5 Of The Strangest Places In The World To Go Swimming
Written by Jaillan Yehia
The classic summer holiday is that cliche of sun, sand and sea – and that’s when most people tend to do most of their swimming.
But as well as lazing on a sun lounger on our precious days off, many of us enjoy exploration and adventure while overseas, and to immerse ourselves in something new. In my case that immersion can be quite literal.
I’m not the biggest fan of the ‘fly and flop’ style holiday though I do enjoy a week sitting by a pool and reading a book once a year or so.
The rest of the time I still pack my swimsuit for every single trip, and that’s because I absolutely love swimming, spas and all things watery, especially when I’m in interesting and unusual locations.
I’ve been to an Austrian hotel where swimsuits are banned (yikes!)and I even got told off for wearing mine by mistake by a man sporting a T-shirt with the title ‘Sauna Meister’.
There are countless places in Europe where I’ve swum alongside men who must follow the pool rules and wear Speedos not shorts (I’m looking at you Evian Les Bains) or where swimming hats are mandatory (I always wear one anyway to protect my hair from chemicals).
I’ve also tried boom netting on the Great Barrier Reef (which makes it almost impossible to keep your swimsuit on), I’ve stank of sulphur after swimming in Turkey and swum in Swiss lakes, Costa Rican mud baths, Mediterranean caves, strange Vietnamese water parks, native Canadian hot springs, the list goes on.
As you can see, to me there’s nothing in the world more inviting than getting in the water.
So, here are 5 of my favourite places to swim that are more exotic than down the local leisure centre pool – and that I’d recommend to other water babies out there.
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5 Strange But Super Places T0 Swim
Under A Cliff Diving Board
Where: Ariel’s Point, Borocay Island, The Philippines
There’s a real sense of adventure about wading through the crystal clear waters of the picture-postcard Filipino White Beach to board a boat which will take you to the dedicated cliff diving site at Ariel’s Point.
The short ride across the Sulu Sea gives you a chance to mentally prepare for a day of action, as you reach a private spot where volcanic rock formations and mangroves play host to five cliff-diving platforms; from a starter-sized board at a manageable 3 meters to the highest at a gulp-inducing 13 meters, with 5, 6 and 7 metre options in between.
There are also kayaks and snorkelling gear on offer for those who decide that jumping off a cliff isn’t for them after all, but underneath the spot where the cliff divers land has to be one of the strangest places to go swimming ever.
The day out includes unlimited food from the Filipino barbeque and all your drinks – though you might want to limit your consumption, especially of the alcoholic tipples, if you plan on tackling the high dives.
A 5 hour day trip to Ariel’s Point includes boat trip, food and beverages, use of snorkelling and kayaking gear and as many cliff jumps and depart daily at 11.15 a.m. from Ariel’s House near Boat Station 1 on White Beach.
In The Middle Of An Italian City
Where: Mare Termale, Bologna, Italy
There’s nothing like a city break to inspire a sense of excitement – and in Emilia Romagna’s buzzing university city of Bologna there’s endlessly exploring to do in the maze of medieval streets. You can also search for nutty parmesan cheese, tangy balsamic vinegar, genuine gelato and authentic parma ham – in fact all the mouth-watering foods you associate with Bella Italia originate in this region.
But what you may not associate with Italy is the concept of thermal baths – but Italians take the health benefits of thermal waters almost as seriously as their pasta, and while there are public spas all over Italy the first public spa in Bologna was built by Emperor Augustus way back in the first century AD.
This aquatic combination of exercise and muscle-soothing at Mare Termale (which means literally, thermal sea) is just what the doctor ordered after a day of pavement-pounding – and as well as the fitness and wellbeing benefits there is a salon-style spa here too.
Mare Termale is open 8 – 21 most days, some days until Midnight.
Alongside Eagles & Spawning Salmon
Where: Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada
One of Canada’s best known hot springs, Harrison has a reputation as a haven for relaxation amongst the stunning nature of British Columbia. The village of Harrison Hot Springs is on a land mass almost entirely surrounded by water – from the Harrison River and lake to the west and north to the Fraser River to the south – and bordered by fertile farmland.
There’s golf, hiking and boat trips but most come here to simply unwind and soak in the hot springs themselves, which are within the area’s historic resort, which has been drawing visitors since the late 1800’s.
Five natural hot spring-fed pools allow you to soak up the views of the mountains by day and the stars by night (the pools are open late into the evening) while enjoying the steaming waters.
The indoor baths are set within a serene and tranquil environment that will leave you floating back to your room, plus time your visit to Harrison during Autumn and you’ll also have a chance to take in another water-based wonder: millions of salmon return to the Harrison River to spawn, and with them come up to 10,000 bald eagles who migrate to this area to feast on the plentiful fish, making this one of the best eagle watching spots in the world.
The indoor pools at Harrison Hot Springs are open from 5am until 1am and the outdoor pools from 8am until 10 and 11pm.
In A Power Plant’s Waste Water Pool
Where: The Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Probably Iceland’s most famous offering after Bjork, the Blue Lagoon is a rare thing: a place that really lives up to the hype. An easy 20-minute drive from the country’s main airport, Keflavik, a swim in this geothermal spa is a dream antidote to jetlag or a perfect pre-plane pick-me-up.
The unique and little-known fact about these particular waters is that unlike everywhere else on our list they’re not a natural phenomenon at all – in fact it wasn’t until a pool of waste water formed at the Svartsengi geothermal power plant and local people began to discover the benefits of bathing in it in the early 1980’s that this site became a mecca for those in search of healing waters.
This inauspicious start belied a glowing future – today it’s easy enough to while away hours on end here – the pools are renewed with fresh water every two days and kept around a soothing 100 °F and the white silica mud is placed in tubs around the entirely outdoor complex ready for you to smother it all over your skin and wait for the famous results.
The pools are generally open from 10am -8pm with extended opening hours in the summer.
At A Mountainous Nudist Spa
Where: Aqua Dome Hotel, Austrian Tyrol
Even as a swimming nut (I will get up early to use a hotel pool and not much gets me out of bed even 5 minutes earlier than I have to) The Aqua Dome is by far the most extensive swimming complex I have ever come across.
This thermal mountain spa near Solden in the Austrian Tirol is the perfect destination for people who want their entire weekend themed around swimming – here you can even eat in the restaurant in your swimsuit and bathrobe and there are of course plenty of healthy options on offer because if you can see your stomach while you’re eating you’re probably not going to want a burger.
There’s no way to convey just how mammoth this wellness centre is but with twelve indoor and outdoor pools with water temperatures from 93 – 97°F and seven saunas in the thermal spa including whirlpools on top of giant cones it’s so big you practically need a GPS.
There’s an additional exclusive twin level area just for hotel guests complete with a moss pool with real moss and lawn, a mineral bath, vast relaxation areas with fire and ice, Finnish saunas, scrubs, steam rooms – and this is where the no cossie rule kicks in.
When you tire of soaking you can have a walk to see the quaint Austrian village of Längenfeld, head out to enjoy an alpine mountain breakfast in the Oetztal or ascend the summit of Gaislachkogl mountain station just as James Bond did in Spectre -and at 3,048 metres altitude this is a place where you’ll need all your clothes firmly ON.
Aqua Dome’s spa is open 9pm – 11pm, Midnight on Fridays.
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