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Discover the most beautiful rivers, lakes and waterfalls of Spain

John Weller Lola Culsรกn

Dip in to the dazzling array of wild swimming spots in Spain. Inside you’ll find details of over 150 amazing places to swim, picnic and explore. Plunge into the crystal-clear turquoise waters of glacial mountain lakes. Discover laid-back reservoir beaches, magical waterfall grottos and secret river pools.

For three years the authors researched, swam, jumped and paddled their way through hundreds of Spain’s wild swimming spots. In this volume they reveal their favourites, combining engaging travel writing and spectacular photography. Complete with detailed directions, co-ordinates and maps, this is the perfect book for swimmers, explorers and armchair travellers alike.

9 781910 636060

9 781910 636060

The best-selling Wild Swimming series travels to Spain to explore its stunning freshwater lakes, rivers and waterfalls. Spain offers a diverse and stunning landscape rich with an equally enthralling history and culture. Away from the overcrowded beaches lie some of Europe’s most incredible freshwater swimming spots – perfect for cooling off in the heat. Discover crystalline pools carved into the rocky valleys of the Pyrenees, enchanting Andalucían lakes with sandy beaches and clear green rivers in Guadalajara – ideal for long swims and paddling children. With recommendations for canoe trips, campsites and places to eat, this is all you need to get off the beaten track. About the authors John Weller is an all-year-round wild swimmer, lido-lover and landscape photographer from London. Lola Culsán is a half-Spanish former stand-up comic who teaches, writes and swims. They have been adventuring across Spain – charting its secret rivers, lakes, and waterfalls – for the past three years. They can often be found travelling in their 20-year old campervan with their teenage boys and some Elvis tunes. £15.99


SPAIN Discover the most beautiful rivers, lakes and waterfalls of Spain John Weller & Lola Culsรกn

Covering the best of Spain, from easy city escapes to hidden wildernesses: Galicia & Extremadura, Asturias & Picos de Europa, Basque country, Cataluña & Aragón, the Pyrenees & Andorra, Valencia, Andalucía and Guadalajara.

Also available as a premium app for iOS and Android. Visit for more information and updates. If you like Wild Swimming Spain you might also like these other titles from






Contents Swims by region and overview map


Introduction8 Getting started


Swims at a glance


1 Galicia


2 Asturias & Picos de Europa


3 Around the Basque Country


4 Aragón around Huesca


5 North East Aragón


6 Central Pyrenees


7 Northern Cataluña, La Garrotxa


8 Southern Cataluña


9 Northern Valencia


10 Southern Valencia & Murcia


11 Andalucía


12 Guadalajara & Madrid


13 Extremadura


Staying safe and legal



Swims by region We start our Wild Swimming Spain odyssey meandering through the lush valleys of Galicia – the ‘land of a thousand rivers’. We discover thundering waterfalls, rolling hills, river coves and explore the unrivalled Río Miño. In rocky Asturias we climb to remote glacial lakes, feeling on top of the world as we enjoy carefree swims with views of the Picos de Europa. In the Basque country we travel up, down and around the Pyrenees, seeking out its rocky gorges and medieval villages with Romanesque bridges under which we swim. In the Garrotxa region of north Cataluña, waterfalls and natural river pools punctuate the dramatic volcanic landscape. South of Barcelona at Les Olles, where the water has sculpted pools and bizarre rock formations, you could be stepping into a landscape created by Dalí. On into Guadalajara, serene green lakes shimmer beneath towering cliffs and pines. Here Río Tajo, the country’s longest river, offers deep swimming channels and forms wonderful river beaches on its bends. As we head south towards Valencia and Murcia we discover spectacular village watering holes and large round pools in the Chera National Park. In Andalucía we pass whitewashed villages and Moorish ruins en route to turquoise lakes. Our quest for wilder locations leads us to Junta de los Ríos, through deep canyons up to the majestic waterfall at the head of Río Verde, crossing hanging bridges ‘Indiana Jones style’ as we go. North of Madrid, we find extraordinary rock pools in the granite Sierra de Guadarrama. Although within driving distance of the capital, we find secluded swimming spots and feel revived after a day out in the fresh mountain air. Extremadura, in Spain’s far north-western corner, is a truly unspoilt region of steppes and rolling grassland. Cool rivers rush down from the mountains, carving out basins in the rock, and with summer temperatures soaring, we rejoiced in the bracing, crystal-clear water. 6

