The Thermal Springs of Espiritu Santo is a down-to-earth hot springs eco-resort 14 km from the town of Narino in Antioquia. I have been hearing about the Thermal Springs of Santo Spirito for some time now but had never gone. I had read some bad reviews, it looked too difficult to get to and then there were a lot of other thermal springs to visit in Colombia which were much more easily accessible.
Located in the countryside, the spa is only accessible by dirt roads through the green mountains of a rugged Colombian countryside. On a recent trip from the town of El Dorado, on the Magdalena River, I went to the village of Norcasia. From there the road to Medellin passes right by the thermal springs. But due to the challenging conditions of the rural road, only chiva buses make the trip. Later I came to learn there are actually two buses a day going there directly from Medellin’s North Terminal.
Thermal Springs and the Santo Spirito Resort
The resort offers a variety of services and amenities: pools of thermal waters, spa treatments, a restaurant, bar, walking tours, hotel rooms, cabins and camping. It’s a perfect place to relax emersed in nature to disconnected from the world. There is wi-fi but no cell phone service.
There are 7 thermal pools at Santo Spirito which are emptied, cleaned and refilled regularly. The water is heated by liquid magma 6,000 meters below and comes to the surface at a temperature of 50 degrees C. The waters, which contain 60 different minerals, is mixed with cold water from the river and delivered to different pools on the property at different temperatures ranging from 22 to 48 degrees C. (72-118 degree F.) They say there are only two other magma induced thermal springs in the world like this one – in Oregon, USA and another in China.
The thermal baths are recommended for restoring ones health and for esthetic purposes. They say the hot, mineral laden magmatic waters reduce anxiety, diminish stress, eliminates toxins, restores glandular functions, strengthens the nervous system, balances energy, reduces cellulite and calms skin irritations.
The ritual is for one to soak in the warm pools (recommended emersion no more than 15 minutes at a time) and then go for a cold shower in the cool mountain air or for a dip in the cool waters of the nearby river. Then one moves onto a warmer pool for another soak, another dip in the river and onto then onto a hotter pool. In the end, one finishes at the ‘piscina piedad’ or the ‘pool of mercy’ if one can withstand the 48 degree C. waters 118 degree F.
The resort was built on the former site of a small church, called Espiritu Santo. The church was once a secluded mountain pilgrimage for people seeking thermal treatments and a miracle cure from magical waters.
In the 1980s a public company built the hotel currently at the site called Termales Espiritu Santo. Then in the 1990s, the area was considered sketchy due to a guerrilla, anti-government presence in the surrounding mountains. The tourists stopped coming and the thermal springs were left, abandoned once again. But by 2010, after the area was considered safe, the tourists returned. Today there is a heavy presence of Colombian tourists from Medellin with about 5% of the visitors being foreigner tourists.
The hotel has 77 rooms in a 2 hotel buildings backed up to the mountain. There are also private cabins on the property and a camping area down by the river. The rooms are clean and comfortable. A restaurant on the property serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner – typical Colombian fare with a menu alternating daily. There are spa treatments and walking paths around the property. Sitting at an altitude of 650 meters (2,130 feet) the days are pleasantly warm and evenings are cool.
The property is well manicured with cocoa and avocado trees, pineapples plants and orchids. There are swimming holes along the river and several waterfalls.
The hotel rooms are comfortable. The rooms go from 158,000 to 200,000 COP ($37-$48) a day per person. The higher price rooms have better views of the river and pools. Some rooms have private baths, others shared bathrooms. During peak season prices go up to 440,000 COP ($105) per day per person.
For a more economic option, there are day passes available giving access to the pools and premises: 25,000 COP ($6) per person for admission or 50,000 COP ($12) for admission with lunch. One can find cheaper lodging at the small hotels located in the nearby village of Puente Linda. Tuk tuk transportation to and from the spa to the village is available.
I would definitely recommend going during the week and not in peak season when it gets crowded and noisy. The pools are small and during holidays they fill up early and stay full all day into the night. I found it’s best to get up at daybreak and enjoy the pools before breakfast when everyone is still sleeping.
There are a couple bars on the premises. Nights are usually quiet though one night there was a boisterous party in one of the pools under the hotel with a boom box blaring until 4 a.m. The complex has rules but there are none asking for a little quiet during nocturnal hours. But that’s how it rolls in most of Colombia where they have a maximum tolerance for individual bad behavior and little respect for the collective need for peace and quiet.
I liked the the thermal springs of Espirtu Santo, the facilities, the surroundings and even the trip getting there was a very interesting trek through rural Colombia. I will return to explore the towns and countryside around Narino, Puente Linda and Norcasia. They definitely merit more attention.
How to Get There
From Medellin – the Thermales Espiritu Santo are not easy to get to. There are two direct buses from the north terminal of Medellin. There are also buses from the North Terminal of Medellin going through Sonson and onto Narino leaving at 6:30 a.m. 8 a.m. and at 3 p.m. The trip takes around 8 hours. The buses stop at Narino which is still a few hours from the spa. From here one must catch a chiva bus on the road from Narino to Norcasia. It would probably be best to spend a night in Sonson or Narino, both interesting villages, and grab a chiva bus leaving from either of the main square of either town in the morning.
After Narino the paved road ends and a dirt road snakes through the mountains to Puente Linda, a very small town on a river separating the Colombian province of Antioquia from Caldas. From here one can take hire a tuk tuk to the the resort or, if you’re traveling light, it can be reached on foot in an hour or so.
From Bogota it’s also a two day trip. Take a bus to Guaduas or Honda and then onto La Dorada where you catch another bus to Norcasia. In Norcasia the chiva buses pull up in the main square at 6 and 9 a.m. and take the Norcasia-Narino road all the way to Sonson. Tell the driver to leave you at Puente Linda. And if you tell the driver you are going to Termales Espiritu Santo they will leave you in front of a house just outside of Puente Linda past the road going to the resort. At the house you will find a young man, Sebastian, with a tuk tuk who will take you to the resort for 5,000 COP.
For more information on the thermal bath resort of Santo Spirito contact them directly at: thermales espiritusanto.co or call +57 3202157574. They are also on facebook and instagram.