Get ready for another watery meander around the world! This time, we’ve prepared an alphabetised selection of the World’s Best Swim Spots, from the vine-encircled cenotes of Mexico to the wave-slammed ocean pools of Australia...
Anbaraa Island, The Maldives
Our Maldives trip takes place in some of the world’s clearest waters, among 26 coral atolls and palm-fringed islands. The uninhabited Anbaraa Island is one of the most popular natural features among our guests – we swim a full circumnavigation around the shoreline, so you can see it from every angle.
Bondi Icebergs, Australia
One of Australia’s (and the world’s) most Insta-friendly pools! Located on iconic Bondi Beach and refilled at intervals by the breakers that blast inwards on stormy days. It’s home to the local winter swimming community, who leap in and lap come rain or sunshine.
Cleopatra Pools, Turkey
Nicknamed the ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, you’d struggle to find a more unique place to bathe and wade than the tiered thermal springs of Pamukkale. The travertine formation actually sits atop the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis and can be seen from many miles away on the hills across the valley. The mineral terraces and lucid blue pools are a sight to behold for sure, but a dip in the warm Cleopatra Pools (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site), strewn with submerged ruins, leaves a memory you’ll never forget.
'The travertine formation actually sits atop the ancient Greek city of Hierapolis and can be see from many miles away on the hills across the valley...'
Dalebrook Tidal Pool, South Africa
Embedded in the coastline, affixed to a picturesque stretch of sea from St James to Kalk Bay, this tidal pool enables swimmers to escape the chop, swim freely in salty waters and then lounge on sun-warmed rocks to dry off afterwards. Just outside of Cape Town, you can peer up at your mountainous surrounds and listen to the waves as they drum the rocks around you.
Espiritu Santo, Mexico
Another spot that might be familiar to our SwimTrekkers – again, it’s an uninhabited island, only this time on the Baja Peninsula. Swim in the local waters and find no shortage of sea lions playing below the surface. Discover pristine beaches and remote coves, seeking out a few of the kept secrets this UNESCO-protected area holds for adventurous swimmers.
Fairy Pools, Scotland
Anyone who’s swum with us on our Isle of Skye trip will likely be aware of these natural pools and cascades, near the Scottish village of Carbost. It was one of the winning spots that grew crowded when the craze of wild swimming swept the British Isles. And, it’s no mystery why so many were drawn here – shrouded in fairy legends and filled by spring water fresh from the Cuillin Mountains, you’d be hard-pressed to find a place to leap in that gives you more of a rush.
'It was one of the winning spots that grew crowded when the craze of wild swimming swept the British Isles...'
Grand Anse Beach, Grenada
This curve of white sand looks like those dreamy screensaver images once used to entrance office workers. In short, Grand Anse Beach is a paradise of sorts, spanning two miles along the southwestern coast of tropical Grenada. Sailors and swimmers would find themselves very content here in the sheltered bays and sunlit coastal shallows.
The Hellespont, Turkey
SwimTrekkers arrive here in great numbers and charge into a Turkish flotilla, which closes the world’s busiest shipping channel for one day each year. Since a heroic romance (appropriately half of the couple was named ‘Hero’) kicked-off this tradition, The Hellespont has inspired tales of Greek mythology and even the English poet, Lord Byron – it’s also a source of national pride to sprint into it and swim across from Eceabat to Çanakkale for the annual ‘Oldest Swim In The World’ (from Europe to Asia).
Ik Kil, Mexico
Cenotes were once thought of as passages to the Underworld – peepholes into the cavernous gloom, where humans were once sacrificed and bones still lie on the unseen rocks below. Ik Kil was apparently used for sacred rituals, but different sources debate whether any human sacrifices were made there. If that doesn’t strain you willingness to swim, there are limestone platforms to dive in off and plenty of room to float in this 85-foot opening, encircled by dangling roots and vines, which the Mayans once called ‘The Place Of The Winds’.
