Arizona, United States of America
If you have ever wanted to swim underneath a waterfall in some of the most idyllic blue-green waters in the world, head to Havasu Falls in the U.S. state of Arizona. This 120-foot-high waterfall plunges into an unbelievably scenic gorge of soft, claret coloured sandstone, tough kaibab limestone, and groves of wild cottonwood trees. A series of cascading natural infinity pools lie on the floor of this ravine, their waters tinted a brilliant azure blue by rich minerals such as calcium carbonate, commonly known as lime, that are carried downstream as sediment. Though many of the natural pools were destroyed during the torrential floods of the 1990s, plenty remain, with a small dam helping to restore these stepped travertine terraces. Visitors can lounge in the buoyant waters of these small baths, or swim right underneath the falls themselves. A small rock shelter lies behind the falls, and experienced swimmers can dive from this spot right into the plunge pool.
Year-round dry and hot weather, a secluded feel, and a constant stream of water keeping the pools fresh and clean mean that this is an ideal place to cool down after a long walk over the unforgiving sands of the nearby Coconino Plateau. With the colours of red, turquoise, green, and blue everywhere you look, you could almost be forgiven for thinking that you have been transported to another planet, so ethereal is the feel of Havasu.
After swimming, dry yourself off in the shade, listening to the musical, pulsed cooing of the red throated loon birds who occupy this valley. Then put your hiking boots back on and follow the trail all the way down the gorge, loosely following the path of Havasu Creek. You will come across a few more waterfalls on the walk, such as the Mooney Falls, a 210 foot drop which, while not as picturesque as Havasu, offers an even bigger natural pool in which to swim. Yet it is the surprise waiting at the end of this journey that will leave you speechless, for this humble arroyo opens up into the Grand Canyon, a natural wonder over one mile deep, 18 miles wide, and 277 miles long.
If you stay closer to Havasu, check out the Native American village of Supai, one of only two remaining towns in the United States where mail is still delivered on the backs of mules. Access to the town, and to the falls, is by foot, so take suncream and bottled water with you during the summer months.