Bloody Hell, That's Tranquil: The Boiling Ponds of Beppu

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
Feb. 21 2014 9:32 AM

The Bubbling Hells of Beppu, Japan

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The city of Beppu in southern Japan is set on a steaming collection of geothermal hotspots. Here, at one of the many resorts, you can bathe in a mineral-rich spring, get buried up to your neck in warm sand, or sink into a mud bath. You can also visit Chinoike Jigoku, the blood-red pond from hell.

Translated as "Bloody Hell Pond," Chinoike Jigoku is one of the eight "Hells of Beppu" — where "hell" equals "touristy hot spring meant for viewing, not bathing." Each hell has a theme. Shaven Monk's Head Hell is a pool of simmering mud, so called because the belching bubbles resemble bald guys' noggins. Sea Hell is a brilliant (fake) turquoise, while murky Demon Mountain Hell has been populated with a horde of disconsolate crocodiles. None of it makes much sense, but the swirls of steam that billow from each pond make for dramatic photos.

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You can't go for a dip in any of the hells — in accordance with their name, they're too hot — but you can eat eggs, vegetables, and pudding that have been cooked in the springs. On your way out, don't forget to pick up some soothing skincare products made from the crimson sludge of Bloody Hell Pond.

Boiling, bubbling, steaming sites: