Mexico’s Fountains Of Youth
By Ralph F. Graves
Moctezuma did it. So did Cortez. Maximillian and his wife enjoyed it together. And in modern times, untold thousands of Mexicans and foreign visitors have followed suit each year, soaking in the mineral-rich hot springs that are scattered throughout the country. Indeed, nearly 100 “developed”, mineral spring locations have been listed and there are probably hundreds more which are undeveloped and known only to local residents.
Most Lakesiders are familiar with the spa at San Juan Cosala. Boasting a motel, restaurant and condos, this facility has thermal, spring-fed pools that range from tepid to torrid. Also nearby, in the Primavera Forest area of Guadalajara, is the Spa Rancho Rio Caliente which offers several pools, a restaurant and overnight accommodations.
Although mineral spring balnearios or baths can be found in just about every corner of Mexico, such natural hot tubs abound at our general latitude due to a fairly active volcanic belt that crosses the country’s mid-section. Within this belt, pockets of heat have formed deep underground, converting water deposits to steam. Under pressure, the steam rises, dissolving minerals as it makes its way to the surface, finally emerging as hot or warm water.
The therapeutic value of these mineral waters has long been a source of dispute. Local enthusiasts are likely to tout their spring’s unique ability to cure anything from gout to kidney ailments. Most scientists, however, are reluctant to offer any verification of such claims. So while there may be no hard evidence of the curative powers of such minerals, the consensus is that they impart an overall feeling of relaxation that is sure to re-charge the body’s run-down batteries.
Most of the better known spas are easily reached over well-paved roads. Many locations have added such attractions as tennis, handball courts, horseback riding, massages, mud pack facials, gyms, and vegetarian cuisine.
The largest and best-known facility is also the most luxurious— Ixtapan de la Sal, in the state of Mexico. The posh Hotel lxtapan has just about every feature a spa enthusiast could wish for: golf, tennis, horseback riding, and even a giant water slide. Nearby are several less pretentious hotels (with the same radioactive thermal waters), a large public park and public baths.
In the state of Puebla, the Spa Peñafiel in the town of Tehuacán has seen better days. But the waters which are bottled here are still distributed throughout Mexico. As for the tiny state of Morelos, it boasts a number of mineral spas. The extensive Oaxtepec Center, run by the Social Security Institute, offers playgrounds, pools, athletic fields, lodging and restaurants. In nearby Cuautla is the large spring-fed pool, Aguas Hedionda, whose sulfur content is made obvious by its distinctive smell. Farther south is Las Estacas, which though primitive, is a great favorite with folks from as far away as Mexico City. Closer to Lakeside, in the neighboring state of Guanajuato, the resort spa la Caldera at Abasolo has thermal pools, a large hotel, restaurant, along with facilities for tennis and other sports. The state also has spas at Comanjilla and San Miguel de Allende. In Michoacan, Balneario San Jose Purua near Zitacuaro offers rooms with private thermal baths, as well as tennis, golf and large thermal pools. Local travel agencies and state tourist bureaus have more complete information about any of the spas mentioned that our readers might care to consider.
(Ed. Note: San Jose Purua will sound familiar to inveterate movie buffs: the now legendary movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Made, was shot there in 1947.)