Naturally terraced pools are a shallow, rimmed water bodies usually located on the travertine terraces - a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs, especially hot springs. Travertine terraces often have a fibrous or concentric appearance and exists in white, tan, and cream-colored varieties. Because of this and because of the biochemical composition of the water, these pools usually have wonderful shades of different colors.
1. Semuc Champey Pools - Guatemala
Semuc Champey is a beautiful series of small ponds and pools on a natural land bridge that crosses the Cahabon River. It is located in the Municipality of Lanquin, Alta Verapaz. The Cahabon River submerges itself at the entrance of Semuc Champey and resurfaces about 400 meters (1,300 ft) later after it passes this natural limestone bridge suspended with beautiful crystal clear ponds. In this unique natural formation you have water with shades of light green emerald to dark blue sapphire. Although it can be difficult to get to, Semuc is becoming more and more popular with travelers.
2. Pamukkale - Turkey
Pamukkale, meaning "cotton castle" in Turkish, is a natural site in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. The site contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. It is located in Turkey's Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which has a temperate climate for most of the year. The ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white "castle" which is in total about 2,700 metres (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 km away. Tourism is and has been a major industry. People have bathed in its pools for thousands of years. As recently as the mid-20th century, hotels were built over the ruins of Hieropolis, causing considerable damage. An approach road was built from the valley over the terraces, and motor bikes were allowed to go up and down the slopes.
When the area was declared a World Heritage Site (1988), the hotels were demolished and the road removed and replaced with artificial pools. Wearing shoes in the water is prohibited to protect the deposits.
3. Huanglong Pools - China
Huanglong is a scenic and historic interest area in the northwest part of Sichuan, China. It is located in the southern part of the Minshan mountain range, 150 kilometres (93 mi) north-northwest of the capital Chengdu. This area is known for its colorful pools formed by calcite deposits, especially in Huanglonggou (Yellow Dragon Gully), as well as diverse forest ecosystems, snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and hot springs.
Accumulated travertine landscapes and fascinating pools are Huanglong's main attraction. The total length of the travertine is 3,6 km (2.2 mi) and it is thought to look like a huge golden dragon wheeling through the snow-capped mountains of the valley. The main landscapes are travertine banks, amazingly colorful ponds and travertine waterfalls and caves. The main body of water starts from the top of the valley and ends at Xishen Cave Waterfall in the north with a length of 2.5 km (1.6 mi) and a width of 30 – 170 m (100 - 550 ft). The colours of Huanglong’s waters consist of yellows, greens, blues and browns.
4. Kuang Si Falls - Laos
The Kuang Si Falls, sometimes spelled Kuang Xi or known as Tat Kuang Si Waterfalls, is a three tier waterfall about 29 kilometres (18 mi) south of Luang Prabang in Laos. These waterfalls are a favourite side trip for tourists in Luang Prabang. The falls begin in shallow pools atop a steep hillside. These lead to the main fall with a 60 metres (200 ft) cascade. The falls are accessed via a trail to a left of the falls. The water collects in numerous turquoise blue pools as it flows downstream. The many cascades that result are typical of travertine waterfalls.
The locals charge a nominal admission fee to visit the site, but it is well main maintained with walkways and bridges to guide the visitor. Most of the pools are open to swimming.
5. Baishuitai Pools - China
White Water Terrace (Bai Shui Tai) is located in the foothills of the Haba Snow Mountains, 101 km (62 miles) southeast of Shangri-La. The variegated landform of the tableland is a continual deposition of calcium carbonate that is contained in the spring water. Every year, the surface of the land is covered by the deposition and finally transformed into the terraced structure with pools you see today.
The Baishuitai covers an area of three square kilometers (about 741 acres). The spring water runs down along the slope of the mountain, leaving an impression of a large white jade carving among the green mountain. Besides being a beautifully scenic spot, the Baishuitai is also the birthplace of Dongba culture of the Naxi Minority Group.
6. Mammoth Hot Springs - USA
Mammoth Hot Springs is a large complex of hot springs and pools on a hill of travertine in Yellowstone National Park. It was created over thousands of years as hot water from the spring cooled and deposited calcium carbonate (over two tons flow into Mammoth each day in a solution). Algae living in the warm pools have tinted the travertine shades of brown, orange, red, and green. Dead trees in an area of intense deposition of calcium carbonate.
Terrace Mountain at Mammoth Hot Springs is the largest known carbonate-depositing spring in the world. The most famous feature at the springs is the Minerva Terrace, a series of travertine terraces.
7. Badab-e Surt - Iran
Badab-e Surt is a natural site in Mazandaran Province in northern Iran, 95 kilometers (59 mi) South of city of Sari, and 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) west of Orost village. It comprises a range of stepped travertine terrace formations that has been created over thousands of years as flowing water from two mineral hot springs cooled and deposited carbonate minerals on the mountain side. As a result, over the course of thousands of years the water from these two springs emanating from the mountain range have combined and resulted in a number of orange, red and yellow colored pools shaped as a naturally formed staircase.
Badab-e Surt's springs are two distinct mineral springs with different natural characteristics, located at 1840 meters (6,000 ft) of altitude. The first spring contains very salty water that gathers in a small natural pool; its water is considered to have medical effects, especially as a cure for rheumatism and some types of skin diseases and skin conditions. The second spring has a sour taste and is predominately orange mainly due to the large iron oxide sediments at its outlet.
8. Egerszalok - Hungary
Egerszalok is an open-air spa located in Heves County in northeastern Hungary. The springs yield 68°C (154°F). mineral water from an aquifer located under the volcanic Mátra Mountains. Before entering the spa pools, the steaming water runs down a series of cascades backed and lined with travertine; the gleaming mineral has precipitated from the water as it interacts with air at atmospheric temperatures.
The travertine is locally called "salt," and the cascade of water is called "Salt Hill." The Egerszalók pools contain water rich in calcium, magnesium, and hydrocarbonate minerals.