Don't miss the hot stone bath experience on your trip to Bhutan. Part of traditional farmhouse life for centuries, these baths combine elemental ingredients — water, stone, heat — with a relaxed way of experiencing nature that can provide a refuge from the stressful life so familiar to visitors from developed countries.
Beginning several hours before the soak, your Bhutanese host heats rounded river stones in a wood fire to the point of glowing red. Once sufficiently hot, the searing rocks drop into a compartment adjoining a wooden bathtub filled with cold mountain water. Hissing and steaming, the stones release healing minerals as they hit the water. The bath is ready when it gets to body-tingling hot. Your host will add heated stones on request, and you can stay in as long as you like.
Farmhouses that provide lodging for tourists, known as home stays, are one place to find hot stone baths. Some baths reside in sheds separate from the family house, and others are outdoors with sweeping valley views. In most, medicinal herbs are added for their curative properties. Baths have long been part of local traditional medicine — one of the historical names for Bhutan was Lhojong Menjong, southern land of medicinal herbs — and are known to soothe joints, ease pains, and even heal fractures.
It is in rural Bhutan that the baths originated, and the slow pace of village life all around you is part of the charm. There, the baths can still be enjoyed as they have been for centuries -- for deep relaxation and healing of both mind and body.