Steaming in: Galicia’s scenic – and free – thermal baths

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In the northern Spanish town of Ourense, locals and visitors luxuriate in hot spring waters at a series of free public baths – or enjoy a private spa for a fiver

A bronzed, willowy veteran in black Speedos glides into the shallow, round-ish thermal pool snuggled into a grassy riverbank. It’s one of a huddle of rock pools, with trees and a modest wooden changing hut. We’re the only people here bathing beneath a cement-coloured sky that seems to inhale the steam billowing from the baths. It could be an onsen in rural Japan, except I’m about 10,000 miles from there, in north-west Spain.

The Outariz and Burga de Canedo thermal baths in Galicia are the largest of the council-run thermal areas in Ourense, with six thermal pools and two cold plunge pools, linked by a white, curved metal footbridge. Today, it’s almost empty and, most importantly, free to use, like most thermal baths here.

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