Get us in your inbox

Calanques marseillaises
Photograph: Shutterstock

15 of the most spectacular places to swim in the world

Time to dust off your bathing suit and hit up one of these amazing places to swim around the world

Edited by
John Bills

Summer is right around the corner, so dust off your bathing suit and get ready to jump into the deep end. Swimming season is almost upon us, although your optimism may vary depending on your chlorine tolerance. With that in mind, ditch the pools and wade into the best places to swim in the world – a collection of rivers, lakes, idyllic pools, mysterious caves and sinkholes. Yes, sinkholes. Wild swimming has made a comeback in recent years, as more and more people go in search of unique swimming experiences across the globe. There are also plenty of awesome beaches included, for those looking for something a little more traditional. Happy paddling!

⛱ The 31 best beaches in the world
🥾 The 16 best hikes in the world

Best places to swim in the world

Calanques National Park, France
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Calanques National Park, France

These rocky cliffs between Marseille and Cassis aren’t the easiest to get to, but the swim that awaits is worth every bead of sweat lost on the hike. Les Calanques is known as the natural wonder of Provence for good reason, and the two ocean inlets (Calanque de Port Pin and Calanque d’En Vau) within are just about as idyllic as it gets. Go in the morning to make the most of it because these secluded spots get busy in summer. 

Red Beach, Greece

2. Red Beach, Greece

Beaches aren’t supposed to be red, but the beauty of this one in Santorini might have swimmers wishing that more of them were. The red in question comes from iron oxidisation, giving this stunning volcanic landscape an otherworldly hue that is best enjoyed from the temperate turquoise waters that stretch out in front.

Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Zambia

3. Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Zambia

It might not have the most inviting name, but you’re more likely to find angels than demons at this stunning spot on Victoria Falls. Only accessible via a tour from Livingstone Island, Devil’s Pool is a gorgeous natural pool that sits on the very edge of the abyss. The whole endeavour is completely safe, provided you don’t go out of your way to court disaster. The pool is open from August to January, depending on the levels of the Zambezi river. 

Heaven Lake, China

4. Heaven Lake, China

A trip to the local swimming pool, this ain’t. Heaven Lake is a huge crater lake on the border between China and North Korea, some 2,189m into the sky. That means the lake is iced over during the winter and isn’t exactly the warmest swim in summer, but the views are well worth the chill. It isn’t every day you get to swim near the North Korean border, too.

Crystal River, USA

5. Crystal River, USA

The manatee capital of the world! They’re awesome beasts, and getting to swim with them is a genuine privilege. Crystal River in Florida is the only place on the planet where you get that privilege, so get yourself booked on a swimming tour and spend some time up close with the humble sea cow. You’ll have to hit the water early for this one – you’re on the manatee’s clock. 

Dalebrook Tidal Pool, South Africa
Photograph: Sunshine Seeds /

6. Dalebrook Tidal Pool, South Africa

Less than an hour from Cape Town, Dalebrook Tidal Pool is a swimming nirvana. One of the most beautiful pools on the planet, this stunner is found between St James and Kalk Bay and has gained a reputation for being one of the best sunrise spots in a region full of them. Set that alarm and hit up Dalebrook Tidal Pool first thing for something special. You can even do a pretty convincing mermaid (or merman) impression on the large boulders in the pool if you’re into that sort of thing.

Akigawa River, Japan

7. Akigawa River, Japan

West of Tokyo is the Akigawa Valley, pierced by the river of the same name where many locals head to cool off during the stiflingly hot summer months. The chaotic bustle of the capital feels a world away from this spot (an hour or so by train, in reality), and the views from the Ishibune-Bashi Bridge are a delight. The whole thing gives off quaint wooden village vibes, accentuated by plenty of BBQs and hiking options. In a word? Idyllic.

Seljavallalaug, Iceland

8. Seljavallalaug, Iceland

One of the oldest swimming pools in Iceland, Seljavallalaug is much easier to enjoy than pronounce. It was built in 1923, and despite its tiny size it was actually the largest pool in the country for a while. The pool is accessed via a moderately simple half-hour hike and is gorgeously quaint, backed by lush undulations and a seemingly ubiquitous mist. Stunning.

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

9. Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica

What a gorgeous name. Swimming in the Cloud Forest is just part of the adventure in the Bajos del Toro region, accentuated by gorgeous hikes and a typically Costa Rican coffee experience, along with zip lines for the adrenaline hungry. The biodiversity in Monteverde is incredible, also, and swimming by a beautiful waterfall will never, ever get old.

Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman

10. Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman

According to legend, the Bimmah Sinkhole in Oman was created by a meteorite (the Arabic name translates loosely as ‘deep well of the falling star’), and we aren’t about to envoke science to prove that right. Bimmah is a gorgeously clear cerulean lake, and swimming is allowed in the sinkhole provided you dress modestly and adhere to the rules. The sinkhole is 130km (or so) from Muscat, just off the main highway to Sur. 

Pont du Gard, France
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Pont du Gard, France

An ancient Roman aqueduct bridge, the Pont du Gard traverses the Gardon river and is the dictionary definition of grace. It also provides a rather stunning backdrop to the perfect summer swim in shallow water, one of the great French experiences. Nîmes is your best bet for a nearby base, and the bridge is a one-hour bus ride away. Take the 121 and get ready for the experience of a lifetime. 

Kravice Waterfall, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Photograph: nomadFra /

12. Kravice Waterfall, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The infrastructure around Kravice waterfall (not far from Ljubuški in Herzegovina) has developed immensely in recent years, a testament to the ever-growing popularity of the place. It isn’t difficult to see why so many people flock here during the scorching Herzegovinian summers. The clear water is perfect for swimming and the waterfalls provide a beautiful backdrop. Head to Ljubuški and follow the signs, although you’ll hear this place before you see it. 

Cenotes X’keken, Mexico

13. Cenotes X’keken, Mexico

A cave cenote not too far from Valladolid, X’keken is one of the most unique swimming experiences on this magical planet of ours. Swimming under the stalactites is an adventure all in itself, and the beautifully clear water offers tranquillity that you’ll struggle to find in any pool above ground. Cenote Samula is nearby, and you can get a single ticket that covers entry to both. Watch your step as you enter, although such things should go without saying. 

Kitsilano Pool, Canada
Photograph: Eric Buermeyer /

14. Kitsilano Pool, Canada

Vancouver is a special city in many ways. Canada’s western metropolis was built with quality of life at the forefront, and part of the plan was to ensure that you get a view of the nearby mountains no matter where you are. Why not enjoy that view from the serenity of Kitsilano Pool, a saltwater swimming spot on the bay? It also happens to be the longest outdoor swimming pool in North America (137 metres, for the record), but we’re too preoccupied with the views to count. 

Fraser Island, Australia

15. Fraser Island, Australia

Incredibly, we got this far into a swimming piece without mentioning Australia, but sometimes you need to save the best for last. Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, although swimming in the sea here isn’t advised. You know, because of all the sharks. Instead, make a beeline for the many lakes and enjoy a dip without having to worry about bopping a shark on its Ampullae of Lorenzini (look it up). This is swimming at its most magnificent. 

    You may also like
    You may also like

    The best things in life are free.

    Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

    Loading animation
    Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

    🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

    Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!