If you're anything like me, the hot weather we had in July made a swimming pool in my garden top of my wish list, perfect for a quick dip, or just relaxing alongside, with a glass of something cooling in hand. Until that lottery win happens, I'll have to make do with a kids' paddling pool when we get those scorching summer days, and just dream of visiting some of the world's best pools.
1. Costa Rica
Mother Nature really goes to town when it comes to natural swimming pools and one of the most spectacular is the perfect reward after a trek through Costa Rica's Bajos del Toro forest. A little over an hour from San Jose, you're deep in the cloud forests – so called due to their extreme elevation they seem to touch the clouds, and it hides one of the country's largest and most spectacular waterfalls, where water gushes down 300 feet against the craggy rocks. But a relaxed ten-minute stroll takes you to a wild swimmer's delight, La Promesa waterfall. It's still pretty impressive at about 100 feet but the real draw is the sloped beach into the shallow plunge pool; the ultimate cooling dip, surrounded by amazing natural beauty.
If you're looking for something less rustic and more historic, then head to Budapest. Home to around 125 thermal springs, it's a literal hotbed of pools, both natural and man made. It's an every day event in the capital, but for a real stand out memory, try the Gellért Baths. A stunning Art Nouveau setting plays host to eight thermal pools, seven inside and one outdoors, ranging from 19° to 38° so you can admire the stunning architecture as you drift by, with soaring marble columns, cherub statues and juliet balconies all giving your swim a real touch of class.
Away from marble and mosaic, Mexico's Yucatan peninsula hides an underground mystery – cenotes, natural craters formed in the country's limestone. Underground chambers and caverns give you a totally different vista, the cool waters lapping against the edges of atmospherically-lit formations. Want to know what it feels like to swim under a tree? Cenote Samula lets you bag this one-off memory, as tree roots pepper the peepholes in the cavern's roof, so flip onto your back and float serenely by, and look up.
Infinity swimming pools usually feature large in most holiday snaps, so how about a natural one? Head down under to Gunlom Falls, in Kakadu National Park. A great spot for a camping holiday, with its shady campsite and plenty wildlife, you can soak up the amazing views as you bob around the falls and pools, and swim to the natural infinity edge. Just check with the park first; the crocs don't usually make their way up to the falls but it's worth making sure!
5. Zambia and Zimbabwe
If these are a bit tame and you want even more adventure to your swimming, how does a pool 360 feet up sound? Spanning the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls are usually admired by tourists from below, but thrill seekers can enjoy a dip in the ironically-named Devil's Pool, perched above the falls, where you can look down on a rainbow as you swim. But be warned – you'll need low water levels before you take a dip, otherwise you'll be into the waterfall before you know it.
6. Isle of Sky
Looking for something closer to home? There are plenty outdoor swimming opportunities in the UK, but my personal favourite has to be the Fairy Pools, on the Isle of Skye. A series of waterfalls and pools, the half-mile walk isn’t exactly taxing – as long as you can hop on the stepping-stones across the river Brittle. While the waterfalls don’t reach the same breath-taking heights of those from far-flung places, the natural beauty is more than a match, with the cascading water falling into pools of ever-changing colour, thanks to the ever-changing light and weather that makes the island such a delight. Hardy souls will enjoy the clear fresh waters, but you’ll probably need a wetsuit outside of the summer months!
Are you a lover of a dip in the wild? What natural pools are next on your list?