Wild Waves: The Rise Of Open Water Swimming In Spain

Away from the bustling heat of Spain’s major cities, a new sports movement has taken over the local population and its message is starting to spread across the waves. Wild swimming is becoming increasingly popular in the European country, and now more people than ever are moving inland to take a dip in any number of the area’s river systems and lakes. These bathing spots are quite different from their coastal counterparts; surrounded by thick, lush wildlife, the waters are surprisingly calm and, too small to have hit the major travel sites, come relatively free of tourists. Wild swimming is one of the best ways to experience authentic local culture during the summer months, and with any number of tours making their way across the country, the only issue you might have is choosing where to begin.

A short drive from Madrid will take you to one of the most picturesque wild swimming spots in the local area. La Charca Verde lies in the heart of a vast national park, sporting miles of forest, vegetation, and geology. In the heart of the area, you’re most likely to find groups of locals as they lounge on the granite outcrops, dip their toes into the river, and search for good diving spots. You can swim in peace in the river, even if visitors make their way to the watery spot in droves. While you’re free to go trekking in the surrounding park, most locals flock to the site to cool off from the city heat, relaxing against the rocky backdrop of the surrounding mountains.

If you’re close to Barcelona and want to get away from the beach, you might want to take a drive to Riera de Merlès, a site renowned for its deep pools and surrounding sandstone gorges. While stretches of the river are dedicated to preserving the local wildlife, there are a great deal of suitable swimming spots that you can find incredibly easily. Taking a dip in the local natural pool is a great place to start, but eventually you might want to head upstream in search of the river’s waterfall. You can jump, dive, and swim to your heart’s content, all while taking in the stunning local flora and fauna.

Wild swimming has become so popular that droves of locals make the drive to their nearest natural swimming spot, shunning nearby beaches in favor of colder rivers. A Firveda is one of the most popular spots for walkers of the Camino de Santiago, giving trekkers the chance to put down their bags and cool off their feet for a few minutes. The cascading waterfalls and crystal clear rivers are some of the best in the region, letting wild swimmers feast their eyes on the surrounding natural beauty spots while they take a dip. If you’re feeling really courageous, you can try braving the waters under the nearest cascade; they might look tame, but when you’re underneath them it’s a whole different story.

From the north to the south, wild swimming is very much on the rise in Spain, and now more locals than ever are making the drive to their nearest river system in the hopes of cooling off from the beating summer sun. Whether you choose to take a dip in Granada’s placid Lake Negratin or Malaga’s Rio Verde, you are guaranteed the same thing: cool water, stunning natural beauty, and enough room to stretch out to your heart’s content.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.