Ischia, the largest island in the Gulf of Naples and the eighth largest in Italy, is part of the Phlegraean Fields, a massive volcanic system that has produced a number of the most important features on the island.
Mount Epomeo, the fumaroles that rise from the seabed, dark volcanic-sand beaches, and thermal springs that have made the island of Ischia a popular spa retreat for millennia are all products of the area’s geothermal activity.
Ischia's thermal waters are believed to be beneficial for a number of physical conditions, including arthritis, skin disorders, and respiratory problems. Additionally, the warm waters can help relax muscles and relieve tension headaches. Ischia is also home to thermal mud baths that are said to detoxify the body and aid the complexion.
With more than 30 luxurious spa resorts, free public hot springs, and parks with thermal-water swimming pools, beaches, and steam caves, Ischia offers spa- and hot-springs enthusiasts an endless variety of choices for relaxing and rejuvenating in natural thermal water.
The History of Ischia’s Natural Hot Springs
Ischia’s thermal baths have been a draw to the island since the time of the ancient Greeks, who lauded the beneficial properties of Ischia's hot springs. As far back as the 8th century BC, the Euboeans who had founded Pithecusa on Ischia - the oldest Greek colony in Italy - knew of the therapeutic properties of the island’s thermal springs, which were even used to heal battle wounds.
Later, the ancient Romans founded public thermae, fed by the Nitrodi spring in Barano d'Ischia and other natural mineral water springs present on the island, further increasing Ischia’s popularity as a spa destination.
After the spas and springs were abandoned in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance ushered in a renewed interest in spa treatments and the popularity of bathing in thermal waters was revived. For decades, however, spa treatments were reserved exclusively for aristocrats and the wealthy bourgeoisie. It was only at the beginning of the 1600s that a group of Neapolitan aristocrats and philanthropists founded the Pio Monte della Misericordia near Casamicciola, the largest thermal establishment of the time which guaranteed free access to spa treatments for Campania’s poorest residents.
The turning point for tourism didn’t come until the 1960s, however, when spas, hotels with wellness centers and thermal baths, inhalation clinics, and beauty and mud treatments sprang up across the island. It was during this time that the famous thermal parks were built on Ischia, which still attract tourists from across the globe.
Ischia’s international fame of Ischia as a first-rate spa destination has remained unchanged for centuries and over time the island has hosted celebrities, politicians, and screen stars from Garibaldi to Angela Merkel.
Bathing Suits Required
Unlike spas in other European countries, Ischia’s thermal baths (and Italian spas in general) require a swimsuit at all times and there are no nudist areas available. A swim cap is also mandatory in most spas. Patrons can purchase or rent bathing suits, caps, bathrobes, and slippers at most hotels and spas.
Hotels with Thermal Water Spas on Ischia
The easiest way to enjoy Ischia’s thermal baths is by booking a room at one of the many hotels with spas on the island.These resorts offer their guests hot-water thermal pools, often paired with full-service wellness centers equipped with a Kneipp bath, inhalation treatments, massage rooms, mud baths, a sauna, and a Turkish bath. Lacco Ameno and Casamicciola Terme are home to the lion’s share of hotels with thermal baths and spas on Ischia, but Forio d'Ischia and other areas of the island also offer hotel spa centers where you can spend a relaxing holiday soaking your cares away.
Read more: Best place to stay on Ischia island
Thermal Spas and Hot Spring Parks on Ischia
If you’re looking for a spa experience beyond the basic thermal-water pool in your hotel, spend a day in one of Ischia’s grand thermal parks. These sprawling complexes are one of Ischia’s main attractions and the reason most visitors choose to stay on the island - along with easy access to the nearby islands of Capri and Procida for day trips, of course.
A thermal park is a large complex comprising a variety of indoor and outdoor pools at different temperatures, saunas, relaxation areas, Kneipp baths, hot tubs, massage rooms, and other wellness treatments such as thermal mud and inhalations. Ischia’s thermal parks also often include a private beach where patrons can sunbathe and relax on sunbeds and take a dip in the sea. Consider that thermal parks like Poseidon or Negombo have more than 20 pools with temperatures ranging up to 40°C (100°F). Patrons are provided a map upon entry to help navigate the sprawling area, not unlike an amusement park, but dedicated to relaxation!
