented waters of the hot spring'. (source)
Little more background to Dawsha hot spring (geo. info) but there is more on Zmeinayay (Zmeiny or Snake spring; geo. info) There's a nice old-fashioned photo (at least I hope so) as well as what follows:
'The Zmeiny spring is one of the most popular thermal springs of Lake Baikal. The water of the spring runs both on the ground surface and under water. The spring is similar to famous Pyatigorsk springs by the composition of its water. It is rich in hydrogen sulfide, fluorine and sodium. Temperature of the water fluctuates between +28ºC (+82ºF) and +34ºC (+93ºF). The spring itself corresponds to two wooden blockhouses each is for four persons. The Zmeiny spring that means spring “of snakes” in Russian got its name because of a big population of grass snakes lived in this bay in former times'.
Kotelnikovsky hot spring (geo. info) is the hottest spring by the Baikal (source). The local (Severobaikalsk) tourist site uses this to attract visitors:
'Kotelnikovsky Cape hot springs are situated 70 km from the city [?], western coast of the lake, multiple outlets of hot mineral water, (one can dig a bathtub in any place of the pebble and shingle beach which will get filled with hot water pretty soon). Part of its territory is a resort area with cottages, inside and outside pools'.
Another photo is obtainable from Iain Masterton.

Free speech
Then there is Goryachinsk (geo. info) which someone on LP's Thorn Tree describes as
'... hospital like sanatorium'.
Closer to the city of Ulan Ude, this web site describes getting to Goryachinsk:
'If you follow the first path, it’ll take you under pine trees, along a stream, until two pretty wooden sheds built on the special stream. In the center of the shed is a fountain of Hot Springs. Along the stream are benches where people sit and dip their feet in the mixed hot and cold waters. It’s supposed to purify, bring health and happiness! What it surely brings is people together, they meet on the benches and talk about where they come from, where it’s best to buy fish in the village…'.
Dzelinda hot springs:
'Dzelinda hot springs are located 92 km. to the east from Severobaikalsk. They have train and automobile connection with the town. Here a tourist can find pools with hot water, a bar, a small hotel, sauna. Not far from the location they are building a resort area for railroad employees for 50 visits a day'. (source).
There are some photo's on picasa taken by north. He is also the only person mentioning Kurkala hot springs; again via a photographic record.

 'After returning to Severobaikalsk, we went from warm to hot springs lake Dzelinda'.
 (source, translated)

Seemingly more popular is the hot spring of Goudzhekit. One soaker (When I was twenty I lived in Russia for a year) discovered and experienced the following:
'... two pools: one pleasantly hot, like a hot tub, and the other painfully hot'.
A similar experience befell this visitor which also includes photo's.
More photo's are available via
Darren and Jo, as well as aforementioned north.

Khakussy hot spring is another popular place. LP thorn tree states it's a holiday camp. More info:
'Khakusy is a name for a bay, hot springs and a resort. The hot springs are located in a picturesque miniature valley 1 km. away from the shore. "Akushi" means hot from the Evenk language. The water temperature at the outlet is 47 C over. The cottages of the resort which belongs to the Nizhneangarsk medical service are spread around the valley'.
An experience:
'It was snowing heavily when Albert decided the holes were dry. We packed up our gear, snapped a few photos of our catch and headed for Khakusy to relax in a hot spring. By the time we arrived, Albert told me it might be too risky to return to the other side of the lake. The fresh snow cover left it impossible to find our way home.
A little confused and fretting over whether I’d make my train west to Novosibirsk the next day, I trudged ahead of Albert toward the springs, hoping the nearly 50-degree C water would calm me down.
The pool was in a dimly lit cabin. Intricate snow stalactites formed by the frozen steam hung from the roof. Inside, we bathed naked, sucking in the sulfuric air and forgetting the subzero cold a metre away. Our frustrations with the weather and our catch quickly faded; we scrambled back into our long johns and snow pants and stepped outside to clear skies, a late afternoon drive now ahead of us.
We followed a fresh set of tire tracks back to Severobaikalsk, a fiery orange and mauve sunset blazing over the forested peaks in the distance'.

