Whether you prefer a bracing dip in the North Sea or a cenote in the middle of the jungle, wild swimming is worth travelling for.
But where to go to get seclusion and captivating scenery? According to global travellers, these are the most highly-rated wild swimming destinations around the world.*
Swimmers who make it to the middle of the lake will see the water around them change from pastel blue to sapphire
Visitors flock to Bacalar, a town in the south of the Yucatán peninsula, for its lagoon of seven colours. Swim to the middle of the lake and watch the water change colour with depth, from pastel blue to shimmering sapphire. Then there’s also Cenote Azul, a deep, natural sinkhole not far from Bacalar with weeping jungle vines that sway overhead.
Stay in a waterfront bungalow at Hotel Rancho Encantado.
The remote Alto Paraíso de Goiás is a wonderland of biodiversity
Alto Paraíso de Goiás, Brazil
Its name translating as ‘High Paradise’, Alto Paraíso is the gateway to the remarkable Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park. The park is a remote natural wonderland of biodiversity, jagged canyons and waterfalls. It’s still a lesser-known spot, found in a landlocked Brazilian state, so swimming in its tropical waters is especially serene.
The Casa do Guardião is located in the middle of Alto Paraíso de Goiás.
São Jorge offers both ocean and inland swimming opportunities
São Jorge, Portugal
An island in the Azorean archipelago of Portugal, São Jorge rises suddenly out of the sea, its 30-mile long ridge offering sweeping Atlantic views. There are some sandy beaches at the bottom of the island’s hydrangea-covered, rocky hills for swimming. But this isn’t a typical beach holiday, as the water can be a little bracing. Nonetheless, the Gulf Stream means it’s never too cold and when the wind drops, it’s like swimming in a sunlit millpond. And you can always explore inland swimming spots, with lunar craters and mountain lakes dotted around the semi-tropical meadows and woods.
Urzelina GuestHouse is the highest-rated accommodation on São Jorge.
Escape from the crowds and take a trip to Angra dos Reis
Angra dos Reis, Brazil
Angra dos Reis is the port town that takes you to Ilha Grande, an island off the coast of Brazil that’s famed for its paradisiacal nature. In fact, Angra dos Rios takes the name of the entire municipality that goes by the same name, consisting of 365 islands in total. Those that want to get off the well-trodden gringo path should definitely explore as many of these as possible, though Ilha Grande is the unmissable one. The clarity of the water, the range of exotic wildlife, the softness of the sand - once you’ve swum here, you probably won’t want to swim anywhere else.
Pousada Mestre Augusto is a guest house in Angra dos Reis with its own private beach.
One trip to Bonito and you'll understand why the name means "beautiful"
Bonito means ‘beautiful’, and this small, ecotourism hub is nature at its most splendid. The area has a network of deep blue rivers filled with exotic species of fish, while macaws perch in the greenery lining the waterfalls. You can also swim and snorkel in the cave pools.
The Eco Pousada Surucuá is situated close to central Bonito, with an outdoor swimming pool and colourful tropical gardens.
The lake in Khao Sok may be manmade, but the surrounding nature is all natural
Khao Sok, Thailand
With limestone towers rising out of the water and hundreds of square miles of rainforest surrounding the lake, Khao Sok National Park is a dreamy place to swim. Though the lake is manmade, the evergreen forest on its banks is a natural wonder. Mauve and blue orchids bloom between the bamboo and butterflies with vivid wings resting on lily pads. Making this a warm-water swimming paradise.
Khaosok Good view Resort is the highest-rated accommodation in Khao Sok.
The perfect beaches of Isla de Providencia still remain almost unscathed by the tourism industry
Isla de Providencia, Colombia
Colombia is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most in-demand travel destinations. Only now truly opening up to international tourism, its faultless Caribbean beaches are so far almost unscathed by the industry. And the island Isla de Providencia has some of the best beaches for swimming, not to mention superb diving. Expect sheltered coves lapped by smooth, clear, and warm water.
Posada Sunshine Paradise is a beautiful seafront inn on Isla de Providencia.
**The data analysts at Booking.com looked at endorsements for ‘wild swimming’ by Booking.com customers. They used a standard z-score methodology to find the destinations that were most highly-rated for this endorsement.