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12 Best Ice Swimming Destinations Around the World

Ice swimming, sometimes referred to as cold swimming among other monikers, is growing in popularity. You might have watched Chris Hemsworth challenge himself to an icy swim in “Limitless with Chris Hemsworth,” while Elina Mäkinen, a well-known Finnish winter swimmer and international TikTok sensation, has often spoken about the benefits of the activity. She encourages others to “tap into sisu,” a unique Finnish form of courage and resilience, and feel the power of the cold. In an upcoming documentary, “Kylmä” (Into the Cold) she was spotlighted as the first Finn to swim an ice mile in the water below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finland is one of the most popular places for ice swimming, with many taking a dip for the physical and mental health benefits which include a burst of feel-good hormones, enhanced blood circulation, a boosted immune system, and a bigger calorie burn. In fact, some say it might be why the country is frequently ranked among the world’s happiest.  If you’d like to try it, Elina has shared some of her favorite spots for ice swimming in her home country, and there are quite a few others to consider as well.

Saariselkä, Finland Ice swimming, sauna and northern lights in Inari-Saariselkä
Credit: Ice swimming, sauna and northern lights in Inari-Saariselkä by TourDesk

Saariselkä, Finland

At Inari-Saariselkä in Finnish Lapland, visitors can soak in a hot sauna and then try some ice swimming, or vice-versa, of course. The combination of the icy water surrounded by a spectacular snowy landscape and a soothing sauna, not to mention the opportunity to watch the northern lights in one of the best locations for the activity in the world, make it a great pick. Afterward, your reward can be a delicious gourmet dinner.

Muonio, Finland Arctic Sauna World, Finland
Credit: Arctic Sauna World, Finland by Elina Mäkinen via DropBox

Muonio, Finland

Mäkinen says that one of her favorite places in Muonio, where she lives, is Arctic Sauna World on Jerisjärvi Lake, “for the complete winter swimming and sauna experience in a stunning setting.” Located between Jeris Lakeside Resort and Lake Jerisjärvi in Lapland, visitors can enjoy winter swimming in an ice hole that’s accessible for those who are new to ice swimming as well as being suitable for experienced winter swimmers. There are also five themed saunas, four of which are named after Finnish folklore gods, with the other the aurora sauna “Repo” which has large windows for viewing the aurora borealis. It offers a two-floor panorama view experience of the northern sky and lake Jerisjärvi. If you want to spend the night, the upstairs lounge can be converted into a sleeping space for up to four.

Sørkjosen - Lofoten Islands, Norway Snorkeling with orca whales in the Lofoten Islands
Credit: Snorkeling with orca whales in the Lofoten Islands by Lofoten Opplevelser AS

Sørkjosen - Lofoten Islands, Norway

The glassy waters around the stunning and remote Lofoten Islands are patrolled by orcas and also offer the ideal setting for ice swimming while surrounded by glacier-carved mountains. If you visit the area between late October and mid-January, you can take advantage of the opportunity to check off another bucket-list experience, snorkeling with the orcas. Keep in mind that December is not the best month as it’s too dark to see the majestic animals, with November arguably the best time to come. Being immersed in their world is a truly transformational experience and can be enjoyed through outfitters like Lofoten Opplevelser in Sørkjosen.

Reykjavik, Iceland Ice wwimming in Reykjavik, Iceland
Credit: Ice wwimming in Reykjavik, Iceland by Visit Reykjavik

Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is famous for its geothermally heated pools, but it’s also an obvious destination for ice swimming. Afterward, there’s sure to be a hot spring nearby to warm up post-dip. That includes Nauthólsvík Beach in the capital city of Reykjavik. A manmade beach with imported golden sands, unlike most beaches in the country that are made up of black volcanic sands, it sits in a cove where geothermal water is pumped in. In the summer, it’s heated up anywhere from 60 to 66 degrees, but in the winter, it’s close to freezing. There are geothermally heated hot tubs on-site and a sauna for warming up afterward.

Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska Aerial view of Barrow and the Arctic Ocean
Credit: Aerial view of Barrow and the Arctic Ocean by © Wirestock - Dreamstime.com

Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska

The Arctic is an obvious place for ice swimming and Utqiagvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow) is the northernmost city in the U.S., located right on the Arctic Ocean. It’s icy cold all year round but as it averages below freezing in the winter, consider going during the latter half of August when the average sea temperature is in the upper 30s. This is when you can also watch the northern lights as there will be enough hours of darkness with the sun setting just before 10:30 p.m. by the end of the month. The colors are vibrant and reflect off the water onto the icebergs, creating a spectacular sight.