Further more
On another less known hot spring, Khoito-gol:

'It is in the middle part of the Khoito-gol river (the Oka district). The sources spout from under the boulders on the bank of the stream. The water temperature is 29-30˚C. There are about a dozen of springs with baths by them. The springs are hydrocarbon-sodium-calcium, they have been known since ancient times with the Mongolians and the Tuvinians. The waters are used to treat rheumatic and nervous diseases'. (source)
Other hot springs mentioned are Kuchigersky (source), Chivyrkuisky, Allinsky and the Garginsky (source) while this link adds more on the prior with Seyuisky and Umheisky.

To top it all off there is this from

'... Xakysa seemed to be a resort town, it was pretty much deserted and we were the only ones there. But the purpose of the trip was another soak in the hot springs. Here they had a hot bath separated by gender, and the captain of the boat decided to go in his birthday suit which is what is normally done, but the squeamish Americans all went in bathing suits. There were 3 outdoor pools that ranged in temperatures, and we found one that was like a warm back. Just perfect. And ended up soaking there for the next couple of hours'.
No idea where Xakysa is located other than on the lake ...

Latecomers to the party:
'Solnechnoye [near Severobaikal], a spot with some natural hot springs – I’m not sure what exactly I’d been expecting, but something a little more natural than the hot tub with a pipe running, supposedly, from the hot spring, I suppose…'. (source)
Hoyto-Gol (or Hoito-Gol or Khoito-Gol? (see above)), a picture on panoramio. Or the picture below, looks like a fantastic place to soak:

'Hoito-Gol has hot springs and baths! Springs well out from under big stones on the stream shore. The temperature of springs is +29...+33 C. There are about ten springs. Springs are hydrocarbonate-natrium-calcium with predominance of natrium. They known to Mongolians and Tuvinians as medical treatment of rheumatism and nervous diseases'.
[Updated August 2012]

Monday, November 1, 2010

Guerilla's, voyeurs, tolls and Tatta!

One of the last pieces of the Himal (or the remainder of Asia?) jigsaw puzzle remains: a larger piece is Pakistan
Not really high on any soakers to-visit agenda, but nonetheless it has a couple of hot springs. 
However, besides the existence of hot springs one seems to miss a soaking culture, not like higher up or on the other side of the mountains ...

Compiled web-based information concerning hot springs in Pakistan (be they in the north or anywhere else in the country) is non-existent with one exception. This is not at all surprising, considering the infancy in which other countries compile their own data as well as a lack of a soaking culture. 
The Pakistani exception is the report on geothermal sources by Zaigham ([1] 2005). But even this publication fails to come with any estimate concerning the amount of hot springs in Pakistan. In the following, I'll add a number of names of possible soaks which can't be verified.

