There’s nothing quite like a warm bath in winter to ease the bone-chilling cold on a fundamental level. Better yet, bathing rituals are rich institutions that date back centuries (not just for cleansing), and exploring them offers a beautiful glimpse into various cultures.
The bath is deeply entrenched in Japan, from the communal sento bathhouses in every city to the onsen hot springs that dot the snow-topped peaks of Hokkaido. Traditional wooden ofuro tubs are built tall and deep—designed for a long, warming soak, rather than a practical splash—while a small hinoki wood bucket and soft-bristle brush kept tub-side are used for the actual scrub.
Far more utilitarian is the Korean bath, which centers around an ultra-abrasive cloth that viciously sloughs off dead skin. At the local jjimjilbang, it’s best followed by a series of naps—shifting between dry heat and cold, your hair tucked into a folded towel—and a plate of spa-boiled eggs and roasted barley tea.
The Russian banya acts more like an offbeat social club—shots of vodka are often involved as bathers unwind in steam rooms, while dried white birch or oak branches are famously bundled into a venik and smacked across the body to boost circulation (who knew?).
Stretching from Morocco to India, Turkish baths or Islamic hammams put rituals like hot stone and Argan oil rubs at the forefront, alongside dimly lit, ornately tiled relaxation pools and glasses of tea.
For the modern-day pleasure-seeker, a tropical island like Fiji is unrivaled: a plunge pool with a heady dose of hibiscus petals, sea salt, and warm air. What could be better?
Here, five global soaks to re-create this winter and whisk you far away.