The Best of Both Worlds

Hot, Cold, and Wet
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There's nothing quite like kicking back au naturel in a steaming hot spring taking in the bracing winter air while everyone else runs to and fro in multiple layers of fleece and Gore-Tex. For those of you who like your hot tubs and swimming pools chlorine-free, check out these hot-and-cold outdoor destinations for the aquatically inclined.

Iceland is the quintessential land of hot and cold. A very young landmass geologically speaking, Europe's second-largest island is literally a hotbed of geothermal activity. Hot springs, volcanoes, and geysers are scattered throughout the largely barren Icelandic countryside, with especially sizeable concentrations in the northeast and southcentral regions. East of Reykjavmk, the geyser known as Geysir (from which the natural phenomenon received its name) makes its home among steaming vents and pleasant mineral-rich waters with an average temperature of 750F. Also stop into the nearby town of Hveragerpi , which is mostly powered by geothermal energy and features boiling mudpits in the center of town.—Marcus Wohlsen

Barracuda Lake - Coron, Philippines
Hot meets cold every ten feet in this bizarre and unforgettable diving experience in the Philippines. Getting to Barracuda Lake will require some patience first. Intrepid diving mountaineers risk bone and BCD vest as they navigate up a cliff face in full scuba gear. But once over the rock, the strange, lunar-looking lake, home to one tame barracuda, becomes even stranger. Fresh water sits atop and salt water is below, and because there are no currents or other disturbances, the two layers do not mix, sitting like oil on water. The result is that thermal layers are created—the water temperature noticeably varies about 10-15 degrees every 10 feet or so. Take a bath in lukewarm water your first ten feet, prance in the pool-like temperatures at 20 feet, shed your wet suit in the very warm waters at 30 feet and shiver at 40 feet! Position your mask right where the two layers meet and see the color differences of the water. Beware of mosquitoes—they are everywhere here!—Michelle Fama

Hot Springs of the Pacific Northwest
When the road to popular Bagby Hot Spring is blocked by snow, a lot of people stay home. If you ski, you can soak at Bagby in the silent season. Cross-country skiing itself, of course, delivers hot and cold at the same time. The air is cold, but the exertion warms you, and as you ski through old-growth Douglas fir, you shed your jacket, your sweater, your gloves.... Cross the river, climb the slope, and shed the rest of your clothes. The board floor is cold underfoot, the water is steaming. Sit quietly and listen to the snow slide off the trees. You can hear the moss think. Eventually, it's time to get out and dry yourself off, scurry back into your duds, and trade geothermal warmth for body-heat once more. Your circulatory system will thank you. Your well-worked muscles will thank you. Your spirit will look kindly upon the universe.—Eileen Gunn

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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