Though its salutary effects aren’t as world-famous as those of the Dead Sea, Jordanians have long used the water bubbling and gushing throughout the Hamamat Ma’in (Ma’in Hot Springs) as a natural remedy for all manner of joint pain and skin conditions. Back when access to these thermal falls was unrestricted and free, locals used to brave the tortuous road from the cities to celebrate holidays with soaking and picnicking.
Surrounded by palm trees and dramatic travertine formations resulting from the interaction of spring water and the atmosphere, Ma’in Hot Springs is a lush canyon paradise in otherwise dry environs. The entire complex is comprised of 16 springs, which, due to their proximity to a large fault and consequent exposure to subterranean lava fissures, are some of the hottest in Jordan, hovering between 140 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. The water is what is known as “fossil groundwater,” and is rich in minerals. After gurgling up from the ground and crashing over escarpments, the flow eventually joins the Zarqa River, which itself is a tributary of the Jordan River.
While a substantial swath of the hot springs has been cordoned off for guests of a fancy resort built on the premises, everyone can access the public section for an entrance fee. A number of terraced pools are situated flush against the cliffside and are continuously filled by the waterfalls and springs. Most people relax and steam in the pools, but it’s also not uncommon to see matriarchs congregated directly under the falls, chatting and laughing as the warm water washes over their heads and shoulders.
These springs have been a revered part of the landscape for millennia. The entire mountainous stretch of land between the Dead Sea and Aqaba was referred to as “the land of Seir,” and the Bible includes references to the hot springs—of which there are approximately 109—founded therein. Many people believe that King Herod the Great himself enjoyed lounging in the therapeutic waters of the Ma’in Hot Springs, though this is difficult to verify. Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that these thermal springs have been important to many groups over the years.
Know Before You Go
Bring flip-flops, 15 dinar per person, and somewhat conservative swimwear.