4 Aragón

1 Galicia pp 20–35

2 Asturias &

7 Northern

around Huesca


pp 66–81

pp 112–127

3 Around the

5 North East

Picos de Europa

Basque Country


pp 36–49

pp 50–65

pp 82–95

6 Central

Pyrenees pp 96–111

12 Guadalajara &

Madrid pp 196–211

8 Southern

13 Extremadura


pp 212–219

pp 128–143

9 Northern

Valencia pp 144–159

10 Southern

Valencia & Murcia pp 160–175

11 Andalucía pp 176–195


Introduction As the sun slowly sinks behind the mountains at the foot of the valley, the blue lake turns to molten silver. We hold our breath as we slide silently into the lake for the last swim of the day. Think of Spain and what immediately springs to mind is sundrenched beaches, closely followed by good food and wine, bullfighting, art and flamenco. In this book we invite you to join us and discover for yourselves a lesser-known aspect of this fascinating country – inland Spain’s incredible array of unspoilt, natural landscapes from green rolling hills, through dramatic limestone canyons, to vast open plains. Forget Spain’s busy, developed coastline. Wild swimming in the rivers, deep pools, cascading waterfalls and shining lakes is the best way to escape the scorching summer heat. We’ve travelled the length and breadth of Spain in search of the best and wildest swimming spots – driving along winding mountain roads, clambering up and down hillsides, wading through river valleys and eliciting information from hundreds of locals. We’re also sharing with you some colourful local legends and including a little cultural and historical background for flavour. At beautiful but popular pools or artifical lakes we explored further up and downstream to discover wilder and more secret stretches of water. There we could relax and leave behind the stresses of everyday life. After all, isn’t that what a holiday is all about? On your journey you will also discover picturesque rural villages, delicious food, good wine and open-hearted people. So step away from the crowded beaches and hotel pools to discover the wonders of Wild Swimming Spain. Happy adventures, amigos. 8

269 words excluding Lorca quote (41 words)

Physical activity in the presence of green nature, particularly water, improves your physical and mental health. University of Essex study (2010). Not sure this is recent enough given book will be out in 2016 ie 6 years later?

Wild swimming phrases and glossary Is there a good river or lake swimming spot near here? ¿Hay un buen río o lago para bañarse cerca de aquí? Where is the river/waterfall/pool/ lake/reservoir? ¿Dónde está el río/la cascada/el pozo/el lago/el embalse? left/right/straight on izquierda/derecha/todo recto Is it deep enough for diving? ¿Es lo bastante hondo para tirarse de cabeza? Is the pool large enough to swim? ¿Es el pozo lo bastante grande para nadar? Is the water clean enough for swimming? ¿Es el agua lo bastante limpio para nadar? Is it nice for children? ¿Está bien para los niños? or ¿Es adecuado para los niños? Where is the nicest section (of the lake/river) for swimming? ¿Cuál es la mejor parte del río/lago para nadar?

Is swimming allowed here/there? ¿Está permitido nadar aquí? Swimming in a natural setting/ swimming outdoors Nadar en la naturaleza/nadar al aire libre Natación en la naturaleza – wild swimming Una piscina natural – natural pool Un fuente – spring, where water or a river emerges from underground Un piscina – large pool or basin of water Un pozo – deeply eroded ‘pot’ or rock basin (filled with water) Prohibido bañarse – swimming prohibited Contracorriente/con la corriente – upstream/downstream La orilla izquierda/a orilla – left bank/right bank Derecha norte/este/sur/oeste – north/east/south/west Al norte, al este, al sur, al oeste – northern/eastern/southern/ western

Un embalse/pantano – reservoir Un lago – lake Un valle – valley Un cañón – gorge Una cueva – cave Unas fuentes termales – hot springs/spa La playa – the beach Una cascada – waterfall Un río – river or stream La orilla del río – the river bank La orilla – the shore Una molina – a mill Una presa – a weir/dam Nadar – to swim Tirarse – to jump Tirarse de cabeza – to dive Agua dulce – freshwater (in lakes or rivers)


Getting started So you want to nadar en plena naturaleza en España (wild swim in Spain)? With hundreds of lakes, rivers and reservoirs, you couldn’t have chosen a better destination.

Ten ways to be wild and safe 1.

Downstream of hydroelectric dams, pay attention to changes in water level.


Do not explore narrow gorges if rainstorms are expected upstream.


Don’t swim in canals, urban rivers or stagnant ponds. Cover cuts and wounds with waterproof plasters if you’re unsure of the water quality.


Never swim in swollen rivers and beware of water quality in dry periods.


Do not swim alone and keep a constant check on weak swimmers.


Never jump into water unless you’ve thoroughly checked it for depth.


Make sure you know how to get out before entering the water.


Do not get cold. Do warm-up exercises before a swim and put on warm clothes straight after. A wetsuit is useful in colder rivers.


Wear appropriate footwear, both in and out the water.

10. Wear sunscreen. While swimming, it’s

easy to forget how strong the sun can be.

Turn to pages 220-221 for more information on safety and access.