Soaking crocs
Away from the Himal,
Manghopir hot spring is a sort of a anonymity. From wikipedia:
'Manghopir is a rural area of Karachi [Pakistan's largest city located at the Indian ocean], named after Sufi Pir Haji Syed Sakhi Sultan. The area has the oldest Sufi shrines in the city, hot sulphur springs that are believed to have curative powers, and many crocodiles - believed locally to be the sacred disciples of Pir Mangho. Balochs often call this place as ‘Mangi’ or Garm-aap / Sard-aap (due to the presence of the hot & cold springs)'.
There are actually a couple of entries on Wikipedia concerning this place. This entry adds:
'There are hot and cold springs about a kilometer from the shrine. Warm water passing through the sulphur rocks is said to contain some medicinal qualities. Many people with skin diseases regularly come from long distances to have a bath to cure them. There are separate swimming pools and shower rooms for men and women. Scientific analysis has shown that this warm water is naturally saturated with carbon dioxide, besides containing some sulpher & other skin friendly nourishments, which are no doubt suitable for many skin-diseased patients'.
Most striking though are the many crocs lying around this swampy hot spring.
'More than 200 crocodiles live at the shelter in Manghopir, said Sajjad Sheedi, the caretaker of the pond. He added that the current Mor Sahib has been the chief of all crocodiles in the pond for almost 70 years.
“The descendant of the Mor Sahib usually becomes the chief crocodile. But when a crocodile is able to kill the Mor Sahib, he is nominated in his stead,” Sajjad Sheedi added.
The crocodile pond is around 400 feet (120 metres) long and 200 feet (61 metres) wide. It is nourished by an underground stream, and provides shelter to crocodiles that range between six and seven feet in length'.
Other info on the management of these crocs can be found on this website. There is a good recent article from the Pakistani Daily Times:
'“Over 100 men, women and children visit to take bath in the hot-spring to an average every day and the number rises on Sundays,” said 23-year-old Khan Mohammed Baloch, who mans the ticket section outside the gate where the hot spring is located a kilometer away from the main shrine of Manghopir'. 
'Hot water sulphur springs, Manghopir
Warm water passing through the sulphur rocks is said to contain some medicinal qualities. Scientific analysis has shown that this warm water is naturally saturated with carbon dioxide, besides containing some sulpher & other skin friendly nourishments, which are no doubt suitable for many skin-diseased patients'.
Source: Fawad_Ikram

Not so far from Karachi is the hot spring of Kargaz [1].
In Balochistan province (the area between the Indian ocean and Afghanistan) is the hot spring of Bugti. Little information on this very remote hot spring other than this derived from a picture on life.com (now not functioning):
'A Bugti guerrilla waits his turn to bathe in a hot spring at the Bugti tribe headquarters camp in the mountains near the city of Dera Bugti in the Balochistan province of Pakistan on January 23, 2006'.
Near the coast is the hot spring of Gawadar (panaramio) or Gawdar. Then there is a reference to hot springs in Sarhad.

Taking note of the above we now shift our attention to the north, towards the Himal and there is nothing beyond the Gilgit-Baltistan Territory, a piece of Pakistan which fits inbetween the Pamir / Wakhan corridor, Kashmir and China.

(Chu Tran, Basho valley, Chutung) contains a hot spring which can be described as follows:
'The name literally means "hot water" in the local Balti tongue. In Chutran, there is a medicinal hot springs. Over the decades, the spa has become popular with the local people, who are even coming from beyond Hunza (15 hours by road) to soak in the 40-plus degree Celsius water. Nestled at the base of the northeast side of the Haramosh Range, Chutron is partially shaded and thereby relatively cool. Its scalloped terraced wheat fields are intercrossed by footpaths and stone field boundaries, all of which conspire to provide beautifully pastoral views and retains a primitive charm, seemingly stuck in in the 19th century'. source
On Flickr the following picture with accompanying explanation:

Chutran Hot Spring
'"Chu" means water and "tran" means hot in the local language, Balti. Chutran is about 2 1/2 hours from Shigar or a little over 3 hours from Skardu. There is a government resthouse there with an outhouse which has a bath with the hotspring water running through. There are also other similar baths for the locals. Apparently, there is another hot spring 3 hours further away, which is supposed to be too hot to bathe in'.
By Zain Mankani.
The Karakoram highway is the major highway heading up the mountains and yonder into China's Xinjiang and Tibet. It is also the source of many a link with some even mentioning hot springs.
ear Raikot (Rakhiot) bridge are a number of hot springs (source). Possibly referring to the same (link no longer functioning):
'Tato (alternatively Tatta, meaning 'warm') is the name of a small village in the Rakhiot Valley (2300 m) which is named after a hot spring nearby'.
Other valleys in the north of Pakistan contain their own hot springs such as Bisil (Arandu valley, Baltistan). What follows may lead you to think that foreigners don't like smelling sulphur:
'Bisil also has a hot spring, with the small pool emitting strong smells of sulfur. Locals rarely see foreigners and are quite welcoming'. source
Elsewhere there are hot springs in Dowo Kraming (Khaplu), quite close to the border with China. Near the Wakhan is the hot spring of Darkut (source) in the Yasin valley and Pechuz (source, but not working).
Possibly not so far away is the hot spring of Immit:
'... bathe in the hot waters of spring to "cure their physical ailments". Separate rooms have been built for men and women'. source
Screening voyeurs
An often internet mentioned hot spring is the hot spring of Chitral (otherwise known as Garam Chasma (or Lotkoh), which is actually located 30 kms from Chitral). Here are a number of those internet finds:
'East of the main road near the town is a famous hot spring. The hot water comes from the hills. Near the residential area, a small steaming stream branch off to enter bathrooms and swimming pool (constructed by Chitral Scouts) before it joins the main course again. There are quite a few legends (or facts) famous about the hot spring. As per Mohyuddin, the water of hot sparing is a cure to Gouts and numbers of other skin diseases. I only revelled into the hot water to freshen up. It was very comforting'. source

