In the heat of the Spanish summer there is nothing better than being immersed in cool water. Although swimming pools and the sea have their fans, for us the very best place to seek out watery bliss is in Spain’s precious rivers. In July we spent a few days on the border of Murcia and Albacete provinces indulging in river and lake bathing. We took the opportunity to swim in three different local swimming spots and enjoy three quite different wild swimming experiences. We stayed in a country cottage in the beautiful hamlet of El Cañar just over the border into Albacete. The house is the old family home of one of our friends who has tastefully restored it to be a tranquil retreat surrounded by lush countryside. The greenery surrounding El Cañar is a clue to its most important asset – it lays in the valley of the River Segura. The river provides not only life giving sustenance to the countryside but also fabulous opportunities to swim in natural pools and even under waterfalls.
On our first day we stepped a couple of hundred metres from our cottage to where the river has cut deep into the rocks to form a shady gorge in the form of a small chain of caverns and pools. One swims along the river through narrow gaps in the rock opening out to deeper stretches of jade green water dappled by sunlight breaking through the dense foliage crowning the cliff some 20 or 30 metres above. At the end is a waterfall bringing the river down from a higher level. If this all sounds like paradise, well that’s because it pretty much is! Even on the hottest day the water is cool and refreshing and the adventure of swimming through natural rock caverns beats a chlorinated pool any day. This spot is known only to locals, luckily we were guided to it by our hostess and truly given the keys to a magic kingdom.
South along the river a series of reservoirs has been created which offer a different swimming experience.
These huge expanses of water glistening under the sun can be daunting to swim in at first. However, they lend one a reminder of one’s ultimate insignificance in the great scheme of things. The unhurried life of nature carries on all around with just the occasional flop of a fish or a busy duck to break the hot blanket of silence. The Spanish campo in high summer surely offers no more engrossing sensory experience. One leaves with a deep sense of calm and even serenity.
Venturing further afield we also spent a day at the famous Alharabe in Moratalla (Murcia). This stretch of river has also cut deep into the bedrock to form a long chain of pools and cascades winding through a deep gorge surrounded by trees and nature. One parks the car and walks along the riverside path until settling on a stretch of river to enjoy a swim and to explore. The river Alharabe is so famous and prized that a pleasant campsite has been developed at one end, this has the advantage of including a restaurant serving excellent Murcia food, although one can of course bring a picnic to eat at the public tables under the shady trees.
The lower stretch of the river near the campsite has been dammed to provide excellent swimming with both deep and shallow pools and steps into the water.
The atmosphere is relaxed with many families spending the day splashing about and taking breaks to eat or sleep siesta under the pine trees.
Spanish rivers offer quiet contemplation or boisterous society; whatever one’s mood there is a stretch of river to suit. For those not used to swimming in rivers or natural water we urge you to give it a try. The world of inland water offers not just swimming but also a deeper connection with nature and landscape.
We suggest that you invest in a pair of swimming shoes to help with the occasional pebble or stone and venture into this wonderful part of the country. There are plenty of rental opportunities in the area like our friend’s cottage through the usual channels providing the opportunity to experience life in a traditional Spanish country cottage.