Kaikoura, New Zealand
With hundreds of lakes, thousands of rivers and 15,000km of coastline, swimming is an integral part of life in New Zealand. From polar streams and azure river pools to big coastal open water swims, there is plenty on offer. New Zealand was way ahead of most other nations in creating marine reserves, which aim to maintain and restore biodiversity, and is committed to not bothering the creatures you swim with – boat operators are strictly limited, and feeding the dolphins and seals is banned. Try it at Kaikoura, where you’re may see offshore whales and get a chance to swim with dolphins.
On a hot day, it’s a much welcomed relief to take a cooling dip in one of the many cenotes (natural swimming holes) that drain Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula
Gippsland Lakes, Australia
Swimmers who take a nighttime dip in this networks of lakes in Victoria appear to glow blue (remember that scene in Life of Pi?), thanks to a chemical reaction called bioluminescence. It happens when a naturally occurring micro-organism in the water is disturbed. Don’t forget a waterproof camera (or case).
The lakes are also home to a number of wildlife havens, including Rotamah Island – which is inhabited by kangaroos, wallabies and other native animals; and the koala colony of Raymond Island.Explore Australia
Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
With the mercury rising to 40°C in the height of the Omani summer, this sparkling limestone sinkhole is the perfect place to escape the heat. Situated in Hawiyat Najm Park, 125km south Muscat, the tranquil turquoise waters are impossibly clear. Look out for the tiny harmless fish that will nibble at your toes – it’s a bit like having a fish spa pedicure.
Scheveningen New Year’s Dive, Holland
I haven’t done it, but out of all the cold New Year’s Day swims, this is at the top of my list. Every year on 1 January, around 10,000 brave swimmers descend upon the icy waters of North Sea on this seaside town near The Hague – the idea being that it’s the best way to start the year fresh. The tradition dates back to 1960, and is followed by a much-needed a sweet hot chocolate or warming Dutch pea soup after.
Beat the afternoon heat by visiting the sinkhole early in the morning. It’s also a good idea to bring your own food and water, as there aren’t any shops in the immediate vicinity. Book return flights from London to Muscat, plus a 7 night hotel stay from:£687 ppBook flights and hotels
Cold as ice
The temperature of the North Sea can dip to a chilly 0˚C in January. That’s one way to see off your New Year’s Day hangover…Explore Holland
Keep it clean
Seljavallalaug may seem like a natural turquoise dream, but it is maintained by a team of dedicated volunteers, who keep it clean from volcanic ash and clear ice from the surface after winter. Book flights from London to Reykjavik from:£40 each-wayFly to Reykjavik
Seljavallalaug Pool, Iceland
Iceland is full of hot springs that make use of the island’s geothermal energy. Skip the Blue Lagoon (and its crowds) and instead head for this 82-foot pool hidden in the Seljavellir valley. Filled with hot spring water from Eyjafjallajökull and originally constructed in 1923 to teach Icelanders how to swim, it’s quite possibly the most stunning location of any swimming pool on this planet.
There are almost no rivers on the Yucatán Peninsula – the soft limestone ground swallows them whole. So on a hot day, it’s a much welcomed relief to take a cooling dip in one of the many cenotes (natural swimming holes) that drain the peninsula. These magical subterranean, mineral-rich waters are impossibly clear, and are often framed with giant tropical trees and hanging vines.
Did you know… ?
There are three types of cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula: open ones that look like springs; semi-open, which are partially covered by a dome-shaped rock; and underground cenotes, which are hidden inside a cave. Book return from London to Cancun from:£566 returnBook flights to Cancun
The fjords, Norway
There’s nothing better than swimming in the midnight sun around the Norwegian fjords – in summer, the water temperature is more tolerable (plus the air temperature is a comparatively balmy 16˚C versus -3˚C in the height of winter), but you still have that incredibly dramatic landscape of craggy cliffs, snow-capped mountains, and steely blue waters surrounding you. The water is particularly clear around Helleneset and Gamle Bergen, but even Bergen’s city centre offers excellent water visibility.
The Bantham Swoosh, Devon
The Bantham Swoosh takes place on a shallow, crystal clear estuary in Southwest England – as you approach the end of the 6km estuary, an increasingly fast moving body of water carries you towards the sea. It can run at 8 knots, which is four times faster than your normal speed.
Swimming in the Scottish Inner Hebrides is about as wild as wild swimming gets. The Gulf of Corryvreckan – the third largest whirlpool in the world – only calms down for an hour at slack tide, making it an exciting challenge. You can even camp on the dramatic uninhabited islands and swim with seals.
Badeschiff Pool, Berlin
This large pool floats on a post-industrial stretch of the Spree River in front of Arena Berlin, in the German capital. The fresh water swimming pool is a converted 30m-wide cargo container, and is the perfect spot for a refreshing dip on a hot summer’s day – the floating wooden deck is even kitted out with a bar, sun chairs and hammocks.