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Best Lakes for Wild Swimming in France

Outdoor or ‘wild swimming’ is hugely popular thanks to its many benefits for our health, happiness and overall fitness. With the holiday season to look forward to, and some warmer weather in sight, swimming outside is more tempting.

If you are planning your next trip and are hooked on finding adventurous swim spots on your travels, France is a great choice. Thanks to a diverse geography and the breathtaking French Alps, there are plenty of natural lakes to discover for that joie de vivre on holiday.

This article explores some of the best lakes to help you combine wild swimming with fascinating French culture, world-famous sights and unrivalled cuisine. 

What is Wild Swimming and its Immense Appeal? 

Outdoor or ‘wild swimming’ simply means being in natural bodies of water for an invigorating swim experience. Enthusiasm for swimming outdoors has grown thanks to the benefits of being connected to nature and the positive vibes it offers. Swimming in a natural setting feels far healthier and refreshing compared to a chlorinated or heated indoor pool. So, it comes as little surprise that wild swimmers, given the chance, prefer a natural swim that is free from chemicals and treatments

In addition, there are numerous physical and mental health benefits. Outdoor swimmers report feeling happier and experiencing improvements in circulation as, like most exercise, swimming boosts endorphin levels for a natural high. Some studies conclude that cold water swimming might help to manage symptoms of menopause by boosting immunity, balancing moods and relieving stress. A cooling swim in a beautiful lake somewhere scenic in France, therefore, might make you feel fantastic and naturally increase your overall fitness.

Meanwhile, a dip outdoors in a calm and scenic French spot can also do wonders to ease your anxiety and give you an instant lift. The lighter ‘weightlessness’ of being in open water can help to reduce pressure and strain on your muscles and joints as well as soothe away aches and pains that might otherwise spoil your trip. It is important to be vigilant, though, as open water swimming has risks, such as currents, sudden changes in depth and potential hazards like submerged objects. Be cautious and research the location, check for local advice, never swim alone and be aware of your own ability.

Finding a Swim Spot in France

If you are travelling to France, finding the perfect lake to dive into, whatever part of the country you’re venturing to is not difficult. Swim groups are happy to share their favourite swim spots from their travels, sharing photos and hidden gems of local lakes they have swum in across France. Whichever French locality you may be planning to head to, here are five amazing lake destinations for an unforgettable trip.

Lac d’Annecy, Haute-Savoie

Amid the majestic French Alps, just a stone’s throw away from the charming town of Annecy, lies a hidden gem renowned for its allure – the breathtaking Lake Annecy. This must-see lake boasts pristine, crystal-clear waters with a dramatic mountainous backdrop. The area offers visitors an array of amenities, including several inviting lake beaches, water sports, and lovely lakeside restaurants.

Lake Annecy has exceptionally clean waters that reach up to 23 degrees in the summer and are deemed safe for swimming. While generally considered safe, visitors are advised to look out for boats and sudden depth changes, ensuring a truly enjoyable and secure experience amidst the unparalleled beautiful setting. 

There are a myriad of attractions to explore around the Lake, from the charming cobblestone streets of Annecy’s Old Town to the historic allure of Château de Menthon and the exhilarating hiking trails weaving through the majestic Alps. 

Lac de Berre, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Lac de Berre in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is situated near Marseille in southern France. It is renowned for its vast natural beauty and distinct saltwater. There are many accessible lakes with water sports and great eateries. This popular Lake is a hub of activity for locals and visitors alike. While the water quality is generally decent, some industrial influences should be noted. 

While here, if you want a real traditional taste of the area, you can’t go wrong with adding a walking tour to your pursuits. Nearby attractions include Marseille’s vibrant centre and the scenic surrounds of Camargue Regional Nature Park. Why not plan a boat trip and a selection of excursions in addition to swimming in a saltwater lake. Lac de Berre welcomes swimmers at its designated public beaches. However, considerations to allow for include the likelihood of strong winds, currents, and the potential presence of hazardous debris. 

Lac de Sainte-Croix, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Nestled within the Verdon Regional Nature Park, close to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, lies the captivating Lac de Sainte-Croix in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Renowned for its mesmerising emerald-green waters and dramatic gorges, this scenic wonderland beckons adventurers from near and far. Offering designated swimming areas, scenic picnic spots, and enchanting walking routes, it’s an ideal destination for swimmers and outdoor enthusiasts. 

The water quality is superb, with clear and invigorating waters perfect for a refreshing dip. Nearby, the breathtaking Verdon Gorge, the charming village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, and vast lavender fields are crying out to be explored. Loved by locals and visitors, Lac de Sainte-Croix is a beloved retreat for those seeking solace and nature. While swimming is permitted, it’s advisable to stick to the designated areas to ensure your safety, allowing for such factors as strong winds, currents and steep cliff edges.

Lac de Chalain, Franche-Comté

The spectacular Jura Mountains near Doucier need no introduction but they are blessed with Lac de Chalain in Franche-Comté. This commanding setting is well known for its peacefulness and has some intriguing archaeological sites. With designated swimming areas, picturesque picnic spots and challenging hiking trails, it’s an idyllic setting. 

The water is clean and inviting, perfect for a refreshing swim, while nearby attractions like the Chalain Archaeological Site are a bonus. Thanks to Lac de Chalain’s location, it is less visited making it a tranquil and less crowded option. Once again, swimming is permitted in designated public areas and caution is advised due to sudden depth changes and the possibility of submerged rocks.

Lac de Gaube, Pyrénées

Located in the majestic Pyrenees National Park near Cauterets, Lac de Gaube in the Pyrénées offers a mesmerising alpine retreat famed for its crystalline waters and stunning mountain vistas. Though amenities are limited, there are some great walks and picturesque picnic areas. The water quality is exceptional, tempting swimmers in for a refreshing dip in pristine surroundings. 

Nearby attractions include the renowned Pyrenees hiking trails and the striking Pont d’Espagne waterfall. Swimming is permitted here but there are no designated areas, so you should remain aware of your surroundings, particularly with regard to cold temperatures and the remote location. 

Where are your favourite wild swimming spots? Share yours in the comments below.

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