Do it now: Open-water swimming

Rising demand for open-water swimming holidays means it's easier than ever to swim in loads of exotic destinations — even in the Arctic.

By Sam Lewis
Published 27 Apr 2017, 09:00 BST, Updated 23 Jul 2021, 12:21 BST
Cornwall, Gunwalloe, Church Cove, woman swimmer in the sea

Cornwall, Gunwalloe, Church Cove, woman swimmer in the sea

Photograph by Getty Images

You don't need to be as fit as Michael Phelps to join an open-water swimming holiday. Demand for swim breaks means some have reduced the average distance covered to sizes as tiny as Tom Daley's speedos.

"On most of our tours you'll swim 4-6km a day," says SwimTrek's founder Simon Murie, an ex-water polo player who started the company 14 years ago. "For most of our trips we expect people to be able to swim 1km in 40 minutes," he adds.

SwimTrek has added three new destinations this year: the Maldives, the Inner Hebrides and, for stronger swimmers, the Isles of Scilly/Cornwall. "Sea conditions can be changeable there so participants must be experienced open water swimmers capable of swimming 1km in 24 minutes."

A tour hosts 12-15 swimmers led by two coaches. Prices from £1,380 for a week in the UK to £2,900 in the Galapagos.

Open-water swimming

01 Lofoten Islands
For the hardy among us, SwimQuest 's tour of the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic Circle might be tempting. Brave souls will swim 5km a day, gliding through seas and staying in cabins just a chilly skip from a sauna. 12-18 August. £2,500 per person.

02 St Lucia
Improve your swimming at a bootcamp in St Lucia, hosted by Olympic swimming medallist Keri-Anne Payne and former Olympic swimmer David Carry. 7-10 and 14-17 November. From $550 (£443) a night with a double room, all-inclusive.

03 Across Europe
Sawdays' Wild Swimming collection features a range of quirky accommodation (including yurts and boats) all near lakes, ponds, waterfalls or the ocean where you swim without a whiff of chlorine — or perhaps even your swimsuit.

04 Wales
For a cosy cottage break with lessons in an indoor pool, plus a trip to a local spot to try your hand at wild swimming, try a residential course in Pembrokeshire. From £450 for the lessons, while accommodation starts from £306 for four nights.

05 Great North Swim
The UK's biggest weekend of open water swimming takes place from 9-11 June when thousands of new and experienced swimmers grab their goggles, wiggle into their wetsuits and dive into Lake Windermere. Race distances range from half a mile to 10k. Entry fee from £35.

06 Greece
Prefer warmer water? Head to Greece to swim around Lefkada island from 17-24 September with daily distances averaging 7k. From £740 per swimmer.

07 Isles of Scilly
Competitive athletes race in a SwimRun around three of the main islands, covering around 37km, on 17 June. However, visit on 20 May and you can join a convivial crowd attempting to swim and walk six islands in a day. It's not a race — and you can opt to cover the ground in a more leisurely two days if you wish — but you'll have to complete 15km over six swims and walk around 10km. Entry fee is £190pp or make a five-night holiday of it for £879pp.

08 Anglesey
Get a guided tour of a coast or a lake in Anglesey or Snowdonia National Park by experts who will assess the weather and tides before deciding on the best spot to take a plunge. Weekends from £275.

Published in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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