Aquatic Bliss: 10 Of Europe’s Best Holiday Sites With Natural Pools

There’s nothing like lounging around a pool on holiday – especially if it’s one of a growing number of eco-friendly “natural pools”. While designs vary, the basic premise is that beyond the swimming area there’s a “regeneration zone”, where aquatic plants and sand act as a natural filter for oxygenising and cleaning the water, also providing a habitat for wildlife and insects – expect to see dragonflies and butterflies flitter across the water. With no chemicals or electricity for driving large pumps they’re good for wildlife – and your skin too. Here are some not to miss.

Il Paluffo, Tuscany, Italy

A classic, ancient Italian estate of olive groves and vineyards that has been transformed into an eco-chic hideaway, Il Paluffo is a collection of luxurious small villas and B&Bs within a restored 15th-century building, powered by renewable energy (a combination of biomass and solar from its own panels and a nearby solar-powered station), amid the rolling Chianti Hills. From the natural pool you can bask in the Tuscan sunshine while admiring views across to San Gimignano, Certaldo and Siena. The main villa – decorated with 18th century frescoes – has four elegant double rooms, while four apartments each sleep four to six people and come with their own private gardens.

From €238 for two nights B&B for two people; from €357 for a two-room apartment for two nights,

Orion B&B, Provence, France

Orion B&B is close to Nice but feels a world away from the Côte d’Azur

This is an architectural delight that has gained plaudits in the French media as much for the impressive construction of its four smart, lofty, cedar-wood treehouses as for the woodland setting of its beautiful natural swimming pool. Opposite the stunning medieval cobbled village of St Paul de Vence, just inland from the French Riviera, Orion is a world away from the bustle of the Côte d’Azur. Start the day with sunrise yoga, follow it with breakfast by the pool then unwind in leafy splendour high up in your tranquil arboreal abode. A busy day might stretch to a massage.

From €1,400 a week for two adults and two children,

Love2Stay, Shropshire, England

Love2Stay has one of the UK’s largest public natural pools.

The extensive grounds of this glamping and caravan resort in the Shropshire Hills is home to one of the largest public natural swimming pools in the UK (filtered through a reed water garden) – great for a swim after a day paddleboarding, kayaking, raft building, cycling or archery at the onsite outdoors adventure centre. The spacious lodges all have their own hot tubs – or there are pre-erected furnished tents too.

From £125 a night, sleeps five,

Le Camp, Occitanie, France

Taking the plunge at Le Camp. Photograph: Le Camp

A seven-pitch, safari-tent camp in oak woodland at Varen, overlooking the green valley of the Aveyron in south-west France. Large handmade beds, soft solar lighting, individually crafted tables and chairs, and an outdoor woodland spa are arranged in an indulgent, back-to-nature setting, but the natural pool is the real dealmaker. At 66ft long it will please committed swimmers looking for more than just a dip. The owners can help plan your journey by train and offer a free transfer to and from local railway stations. Bikes, including trailers and tagalongs for children, are provided.

From €1,260 a week for two adults and two children,

Muxima, Algarve, Portugal

Muxima in the Portuguese Algarve. Photograph: Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates

A single-storey farmstead that Jorge and his wife Sofia, have turned into a bohemian north African-inspired retreat, the (solar-powered) seven guest rooms here are close to some spectacular sandy – and surf-friendly – beaches along the Vicentina coast. Join an early morning yoga class by the reed-filtered natural pool then take a seat on an open-sided terrace to tuck into a vegetarian buffet breakfast, made up of mostly organic, homegrown and local produce while you soak up views across the valley.

From £100 a night for two,

Le Mas de Saribou, Ardèche, France

Rambling gardens surround a natural pool at Le Mas de Saribou. Photograph: Marta Puglia

Swing in the hammock by the splendid natural pool with views of mountain peaks at this four-room modern, rustic eco villa in the gardens of a 400-year-old farmhouse in the village of Vesseaux in south-eastern France. The kids will love exploring the rambling gardens where you forage for vegetables, fruit, fresh herbs, and flowers for your dinner. If you can stir yourself from the idyll, there’s kayaking, canyoning and rock climbing at the nearby Ardèche gorges. Solar panels supply the electricity and a grass roof and thick walls keep you cool inside from the summer heat.

From €2,800 a week for up to eight,

Can Martí, Ibiza, Spain

Pine, juniper, olive and carob trees surround the pool at Can Martí. Photograph: Luana Failla

There are several reasons to book a stay at Can Martí, a charming, family-run, 400-year-old white-washed farmhouse, 10 minutes’ walk from the village of St Joan in the north of the island. The bohemian Arabesque finca – beautifully designed with natural materials and decor – has six bedrooms (some with roof terraces) and is close to several secluded white sand beaches, far from the crowds of Ibiza Town. The organic breakfasts are packed with ingredients freshly harvested from the finca’s vast permaculture gardens and orchards, and yoga classes and massage treatments can be arranged on request. The real show-stopper, however, is the chance to chill out by the island’s first purified natural water swimming pool among acres of pine, juniper, olive, and carob trees.

Doubles from €231 a night B&B,

The Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall, England

The natural reed-bed pool at the Scarlet Hotel in Mawgan Porth, Newquay

It’s the setting of this natural reed-bed swimming pool, flanked by wood-fired hot tubs and wooden sauna, that sets it apart – a cliff top overlooking the golden sands of Mawgan Porth on the north Cornish coast. After a rejuvenating swim, be pampered in the Ayurvedic spa then linger over a glass of Camel Valley fizz and feast on fresh shellfish with sea herbs at the stylish in-house restaurant.

Doubles from £255 a night B&B, adults only,

Chaumarty, Pyrenees, France

Rolling hills and eventually the Pyrenees form the view from Chaumarty

Irises, water lilies, and papyrus line Chaumarty’s natural pool-with-a-view, south of Toulouse. Shared by guests staying in the property’s two eco-cottages, there’s a diving board and a smaller pool for children. Adjacent to the pools is a large terrace where you can lay your towels and admire the toothy Pyrenean panorama all day long.

From €770 a week sleeps six; from €910 a week sleeps nine,

Mas Ardèvol, Catalonia, Spain

In the green hills above Porrera, close to the Montsant mountains, the natural pool is a welcome oasis in the heat of the summer tucked away among the olive groves at this blissful rural guesthouse. There are five elegant bedrooms to choose from and dining here is a bit special; the owners specialise in traditional Priorat food, much of it made with seasonal produce from their own vegetable garden – asparagus in spring, just-picked fruits in summer and mushrooms and almonds in autumn. Massage and wellness treatments can be arranged.

From €92 a night for two,

This is an edited extract from The Green Traveller (£18.99 Pavilion Books) by Richard Hammond, available from 5 May. It can be ordered from Guardian Bookshop for £16.52

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