Different strokes: wild swimming in Spain
Forget the costas mountain rivers and clear lakes offer the best escape from Spains summer heat. The authors of the new Wild Swimming Spain choose favourite bathing spots within reach of the big cities
Madrid: La Charca Verde and Manzanares
Just over an hour from Madrid, the granite outcrops of La Pedriza, in the Cuenca Alta del Manzanares regional park, provide the backdrop to a wonderful wild swimming spot. These mountains are the backdrop for Ernest Hemingways For Whom the Bell Tolls, set during the Spanish Civil War. Today, the area is popular with hikers, climbers and wild swimmers.We expected to pay an entrance fee but the men in the hut at the gates smile and wave us through. We drive 5km up through pine forests beneath the imposing mountains to a small bar and car park by the Manzanares river.
We follow the river upstream. From its source near the Navacerrada pass, the water has smoothed and sculpted the rocks into surreal shapes. Families are having fun in the pools, but the sheer length of the river, the abundant vegetation, and the wide choice of swimming spots means it never feels crowded. When the path divides, we take the right fork, cross a bridge and continue up the valley to our left, finally scrambling over enormous boulders to reach La Charca Verde (Green Pond). Enormous bleached rocks on one side have been worn smooth, and youngsters slide down them, laughing with joy as they slip into the water. On the other side, promontories above the deep pool are a perfect place to show off your diving.
This river often served as the backdrop for romantic artist Francisco Goya. Those who arrive early just as the sun (also) rises could have this atmospheric spot all to themselves.
On the M30/M607, it takes just over an hour to drive from Madrid to the car park. From here, its a 20-minute walk. Camping El Ortigal (tent pitch 6.60) provides all the necessities with no frills
Barcelona: Riera de Merls
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