Even though the idea of al fresco dips in the ocean, rivers, and lakes is as old as the hills, wild swimming has become a bit of a buzzword. And it's not hard to see why. What could be better than immersing yourself in nature by plunging into fresh, shimmering waters in secluded locations?
Whether you’d prefer an adventure through glacial lakes in Norway or a summer swim in a Provençal lake, here are the dreamiest spots in Europe for a revitalizing wild swim.
Lac de Castillon, France
Castillon is a glacial reservoir in the sun-baked, mountainous region of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
The drive toward Lac de Castillon cuts through the rocky southern-French landscape, with roads winding around canyons and gorges until you catch sight of the lake’s milky blue-green waters between the pine trees. Castillon is a glacial reservoir that stretches for 5 miles between the sunbaked towns of Castellane and Saint-André-les-Alpes, located in the region of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.
Drive around the lake to find a quiet sunbathing spot on one of the many pebbly coves along the shore. Or head to the main—albeit small—sandy beach, where you can rent paddle boats, canoes, and paddle boards to explore this beautiful expanse of water. Further immerse yourself in nature by pitching a tent at the edge of the forest at Camping La Ferme de Castellane.
Fjærlandsfjorden's water is so clear and smooth that you’ll feel like you’re swimming through silk
Norway is a wild swimming utopia, with snow-capped mountains and glacial fjords so clear and smooth that you’ll feel like you’re swimming through silk. One of the best spots for a dip is Fjærland, a small village near Bergen where wooden cabins line the shores of Fjærlandsfjorden. Dive in for a swim at the foot of steep rock faces that climb up toward the Flatbreen glacier. Brace yourself for a refreshing—some might say too refreshing—dip, because the water is ice cold even in the height of summer. Stay right on the edge of the fjord at Fjærland Fjordstue Hotel.
Loch Lomond, Scotland
Take a dip in beautiful Loch Lomond, set in the Trossachs National Park
With its mirrored surface covering 21 square miles of southern Scotland and located just north of Glasgow, Loch Lomond is one of the country’s largest bodies of water. It’s also surrounded by the Trossachs National Park, where the Munros (Scottish for “mountains”) are tinted mauve with heather and red deer dart around oak trees in the wooded glens. The loch is so perfect for wild swimming that it’s the location for the annual Great Scottish Swim. Although this open water extravaganza was canceled due to the coronavirus, it doesn't stop drawing visitors who want to dive into its boundless beauty.
Hike one of the trails that crisscross the stony slopes of the peak, Ben Lomond, before taking a dip in the loch to cool off. There are entry points all along the shore, from the town of Balloch at the foot of the lake to the stone village of Luss or Milarrochy Bay. Check in to the highly rated Alderdale B&B in the center of Luss.
Lake Thun, Switzerland
The town of Thun sits alongside Thunersee, an alpine lake backed by the Bernese Alps
Thunersee is an alpine lake located among quintessentially Swiss scenery and surrounded by the mountains of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. The lakeshore is dotted with towns where Romanesque church spires peek above tiled rooftops. In summer, sunshine glints on the blue-green waters, inviting swimmers to dive in.
Enjoy the lake like the locals and rent an inflatable boat to float from the lakeside town of Thun down the River Aare. You could even ride the current all the way down to Bern, the picturesque Swiss capital. Stay at the Boutique Hotel Schlossberg, perched on a hill with some of the best views of Thun and enjoy the on-site sauna, steam bath, and hot tub.
Poland's Masurian Lake District feels blissfully remote
The region of Masuria in northern Poland has over 2,000 lakes that are ideal for wild swimming, with many of them connected by narrow waterways. One of the best places to use as a base for exploring the area is Giżycko, a town on the shores of Lake Niegocin. The Masurian Lake District is just a few hours out of Poland’s capital city, Warsaw. Rent a car and drive through the blissfully remote countryside, with nothing but ancient forests, rolling meadows, and tiny towns along the way to these vast bodies of water. The lakes are also famous for watersports, so you can rent a kayak or canoe to navigate the network of canals and rivers. And once you work up an appetite, you can stop for a picnic on one of the many forested islets or sandy beaches. Check in to Apartament Waterside in the center of Giżycko.