Waterworks: towns and villages named after their natural springs

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Surrounded by canyons and mountain ranges, Palm Springs is an elegant oasis in the California desert. Photo/Getty Images

Thanks to their geothermal wonders and underground aquifers, some places enjoy “spring” all year round. From famous vacation spots to lesser-known hotspots, here are some of the best cities with spring in their name, and why they’re worth visiting.

Palm Springs, California, USA
Popular with movie stars, nature lovers and hipsters heading to the Coachella festival, this designer desert oasis has old-school Hollywood vibes in spades. And, as it’s surrounded by wild nature and dramatic canyons, the scenery is also awe-inspiring.

Take in views on the Aerial Tramway, a 2.5-mile gondola ride over the Coachella Valley and Chino Canyon, or book a seat on the San Andreas Fault Jeep Tour through the seismically active California desert .

To access the hot springs that give the area its name, head a 20-minute drive to Desert Hot Springs. Top soaking spots include Azure Palm Resort, Miracle Springs Resort, and Sagewater Spa, all of which offer day passes for the pools.

Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States
Its location at the foot of the mighty Rocky Mountains means outdoor activities reign supreme in Colorado Springs. Whether it’s tramping, rafting, ziplining or hot air ballooning over mountain peaks, adventurers are spoiled for choice.

Even if you don’t like the outdoors too much, the Garden of the Gods is a must. Here you’ll find towering rock formations in striking shades of red, and the paved walkways around the park are suitable for wheelchairs and family groups.

Learn about local wildlife at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center or take an immersive history lesson at Rock Ledge Ranch. The closest hot pools to town are near Manitou Springs, but there are actually spring towns throughout the state that offer great places to swim, including Glenwood, Pasoga, and Steamboat Springs.

The Garden of the Gods rock formations are a must-see in Colorado Springs.  Photo/Getty Images
The Garden of the Gods rock formations are a must-see in Colorado Springs. Photo/Getty Images

Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Perhaps best known for its proximity to Uluru (which is still 5.5 hours away but “close” by Outback standards), Alice Springs also boasts some striking desert landscapes much closer to the city center.

Head west to the MacDonnell Ranges for postcard-worthy scenery, midday glowing mountain sinkholes, and a swim in the popular Ellery Creek Big Hole. Watch local lizards at the Alice Springs Reptile Center, cuddle rescue joeys at the Kangaroo Sanctuary just outside of town, and take a sunset camel ride with Pyndan Camel Track tours.

But if you’re looking for hot springs, you might be disappointed. European settlers in the 1870s named the town after the postmaster’s wife and what surveyors thought was a natural spring. The source was actually a waterhole in the nearby Todd River, but the name stuck.

West Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs, Northern Territory.  Photo/Getty Images
West Macdonnell Ranges near Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Photo/Getty Images

Hepburn Springs, Victoria, Australia
Unlike its neighbor in the Northern Territory, Hepburn Springs is a city where you can bathe at will in thermal waters rich in minerals. Located near Daylesford, in an area with the highest concentration of natural springs in Australia, the small resort town has several prime spots to soak.

The historic Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa was built in 1895 and operates today as a luxury wellness retreat with a range of mineral bath options. The Mineral Spa and Hepburn Spa Retreat are other popular spots, while the Shizuka Ryokan Country Retreat offers a traditional Japanese-style setting and an on-site Japanese restaurant.

In addition to relaxing in the pools and spas, take the Historic Village Walk through the charming downtown, grab a bite to eat at the Old Hepburn Hotel, or play 18 holes at the Hepburn Springs Golf Course, where local kangaroos often jump along the fairway.

The Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa in Hepburn Springs Victoria, an area with the highest concentration of natural springs in Australia.  Photo / Visit Victoria
The Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa in Hepburn Springs Victoria, an area with the highest concentration of natural springs in Australia. Photo / Visit Victoria

Hanmer Springs, Canterbury, New Zealand
A longtime family favourite, Hanmer Springs is the perfect place to warm up during a freezing Canterbury winter. As the mainstay of the small town, the well-known Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools and Spas complex includes everything from serene natural rock pools to warm, sulfur-rich options for a therapeutic soak.

While Maori had long been familiar with the spa activity of the area, Europeans “discovered” the springs in 1859 and the first official bathing facilities were opened in 1883. Nowadays a steady stream of local and international visitors keeps the city bustling.

Besides the popular hot spring pools, other activities include hiking the hiking trails of Conical Hill, rafting and jetboating on the Waiau River, and wine tasting in nearby Waipara.

Special Mention: Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey.
Spring names are less common in Europe and Asia, but that doesn’t mean spa towns aren’t plentiful elsewhere. When it comes to thermal soaking, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany have more options than you might imagine, Japanese onsens are still popular, and Iceland’s Blue Lagoon has become a national icon.

But Pamukkale in Turkey perhaps takes the cake for the most scenic natural springs. Boasting 17 mineral-rich bathing pools spread over a series of pristine limestone terraces, its name means ‘cotton castle’.

The Unesco World Heritage site is about a six-hour drive from Istanbul, but don’t expect that to deter the crowds; everyone from busloads of tourists to photo-taking wedding parties are regularly visited by the ancient thermal baths.

The limestone terraces and mineral pools of Pamukkale, Turkey.  Photo/Getty Images
The limestone terraces and mineral pools of Pamukkale, Turkey. Photo/Getty Images

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