Jenny Lake, Wyoming
The question ‘can you swim in Jenny Lake?’ is swiftly answered online with advice to pack a wetsuit. It’s also prohibited to get in from the north-western shore, where the ferry runs. However, if you don’t mind the cold and pimpled skin, these waters can be irresistible to visitors of beaches at Colter Bay and Signal Mountain. The lake itself is a centrepiece of Grand Teton National Park, wrapped in the scree-scarred mountains of the Teton Range, with hiking trails snaking off in all directions.
Kahalu’u Bay, Hawaii
Hawaii boasts an abundance of wildlife and volcanic backdrops to halt head-down swimmers, inspiring them to tread water and take it all in. Since we introduced our SwimTrek to the Big Island – youngest and largest in the Hawaiian island chain – we’ve been guiding swimmers into the calm waters of Kahalu’u Bay. Once there, you can stretch out in the shielded confines of a small reef and thread the surface without being tossed about by the surf. It’s a haven for tropical fish and green sea turtles as well.
'Hawaii boasts an abundance of wildlife and volcanic backdrops to halt head-down swimmers, inspiring them to tread water and take it all in...'
La Vallette Bathing Pools, Guernsey
Peer out at stormy seas and the grey offing from the walled lanes of La Vallette Bathing Pools. There’s even a diving board to leap off, or you can swim around to the Horseshoe Pool if you fancy some open water action. The locals have been dipping in these waters for 150 years and the sun terrace never fails to draw a crowd on hot summer days. Both the writer, Victor Hugo (Les Misérables), and artist, Pierre-August Renoir, fell in love with this rocky jewel in the Bailiwick seas.
Mehrangarh Fort, India
You won’t find this one on the bucket lists of many swimmers, simply because it isn’t too well known and doesn’t really evoke water in the sun-baked desert of Rajasthan. Any hotel pool (and there are a few) with a view of this fort is surely worthy of this list. However, locals do also swim in the nearby natural waters, leaping from low-lying ruins and practicing strokes under the fort ramparts. Cliff divers, Orlando Duque and Rhiannan Iffland, also busted-out acrobatic 20-metre freefalls into the historic Toorji Step Well – not far from the fort itself.
The Narrows, St Kitts & Nevis
Fans of shipwrecks will feel very spoilt in The Narrows – a strait which divides the islands of St Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies. A few historic ships have run aground on this rocky sinew and many SwimTrekkers have swum by their skeletal remains, coloured by rust and coral. Head west to meander through the islet-dotted Caribbean Sea. Take a journey east and you’ll be swallowed up by the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.
'A few historic ships have run aground on this rocky sinew and many SwimTrekkers have swum by their skeletal remains, coloured by rust and coral...'
Otter Lake, Canada
Our Canadian Wilderness trip tempted many swimmers out of hibernation after the Covid pandemic. Otter Lake is where we’re based, enclosed by nature on all sides and privy to the many wildlife encounters Thompson’s Resort enjoys on a daily basis. Ospreys frequent the local freshwater, visible from your cabin. While lowland rivers snake off into the boreal forests of Saskatchewan – home to beavers, otters and moose as well.
Palawan, The Philippines
Palawan, in the western Philippines, is a water lover’s paradise. Snorkellers, divers, kayakers, swimmers… everyone finds their own sliver of heaven, teeming with wildlife and cultural treasures. Our SwimTrek trips take us to the incredible Miniloc Island Resort in El Nido. From there, we can launch our longer swims among the forested islands and emerald seascapes of the Bacuit Archipelago.
Queenstown Bay, New Zealand
Postcards are crying out for scenic cities like Queenstown – they must make a fortune in their local souvenir shops. It’s here you’ll find a glacier-carved trench of water, edged by cousins of those snow-capped Misty Mountains, popularised by Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. You can start at Queenstown Bay, which is the best-loved beach in the downtown area. Then mosey on out into the chilly waters of Lake Wakatipu, reaching out towards Cecil and Walter Peaks. It’s interesting to note the lake actually has a tide, rising and falling roughly 10 centimetres at 25-minute intervals.
