What is the difference between an open-air bath and a swimming pool?
There may be several elements such as water temp, depth, necessity of clothing, and whether swimming is allowed or not, but none of them seem to completely define an open-air bath.
However, when I soaked in outdoor baths in Mexico, I felt like realizing the essence.
Just as same as other colonial cities in Mexico, Querétaro’s downtown is designated a World Heritage site.
Photo by Christopher Rose – Queretaro Aqueduct (2013) / CC BY-NC 2.0
The graceful aqueduct that was built during the Spanish colonial period is the symbol of the city.
It is three hours’ drive from Querétaro.
You will cross over a suspension bridge from Grutas Tolantongo, where the sacred waterfall and river with hot springs’ water are famous.
Then you will be stopped by a guardsman and he says you need to pay an additional fee.
Actually, the opposite shore of the hot springs' river is a different facility, La Gloria Tolantongo.
The entrance fee is 120 pesos, but it is 100 pesos only when you enter through Grutas.
Sometimes there is a restless atmosphere in Grutas, but La Gloria is truly quiet and relaxing.
It has a hotel, camping ground, and restaurant in the site that is same as Grutas, but La Gloria is much smaller and is located on the hillside of the river.
If you climb up the hill, you will find a number of private tubs that are suitable for families or couples.
Plentiful water that temperature is around 100 degrees F is poured into each tub.
The tub in the highest place is the biggest one.
Under the light filtering through the trees, three is a scenic wonder with bluish water.
The tub is deeper than common ones in Japan.
However, when I focused my eyes on the wilderness right in front of me, soaking in the sacred water, I got the same feeling as I had in open-air baths in Japan.
The essence of an open-air bath may be whether it reminds us of our ancestor’s experience of soaking in the wilderness.
That may be why open-air baths create significantly relaxing atmosphere, especially when they are surrounded by rich natural environment and wild rocks.
La Gloria Tolantongo, Cardonal, Hidalgo, Mexico
- Walk-in: Yes
- Lodging: Yes