Since antiquity, Israel’s bodies of water have drawn visitors to balneotherapy — bathing for healing. Thanks to options bubbling up from north to south, Israel offers unique experiences for R&R.

Here are five top picks scattered across the country.

Note: Admission policies fluctuate during the pandemic, so please visit the websites listed below or call to get updates before booking.

  1. Hamat Gader
Hamat Gader hot springs site in the Yarmouk River Valley, May 28, 2021. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90

On the site of ancient Greek city Gadara, Hamat Gader is now home to Israel’s largest and oldest spa complex.

Back in the day, the notorious Roman 10th Legion established its second largest bathhouse in the empire. Today, second-century ruins stand within a massive 40-acre parkland.

Hamat Gader’s 42-degree Celsius (107.6F) mineral water reportedly accelerates cell renewal and relieves digestive, urinary and joint issues — among other ailments.

In the heart of Hamat Gader, mineral water fills outdoor pools complete with waterfalls and “Jacuzzi chairs.” At its on-site Splash Park, a 10-meter (33-foot) water slide drops visitors into a dizzying bowl of fresh water, while water cannons and a giant waterfall offer water massage.

The destination’s boutique hotel boasts suites complete with jacuzzi tubs for private soaks in mineral water as well as various spa treatments, gym and multiple restaurants.

In recent years, Hamat Gader has expanded to include a quirky mix of other attractions, including its Animal World and Crocodile Farm, home to 200 beasts of various species; Petting Corner, Parrot Show, Mini Safari, Fishing Ponds and an antiquities tour.

For more information, call +972-(0)4-665-9999 or click here.

  1. Hamei Tiveria – Tiberias Hot Springs

Almost 100 types of minerals erupting from more than 600 feet below sea level flow into the ancient city of Tiberias.

Adjacent to the newly renovated Lake House Kinneret Hotel on the Sea of Galilee, today’s Tiberias Hot Springs Country Club is a contemporary twist on a destination valued in the Talmud for its curative powers.

High amounts of sulfuric and hydrochloric acids, as well as calcium salts, have long been reported to remedy rheumatism, arthritis, skin and gynecological disorders. A freshwater swimming pool compliments thermal-mineral baths, with complimentary admission for hotel guests. An array of health and beauty treatments are available at Lake House’s Thai Spa.

For more details and reservations, call +972-(0)4-672-8500 or click here.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss the historic source of the Country Club’s mineral water. At Hamat Tiberias National Park, scalding mineral water extends through shallow channels into an open-air pool.

Also on display are ancient medical baths and the opulent historic Severus synagogue dating from the time the Sanhedrin headquartered here. This floor, the earliest synagogue mosaic in the country, features highly detailed images of menorahs and a zodiac calendar.

  1. Hamei Ga’ash – Ga’ash Hot Springs
Guests enjoying thermo-mineral pools at Hamei Ga’ash. Photo courtesy of Hamei Ga’ash

In the 1980s, prospectors seeking oil at Ga’ash discovered mineral springs instead. Named for the biblical mountain beside the grave of Joshua, this kibbutz-run day spa is located about 20 minutes north of Tel Aviv.

Five hot springs feed the site’s handful of thermo-mineral pools. They operate at various temperatures with different layouts and special features, including multiple pools with soothing jets and an exhilarating bubbling experience in the round overlooking picturesque lawns.

An outdoor lap pool features a cool waterfall massage and a nearby kiddie pool accommodates younger visitors.

Admission to this expansive complex includes complimentary access to high-pressure sulfur showers and wet and dry saunas and plenty of indoor or outdoor options to rest from taking the waters or refuel with refreshments.

The optional spa menu includes massage, shiatsu, reflexology, hot stone and other treatments. Locker, robe and towel rentals are also available. Additional ticketing options package admission with massage and a kosher meat meal served with a variety of salads. A newly renovated dairy cafe features lighter fare, ice cream, pastries and espresso drinks.

For information, call 972-(009-952-9404 or click here.

  1. Ein Gedi Hotel 
Synergy Spa pool at Ein Gedi Hotel. Photo courtesy of Ein Gedi Hotel

Full of extremes, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. Oxygen levels climb to 23 percent, the highest of any place on the globe. With approximately 30% salinity (8.6 times saltier than the ocean) and bromine evaporating off the water, the Dead Sea has long been a recipe for deep relaxation.

Located near its shores on the grounds of Kibbutz Ein Gedi, what were once simple guesthouses have evolved into a hotel featuring tranquil accommodations and R&R.

The Synergy Spa includes a freshwater pool, heated Dead Sea pool, large hammam (Turkish sauna) and 12 treatment rooms, complimentary drinks, refreshments and a relaxation area

The hotel grounds also host live musical performances on an open veranda overlooking a lush garden. Guided tours of the kibbutz’s botanical garden and other activities are also available, including creative workshops run by Yonit Shamir.

Ask reception about upcoming workshops or contact Yonit Shamir at +972-(0)52-363-0145 or joyonit400@gmail.com. For general inquiries about Ein Gedi Kibbutz Hotel, call 972-(0)8-659-4222, ext. 4, or click here.

  1. Dolphin Reef Tranquility Pools
Relaxing in the Dolphin Reef’s stalbet pools. Photo by Dana Gonda

True to its name, the Dolphin Reef in Eilat is home to a pod of beautiful bottlenose dolphins. Guests book snorkel or dive sessions with these intelligent sea creatures or simply observe their natural activity from a private beach.

The Dolphin Reef also offers a wooden terrace featuring serenity or “stalbet” pools booked by appointment.

Step inside this multilevel, massive sukkah and you’re treated to a feast for the senses: tiny white lights twinkle over abundant cushions and couches. This tranquil, shanti vibe overlooks the Red Sea, offering a super cozy escape.

In the lower level of the structure is a trifecta of relaxation pools. Open year-round, these pools are heated just right, making them even more tempting in cooler temperatures.

Three stress-reducing “flavors” provide options to chill out in the shallow fresh water, give yourself an impromptu salt exfoliation in the zero-gravity, achieve complete flotation in the high-intensity salt pool or make like a dolphin in seawater.

These womb-like pools boast underwater music, flotation “noodles” and (for an additional fee) staff to arrange these colorful supports under your neck and limbs and gently guide you through the water.

Open to age 18 and up only, admission to the pools includes access to the Stalbet Bar and restaurant before or after. Towel or robe service is included in winter.

For extra romance or self-pampering, book early to snag a nighttime slot. Workshops and courses in dolphin-assisted therapy are also available.

For information and appointments, call 972-(0)8-630-0111 or click here.