River Aare, Switzerland
There are plenty of places to swim along this tributary of the High Rhine – the longest river running from source to mouth within the borders of Switzerland. Swimmers are drawn to these bright waters for their proximity to alpine scenery and idyllic rural towns. Just be mindful that it was all melted fresh from the glaciers of Bernese Oberland, so you might need to pack a wetsuit.
Silfra Fissure, Iceland
Speaking of wetsuits, the often 2C waters of Silfra Fissure really put the ‘Ice’ in Ice-land. It’s worth getting a little cold to experience the world’s clearest waters though, wedged into a crack where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates have edged apart. Way out in the frosted wilds of Thingvellir National Park, you’ll experience a snorkel (or dive) like no other, sealed tightly into a dry suit and plonked into glacial depths of such unique clarity you’ll never want to leave.
'It’s worth getting a little cold to experience the world’s clearest waters though, wedged into a crack where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates have edged apart...'
Turneffe Atoll, Belize
Warmer waters await those who join our SwimTrek trips to the Turneffe Atoll – one of only three atolls within the Belize Barrier Reef. It’s here you’ll meet friendly mobs of turtles, dolphins and tropical reef fish. Also, enjoy swims suspended in sun glitter and watch as your shadows slinks over the sandhills below.
Uttakleiv Beach, Norway
This is one of the most photographed beaches in the Lofoten Islands – an edge-world archipelago, spiked with ice-capped mountains, which feels like it should be home to giants, elves and other mythical beings. Uttakleiv Beach might only invite a short dip in the emerald shallows, but don’t let the water temperature put you off. You might even spot the borealis here during winter sunsets.
Voidomatis Springs, Greece
Not far from the village of Vikos you’ll enter a gorge on a cobbled path, pass by wildflower gardens (in spring) and eventually descend on a trail to the Voidomatis Springs. There’s river rafting fun to be had on these icy blue waters too, but swimmers can enjoy the natural springs at their own pace, washed by one of Europe’s cleanest rivers.
Wangi Falls, Australia
Australia strikes again – this time we’re headed way up to those northern waters, favoured by big saltwater crocodiles. Don’t worry though, we’re taking you further inland to a freshwater swimming hole in Litchfield National Park. It’s there we’ll find this idyllic plunge pool, showered by twin waterfalls, which flow year round with walls of greenery on both sides.
'It’s there we’ll find this idyllic plunge pool, showered by twin waterfalls, which flow year round with walls of greenery on both sides.'
Xcaret Park (Playa del Carmen), Mexico
So, we’ll admit we were a little stumped when we came to this particular spot in the alphabet. After trawling through cities in China, looking for suitable pools, we eventually found ourselves somehow catapulted across the Pacific Ocean to Mexico. We’ll preface this one by saying it’s a water park (purist swimmers avert your eyes) – what makes this attraction more noteworthy is its jungle location among submerged rivers, cenotes and the ever-breezy Caribbean Sea.
Yolanda Reef, Egypt
Like the Galapagos Islands, the Red Sea is known all over the world for being filled with wildlife. It’s true that anyone who swims there will have a tale to tell about the animals they saw, which is evidenced by the many photos we get back of SwimTrekkers being photobombed by dolphins and shoals of colourful fish. On Day Six we swim at Yolanda Reef in Ras Mohammed National Park – look forward to vertical overhangs that drop to around 100-metres and coral gardens that house some of the 1,000 species of fish that call these waters home.
It turns out you can count on Greece to supply a conclusive swim spot, starting with the letter ‘Z’. Finally, we’ve washed up onto the white shores of those exotic Ionian Islands, happily delivered to the turtle-patrolled waters of Zakynthos. It’s here you’ll find the very picturesque Shipwreck Beach (reachable only by boat), which sits on the northwest coast, shouldered by tall bluffs and stroked by blue Ionian rollers.
'Finally, we’ve washed up onto the white shores of those exotic Ionian Islands, happily delivered to the turtle-patrolled waters of Zakynthos...'
That’s it for our A-Z of the World’s Best Swim Spots – did we miss any iconic places you’ve swum before? Let us know in the comments section below…