From isolated English beaches to plunge pools in the Costa Rican cloud forest. Icy ponds at five-star hotels in the heart of Peru to quiet riverbanks in the Japanese Alps.
These swimming spots are the ultimate escape for those looking for adventure once the months of being unable to hit the road finally come to an end.
Pack a towel, remember to always put safety first and get ready to dive into the world’s best places for swimming.
Bryher, Isles of Scilly, England
Tiny Bryher, part of an archipelago which sits 25 miles off Land’s End in Cornwall, is home to some of England’s most beautiful and isolated beaches.
Its location on the Gulf Stream means that its white sand and tropical-looking flowers make it feel a world away from the smudgy grayness usually associated with the UK.
Its waters, though icy all year round, are teeming with marine life. Swim out across Hell Bay’s swaying kelp forests and keep an eye out for starfish.
Loch An Eilein, Scotland
In the heart of the beautiful Rothiemurchus Forest and loomed over by the hulking mass of the Cairngorms mountain range, Loch An Eilein makes for dreamy summer swimming.
A tiny beach on its northern shore makes it easy to slip into the peaty water, while the ruins of a 14th-century castle on a small island, now home to jackdaws and ravens, are ripe for exploration by adventurous swimmers. Handy parking and a trail around the banks make this a popular spot.
Pont du Gard, France
Crossing the Gardon River in the heart of Provence, Pont du Gard is one of Europe’s finest Roman constructions.
The first-century arches look even more spectacular from the water, which is accessible from rocky beaches on either side of the bridge. The water here is clear and can be fast-moving, so it pays to stay close to shore and not to swim beneath the aqueduct itself. Arrive at first light to avoid the crowds.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Peru
Hotel pools tend to be neat, heated and chlorinated. Not at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo. This swanky joint has opted for an icy swimming pond instead, using cold, filtered water.
The result is the perfect place to take a plunge after a day exploring the famous ruins nearby. It’s all the better after spending an hour in the spa and traditional sauna.
Bajos del Toro Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s cloud forests are some of the most pristine habitats on the planet. And Bajos del Toro’s El Silencio Lodge has miles of stunning, verdant trails, with access to some truly incredible waterfalls.
The plunge pools here are wide and cool, with easy access from sloping beaches. The ideal way to cool off after a steamy hike, made all the better by the cacophony of birdsong.
Schlachtensee, Berlin, Germany
A short ride on the S-Bahn from central Berlin, Schlachtensee is one of dozens of lakes close to the German capital.
Its breezy access, winding sandy paths and myriad access points into the cool green water make it hard to beat.
Surrounded by pines and elm trees and home to red squirrels, this deep lake is perfect for those looking for a quick nature fix without having to spend hours on the road.
Voidomatis Springs, Vikos Gorge, Greece
These spring-fed pools on the Voidomatis River, deep in the Vikos Gorge in the Pindus Mountains of the Zagoria region of northern Greece, are a swimmer’s paradise.
While they can run dry in late summer, they’re perfect as the trees come to life in spring, the native bird life chorusing throughout the day.
The pools are reached via a vertiginous path down into the gorge from the village of Vikos.
Allas Sea Pools, Helsinki, Finland
Few countries “get” outdoor swimming as much as Finland. And Helsinki’s Allas Sea Pools are the ideal experience for those looking to dip their toe for the first time.
Right on the seafront, there are three pools to choose from: one for kids, one heated and one filled with seawater, the last pumped full of clean water from further out to sea.
The adjacent sauna makes it particularly special in the colder months, when swimmers can warm up after an icy dip and enjoy that magical post-swim glow.
River Aare, Bern, Switzerland
Flowing in a long meander around the heart of the Swiss capital, the Aare is perhaps the best river in the world for swimming.
The water slides down from the Bernese Alps and there are numerous points for hauling out and relaxing on the banks in the summer sun. In fact, swimming here has become so popular that locals have started taking to the water as part of their daily commute.
There are also four dedicated riverside pools, great for a more leisurely time by the water.
Frenchman’s Hole, Maine, USA
A popular plunge pool close to the Sunday River Ski Resort, Frenchman’s Hole is a major pull for those who like to jump rather than slip into the water.
Cliff-jumping is risky at the best of times, but should be avoided when the water level is low. The banks are crowded by trees, the water gin-clear and the riverbed easily visible while swimming against the current.