'Swimming Pool full of hot water from Garam Chashma'.
Photo by NitroCario (note photo not available anymore?)
'The very basic Hotel Innjigaan (s/d Rs 80/120), east of the bazaar, has a big pool full of hot spring water to soothe your bones. Voyeurs are screened out so women in bathing costumes should feel quite safe'. source
'This un-spoilt enchanting valley of orchards, verdant fields and snow clad peaks is renowned for its boiling sulphur springs which are famous for healing effect on skin diseases, gout, rheumatism and chronic headaches. For the convenience of tourists “humans” (baths) have been constructed near the springs. Foreign tourists are requested to pay a toll tax of Rs.5.00 per person'. source
'I missed one point, crucially, in afore-mentioned list of Shahzada Amanur Rehman’s priorities; that is ‘Garam Chashma’ itself. I mean the famous “hot spring” which we always use as a trademark to introduce this beautiful valley to outsiders!
Any person who have had a chance to visit Garam Chashma mainly to have a ‘hot bath’ must have been disappointed to see the pathetic condition of bathrooms, showers, unhygienic pools and the lacks of other basic facilities related to natural hot baths. Hot spring swimming pool of Injigan hotel is a good option of course but not easily available to public'. source
There's even a website blog dedicated to this place with some stories and many pictures but none of the hot springs. The websites' entry phrasing:
'"Garam Chasma" means hot springs in Chitral. The hot springs are located at about 30-40 km distance from Chitral town and you can visit the place with a jeep drive. The hot springs are rich in sulphur content and are believed to have healing powers. There are places to take bath in the water of these springs'.
This website mentions that it is believed that especially women are said to profit from taking the waters, which is backed up by an article in the Dawn (Mar. 7, 2011).

And more hot spring trivia from Chitral. What is a Shu?
'Shu is a hand-spun, hand-woven, hand-loom fabric made of sheep’s wool, and is a product of the cottage industry'.
Great, but was this got to do with Pakistani hot springs? Well, take a look at the next photo and it's description:

'After weaving, the Shu is washed. It is felted in hot spring water (Garam Chashma), where it is washed and beaten with a stick (Moraik) to make the fibers cling together and produce a wind proof finished fabric'.
So much for clean hots springs! More info at the Shu site.

Other hot springs mentioned [1] in this region are Murtazabad, Mushkin, Budelas, Sassi and Dassu.


The aforemention Tatta is an often recurring name for a hot spring in the Himal and as elsewhere the name leads to some confusion. There is a Tattapani near Kotli in Azad Jammu Kaskmir Territory.
'Tatta Pani is famous for its sulpher water springs. During winter season a large number of people visit this place daily to have hot water bath for the cure of skin & rheumatic ailments'. source
'When we finally reach Choutron, we dipped our feet into the hot springs for as long as we could stand'.
By thinkbigadventures.com

[1] Nayyer Alam Zaigham (2005) Geothermal Energy Resources of Pakistan [pdf]. Proceedings World Geothermal Congress 2005, Antalya, Turkey.

[Updated January 2013]