Virtually all lakes, rivers, and oceanside views are beautiful. We humans are drawn to water, the compound that comprises more of our being than anything else. When you look at the distribution of human populations, it’s no surprise that our biggest civilizations and cities are moored to the coasts of great tributaries, seas, and gulfs. They’re the lifeblood of our society, connecting us through trade and transport.
But some bodies of water really stand out for their own special reasons.
Here are 8 of the weirdest lakes, ponds, and springs on earth.
1. Lake Hillier, Australia
Number one with a bullet is Lake Hillier, a small body of water on an island off the coast of Southwest Australia. At 2,000 feet by 820 feet, it would be a completely negligible body of water but for the fact that it’s the color of Pepto-Bismol.
The blinding pink water of Lake Hillier is both pervasive and persistent; even when you remove a sample, the hue remains! It’s thought to be due to the microscopic algae Dunaliella salina, an extremophile that thrives in high-salt environments that would be deadly to other organisms. An antioxidant, D. salina is also used in make-up.
2. Lake Louise, Canada
Not all colorful lakes owe their unique palettes to microbes. The famous Lake Louise in Western Canada owes its glowing green-blue waters to silt deposits that drain into the lake from the melting of nearby glaciers. The result is a pool that is at once murky and fluorescent aquamarine.
Unlike Lake Hillier, Louise is hardly out of the way. It’s located in Banff National Park, one of the most popular destinations in Canada for lovers of the great outdoors. There’s even a hotel located right on the shoreline — the Fairmont’s Château Lake Louise, which welcomes guests year-round.
3. Yamdrok Lake, Tibet
The name of this lake means ‘turquoise’ in English — a fitting reflection of its remarkable blueness. Yamdrok lake is about 45 miles (72 km) long, a thin, snaking lake with three main arms. It’s hard to say why Yamdrok Lake looks so blue; it’s not a result of algae or silt deposits, at least as far as one can tell. Perhaps its mountainous surroundings make it stand out more than it would otherwise.
Yamdrok has a special religious significance for the people of Tibet. In general, Tibetans believe that bodies of water house divine spirits. Yamdrok is one of four ‘Wrathful Lakes’ thought to be under the protection of the diety Dorje Gegkyi Tso. It remains a site of pilgrimage to this day.
4. Devil’s Bath, New Zealand
Seriously, even Lucifer would decline to take a bath here! Devil’s Bath is a fascinating sight, but you probably won’t be inspired to dip your toes in. This geothermal pool glows greener than a Chernobyl hot tub. This distinctive radioactive tinge is a result of high levels of sulphur, which rises to the surface and stays there. (As you can imagine, Devil’s Bath is less a treat for the nose than it is for the eyes.)
This strange little pond is only one feature in the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, a whole park full of volcanic features that visitors can explore on foot.
5. Beppu’s Seven Hells, Japan
Beppu’s “hells” are a string of thermal springs. Unfortunately, if you’re hoping to take a dip, you’ll have to look elsewhere, since these springs are too hot for even the most thick-skinned of humans. They’re so hot, in fact, that you can even buy food that was cooked by their steam!
The hells are spread out around town, and some are more interesting than others. Oniishibozu Jigoku features boiling mud springs, but also useable public baths nearby if you’re interested in getting wet. Kamado Jigoku is probably the best hell to visit if you’d like to try drinking the water or eating food cooked by its heat. Chinoike Jigoku — “the blood pond hell” — lives up to its name with its sanguine colors, while Tatsumaki Jigoku is a small geyser that typically erupts twice an hour.
6. Grand Prismatic Spring, United States
The largest hot spring in the U.S. is also one of the most colorful lakes on the planet. Grand Prismatic was so named because of the way it seems to incorporate all the colors of the rainbow, like light passing through a prism. The reason for this vibrant display is that different layers of microbes live in rings along the edge of the spring. These change with the seasons, and the colors change too — green in winter, and orange-red in the summer months. Meanwhile, the center of Grand Prismatic is a piercing blue; no microbes can live in the heart of the lake due to the high temperatures (around 160 °F).
There are many more unusual bodies of water on this planet that we could have included. But bath time is over for now. Just keep swimming!