What do you need to bring? A swimming costume, a pair of comfortable shoes, a lightweight towel and a keen sense of adventure. Aqua shoes or canyoning shoes are excellent for scrambling over rocks, and essential if exploring gorges or walking along a river bed. Also be aware that in Spain it’s illegal to drive wearing sandals or flip-flops. Hiking boots are recommended for sites that require longer walks. A sleeveless wetsuit can help children stay warm in colder mountain streams, and sunscreen – especially in the mountains where the cool air can deceive – is vital, as is insect-repellent for evenings in the woods. Always bring lots of water so no-one, especially children, runs the risk of getting dehydrated on a long hike. Finally, don’t forget the camera. Unexpected dips If you find a beautiful and inviting pool during a walk, don’t be shy. Use your underwear as a swimming costume or skinny-dip if the place is secluded. Afterwards dry off in the sun, or sacrifice one item of clothing for a towel. Is wild camping legal in Spain? The best advice is to use your discretion. As for the law, https://thespanishbiker.wordpress. com offers useful information. If you do decide to wild camp, remember the golden rule: leave no trace. Always arrive late and leave early, taking nothing but photos. Never light a BBQ or a campfire between May and October and be careful with cigarette butts: you really don’t want a raging forest fire on your conscience. Don’t camp close to the bank of a river or stream, as rain or storms upstream may create sudden flooding. For free campervan and wild camping locations across Europe download the FurgoVW app – available for iOS and Android.

finding your way Each swim can be located using the overview maps, directions and the latitude and longitude co-ordinates. Ideally you’ll also have a large-scale road atlas. The co-ordinates can be entered into any mobile, GPS or computer-mapping app or website (e.g. Google Maps) to bring up online maps/satellite imagery. Print these out if possible, in case of limited signal. TrailZilla and ViewRanger apps help turn your phone into a mobile satnav. Alternatively, install the free Navmii GPS app and offline Spain open street maps on your phone, eliminating the need for an internet connection – although GPS drains phone batteries. Bring a compass for when technology fails. Find, save and print topographical maps of Spain at 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 at html. Walk-in times and walk difficulty are given and symbols indicate campsites, restaurants and boat rental. To find your own wild-swim spot, Kompass maps at scales of 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 are useful. Look for tight bends in rivers, where beaches and deep sections can form, or head for pools on stretches of water below dams and weirs. Almost all lakes and reservoirs are accessible, but stay away from the dams. Canyon entry and exit points are often beautiful and relatively easy to reach, so it’s worth checking out canyoning books and websites. 11

Best for waterfalls Picturesque pools under tumbling torrents 4 40 50 71 74

A Firveda Salto de Bierge Cascada de Aso Gorg de Santa Margarida Gorg del Molí dels Murris

79 Riu El Llierca 84 La Gorguina 114A Salto del Usero 119A Las Chorreras 128 Charca del Canalón

Best for campsites Welcoming sites close enough to water for a dip before breakfast 29 43 58 63 73

Embalse de Alloz Río Vero Riu Noguera Pallaresa Riera de Merlès Gorg del Can Poeti

120 Embalse de los Bermejales 125 Embalse de Iznájar 130A South of Venta de San Juan 136 Paralejos de las Truchas

Best for history & ruins Admire ancient castles, fortresses, villages and bridges from the water 27 44 47 49 60


Puente de Arganzón Río Vero, Alquezar Puente de Pedruel Río Ara Pont de Pedret

76 87 93 94 125

Pont de Besalú Pantà de Siurana Río Mijares en Montanejos Embalse de Arenós Embalse de Iznájar


Best for kids & families Accessible bathing places, many with facilities for children 1 6 9 10 25 27 29 45

Rio Tambre Ponte Caldelas Praia Maceira Praia Fluvial de Mondariz Garaio Beach Puente de Arganzón Embalse de Alloz Salto de Pozán de Vero

65 73 97 96 104 114 120 138

Zona de les Heures Gorg del Can Poeti Bugarra Embalse del Regajo Gorgo de la Escalera Salto del Usero Embalse de Bermejales Puente de San Pedro

Best for canoeing & boats Explore hidden spots along lakes and rivers 14 20 29 37 58

Río Sella Embalse de Porma Embalse de Alloz Riu Gallego Riu Noguera Pallaresa

93 116 117 120 125

Río Mijares en Montenejos Embalse del Negratín Embalse de la Bolera Embalse de los Bermejales Embalse de Iznájar

Best for jumping Deep pools for exciting leaps. Always watch a local first 16 28 34 40 62 102 103


La Olla de San Vicente Río Zadora Pozo Pígalo Salto de Bierge Riera de Merlès Los Charcos de Chera Sot de Chera, El Canal

107 Gorg del Salt 115 Poza de Fuente Caputa 119A Río Verde 126 Charca de las Mozas 129 Cueva del Gato 133A Puente de Pescadores 133 Río Tajo


Best for canyons Stunning rock formations and gorges that will take your breath away 4 40 41 42 46

Río Vero Salto de Bierge Ermitá de San Martín Fuente de la Tamara Fuente de Mascún

48 Embalse de Vadiello 84 La Gorguina 119C Las Chorreras, Rio Verde 133 Río Tajo

Best for skinny dipping Remote or hidden spots for totally natural bathing 18 53 61

Lago Ubales Embalse de Barasona Riu Llobregat 2

85 Barranc de la Foradada 114 Salto del Usero

Best for long swims Calm, wide open water where you can swim forever 11 29 53 57 87 88 96


Praia da Coba Embalse de Alloz Embalse de Barasona Pantà Sant Antoni Pantà de Siurana Pantà de Ulldecona Embalse del Regajo

99 101 116 120 123 125 127

Embalse de Loriguilla Embalse de Buseo Embalse del Negratín Embalse de los Bermejales Embalse de la Viñuela Embalse de Iznájar Embalse de la Concepción


150 Poza Charca Verde


Guadalajara & Madrid

Guadalajara & Madrid Red sandstone cliffs tower over the upper reaches of RĂ­o Tajo and small emerald lakes sparkle in the sun. Further west, RĂ­o Manzanares has created curious shapes and basins in the rock.



