5. Geyser Valley, Kamchatka
Russia’s entry into the geothermal arena comes in the form of the straight-forwardly named Geyser Valley on the North Eastern Kamchatka Peninsula. This geothermal playground is perfect for “geo-philes” around the world. The high concentrate of rifts, hot springs and geysers make it an ideal place to explore if not for one reason: it is the most inaccessible place on our list! In fact, as a traveler you would be hard pressed to find any other way of reaching it outside of helicopter flight. That being said, if you are wealthy enough and truly want a unique experience then Geyser Valley should be on the top of your list. Just watch out for the bears.
4. Jōshin’etsu-kōgen (Joshinetsu) National Park, Japan
Japan’s Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park easily ranks high on our list for one famous reason: the monkeys! This geothermal treasure of Japan houses the Joshinetsu Monkey Park. Here, tucked away in this mountainous region, you can see Japanese macaques (snow monkeys) lazing around in hot springs (or onsen as the Japanese call them). Look on jealously as these monkeys pick through each other’s fur in search of juicy treats or just hang with their arms over the edge of the pool. The monkeys sit in the hot springs by day and retreat into the nearby forest at night. The Japanese macaque is the northernmost living monkey in the world. The area itself is interesting to experience being a mix of water in many forms whether running from a river, bubbling and boiling from the earth, or simply frozen.
3. Haukadalur, Iceland
Poetically called the “land of ice and fire”, Iceland’s elemental identity lives up to its billing. There are three Haukadalur (translates as Hawkdale) valleys, one of which is part of the Golden Circle, an accessible tourist route that also includes the awe-inspiring waterfall, Gullfoss. Featured in this Haukadalur are two famous geysers: Strokker and Geysir (which inspired the label “geyser” itself). Strokker tends to erupt routinely and often, always within 10 minutes of the last. Geysir takes a much longer time to build up, erupting only 4-5 times a day. Due in part to the longer period of time in between eruptions, Geysir’s boiling emissions top out at 70 meters, where Old Faithful’s limit is around 50 meters.
2. North Island, New Zealand (Rotorua, Taupo)
New Zealand’s North Island rivals USA’s Yellowstone National Park in many ways. It is where most New Zealanders choose to live, and they are privy to a geothermal wonderland. The hotspot of it all is in Rotorua, a city close to the center of the island that shares its name with the North Island’s second largest lake. The city sits along the shore of Lake Rotorua and is littered with geothermal motels. Most of the places to spend the night seem to have their own naturally heated hot pools and/or Roman baths. There is even a geothermal spot in Rotorua that has been dedicated as a public park where locals and tourists can walk among small rifts in the earth that emit steam. The outlying areas of Rotorua are the most impressive. You can find heated lakes, rivers, and even small waterfalls to bathe in (but look out for sandflies!). All of these features are highlighted by the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland, such as the Champagne Pool showed in the photo above. About an hour and a half or so to the southwest stands Lake Taupo with many of the features Rotorua offers on a smaller scale (including fewer tourists).
1. Yellowstone National Park
Perhaps the most famous geyser in the world, “Old Faithful” has influenced popular language and culture as a term of reliability. The geyser (discovered in 1870) can be found in the Old Faithful Historic District in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The geyser erupts at regular intervals at about an hour each. Old Faithful is just the poster child for the greater Yellowstone caldera, a volcanic hotspot caused by the inward collapse of land onto a geothermal layer caused by previous eruption. The end result is a super volcano that can potentially emit an eruption over a thousand times larger than regular volcanoes. Numerous steam shafts, geysers, and geothermal anomalies coat the area with intriguing features. For now, Yellowstone makes a great place to visit!