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Santa Catalina, Colombia

The Volcan de Lodo El Totumo

The caldera of this mini-volcano has been turned into a naturally heated mud bath.  

About 45 minute northeast of Cartagena, Colombia bubbles an active volcano in which you can take a swim—that is, in a bath of naturally-heated mud.

Approaching the Volcan de Lodo El Totumo (locally shortened to “El Totumo,” as “lodi” just means mud) it looks like a somewhat unremarkable, 50-foot pile of slippery earth. But climbing the stairs that lead to the summit  reveals a delightful oddity: a 15-foot diameter, lukewarm vat of grayish brown silt the consistency of a thick cream soup. Any bathers in the pool look like they’ve been dipped in chocolate.

According to the local lore, El Totumo used to erupt with molten lava until a cunning local priest, who saw the bursts of flame as the Devil’s work, poured Holy Water into the fiery mouth and turned it into volcano of mud.

Nowadays tourists can ascend a rickety wooden staircase and safely plunge into the muck, which contains minerals such as aluminum, calcium, and magnesium. Locals insist that the therapeutic baths bring numerous health benefits, but at very least you’ll get a pore cleansing and some especially smooth skin.

The adventure only concludes, however, after (precariously) sliding down the exit stairwell into an idyllic lagoon to wash off. There, local village women will quite literally snatch off your bathing suit and use it to scrub the mud and dead skin clean off your baby-soft epidermis. 

Know Before You Go

Most visits require a tour guide or, at least, a knowledgeable taxi driver. A round trip with a local guide costs $30, including price of entry.