Our favourites include: 133 Río Tajo – river beach, a wide pool going from shallow to deep, a hanging bridge for jumpers, and shady trees in an impressive gorge 134 Laguna de Taravilla – emerald-green pool surrounded by whispering rushes and sandstone cliffs in the background 10

135 Salto de Poveda – large waterfall tumbling into a deep pool



136 Paralejos de las Truchas – secluded wild swims in long channels of the Río Tajo, hidden by trees E-5

138 Puente de San Pedro – classic river beach with a small dam and waterfall in a mountain setting








Tres Cantos

El Escorial

El Casar

San Agustín del Guadalix



Guadalajara Alovera



0 M-10


Paracuellos de Jarama



Majadahonda B



Villanueva del Pardillo

Meco M-


Highlights Guadalajara & Madrid






Boadilla del Monte

Arganda del Rey

Navalcarnero Griñón



Valdemoro 145

Chinchón Yuncos












Santa Cruz de la Zarza Villatobas




140 Laguna Grande del Tobar – a bright green pool bordered by plants for secluded swims A-2



5 A-1

143 Poza Charca Verde – a wonderful green river pool looking out over huge pine forests and grey rocky mountains of the Sierra de Guadarrama 144 Río Manzanares, Pedriza – a fantastic stretch of river littered with natural rock pools, great for a relaxing break from the capital

e Atienza

-1 1

CM 0

Sigüenza A-211


N-211 N-




135 134 133 137 136

Orihuela del Tremedal

140 141






Carrascosa del Campo

Palomares del Campo


133 Río Tajo In contrast to the region’s central plains, the dramatic gorges of Castilla-La Mancha were carved out by the Río Tajo over a million years ago. Within the Alto Tajo Natural Park, unusual rock formations can be found along the river’s course. During the Spanish Civil War, caves set high in the canyon walls sheltered the Republican ‘maquis’ – guerrilla fighters hiding from Franco’s fascists. The landscape inspired José Luis Sampedro in his novel El río que nos lleva (the river that takes us), which chronicles the work of loggers on the Tajo, and was made into an award-winning film in 1989.


The area contains immense biodiversity, including 20 per cent of Spain’s flora and fauna – birds of prey, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, as well as nine classes and seven native species of fish. The assortment of rocks is remarkable: abundant 200

Guadalajara & Madrid

134 Laguna de Taravilla

Taravilla & Río Tajo 133 Río Tajo A stunning spot on a zigzag bend in Río Tajo. There’s a deep pool with a hanging bridge to jump from and a shallow stretch of river for kids to paddle in. Follow directions to Laguna de ,, Taravilla (134), park and walk down road for 100m. You’ll see a chain across a track on your R; follow it downhill for 10 mins until you reach a clearing. Walk across the clearing; you’ll see a hanging bridge spanning the river. Alternative route is given in 133A below: the road is better, but the walk down to the river is more challenging. Easy, 10 mins, 40.6472, -1.9744 A Puente de Pescadores A small wooden bridge crossing Río Tajo, perfect for jumping. Choose your spot carefully and plunge headlong into the translucent water. From Molina de Aragón, head SW on ,, the CM-210 for 30km (past Laguna de Taravilla sign) and turn L where you see signs for Alto Tajo. Cross a small wooden bridge and follow the road for 3.6km. The

bridge is down a track on your L. Another 1.3km will bring you to s Las Casas del Salto, where you can eat and rent a cottage. You’ll find paths to Río Tajo, Laguna de Taravilla and Salto de Poveda. Easy, 1 min, 40.6540, -1.9916 134 Laguna de Taravilla Emerald, grass-fringed mountain lake. All we heard was the tinkle of water droplets running off the ends of our fingers and the swishing of the rushes in the warm summer breeze. From Molina de Aragón, head SW on ,, the CM-210 for 25km. Turn L onto road signposted Laguna de Taravilla. After 200m take the R fork, after 5km the road opens out and goes steeply downhill. You’ll see Salto de Poveda waterfall on your R and Laguna de Taravilla on your L. Park at the bottom of the hill. The lake is behind tall rushes. Alternatively walk 25 mins from Puente de Pescadores (see 133A). Easy, 2 min, 40.6501, -1.9751

135 Salto de Poveda A large waterfall cascading into a deep pool. Follow directions for Laguna de ,, Taravilla (134), park and walk 50m back up the hill. On the L is the GR-113 path, with red-and-white waymarkings. Take it and after 30m fork L and make a steep descent to a pool beneath the waterfall. Alternately, start from Puente de Pescadores (see 133A). Cross the bridge, turn R at a path, follow parallel to the river for 500m until it turns L and upwards. Follow the path over the hill for 200m. You’ll see the waterfall on R. After 100m path forks; take R-hand fork down steep slope to the pool. On your return from the pool, take the L fork and follow the river back to the bridge. Moderate, 10 or 25 mins, 40.6499, -1.9787


