Huanglong Travertine Pools – Aba, China - Atlas Obscura
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Huanglong Travertine Pools

Aba, China

Intensely colorful calcite pools in Southern China. 


For 2.2 miles in the Huanglong Valley, naturally formed terraced hot spring pools gently flow between rugged mountains and forests. Filled with awe-inspiring creatures known only to China it has been dubbed “Fairy Land on Earth.”

Over millennia of geological change, mineral deposits built up and naturally created the travertine pools of Huanglong. Formed out of limestone, the hot springs rose to varied levels, making the light blue water cascade over waterfalls into other series of pools and even hollowing out caves along the valley. With rugged, snow-capped peaks on both sides, the slicing river of hot springs looks almost like a dragon, earning the title of “Yellow Dragon.”

In many ways, the backdrop of this UNESCO site is as dramatic as the pools. Untouched forests gently slope toward the water, and Golden Snub-Nosed Monkeys and Giant Pandas have made the fantasy world their home. The most scenic 2.2 miles begin at the Benbo temple and gradually wind their way to the Xishen Cave Waterfalls where the main site ends.

Although many incredible environmental sites in China have been faced with mounting pressure from industrialization and business, Huanglong is protected both nationally, and by UNESCO.

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