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Achensee, Austria
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This country has officially Europe’s least polluted wild swimming spots

An official EU report has revealed which countries have the continent’s finest natural bathing spots

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

There are few things better than swimming out among the elements, with cool waters rushing over you and surrounded by phenomenal natural views. And between its lakes, seas and rivers, Europe is one of the finest places to do just that: the continent is packed full of some of the world’s most spectacular wild swimming spots.

But which country is the best for wild swimming? Well, the EU recently released its annual Bathing Water Report, which analyses bacteria to find pollution in the bathing spots of its member states (plus Switzerland and Albania). The study then gives each spot a mark of ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘sufficient’, or ‘poor’, before ranking countries on how many top-tier bathing areas they have.

And top of the ranking is… Austria! A whopping 97.7 percent of Austrian bathing sites rank as ‘excellent’, which, to be honest, makes sense. From the vast Hallstattersee to the picturesque Achensee, the landlocked state is renowned for its gorgeous lakes and pristine Alpine waters.

Following Austria are Malta and Greece, both known for their turquoise, beautifully unspoiled coastlines, while, impressively, across the EU bathing spots were generally given an 84.7 percent ‘excellent’ mark. Not bad, huh?

Down the other end of the league table, the countries with the poorest wild swimming spots were Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. The UK, having left the EU, wasn’t included in the 2022 study, though in 2020 it was ranked worst in the continent. In 2020, just 17.2 percent of UK swim sites met EU water quality standards – and that was before the recent dump of sewage onto the country‘s beaches

Below are the top ten EU countries for wild swimming according to the report, along with their percentage of sites rated ‘excellent’.

1. Austria, 97.7 percent

2. Malta, 96.6

3. Greece, 95.8

4. Croatia, 95.7

5. Cyprus, 93.3

6. Denmark, 91.9

7. Germany, 90.4

8. Lithuania, 89.2

9. Bulgaria, 89.6

10. Portugal, 88.5 

Want to find out more? You can read the full Bathing Water Report here.

ICYMI: these are the most stunning natural swimming holes in the US.

Plus: here’s why this tiny island nation is going all-out to help protect the ocean.

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