Escape to the Hot Springs
Rest Your Mind and Body at Spa Resorts
By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
If you want to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season or just escape the cold weather, then head off to the hot springs.
Taking a soak at the ``oncheon''' or hot springs is the best way to relax your body and clear your mind. With Korea firmly in the grip of winter, people are flocking to the many hot springs around the country to escape the bitter cold.
Hot springs contain various minerals and elements such as alkaline, radium, sulfur, sodium and alkaline sodium chloride, which have healing properties and health benefits.
It is believed that hot springs help stimulate circulation, relax muscles, combat fatigue, alleviate skin disease and cure arthritis, anemia, neuralgia (painful nerve disorder), high blood pressure and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Women believe the hot springs give them a healthier and smoother skin.
As if the promise of health and well-being is not enough, many spa resorts are combining hot springs with modern facilities and therapeutic services. Many boast the superior quality of their hot springs water, and even add herbs and elements such as salt, jasmine, ginseng and tangerine for more benefits. Some bathing pools are made out of jade, wood and other materials that are said to enhance healing qualities.
Many resorts also have swimming pools, fitness centers, playgrounds, hiking trails and other attractions. Since most of the hot springs and spa resorts are located outside of Seoul, it would be best to set aside a weekend to take a trip.
Hot Springs and Modern Spa
If you want a no-frills experience, entrance fees to the hot springs range from 5,000 won to 10,000 won. The hot springs in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province are probably the nearest if you're coming from Seoul. In Gyeongsang province, there are hot springs in Bugok, Dongnae, Haeundae and Gyeongju.
If you're headed to Mount Seoraksan or Seoraksan National Park in Gangwon Province, it is recommended to end the day at the Cheoksan or Osaek hot springs.
Chungcheong province boasts several hot springs in Asan, Onyang, Dogo, Yuseong and Suanbo. Onyang is known as having the oldest hot springs in Korea. First discovered 1,300 years ago, the hot springs have been operating for over 600 years. Historical records show King Sejong and royal family members going to Onyang during the Joseon period to cure their illnesses. The temperature of the water at Onyang hot springs is around 57 degrees Celsius, and has a high concentration of radium and alkaline which are helpful for treating arthritis, skin problems, liver disease and high blood pressure, among other complaints.
These days, more people are opting to go to the spa resorts, which offer package tours with accommodations and free use of the water park and spa facilities.
Here are some of the more popular hot springs and spa resorts:
The Termeden, located in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, is the first ever German-style spa in Asia. Termeden means ``spa paradise," a combination of the words ``therme" or spa in German, and Eden representing paradise. It is modeled after the ``badehaus" or bathhouses of Germany, where people received water therapy to cure their ailments.
The pools are designed with equipment that massages and stimulates the body. It also has medicated baths such as lemon, herb and cave baths.
Termeden recommends specific bath programs, such as a ``warming up course" for people who feel weary; a ``refreshing course" for stressed out people, and a ``fat reduction course" for people who don't get enough exercise. There is also a pool filled with ``doctor fish," which are known to consume the dead skin on the feet of bathers.
From Dec. 22 to March 1, adult rates are 23,000 won during weekdays and 28,000 won during weekends. Visit www.termeden.com (Korean, English) or call (031) 645-2000.
Bugok Hawaii, a spa resort located in south Gyeongsang province, boasts of 78 sulfur hot springs; Spania, an outdoor hot springs; and Hawaiian Land, an amusement park.
There are different kinds of baths available such as: green tea bath for skin whitening; and yellow ocher sauna to reduce aging, promote metabolism and cure chronic fatigue. Spania, an outdoor hot springs, has different scented baths such as jasmine, apple, strawberry, grape and blueberry, depending on the season.
Bugok Hawaii is offering a Winter Nadri package through Feb. 17. Weekday package prices range from 138,000 won (for two persons in a Korean style-room), while the weekend package costs 151,000 won. There is a weekend package for four guests in a Korean-style room, for only 189,000 won.
The packages include complimentary breakfast, free use of indoor water pools, indoor spa, entrance to museums and the Hawaii park, as well as a free sled ride ticket and a free ticket to Spania. Visit www.bugokhawaii.co.kr (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese).
Seorak Waterpia, located at the Seorak Hanhwa Resort near Mount Seorak, is said to be the largest water theme park. The temperature of the water, which is from Cheoksan hot springs, is maintained at 49 degrees Celsius. It has swimming pool, artificial wave pool, waterfalls, water slides and an open-air hot spring pool that offers stunning views of the East Sea on one side, and the Taebaek Mountain Range on the other.
Call (033) 635-7711 or visit www.seorakwaterpia.co.kr.
Surrounded by a forest, Deokgu Spa, located near Mount Unbong, has therapeutic wave spas and jade and amethyst saunas. It has recently undergone renovation, and offers open-air hot spring pools, such as Vitamin C spa, waterfall massage spa and jasmine pool.
From Jan. 2 to March 1 (excluding holidays Feb. 6-9), Deokgu Spa is offering special packages including overnight accommodation, complimentary breakfast, tickets to the natural spring spa or Spa World, free use of the fitness club, and tour along Deokgu hiking trail. From Sunday to Thursday, an overnight stay for two people costs 126,000 won, 149,000 won for three people and 172,000 won for four people. From Friday to Saturday, the overnight packages cost 20,000 won more than the weekday rate.
Day passes are 10,000 for adults and 7,000 won for children during weekdays. During weekends, it costs 13,000 won for adults and 9,000 won for children. Visit www.duckku.co.kr or call (054) 782-0677.
Spavis, a water park resort located in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, claims the hot springs water contains 20 different minerals, including germanium that helps cure rheumatism and arthritis. Spavis has several pools, as well as indoor and outdoor spa facilities. It also offers skin care, weight management and fatigue relief programs, and customized Oriental medicine programs.
Weekday entrance fee to Spavis is 25,000 won for 13 years and above, 18,000 for ages 3-12. Weekend entrance fee is 29,000 won for adults and 20,000 won for ages 3-12. Visit www.spavis.co.kr.
Deoksan Spa Castle
Deoksan Spa Castle is the first spa theme resort in Korea, with facilities such as a vital-therapy center and a theme park with water slides for children and adults. The water park uses water from the Deoksan hot springs. The temperature of the hot springs water is at 49 degrees Celsius.
Sauna and spa rates are 48,000 won for adults, 34,000 won for children. The rates are 40 percent cheaper if you enter the sauna and spa after 5 p.m. Call (041) 330-8000 or visit www.spacastle.com.