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Refresh and Rejuvenate: Bhutan’s Hot Springs

by Martha Hales

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If you're looking to immerse yourself in ancient culture and restore balance to your life, a trip to magical Bhutan is the perfect way to lift your spirits. Although it is best known for its mountain views and idyllic temples, there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered within its borders. If you trek through pristine landscapes and ancient forests, you can ease your aching muscles in one of Bhutan’s hot springs.

The Bhutanese prefer the cooler months for a visit to one of the many hot springs as the warm water is said to be even more potent in the crisp air. Far from just an indulgent way to relax for an hour or two, for the people of Bhutan hot springs, or Tshachu, are curative. They are believed to hold certain medicinal benefits as different springs affect different ailments. In days gone by farmers would even bring sick and lame animals for a dip in the hot water, hoping they would be helped or cured. Today, we are pleased to report, most of the springs in Bhutan are reserved for humans.

The Bhutanese people take their wellness trips very seriously and often set up camp near a hot spring for weeks or months. This allows them to take advantage of the rejuvenating properties of the mineral-rich water as frequently as they can. Often, it is the elderly who seek the curative waters to ease their health problems. Indeed, somewhat surprisingly, many of the people making the long trip on foot are rather older than your average intrepid trekker.

In past decades, Gasa Tshachu in the remote north west of the country was a full two days hike from the road at Tashuthang. Today the road brings you much closer and you will only need to cover the last stretch on foot, which takes around 45 minutes. There is also an option to arrive via a four to six hour trek from the road at Damji, through a beautiful forested region rich in flora and fauna. A fabulous reward when you arrive is a long soak in one of the four pools of mineral rich water which are said to be good for sinusitis, rheumatism, arthritis, ulcers and skin conditions. Gasa Tshachu is a popular choice and it's easy to see why. The surroundings are wonderfully scenic and verdant, and the site of the springs alongside the tumbling Mo Chhu river is spectacular.

Other hot springs worth a mention in Bhutan are Dur Tshachu, found in the Wangchuck Centennial Park of central Bhutan. They, like Gasa Tshachu, are  believed to be good for rheumatism and general aches and pains. This is one of the most beautiful hot springs in the whole of the Himalaya, and is perfect destination for hikers. The springs are way off the beaten track, requiring a multi-day trek to reach them, but the effort is truly worth it.

Chubu Tshachu is a spring located by the banks of the Pho Chu River a few kilometres from Punakha town. The road has penetrated as far as Walathang which means that a day’s walk from Punakha has now been reduced to 2 hours.

Duenmang Tshachu is another popular spot for a soak as it enjoys a picturesque location next to the river Mangdechhu. The hour long descent is fairly hair-raising so this one is only for true devotees.

Right down in the south of Bhutan there’s another well-known hot spring, Gelephu Tshachu. Particularly popular in the winter months, this spring has five pools with mineral properties said to relieve skin complaints and arthritis.

But even if you have no other ailments except the chill of the wintry weather back home, these springs and their pristine surroundings will refresh and rejuvenate. An ideal way to banish the cold from your bones and the tension from your body.

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