Day and Multi-Day Passes
A day pass for a thermal park on Ischia allows you to spend a whole day relaxing in the pools, saunas, and beach, while massages and beauty treatments must be booked and paid for separately. You can also opt for a multi-day pass or pay a reduced admission for half a day only. There are reduced rates for children, who are allowed in the swimming pools and on the beaches, but not spa areas like saunas and steam baths. Rules regarding access for children depend on the individual thermal park, so always check before your visit.
Ischia’s thermal parks are open from mid-April to mid-October. There is no need to book, but on summer weekends you may encounter crowds.
When to Visit Ischia
Here is an overview of the four top thermal parks on Ischia:
Negombo is located in the Bay of San Montano near Lacco Ameno. This huge thermal park offers a private beach and thermal waters at different temperatures, waterfalls, and volcanic caves for relaxing. Other highlights include thermal massaging shower heads, a Turkish bath, hydromassage with seawater, and a Kneipp bath with thermal water at 18°C and 38°C degrees, a true cure-all for the circulation of the legs. And, for a gourmet break, the park has six bars and restaurants.
Read more: The Negombo Thermal Park
2. Giardini Poseidon
Giardini Poseidon, located in Forio on the splendid Bay of Citara, is the largest thermal park in Ischia, with 20 swimming pools (3 of which are seawater) at temperatures between 28°C and 40°C. The park also boasts a spacious beach, three refreshment points, a spa, a steam grotto, and other areas dedicated to wellness.
Read more: The Giardini Poseidon Thermal Park
I only have one day: which one should I choose between Negombo and Poseidon?
The two parks are both very beautiful and if you have two days, it’s worth visiting both. To help you choose between the two, however, here are the pros and cons of both:
Pros Negombo: many shaded areas, beautiful greenery, free storage for luggage and personal items, wide choice of dining options, no swim cap required.
Cons Negombo: lots of stairs to access the different park areas
Pros Poseidon: the largest number of pools, impeccably clean, few stairs.
Cons Poseidon: limited options for dining, cap required, paid lockers (€.50 each time you open the locker), few shaded areas.
Keep in mind that children under 12 cannot enter the thermal area of Poseidon. Children may enter Negombo but not use the thermal pools. The beach and seawater pools are open to children at both parks.
3. Parco termale Castiglione
The luxurious Castiglione spa complex is located in Casamicciola Terme and includes 9 swimming pools at different temperatures (from 32°C to 40°C), whirlpools, saunas, and seawater baths. This thermal park is ideal for pregnant women and families with children, with a dedicated swimming pool kept at a pleasant 30°C. Guests of the Castiglione thermal park can take advantage of mud treatments, massages, and inhalation therapies.
4. Terme di Cavascura
The Cavascura thermal baths is a very beautiful complex not far from Maronti Beach, one of the most popular on the whole island. Open for centuries, these thermal baths are set in natural volcanic stone caves with boiling waterfalls and volcanic fumaroles. The complex also includes a wellness center that offers mud treatments, massages, and thermal showers.
Free Hot Springs on Ischia
You can take advantage of the therapeutic benefits of Ischia’s thermal waters without staying in a spa hotel or purchasing a pass to an island thermal park. There are a number of free hot springs on the island that are open to the public.
Ischia’s most famous (and crowded!) free hot springs are on the Bay of Sorgeto, not far from Sant'Angelo. They can be reached by climbing about 250 steps from the edge of Panza to Forio or by taking a sea taxi from Sant'Angelo.
Another option for free hot springs and hot sand treatments on Ischia is on the Spiaggia delle Fumarole, where volcanic gases escaping from underground vents heat the sand and water. The Fumaroles are located at the end of the famous Maronti Beach in Sant’Angelo. They can be easily reached on foot in about 10 minutes, which makes them very crowded. On summer evenings, the beach is crowded with people dining on dishes they’ve cooked by wrapping the food in aluminum foil and burying them under hot sand. The Sorgente di Olmitello is another nearby free hot spring, known for the diuretic and curative properties of its mineral thermal waters for two millennia.
Read More: Free Hot Springs on Ischia
Spas Affiliated with the Italian National Health Service
Treatment of certain conditions in Ischia’s thermal parks and spas is covered by the Italian national healthcare system via specific partnerships. All Italian citizens are entitled to up to 12 spa treatments per year via a small copay. A prescription from your attending physician is required to access this type of service. There are a number of affiliated hotels or you can go to the Ischia Thermal Center, the municipal thermal spa in Ischia Porto.