Wild swimming in natural lakes, rivers and beaches has always held a kind of free-spirited appeal. Just think  of diving into a clear blue lagoon – bliss!

Ever since the comedian David Walliams swam 140 miles of the Thames for Sport Relief, interest in wild swimming has rocketed in the UK. So much so that a new by-law has just been passed, banning Thames swimming without permission!

Now, I don’t know about you,  but I’m not about to jump in the Thames. I’ve something much more exotic in mind – as you can see from my hit list of destinations for wild swims abroad – solo or with the family.

1. Sea lagoon, Canary Islands

Why not go wild in the sea, especially if you’ve got keen young swimmers in tow? On Tenerife, the beautifully clean and clear lagoon off the coast of Puerto de Santiago (itself a family-friendly resort) is teeming with tropical fish and peppered with small islands – ripe to explore!

Best for: families with adventurous swimmers aged 10+

2. Mountain lake, French Alps

A site that’s calm and not too wild – like lakeside Angon Plage, Annecy (northeast of Grenoble), with its lifeguards, pontoons and café – is perfect for little ones. If the water’s not as warm as they’re used to in a pool, wetsuits are a good idea.

Best for: families with small children

3. Waterfalls, Corsica

Rugged Corsica has the potential to wow teenagers and get them into the swim. Try Gorges du Tavignano, where twin waterfalls pour into a huge pool, or the deep marble bowls and glittering green water of Cascades de Purcaraccia.

Best for: families with teenagers

4. Inland lake, Croatia
At the heart of Mljet Island – an easy day-trip from Dubrovnik by ferry – there’s a very special lake set in lush pine forest. It’s secluded, clear and tranquil, and at its centre is a picture-perfect medieval monastery – a great spot for a romantic seafood lunch.

Best for: romantic wild swims for lovers

5. Hot springs, Iceland
Even in winter, Iceland’s natural hot springs are great for wild bathing in deliciously steaming, soothing water. The Hveravellir geothermal area is a nature reserve, and its sky-blue pool is surrounded by stunning scenery.

Best for: relaxing wild swims year-round

Closer to home

If you’d like to try wild swimming before you fly, check out wildswim.com and wildswimming.co.uk for some of the best natural swim destinations in the UK.  Alternatively, if you know of anywhere great you’d like to share, do let us know!


  1. Hi Jessica,
    Great article. To be clear though, the ban on Thames swimming only applies to the tidal section controlled by the PLA between Crossness and Putney Bridge. This area is dangerous and not suitable for casual swimming anyway. The whole length of the non-tidal Thames between Cricklade and Teddington Lock is controlled by the Environment Agency who do allow swimming and offers many safe and beautiful opportunities for wild swimming!

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