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The world’s ultimate... swimming pools

They come in all shapes and sizes, from subterranean caverns to sky-high sweeps, cutting-edge constructions to natural lagoons. Shafik Meghji picks out six watery wonders

01/08/2021Updated 04/04/2023

Cenote Samula is a enchanting limestone sinkhole near Valladolid in the Yucatán Peninsula (AWL Images)

Cenote Samula, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico

Around 66 million years ago, a meteorite crashed into the Yucatán Peninsula. The impact – which ultimately triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs – shattered the limestone bedrock, creating thousands of caves and sinkholes that filled with freshwater and became known as cenotes. Considered sacred by the ancient Mayans, many are now used as swimming pools. Cenote Samula is particularly dramatic: the base of the cavern is filled with crystal-clear, refreshingly cool water, while a hole in the roof allows a beam of sunlight and a tangle of gnarled vines to enter.

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The 50m outdoor pool at the Kennedy Town Swimming Pool complex in Hong Kong (Romain Nicoloso/Amazing Aerial Agency)

Kennedy Town Swimming Pool, Hong Kong

At first glance, the Kennedy Town Swimming Pool looks like a spaceship from another planet that has landed on the Hong Kong waterfront. Backed by a cluster of towering skyscrapers, this sleek, futuristic, zinc-clad construction overlooks Victoria Harbour on the northwestern tip of Hong Kong Island. Completed in 2017 at a cost of around £62.4m, it’s hard to believe this state-of-the-art complex – which has indoor and outdoor 50m pools, a diving pool and several options for children – is a public facility.

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Dubai’s Address Beach Resort is home to the world’s highest infinity pool (also opening image)

Address Beach Resort, Dubai

A pair of identical 77-storey towers connected at the top by a skybridge, Address Beach Resort is home to the world’s highest outdoor infinity pool in a building. It stretches across the rooftop at a vertigo-inducing 293.9m above the ground – more than three times the height of the Statue of Liberty. Nearly twice the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, it offers superb views. Guests with a good head for heights can swim to the edge and gaze down at golden Jumeirah Beach and the giant Ain Dubai Ferris wheel. 

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Deplar Farm’s open-air pool, heated by geothermal energy, is a perfect place to soak up the northern lights

Deplar Farm, Troll Peninsula, Iceland

Hidden away in an isolated valley on northern Iceland’s evocatively named Troll Peninsula, Deplar Farm is a luxurious, small-scale, off-the-grid hotel housed in a converted sheep ranch. The lack of light pollution in this far-flung, sparsely populated region means that the swirling colours of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, are especially vivid. There are few better vantage points from which to enjoy the celestial light show than Deplar Farm’s gorgeous indoor-outdoor pool, which is heated to a balmy temperature by geothermal energy and surrounded by snow-covered slopes.

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Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s Water-on-the-Water is an azure oasis with views of the Grigne mountains

Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Lake Como, Italy

A historic Art Nouveau palazzo on the western shore of Lake Como, Grand Hotel Tremezzo has played host to royalty, aristocrats and celebrities from across the globe for more than a century. It has three elegant swimming pools, the highlight of which is Water-on-the-Water (or WOW). Connected to the hotel’s private beach, this effortlessly chic pool is raised on pontoons so that it floats on the shimmering surface of the lake. From its heated waters, there are glorious views of Bellagio town and the jagged peaks of the Grigna massif.

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The historic Berlin bathing palace in Neukölln is more than a century old (Elke A Jung Wolff/Berliner Bader)

Stadtbad Neukölln, Berlin, Germany

Dating back to 1914 and taking its inspiration from classical Greek and Roman architecture, Stadtbad Neukölln is one of the world’s most beautiful public swimming complexes. For the price of a cup of coffee, you can swim in the main pool, which is lined with seven-metre marble columns and flanked by water-spouting statues. The walls are covered by mosaics and frescoes, and the high ceilings feature an array of arches, domes and skylights. There are also plunge pools, steam rooms and saunas, including one modelled on the ancient baths of Pompeii.

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