Spa for Snow Monkeys! Japan’s Jigokudani Park

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There’s nothing quite like watching a gathering of snow monkeys lounging in a hot tub, babbling to each other like they’re holding complex conversations. If you ever happen to visit Nagano, Japan, you can see it for yourself at Jigokudani Park, where dozens of Japanese Macaques lounge in natural hot spring pools where steam and boiling water bubble up from crevices between rocks in the frozen ground.

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These pools are what gave the area its name, as Jigokudani translates to ‘Hell’s Valley.’ Elevated 850 meters (2,788 feet) above sea level and covered in snow four months out of the year, this area can only be accessed by a narrow 1.25-mile footpath through the forest, keeping it from becoming too overrun by tourists.

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Those who do make the walk are rewarded by the sight of relaxing monkeys who don’t seem to shy in front of their human observers. Japanese Macaques are the most northern-living non-human primate on Earth, and come down into the valley from the mountains in the winter to enjoy the warm water, foraging elsewhere in the park during the warmer seasons.

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Images via SteFou! // Flickr Creative Commons