138 Puente de San Pedro 137 outcrops of slate, quartzites, sandstones, limestones and dolomites stand proudly alongside volcanic rocks, and there are beautiful pine and oak woods to discover. This region of small rural villages is the most sparsely populated in Spain, largely owing to the huge exodus to the factories from the 1930s onwards. Apart from a few farmers and older residents, the villages are virtually deserted in winter. In summer, however, they fill up with families in search of fiestas and an escape from the heat of the cities. Along the Tajo’s route there are incredible wild swimming spots, from natural river beaches and coves at bends where the flow slows down and the water deepens, to pools by impressive waterfalls such as El Salto de Poveda. Lakes and reservoirs also abound, including the glittering emerald Laguna de Taravilla. High in the mountains of Serranía de Cuenca we discover another mysterious green gem almost hidden by tall plants: La Laguna Grande del Tobar, fed by a rushing stream from the young Guadiela river. We spend a happy afternoon dipping in the lake, our tiny nephew joyfully kicking and splashing.


Just a few kilometres away, next to the village of Santa María de Vals, Río Cuervo flows into the small, pretty Embalse de 202

Guadalajara & Madrid

137 Río Tajo, Beteta

Alto Tajo 136 Peralejos de las Truchas The Río Tajo was spring green, fresh and zingy with the vibrancy of new life. A benevolent sun warmed us as we lay on the banks. We were far, far from the madding crowd, immersed in the wild. The river snaked through huge red cliffs and enormous pine forests. We found a spot where it opened out and slipped into the pure, clear water. The current barely interrupted our glide. It was deeper than it looked: we tried to stand on ancient boulders below us, only to find they were much further away than they seemed. Drive 2km W of Peralejos de las Truchas ,, on CM-2106. Park after d Camping La Serradora on L and walk down path to river. See a swinging rope hanging from a tree. Swim here or walk upstream along the woodland track for 10 mins to find good swimming spots: best is by small waterfall where river widens. Village shop in Peralejos de las Truchas (trucha means trout) is a great source of information in many languages about local hiking and trout fishing. Highly recommended. Easy, 5 mins, 40.5907, -1.9243

137 Río Tajo, Beteta A small waterfall leads into a wide pool with a huge boulder in the centre. Explore river west along the river banks for more swimming spots. Head W from Peralejos de las Truchas ,, on CM-2106, pass Camping La Serradora. After 1.4km you’ll see a sign with the symbol of a fountain. Park and follow path to a stony beach. Easy, 2 mins, 40.6003, -1.9461 138 Puente de San Pedro Fabulous pool near a bridge at a bend in Río Tajo. We had a private morning swim upstream under a magical canopy of trees. Lots of opportunities for exploring. From Molina de Aragón head NW on ,, N-211 for 3.5km, turn left onto CM-2015, follow signs for Corduente. Stay on road for 27km until you reach the bridge. You can park on either side. The pool is near the road and well signposted. Easy, 2 mins, 40.7976, -2.1550

139 Presa de Ablanque The dammed river pool (presa) in Ablanque, in a dry area of pine forests and scorching summer heat, doubles as a source of water for the firemen’s trucks. We’re told of a huge fire some years ago, probably started by a barbecue, which swept through 13,000 hectares of forest taking the lives of 11 firemen. It was a humbling and sobering swim. From Molina de Aragón head NW on ,, N-211 for 20km. Turn L onto CM-2120, signed Mazarete. After 6km, fork R onto GU-949. After 7km road goes downhill and the pool is on your R. Drive over the bridge and park on the R. Easy, 2 mins, 40.9117, -2.2144


136 Peralejos de las Truchas 136



Guadalajara & Madrid

141 Embalse de la Tosca 140 la Tosca. Its stony shores are surrounded by abundant plantand wildlife and you may see golden eagles overhead. Travelling south into the heart of Cuenca and towards the land of Don Quixote, the errant knight who fought windmills, we find the welcoming turquoise waters of the Embalse de la Toba. This stunning mountain reservoir, set within the Serranía de Cuenca National Park, is perfect for long hikes. Many tracks lead to natural beaches, high rocks offer exciting jumps, or you can explore the small lake by canoe.


