Around the World in Destination Spas

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Dutch floating gardens, the Mojave's geomagnetic vortex, and the salt caves of... Chicago: Spas that integrate their environment to create escapes in destinations that are, themselves, escapes. Get wellness all over.

Healing springs and purification rituals have drawn people to calming waters and relaxation hubs since prehistoric times. The continuing popularity of these complex bathing and meditation regimens has transformed the 21st century spa industry into a multi-million dollar phenomenon. People now have a wide range of spa treatments to choose from, but the best spas create a one-of-a-kind environment that considers the natural surroundings -- inside and out. These spas aren't as concerned with offering nightingale excrement facials, for example, as they are with creating a unique and unusual experience for their guests. We've located ten spas around the world that take an unconventional approach to tranquility.

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Historic Ferryboat Spa

Bota Bota -- which we first spotted on website Fubiz -- is a converted ferryboat that used to carry passengers between Sorel and Berthier in Quebec during the 1950s and 1960s. It was also a Richelieu River showboat, but became a spa in Old Montreal several years ago. The lulling of the St. Lawrence River relaxes and energizes guests on the ferry's five decks that boast a eucalyptus steam bath, outdoor whirlpools, relaxing gardens, and more. Fresh air, great views, and the merits of water make Bota Bota a big draw.

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Floating Garden Spa

If you're looking for an eco-friendly retreat that is not only relaxing, but also remote, look no further than your own island. This floating garden spa, created by Dutch architects Studio Noach and Anne Holtrop, features a lush blanket of greenery designed by vertical gardens expert Patrick Blanc. Within the emerald isle are healing baths, saunas, and various treatment rooms. The surrounding water makes the floating gardens a perfect hydroponic system, sustaining oxygen-producing plants and creating an inviting environment for birds, butterflies, and insects. It floats due to a buoyant material made of recycled polystyrene, which also helps regulate the island's temperature.

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Healing Salt Caves

It looks like a psychedelic candyland invented by Tim Burton, but the Galos salt-iodine caves in Chicago is a resort that provides guests with an authentic sea microclimate. The healing effects mimic that of the Black Sea. The crystalized salt has a delicate, shimmering pink hue and light flowery smell. These caves weren't naturally created, though -- apart from the salt, that is. The building process is apparently based on a technology created 20 years ago by Ukranian scientists. Low levels of iodine in parts of the US made Chicago a perfect spot for the pastel spa.

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The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon is a popular attraction for its therapeutic waters (over 400,000 visitors annually), allowing guests to commune with nature in six million liters of geothermal seawater. Iceland's scenic, and often extreme, environment is the setting for this mineral-rich spa, located in the lava fields of Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula. "Guests actually bathe between two continents as the Euro-Asian and American tectonic plates meet at the Blue Lagoon," the spa's website reveals, which is also believed to promote healing powers.

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Underwater Tropical Spa

The Maldive Islands, located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, are an idyllic hotspot for spa enthusiasts that want a tropical experience. The Lime Spa at Huvafen Fushi has taken that concept to the extreme by creating the world's first underwater spa that offers natural treatments with a view of the ocean floor. It's an immersive environment, designed to reflect the serene, aquatic surroundings -- right down to the plush cushions that evoke a skin-friendly version of coral and sea sponges, to the ethereal fabrics created to look like kelp.

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