Gone swimming! Best places in the world to swim
Swimmingly \ adv (1622): very well; SPLENDIDLY
Several recent Guardian articles on wild swimming (Kenwood Ladies Pond, Hampstead Heath, and Wild Swimming in Italy) have me dreaming of water again. One thing my husband Pat and I can agree on when planning a trip to take together is the opportunity to swim in natural water. We’ll never swim the entire 3,300 miles of the Amazon like Big River swimmer Martin Strel, plunge the frigid depths of Skye’s Fairy Pools like Kate Rew, or brave the open water of the Hellespont like Byron (and those who recreate his epic swim across the Bosphorus each August 30). Our ‘immersive’ travel experiences are more about hedonism than fighting for our lives. This post offers a few of our favorite places to float around in amazing surroundings.
Got a favorite beach or swimming hole? Nostalgic for a pool or lake you visited as a child? Shoot me your best where-in-the-world-to-swim tips in comments below!
Are you brave enough to swim in a place the Maya consider a gateway to the underworld? There’s safety in numbers at Ik-Kil Cenote, a popular place to cool off after visiting the archaeological site at Chichen Itza. Ik-Kil is one of the more accessible of Yucatan’s 8000 cenotes, no helmets or rappeling required, but if you’re not confident in your stamina, it’s a good idea to rent a buoyancy vest. TIP: If you use sunscreen, be sure it’s reef safe sunscreen. It’s increasingly the only type permitted at snorkeling sites and eco-parks (like Ik-Kil) in Mexico. I’d hate to think we poisoned these beautiful places by our passing.
Miami’s beaches are terrific but for sheer charm, nothing beats the Venetian Pool in nearby Coral Gables. Opened in 1924, the Venetian Pool was part of developer George Merrick’s Mediterranean vision for Coral Gables. The pool is a former coral-rock quarry, fed with fresh spring water from an underground aquifer. After a morning shopping or art gallery hopping in Coral Gables, spend the afternoon at the Venetian Pool, then head for happy hour at the Biltmore. If you’re looking for old Florida, the Venetian Pool is pure gold. TIP: Children under three not permitted. Check out A Taste for Travel for more travel tips for Coral Gables and events at the historic Biltmore Hotel.
Located one hour from Santa Fe, these mineral springs in northern New Mexico were used for healing and considered sacred by ancient peoples for thousands of years. Today the springs are a modern resort hotel and spa where bathing in the four types of water–lithia, iron, soda, arsenic–are therapeutic for both body and spirit. Staying overnight has its benefits, including late-night under-the-stars access to the steaming kiva pool. An exquisite experience in Georgia O’Keeffe Country.
Oahu’s beaches are legendary but we found a fun freshwater alternative at Waimea Valley on Oahu’s North Shore. Sacred to native Hawaiians for 700 years, Waimea Valley is now a spectacular botanical garden dotted with ancient Hawaiian archaeological sites: remnants of religious shrines, houses, agricultural terraces and fishponds. Less than a mile’s stroll under a canopy of exotic trees, a 45-foot waterfall awaits. The water is fresh and cold. If you borrow a float board and kick hard to reach the spray at the base of the waterfall, you may be rewarded as I was with a miniature rainbow to hold in your hand.
Beautiful Sicily is dotted with thermal springs, many of them smelling of sulphur (considered medicinal) and teeming with crowds from the city. One of the more remote and pleasant, and my personal favorite, is Terme Aqua Pia in Agrigento province. Aqua Pia offers curative therapies and rooms, but day passes to the open-air pools are so worth the drive. Dolce far niente, Sicilian style!
The airport at Lamezia Terme is an easy gateway to southern Italy and we’ve gotten to know the area pretty well. Terme Caronte has been offering water cures since 1716 and is a great–if rather clinical–place to get your flight kinks pummelled out with scented hydromassage. The spa’s symbol is Caronte (or Charon) himself, the boatman of Greek myth who ferries the dead across the Styx. There are free spots to soak alongside the road just opposite the spa and here, near the source, it is easy to imagine Charon poling his way across the Hades-hot, underground river. Why settle for a prosaic tub indoors?
Later this year, we’ll be exploring Madeira and the Azores. The Azores are home to several geothermal hot springs, some naturally carbonated. Can’t wait!
Gone swimming somewhere fabulous? Let me know in comments below!