Westward, Río Tajo forms the border of Castilla-La Mancha and the province of Madrid. For city-dwellers, Playa de la Estremera is one of the few places within driving distance of the capital where you can wild swim. We head north to the granite outcrops of La Pedriza in the Sierra de Guadarrama – the setting for Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. The young American protagonist was enlisted in the International Brigades to defend the Spanish Republic during the Civil War and was tasked with blowing up a strategically important bridge near Segovia. Two young men in a small hut guard the wooded entrance to La Pedriza. We are not sure what to expect: demands


Guadalajara & Madrid

140 Laguna Grande del Tobar

Cuenca 140 Laguna Grande del Tobar In the late afternoon, sunlight glimmered on the calm surface of this deep lake, enticing us to swim further to explore its unspoilt, natural beauty. A peaceful and picturesque swim for all ages. You can also do a great nature hike around most of the perimeter. From Beteta (off the CM-210), head ,, SE on Calle Virgen del Socorro, through El Tobar, then take the next L-hand fork in the road. Turn sharp L at the next junction then head N for 350m until you reach the lake. Park by the tall reeds in the sandy car park. Easy, 2 mins, 40.5433, -2.0518

141 Embalse de la Tosca A stunning landscape of ridges and valleys surrounds this small emeraldgreen reservoir on Río Cuervo (raven river) by the tiny (just 60 inhabitants) village of Santa Maria del Val. Hawthorns and oak groves abound in this lovely natural swim spot, which is also a good place for fishing. From Santa María del Val on the CUV,, 9031, either drive or walk 2km NW along the road to where the reservoir opens out. Plenty of places from which to swim. Easy, 2 mins, 40.5188, -2.0587

142 Embalse de la Toba A beautiful reservoir in the high Serranía de Cuenca mountains, its water an intense blue or emerald-green depending on the position of the sun. Beneath lies the flooded village of Las Casicas, its ruined church still standing on the hill. There is a small island, plenty of beaches, many paths to the water and rocks to jump and dive from. Popular for canoeing and hiking: a circular trail PR-A 128 from the church passes through several pretty villages. From Cuenca drive 45km N on the CM,, 2105. Pass through Uña (where you can also find the pretty Laguna de Uña – said to be home to mythical beasts). After 9.4km turn off the road down a gravel track (40.2114, -1.9119). Park here and walk down to the lake. Easy, 1 min, 40.2156, -1.8862


143 Poza Charca Verde 143



Guadalajara & Madrid

144 Río Mazanares 144 for money? They merely smile and wave, so we drive round and up beneath the imposing granite mountains towards Río Manzanares. Flowing from its source near the Navacerrada mountain pass, the water has created pools, smoothing and sculpting the rocks into strange shapes. We follow it upstream, stopping every so often to throw ourselves into its cooling waters. We hear families having fun, but the sheer length of the river, the vegetation, and the wide choice of swimming spots means it never feels crowded. Finally, after a scramble over some boulders, we reach an area of truly spectacular rock formations known as Poza de la Charca Verde (pool of the green puddle). Enormous rocks on one side have been worn so smooth that youngsters slide down them, laughing with joy as they slip into the deep water.


This river often served as the backdrop for paintings by Goya, such as ‘Picnic on the Banks of the Manzanares’, which shows traditionally dressed Madrileños (people from Madrid) relaxing by the river. We meet two young, modern city-dwellers who tell us they regularly come here to get away from it all, commune with nature and escape Madrid’s stifling August heat. We can understand why. Diving from the rocks, we feel glad to be alive. 210

Guadalajara & Madrid

143 Poza Charca Verde

Madrid 143 Poza Charca Verde Breathtaking views over huge pine forests, boulders worn so smooth that you can slide down into the deep, cool water and rock formations that look like dribbles of wet sand. This wonderful green river pool (literally ‘puddle’) is a great place to show off your diving skills to the assembled Madrileños. Located in the Sierra de Guadarrama, where Hemingway set his famous Spanish Civil War novel, For Whom The Bell Tolls. Atmospheric. From Soto del Real head W on the ,, M-608. After 9.5km take the R turn signposted La Pedriza. Follow the road round, passing through the gates into the park. Drive another 5km until you come to the final car park (40.7521, -3.9021). From here continue walking N along the path and when it divides, fork R and cross a bridge. Continue up the valley to your L, finally scrambling over some rocks to reach the pool. Arrive early just as the sun also rises to have this beautiful wild swimming spot to yourself. Moderate, 20 mins, 40.7634 -3.9038

144 Río Manzanares Wide and wild deep pools along the river for a refreshing dip, and the perfect place to take a picnic and escape the heat, hustle and bustle of Madrid. A great area for hiking with a choice of several trails that criss-cross the national park. A trekking map is available from the tourist office at the Poza Charca Verde gates (see 143) and there is also apparently a cave nearby that guerrillas hid in during the Spanish Civil War. Follow the directions for Poza Charca ,, Verde (150). You will find the river and its many pools on your R as you face the top of the valley. Easy, 5 mins, 40.7521, -3.9021

145 Playa de Estremera, Río Tajo A family-oriented recreation area just an hour from the centre of Madrid with a small kiosk/restaurant and activities including horse-riding and kayaking. Heading SE from Madrid, leave the ,, A3 at junction 68 between Fuentidueña de Tajo and Belinchón. Take the M-241 towards Estremera, cross the bridge over Río Tajo, and immediately after some villas there is a dirt road to the R and a small black and white sign for ‘Quiosco – Playita’ (kiosk – little beach). An alternative is to turn off the A3 at the previous exit, Fuentidueña de Tajo (junction 62 ), take the M-240 towards Estremera, turn R at the junction with the M-241, turn R again and a few meters later you’ll come to the dirt road leading to the beach. Easy, 2 mins, 40.1590, -3.0930


Safety and Access Cold water Summer swimming in Spain is rarely cold, but out of season, or in mountain lakes or streams, the water can be bracing. Swimming in cold water saps body heat fast so don’t stay in too long (20 minutes is ample). Shivering and teeth-chattering are the first stages of mild hypothermia, which can increase the risk of drowning, so get out of the water and warm up with a combination of warm, dry clothes and activity.