The Forty Foot, Dublin, Ireland
Ireland has a plethora of fantastic swimming spots. But none evoke as much devotion as The Forty Foot.
Found at the southern end of Dublin Bay, the water here is cold and deep, even at low tide, making it a favorite among daredevils who prefer to jump rather than use the metal steps that are bolted into the cliff face.
Immortalized by James Joyce in “Ulysses,” it’s a must for any adventurous travelers visiting the Irish capital.
Kitsilano Pool, Vancouver, Canada
Better known as Kits Pool, at 137 meters this Vancouver institution is the longest saltwater pool in North America. Just 12 lengths are required to complete a mile.
Located right on the bay, the pool, which is open from May through September, has views back across to the heart of the city, with mountains in the distance.
Those swimming with their heads up can catch a glimpse of seaplanes coming into land.
Havnebadet, Aarhus, Denmark
Copenhagen’s harbor baths are rightly lauded, but Denmark’s second city, Aarhus, is home to a design-led baths complex that’s every bit as good as that found in the capital.
The biggest wooden harbor baths in the world, swimmers can choose between a 50-meter lap pool and a spring pool, with junior and children’s pools to ensure splashing doesn’t get out of control while plowing out laps.
The baths are great in winter, when it’s possible to have a quick plunge before using the on-site saunas.
What is reputedly Iceland’s oldest swimming pool lies a few miles from the country’s main southern highway, up a rutted dirt track that occasionally gets swept away by rivers and volcanic eruptions.
It’s worth the trek to swim in this secluded valley, surrounded by mountains that quickly become snow-capped as the Icelandic summer fades.
It may look like an icy spot, but a geothermal spring feeds a trickle of piping hot water into one side of the pool, which takes the edge off the chill.
Giles Baths, Coogee Beach, Australia
A natural rock pool, best known as “the Bogey Hole,” Giles Baths is just one of many amazing swimming spots found along the coast near Sydney.
On the northern headland of Coogee Beach, it was once a male-only pool, but is now a welcoming spot for everyone.
Accessible via the original portico for “Giles Gym and Baths,” steps in the rock face lead down to the water. Conditions can get rough, so it pays to check the water before diving in.
Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Lake Bled gets all the plaudits. But nearby Lake Bohinj, set in the beautiful Triglav National Park, is a peaceful, bucolic alternative for those looking for a swim away from the crowds.
The water is rarely warm here, and serious swimmers in search of a longer dip should pull on a wetsuit.
The mountain and surrounding villages look even better from the frog’s eye view afforded by the water.
Vatternstranden, Jonkoping, Sweden
Blessed with some of the world’s most picturesque lakes, Sweden is heaven for those who love refreshing swims with backdrops to die for.
Found at the southern end of Lake Vattern, the second largest lake in the country, this kilometer-long beach slips gently into the clean and clear water, making it great for lolling on a summer’s afternoon, with the hills in the distance shimmering in the heat.
With disabled access, volleyball and basketball courts and even barbecues, this is a spot that suits everyone.
Laghetti D’Avola, Syracuse, Sicily
For those who prefer their swims to come after a long hike through spectacular countryside, this dip in the heart of the Cavigrande del Cassibile is unbeatable.
Two azure pools sit deep within a canyon, all the more tempting at the height of summer having spent 90 minutes descending along a path that passes through lush woodland, limestone cliffs rising high on either side.
Bring a towel and a picnic to spread out on the rocks.
Akigawa River, Japan
Just an hour’s train ride west of central Tokyo, the Akigawa River is the perfect city escape for water-hungry wild swimmers.
From Musashi-Itsukaichi Station it’s a short walk to the riverbank, where there are ample options for shallow paddling and space for picnics.
Scramble upstream and deeper pools, away from the crowds, reveal themselves. It’s the ideal place to get away from the crowds and get recentered.
Dalebrook Tidal Pool, Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is unquestionably one of the greatest places in the world to swim.
Tidal pools can be found right along the coast, but man-made Dalebrook Pool really stands out. It’s never thronged, unlike the beautiful, but busy, St James’s Pool, which is close by.
The water is warm and shallow, making it great for family dips. Arrive early for a sunny swim before grabbing brunch in Kalk Bay.