Dublin, Ireland The Forty Foot leaping point at Sandy Cove, Dublin, Ireland
Credit: The Forty Foot leaping point at Sandy Cove, Dublin, Ireland by © Clive Stapleton - Dreamstime.com

Dublin, Ireland

Ireland has long been home to a hardy group of swimmers who take to the sea year-round, winter included. In fact, many relish it because of the powerful effect of the cold on mental and physical health. One of the most popular spots for enjoying it is the Forty Foot, a promontory at the southern tip of Dublin Bay at Sandycove. The stair-carved outcrop descends into the Irish Sea where there’s a backdrop of Martello Tower, a small defensive fort that was featured in the opening chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Of course, afterward you’ll find plenty of pubs to warm up with a shot of whiskey or a pint of Guinness.

Antarctica swimming in Antarctica
Credit: swimming in Antarctica by Gert-Jan Peddemors

Antarctica

Antarctica is Zero Ice Mile territory with vast areas of open water framed by ice floes. It’s where Lewis Pugh, legendary endurance swimmer did a 10-minute, 17-second sprint swim beneath an ice sheet to show the world the impact of global warming, with the frozen continent melting. Most people do their ice swimming here from an expedition ship, with cruises known for offering challenges referred to as the Polar Plunge, Polar Jump, or Polar Splash where expeditioners leap into the frozen sea and swim around for as long as they can bear it before getting out and into a dry towel as quickly as possible. Most depart from Ushuaia at the southernmost tip of Argentina, the last city before Antarctica.

Loch Lomond, Scotland swimming in the icy cold waters of Loch Lomond, Scotland
Credit: swimming in the icy cold waters of Loch Lomond, Scotland by FlarePhot

Loch Lomond, Scotland

There are quite a few cold obsessives in Scotland and Loch Lomond, just north of Glasgow, was the home of the first Ice Swimming Championship that was hosted in February of 2017. It’s the perfect place to try the activity – while you swim in the glacial water, you’ll be so mesmerized by the beauty of the mountains that you might not even notice those little icicles that are forming in your hair and across the rest of your body. There will be plenty of places along the shore to warm up with a hot beverage afterward like the Queen of the Loch in the village of Balloch.

Uunartoq, Greenland Soak in the Hot Springs of Uunartoq
Credit: Soak in the Hot Springs of Uunartoq by © Hel080808 - Dreamstime.com

Uunartoq, Greenland

As Greenland would have been more aptly named as Iceland, consisting of mostly ice, it’s a natural for ice swimming. Along its southern shores, the town of Uunartoq is the place to go as it’s home to three natural hot springs. Knowing that you’ll have a warm place to soak in afterward makes it easier to leap into the icy cold waters. A pool encircled by stones with naturally warm, geothermally-heated water ranging from 99 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit sits right along the coast for bathing while gazing out at dramatic mountain peaks and floating icebergs.

Bled, Slovenia winter at Lake Bled, Slovenia
Credit: winter at Lake Bled, Slovenia by Dreamy Pixel

Bled, Slovenia

Slovenia is famous for its stunning natural beauty which includes the soaring Julian Alps and countless rivers and lakes. Lake Bled is one of its most well-known, with a tiny islet in the center topped by a lovely church providing a spectacular photo op. It also invites visitors for a cold winter swim. As the frequent host of the Winter Swimming World Championships, it’s ideal, with the frigid temperatures easier to forget about while surrounded by towering mountain peaks. Plus, it’s close to Triglav National Park, which offers all sorts of winter activities, including snowshoeing through blankets of pristine powder.

Copenhagen, Denmark Harbour Bath, Copenhagen, Denmark
Credit: Harbour Bath, Copenhagen, Denmark by Wikimedia Commons

Copenhagen, Denmark

Danes love their cold dips so much that they have their own festival dedicated to it. They’ve been throwing themselves into icy water on dark winter days since the late 1800s when the first winter bathing establishment was established in the capital city of Copenhagen. Today, one of the most popular spots for the activity is the public harbor baths like the one at Islands Brygge which is just across the bridge from the city center. It’s an iconic place for a winter swim, as you’ll be right in the heart of Copenhagen enjoying a magnificent view of the skyline.

Scheveningen - The Hague, Netherlands New Year's swim in the Netherlands
Credit: New Year's swim in the Netherlands by Haags Uitburo

Scheveningen - The Hague, Netherlands

Established in 2017, IISA Netherlands promotes ice swimming in the country through training groups and competitions, including the Dutch Championships Ice Swimming in Volendam and the Amstel Ice Swim hosted in the city center of Amsterdam. One of the best ways to experience ice swimming here is to plan a visit around New Year’s Day. In Scheveningen, you can join in the New Year’s Dive, an event where participants leap into the chilly North Sea wearing only their swim trunks. There are some 10,000 people that participate in what’s considered to be one of the world’s coldest wild swimming events, with the water close to freezing. While this is the most popular place for a Netherlands New Year swim, it’s possible at more than 60 other locations across the country.

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