Like cycling, hill-walking, canoeing and many other outdoor activities, wild swimming has some inherent risks and dangers, but with the right preparation and information you can stay very safe, without losing the sense of adventure. Main risks Non-swimmers and children Take special care with children and non-swimmers near water. Even shallow water can suddenly deepen. If you, your children or your friends cannot swim, make sure you scout out the extent of the shallows, set clear boundaries and maintain constant supervision. Remember that even shallow sections of fast-flowing water can knock you off your feet. Be careful with inflatables: they can create a false sense of security and float off into deep or dangerous sections, or burst. Swimmers lacking confidence should always stay close to the shore and within standing depth. Slips, trips and falls It sounds obvious but this is the most likely hazard while clambering around in rivers and waterfalls. Wear plimsolls or jelly shoes with a rubber sole and never run or rush. If you enjoy more serious scrambling and climbing along rivers why not join a canyoning or ‘acqua trekking’ course? 220

Jumping and diving Always check the depth of the water, even if you visit the same spot regularly. Depths can vary and new underwater obstructions – sand, rocks, branches and rubbish – may have been brought downstream overnight. Never judge water depth by just looking. A broken neck from a diving accident could paralyse you for life. Cramps and solo-swimming Cramp most often occurs in the calf or foot. Swimming is no more likely to bring it on than any other exercise. Contrary to popular belief, cramp is not more likely to occur after eating, but dehydration, or a poor diet in general, can make you especially prone. If you regularly suffer from cramp take extra care. If you get a leg cramp, shout for help, lie on your back and paddle back to shore with your arms. For these reasons swimming alone in deep water isn’t a great idea, but, if you must, trail a float behind you on a cord to act as a life saver. Weeds In slow, warm lowland rivers and lakes, weeds are quite easy to see. While one or two don’t present a problem, a spaghetti-like forest could entangle a swimmer’s legs, especially if they start thrashing about. Try to avoid weedy areas, but if you encounter some, don’t panic, just glide through them like an eel, using your arms to paddle. Blue–green algae In lowland lakes where the water is rich with farming fertilizers like nitrates and phosphates, algae can multiply, particularly after

warm, wet weather, usually in late summer. This results in a green surface scum (the blooms) which often collect on the downwind side of a lake. It’s presence is obvious and bathing in it can bring on a skin rash, irritate your eyes, and make you sick if you swallow the water. Find a part of the lake without blooms, or don’t swim. Currents Swimming with or against a current can be fun, just like swimming in seaside surf, but losing control and being carried downstream can be dangerous, especially in a rocky river. In fast-flowing water always think about where you will get out if you lose your footing and end up downstream. Identify your emergency exits before getting in and scout around for any downstream hazards (obstructions, waterfalls or weirs). In canyons, bear in mind that as the gorge narrows the water will deepen and increase in flow. Always explore canyons from the bottom up, so you can ensure there is a safe route back down again. Never enter a canyon if rain is expected in the upstream catchment. Flooding and dam releases Spain has a large number of hydroelectric dams. These need to vary their release rates in order to meet changing electricity demands and you will see very clear triangular signs along the river where this is the case. In reality, flow rates are generally constant during the summer when electricity demand is much more predictable. Many local people swim without concern. Changes in flow rates are usually pre-planned and canoe companies are often notified so they have more information. Even if the local electricity company does need to increase flow, changes are not tsunami-like; water levels will usually increase up to about 30cm over 15 minutes. The main advice is to avoid picnicking on river islands that could be cut off, and keep an eye on children playing close to the shore.

may be signed with Prohibido Bañarse (Swimming Prohibited) but, as in the UK, with the rise in the litigation culture, many councils have been forced to post these signs in all traditional swimming places to indemnify themselves against any risk of a claim for damages. You will also find equipped beaches where lifeguards patrol. Usually you can only swim here when they are on duty. Access and private property Public footpaths and rights of way tend to be marked by a variety of waymarks. If you can access the bank no one is likely to stop you from swimming, apart from a grumpy angler. Most national parks ( Parques Naturales) are predominantly open access and in other areas you will find countless unmade, off-road dust tracks that are accessible by car or bike and which branch off through fields and woodlands to remote corners. Although the land is private to either side, there is generally an informal right of way along these routes. Note that wild camping – although tempting – is illegal. If you do want to camp wild, avoid farmland, never light fires, pitch late, rise early and take absolutely everything away with you.

