Some believe swimming in freezing water has a spiritually cleansing effect. Others think grabbing a dip outside during winter promotes good health by increasing circulation, enhancing mental awareness, relieving stress and curing aches and pains.
All we know is it takes bravery and hardiness to plunge into icy waters (Stig Nygaard took this amazing featured image by the way).
So don your bathing suits (no wetsuits allowed!) and get ready to exercise in hypothermia-inducing waters. Here are five of the best places to take a winter swim.
If you prefer your waters hot, check out our Top 10 thermal springs.
Swim with the Polar Bear Club – Russia
Every weekend, this winter swimming club carves out a hole in the frozen Bezdonnoe Lake near the forest town of Serebryaniy bor. The group believes ice swimming strengthens the immune system.
We suspect anyone who joins them and submerges their body in water with a temperature below 12 Celsius (53°F) for more than a minute puts that theory to the test – whether they mean to or not.
Polar Bear Plunge – Scotland, New York and the Netherlands
Several countries around the world indulge in this New Year’s Day tradition. The biggest event is in Scheveningen in The Netherlands, where an estimated 10,000 people collectively take a dip in the resort town’s icy cold seawater.
Winter Swimming Festival – Denmark
Participants follow ice-chilling dips in the waves at Sønderstrand near Grenen, with warming recoveries inside huge, fire-heated tepees.
Harbin – China
Polar swimming is hugely popular in the city of Harbin. There are even domestic and international competitions held in pools carved out of the frozen Songhua River.
The annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival held in January typically sees Chinese and Russian winter swimming teams face-off against each other in waters that are below minus 35 degree Celsius (-31 Fahrenheit).
Cold Water Swimming Championships – London
Every other year, the South London Swimming Club stages the UK Cold Water Swimming Championships at Tooting Bec Lido (the UK’s largest). More than 500 swimmers from across the country defy freezing temperatures in front of a crowd of around a thousand.
The signature event is the 450-metre Endurance Challenge, where competitors struggle around two laps of the massive lido.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…