Living next to an active volcano can be some people’s biggest fear, nonetheless, as one particular volcano has proven, there are also several benefits to such proximity. Architecturally unique and ultra-modern, yet at-one-with-nature hot springs, Termas Geométricas, feed off one of Chile’s most active volcanoes, Villarica. Considered by many to be the best hot springs in Chile, Termas Geométricas offer ultimate relaxation in one of the most stunning surroundings in Chile’s gorgeous south.
Villarica, located just a 30-minute drive from the town of Pucón, is one of Chile’s, and perhaps even the world’s, most active volcanoes. Its sinister alter-ego is Rucapillán, meaning “devil’s house” in the native Mapudungun language of the Mapuche people. The name is well-earned as the volcano has erupted as recently as 2015, shooting a column of lava high into the sky and forcing the evacuation of several thousand people from nearby towns. Rivers of hot lava flowed down the streets, and the cooled ash is still visible in the area.
Due to the active nature of the volcano, thermal hot water springs flow through the stunning Villarica National Park. It is along the southern tributary of these springs that the absolutely unique Termas Geométricas were built. Designed by architect Germán del Sol, the hot springs are unmatched in the magnificent way in which they combine the stunning lush natural greenery with strikingly modern architectural design.
Building modern hot springs which naturally flow through a previously inaccessible ravine in the middle of a lush Valdivian temperate rainforest was no easy feat. Concrete pools had to be carved into the rock and wooden walkways had to be constructed at just the right angles, geometrically and literally speaking, to allow visitors to safely and confidently navigate the springs.
The architect used natural materials such as coigüe wood, a very common and native species in central-southern Chile. The wooden walkways as well as bathroom and changing facilities were dyed an intense red color and constructed in minimalistic geometric shapes to make the landscape and the natural greenery of the surrounding forest stand out in stark contrast to the man-made construction. “Geometry highlights what is natural, and separates it from the built. This architecture distinguishes the place, and perhaps makes it unrepeatable,” explains architect del Sol.
The hot springs feature 20 pools, 17 of which can be used for bathing, each with a different temperature ranging from 27-45ºC, depending on the time of year. The water and temperature regulation are completely thermal and natural, cooling only under environmental conditions, as there are no electrical installations in this project.
Open day and night, summer and winter, the hot springs offer visitors a chance to fully immerse themselves into the magical wonder of nature. At night, 300 candles are lit around the pools, providing soft illumination that further highlights the vibrant scenery.
Stepping into Termas Geométricas transports visitors into a world of pure simplistic fantasy and ultimate relaxation. As one follows the bright red, perfectly geometric walkways deeper and deeper in, the narrow ravine begins to open up in front of them. Framed by large leafy vegetation the pools on each side of the walkways seem ethereal as fog gently rises up from the water’s surface.
Each pool offers a completely unique experience, not only in terms of water temperature, but also of vegetation and the natural curvature of the rock face in which they are carved. At the very end of the walkway one reaches a refreshingly cool waterfall which seems both a compliment and a contrast to the hot still water in the pools.
Bathing is one of the most primitive, yet deeply symbolic methods of purification. Hot water in particular seems to soothe all aches and cleanse away both inner and outer pollutants. Natural hot springs such as Termas Geométricas offer the perfect opportunity to relax and transport yourself into the primal tranquility of the primordial bathing pools of our ancestors.
The Ins And Outs
Termas Geométricas are located down a long mountain road, which snakes its way through a large national park, thus it is not easily accessible. Many tourists take a tour that includes transportation from nearby towns such as Pucón, while others rent a car. Those renting a car must be aware of the road conditions, which can be rocky or muddy, although the road has improved in the last few years and is fine for a normal vehicle under good weather conditions. Alternatively, visitors can take a bus to one of the small nearby towns, the closest being Coñaripe, and try to negotiate a taxi from there to the hot springs.
Towels and lockers are provided on location so all that is needed is a bathing suit or bikini, and, optionally, flip flops to walk from pool to pool and to the bathrooms. At CLP $30,000 (around US $44) for the peak hours, the price of admission is by no means cheap, which is why these hot springs have a reputation of being more luxurious or upscale than the others.
After spending several hours soaking in the pools, visitors can head over to the lodge to have a drink by the crackling fire pit while enjoying a delicious meal before heading back to their lodging in any of the nearby towns. The restaurant/café is heated by a fogón (outdoor oven) and offers charming meals from its wood-fired oven, such as breads, pizzas, and quiches, as well as coffee and natural chicken soup.
Termas Geométricas are an absolute must-do experience for anyone visiting the region. For more information please visit the official website http://www.termasgeometricas.cl/.
Born in Ukraine but raised in Canada since a young age, Kateryna Kurdyuk has since acquired a Masters of Media Studies and Communication from University of Melbourne in Australia and worked in the education field in Dubai, UAE. While currently working as an English Professor in Santiago, Chile, Kateryna is using her extensive experience living and travelling abroad to contribute as a writer to the emerging independent English-language media in Chile.