Water is one of world's simplest and most magnificent wonders. Tiny babies a week or so old and barely able to focus on their parents' faces splash with abandon and often utter their first laughs and giggles when gently submerged in a tepid pool of water. Many people can't fathom starting their day without standing under a shower waterfall to invigorate their bodies and souls. Nothing soothes tender muscles and skin like soaking in a deep bathtub filled with warm water. Exercising in water provides a gentle resistance that makes movement easier and enhances the effects of stretching and bending.
Water aficionados who can afford it frequently have pools on their home property. The more affluent also have an indoor pool to indulge their love of water during inclement weather. The select few that are privileged enough to live on beachfront property simply walk out the door of their homes and engulf themselves in an ocean, lake or stream.
While manmade pools can be luxurious – as evidenced by multi-million dollar pools built at hotels and resorts all over the world – nothing compares to a pool conceived, designed and built by celebrated, world-renowned master environmental architect Mother Nature. Once you experience one of her masterpieces, you may never again stick your toe into an oversized concrete basin filled with chemically treated water. These magnificent works of art are located all over earth and beckoning you to take the plunge of your life.
11 Las Grietas, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands is most famous for its unique plants and wildlife but there's a special canyon there worth exploring. Las Grietas is formed between two walls created by lava. It's home to a pool fed by both fresh and saltwater sources. Trekking over jagged natural lava rock formations, vibrant salt lagoons, and through a surreal forest of giant cacti brings you to the azure blue crystalline waters. With a steady temperature between 18 & 20 degrees F, the lake is ideal for cooling down after a day of hiking or to give you a second wind for evening festivities.
10 Ik Kil, Cenote, Mexico
There's no shortage of incredible natural wonders to enjoy throughout Mexico. But if you have to limit yourself to just a few, Ik Kil, also known as Sacred Blue Cenote, is a must-see. As you descend into the cavern, strange vines and vegetation line your path, and the tiny unseen birds flitting overhead add an eerie audible to the experience.
Marvel at the clarity of the blue water as deep as 85 feet below the lake's façade. Realizing nature created this marvel from collapsed limestone bedrock is perhaps Il Kil's most incredible feature.
9 Blue Lagoon, Iceland
After you recover from the swoon of viewing 6 million liters of milky blue water in a lava field at a bare simmer between 100 and 102 degrees F, consider the health benefits. The geothermal seawater from 2,000 meters beneath the earth's surface is chockfull of minerals to make your skin glow. In addition, the lagoon's water temperature is perfect for melting away tension knots and muscle aches. If you seek more physical therapy, slip into the natural sauna sculpted out of a lava cave and end your adventure by slathering your body in therapeutic white silica mud.
8 Pamukkale, Turkey
Over the past decade, Turkey has slowly risen to the top of the list of favorite tourist destinations. This popularity is largely attributed to the country's rich culture, warm and hospitable residents, and culinary offerings. However, in southwestern Turkey, there's a natural wonder called Pamukkale, which translates in English to "cotton castle."
The "castle" is comprised of white terraces of travertine 7 rock, the result of hundreds of centuries of water flowing over the surface from the nearby thermal springs. You won't find a line of tourists here as the national treasure is heavily guarded…but the guards will let you go take a dip in the milky white shallow pools if you ask nicely.
7 Sliding Rock, USA
You don't have to travel to faraway lands to find pools and water wonders created by nature. This gem in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina is a 60-foot smooth rock waterslide with a seven-foot deep natural pool at the bottom to catch you at the end of your daring descent.
For years, the slide was only accessible through climbing rocks to the top of the drop. In recent years, the US Forest Service added stairs and lifeguards to the area. The area is small and fills up quickly, so early visitors reap the rewards.
6 Dean's Blue Hole, Bahamas
There are plenty of naturally formed "blue holes" around the world but few have the almost perfectly round opening of Dean's Blue Hole. Formed when a cave flooded at the conclusion of the Ice Age, this spellbinding lake in the Caribbean is an astounding 1,000 feet wide and 650 feet deep. Fearless divers hurl themselves as deep as possible into the depths of turquoise water in the center of the popular tourist spot without tanks or other traditional equipment. Snorkelers explore the shallow perimeters, full of many species of vividly colored fish.
5 To Sua Ocean Trench, Samoa
Nestled in the tiny (population: 1,089) Samoan village of Lotofaga on the south coast of Upolu island, To Sua Ocean Trench – To Sua translates to "big hole" in English – demands little effort to enjoy its wonders. Just climb down a ladder to enjoy the enticing crystal clear water in the 98 foot deep hole and beat the heat of the jungle environment. The island where To Sua is located evolved from a colossal basaltic shield volcano and is the second largest and most populated of the Samoan Islands with a population of 135,000.
4 Buley Rockholes, Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory
If you like diversity in natural lakes, Buley Rockholes in Litchfield National Park, Australia is the ideal destination. Explore different sizes and shapes of holes, some of which are nearly 7 feet deep, all interspersed with flat rock shelves. Surrounding the rockholes are rushing waterfalls to sit under and cleanse your body and soul, or you can just sit on a rock and enjoy the scenery as exotic birds serenade you on all sides. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes with non-slip soles as the rocks can be slick and are best navigated like a crab, keeping your center of gravity low.
3 The Devil's Pool, Victoria Falls, Zambia
Of all the world's natural lakes and pools, this one is considered the most dangerous, hence its name, The Devil's Pool. You can also look over the top of the largest – and most threatening – waterfall on earth, Victoria Falls. The bravest visitors often bound right into The Devil's Pool, but judge your leap carefully; every year, several people die taking the 355 foot jump. If you muster enough courage for this escapade, be sure to plan your visit for the dry season when the pool is filled to capacity and perfect for jumping.
2 Giola, Thassos, Greece
Greece is renowned for the deep blue Aegean Sea surrounding it. On the stunning island of Thassos, you'll find a hidden lagoon named Giola that provides exquisite views of that sea. Although you'll swear the pool has to be made by man based on the meticulous detail of the carved rock, it is totally a natural phenomenon. The pure, clear water of the lagoon is far enough away from the tourists to seem private and perfect for massaging your inner soul to a state of tranquility and leave life's troubles behind. And it's only a short trip from Athens.
1 Tat Kuang Si Waterfall, Luang Prabang, Laos
Laos is lovely but the heat is too much for many foreign visitors unaccustomed to extreme temperature variations. If you find yourself fighting heatstroke in Laos, find Tat Kuang Si Waterfall in the national park on the Mekong River and engulf yourself in its inviting turquoise waters. You can lounge in the tranquil pool at the base of the falls or play Tarzan as you grasp a rope swing that lets you dangle over the triple tiered waterfall with inviting cool pools at every level. Landlubbers can check out the surrounding jungle on well-traveled walking paths.
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