“I want to taste the water.” Visit a thermal spring and this may not be the first thing that you tell your fiancé. I, however, knew that I wasn’t leaving Fuentes Georginas hot springs without knowing exactly what its steamy, sulfur-smelling waters tasted like. I’ve tasted ocean water, lake water, and pool water, and I wasn’t about to forgo the opportunity to create a “thermal spring” taste memory.
Accessed via a narrow road that winds through steep hills and a patchwork of agricultural fields, Fuentes Georginas is located approximately 45 minutes outside of Quetzaltenango (Guatemala’s second-largest city). The springs are tucked into a mountainside and surrounded by a cool cloud forest. Shon and I visited about a month ago while on a weekend trip to Quetzaltenango.
Fuentes Georginas has three separate pools—the largest (and hottest) of which is supplied by a trickle of hot water that runs down a natural, fern-covered rock wall; water from this pool flows into two smaller pools, getting incrementally cooler along the way.
Shon and I braved the largest of the three pools first. We made our way gingerly down a series of stone steps as the incredibly hot water turned our skin lobster pink. We got in up to our shoulders and noticed an odd phenomenon: The faster we moved, the hotter the water felt, and so we moved through the pool at a sloth-like pace as beads of sweat rolled down our foreheads. I felt light-headed in the steam-heavy air—a not entirely unpleasant feeling, and I briefly noted that boiling to death might not be such a bad fate.
Shon put his head underwater and survived, so I did, too. The cool air that hit my overheated face when I popped up felt remarkably refreshing and reminded me of my original quest. I licked my lips to taste the droplets of water on them… and was rather disappointed. Much in the way that the stinkiest cheeses can pack the biggest flavor, I had kind of thought the sulfur-scented water might taste somehow meaty and satisfying. Sadly, it was more like a lukewarm, flat, and skunky Heineken. It was thoroughly unpleasant but still worth the moment or two of gagging to be able to speak with authority on the subject.
Lucky for Fuentes Georginas, no one’s judging it on taste, and it turns out that it’s a very popular spot with tourists and locals alike. We arrived at 9:00 a.m. on a shuttle, and there were about a dozen people. By noon, though, the place was packed with families, and I quickly felt like I was sharing a bathtub with strangers. I detest baths (even when it’s just me and a bar of soap), so I found this crowded scenario particularly icky. It wasn’t too big a deal, though, for after nearly three hours of soaking, Shon and I climbed out of the water perfectly warm and toasty. The cool mountain air felt great–as did the knowledge that I’d never have to sample a sulfur spring again. That taste memory was made.