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Best of adventure travel

The world's best wild swims

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Little can match the pleasure of taking a dip in a secluded spot. Sliding into a river or striking out for the centre of a lake, it’s impossible not to feel as if you’ve become part of the scene, rather than simply marvelling at it.

Indulge in one of these stunning swims and we promise they’ll make your trip even more memorable. Just remember not to swim alone and to take advice from locals about currents and conditions before stripping down to your bathers.

A man dives into a river beneath a giant Roman aqueduct in Provence, France. Photo by David Stubbs / Aurora / Getty Images

1. Pont Du Gard, France

This stunning Roman aqueduct is best viewed while swimming in the shallows in its shadow, where the river is at its widest. The water is crisp and gin clear, the nearby beach perfect for a picnic. Swimming is forbidden directly underneath the arches, where the river narrows and currents swirl.

Related article: In Great Britain for summer? Pack your trunks.

2. Mekong Delta, Vietnam

Splayed out across southern Vietnam, the Mekong’s muddy outlets offer some truly exhilarating wild swims. Tam Ho’s home stay in Vinh Long (+81 70 3859859; Binh Thuan 1 hamlet, Hoa Ninh village, Long Ho, Vinh Long), on a fruit farm on the banks of the river, is ideal. Here you can swim with Tam’s family, who’ll keep you safe and out of the way of submerged trees and fast-flowing water.

3. Lubok Simpon, Malaysia

Just across the river from Taman Negara’s main hub of Kuala Tahan, Lubok Simpon is a delightfully secluded swimming spot nestled in the world’s oldest rainforest. The muddy riverbed will suck at your toes, but once you’re swimming against the current, it’s utterly invigorating. Don’t be tempted to strike out for deeper, turbulent waters on the opposite bank.

4. River Granta, UK

South of Cambridge, the Granta’s wide meanders are ideal for a bracing British swim. Willows, replete with ropes dangling temptingly into the deep central channel, line the far bank. There is a series of swimming spots on the two-mile walk along the Granta from Cambridge to Grantchester. A mile and a half along the towpath through Grantchester Meadows is a small muddy beach with overhanging willows and rope swings, ideal for getting in and out.  Follow in the footsteps of Rupert Brooke and take tea at the gorgeous Orchard Tea Rooms after you’ve been for a cooling dip. The tea rooms are in Grantchester village, signposted from the towpath and a ten-minute walk from the swim spot.

5. Cenote Yokdzonot, Mexico

The deep sinkholes, or cenotes, of Yucatán are essential swimming spots for intrepid travellers. Ease yourself into the silky water of the locally-run Cenote Yokdzonot, a managed swimming spot where locals charge a small fee to take a dip. Try not to think about the seemingly unending depths while you’re dive-bombed by the swallows that nest in the surrounding walls.

Tourists jumping from Tat Kuang Si Waterfall. Photo by Kimberley Coole / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

6. Kuang Si Waterfalls, Laos

Hop on a tuk-tuk in Luang Prabang and make a beeline for the beautiful waterfalls at Kuang Si, with a series of inviting pools that are crying out to be swum in. The crystalline, blue water is deliciously cooling during hot Laos summers. Go later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds and that searing midday heat.

7. Wattego’s Beach, Australia

The surfing paradise of Byron Bay might not seem the ideal spot for an indulgent dip. But sheltered, north-facing Watego’s Beach is the perfect place to cool off during the height of a scorching Aussie summer. The water is far calmer here than at nearby Tallow Beach, although stay close to shore to be on the safe side.

8. Boiling River, Yellowstone National Park, USA

If diving into icy water’s not your scene, then the aptly named Boiling River will warm your cockles. The cold Gardner River merges here with fiery hot springs to form a tepid set of pools that won’t leave you gasping for breath when you sink your shoulders beneath the surface. It’s rocky, so bring swimming shoes if you can.

'The penguins of South Africa' by Pictrues. CC BY 2.0

9. Boulders, South Africa

Swimming with penguins might seem like something you’d only do in an ultra-thick wetsuit while on an Antarctic adventure. But at Boulders, Cape Town’s best swimming beach, you can get nose-to-nose with the little fellas. Offshore boulders make this a calm, secluded area on an otherwise stormy coastline.

10. Lake Lungern, Switzerland

Alpine lakes are just about the most idyllic places for a summer swim, and few are better than Switzerland’s Lake Lungern. The water is so clean it’s drinkable, so no need to worry if you take a gulp while working on your freestyle. There’s even a water slide and diving board for the big kids in your group too.