Access and the Law In Spain swimming in unsupervised areas is generally allowed. Every municipality usually has its own regulations, and they change fast, so try to ask locals if unsure. Sometimes the ban is cheerfully ignored by local people. Dangerous or very polluted water 221

Wild Swimming Spain Discover the most beautiful rivers, lakes and waterfalls of Spain Words: John Weller & Lola Culsán Photography: John Weller Editing: Anna Kruger Paul Engles Proofing: Georgia Laval Angela Bachini Design and Layout: Tania Pascoe Oliver Mann Marcus Freeman Series Concept: Daniel Start UK Distribution: Central Books Ltd 99 Wallis Road, London, E9 5LN Tel +44 (0)845 458 9911 Published by: Wild Things Publishing Ltd. Freshford, Bath, BA2 7WG United Kingdom 224

Copyright Published in the United Kingdom in 2016 by Wild Things Publishing Ltd, Bath, BA2 7WG, United Kingdom. ISBN: 9781910636060. Text and photos copyright © 2016 John Weller & Lola Culsán. The moral rights of the author have been asserted. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in any form of advertising, sales promotion or publicity, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Any copy of this book, issued by the publisher as a paperback, is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated, without the publisher’s prior consent, in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including these words being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Photographs © John Weller except the following (all reproduced with permission or with CC-BY-SA): Daniel Start: p66 Fuente de Mascún, p70 Salto de Bierge (bottom), p74 Fuente de la Tamara, p76-79 Río Vero, p80-81 Embalse de Vadiello, p80-81 Puente de Pedruel, p82 & 94-95 Embalse de Santa Ana; p86-91 Río Ara; p92 Cascada de Aso; p94 Sant Llorenç de Montgai; p112 Pont de Llierca; p117 Pantà de Sau; p124 Pont de Besalú; p126 Pont de Llierca; p126 Sadernes – Riu Llierca; p127 Sadernes Upstream; Gabriel González p26-27 Ponte Caldelas, p28 Praia Fluvial Verdugo, p30-31 A Firveda (bottom and right), p32 Embalse de Eiras; Laetitia Demarcy p22 RÍo Porma – Villarente; TeresalaLoba p33 Praia Maceira;Juan Javier Pérez Delgado p55 Garaio Beach; Ricard Pineda p92 Embalse de Mediano. Lugo Javier Blanco Vázquez p35 Embarcadeiro da Maiorga; Pablox p37 Pantano del Porma; Alameda Armando Gonzalez p40 Río Sella; Ordiziako Jakintza Ikastola p61 Río Esca, Burgui; Xavier p70 Río Gállego; En Rouge p74 Mirador/Ermitá de San Martín; Juan R. Lascorz p93 Embalse de Mediano; Alberto G Rovi p116 La Foradada, Cantonigròs; Sílvia Martín p132 Toll de l’Olla; Lluís Serrano p140 Pantà de Ulldecona; Xvazquez p143 La Fontcalda; Concha Marin Gil p151 Bugarra; Manel p152 Charco Azul; J. Ignacio del Saz Salazar p154 Charco Azul; José Navarro p164 Gorgo Catalán; Aironxuco p164 Los Charcos de Quesa; p166 Toll Blavet and Toll l’Estret; Por los caminos de Málaga p188 Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce; Frog17 p189 Embalse de la Viñuela; Toni Magic Serrana p207 Embalse de la Tosca, Pasaminutos p212 Charco del Puente de Cuartos; Feranza p216 Garganta de Jaranda; Raúl A. p216 Los Pilones; Peña p217 Los Pilones; Mediora p218 Playa de Orellana; Irene Corchado Resmella p218 Cantera de Alcántara, p219 Piletillas de Abajo. Author acknowledgements: Author acknowledgements: John - thanks to my Mum, a beautiful swimmer and to my Dad, a graceful diver; to my sisters April and Caroline for endless summers well-spent over the lido; to my sister Angela for proofing and being supportive; to Tony for caring. Lola - to my Mum, Dad and familia Culsán for giving me two languages and cultures through which to view the world; to my son Vincent, sisters Suzie, Elise and Marie and to Denise and all my friends for encouraging my endeavours. Our thanks to Danny Weller and David Griffiths for jumping and diving on demand and being adventurous; to Anna Parkinson and Jesse for being willing models; our van Federica for taking us up mountains and down valleys; to everyone we met in Spain who were unfailingly open, helpful and encouraging. Our gratitude to Irene for contributing the Extremadura chapter, Paul Engles for last-minute editing and Martin Black for all things digital. Finally, thanks to Daniel and Tania for making this book possible. Health, Safety and Responsibility. Like any water-based or outdoor activity, wild swimming has risks and can be dangerous. These are described more fully in the annex. The locations featured in this book may be prone to flood, drought and other changes and while the author and publisher have gone to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of the information herein they will not be held legally or financially responsible for any accident, injury, loss or inconvenience sustained as a result of the information or advice contained in this book. Swimming, jumping, diving or any other activities at any of these locations is entirely at your own risk. If you are doubt about any information in this book, please seek further independent advice.

Wild Swimming Spain preview  
Wild Swimming Spain preview