My journeys around Portugal took me to a place in the Azorean island of São Miguel known as the Pool of Youth or the Pool of Paradise. Sounds suspiciously like a tourist trap, right?
The Poça da Dona Beija (its official name) is one of the best places on Earth to bathe in ferruginous (iron-rich) waters. Not only do these waters help those suffering from anemia and mental fatigue, but they also make your skin feel incredibly smooth. This is one of the most memorable baths you’ll ever have! One TripAdvisor reviewer commented “If God wanted to relax in a hot tub this is where he would go”.
When you enter the hot springs, you’re immediately hit by the natural colors of the place. The bright green of the foliage creates a striking contrast against the rusty-toned reds and browns of the mineral-rich pools. The first few moments are the most exciting because you wonder whether you should be stepping foot into water that looks, well, dirty. And as you curiously dip your toes, the temperature hits you: each pool varies in depth and temperature, with an average around 39 C (102 F). After all, you are on a volcanic island!
The iron in the water settles on the bottom and the walls of the pools, and as fun as it is to rub the iron on your body (as I rubbed it on my hands I thought: “please stay young!”), don’t wear a light-colored bathing suit because it will get stained. Once you’ve gotten comfortable in the water, you’ll enjoy exploring a the springs: standing under the waterfalls for a shoulder massage from Mother Nature and soaking by the cave from which the hot water emerges (I’m pretty sure this is where the cool kids were hang out). The entire experience is utterly soothing for the body and mind.
So now you’re thinking “this sounds great, I wonder how much this is going to cost me…”. I’ve got good news: entrance to the Poça da Dona Beija will cost you a mere €3, with an extra €1 for a basket for your clothes and access to the changing rooms. So for the price of a grab & go coffee, you get physical and mental bliss for as many hours as you care to stay there (they’ll only kick you out at closing time). Even if a single visit there may not make you look younger, you certainly feel it when you leave. No wonder it’s known as the Pool of Youth.