Wild swimming spots in East Tirol

Wild swimming spots in East Tirol

Did you know there are a lot of natural swimming spots in East Tirol and around MoaAlm Mountain Retreat? There’s nothing more magical than taking a fresh splash in a mountain lake, river, stream or pool. It will leave you feeling energised and connected to nature. In this article we sum up some of the best Alpine swimming spots close to MoaAlm, the benefits of taking a cold water dip and some breathing techniques that might just help you go from dipping the tip of your toe to immersing yourself completely in the clear and pure water.

Natural lakes in Osttirol

Lake Tristacher See is one of the most popular lakes in East Tirol, situated just outside Lienz and at the foot of the Lienz Dolomites. The lake’s deep-water drainage system ensures exceptionally clean water which reaches a pleasant 24°C in summer. The ‘warm’ water - compared to the much colder glacier lakes - make this natural gem very enjoyable for a longer swim. Lying on the sunny jetty after a taking few laps, you can even imagine yourself being at the beach. Ice cream, anyone? There’s a bus shuttle going multiple times per day from and to the lake departing from Lienz train station.

This swimming lake at the foot of the Lienz Dolomites has a relaxingly ‘warm’ temperature in summer.
This swimming lake at the foot of the Lienz Dolomites has a relaxingly ‘warm’ temperature in summer.
Dorfer See

At 1,935 m above sea level and at the very end of the famous and gorgeous Dorfer Valley, you can find the lake Dorfer See. This magnificent glacier lake was formed after a huge land slide and is fed by the melt waters from the ice masses of the Kalser Tauernkees.

Dorfer See Glacial Lake in the Summer
Dorfer See Glacial Lake in the Summer

Even in the summer the water remains ice cold between 4°C and 6°C. Behind MoaAlm leads a steep climb down into the Dorfer valley. Alternatively, it is accessible on a narrow road (closed to public traffic) through the magnificent Dabaklamm gorge. After a 2.5 hour relatively easy hike the lake suddenly opens up: 500m long and up to 10m deep. Along the left bank, you'll reach a convenient picnic platform as well as our secret swimming spot. Only for the brave!

 Dorfer See, a glacier lake in the beautiful Dorfer Valley.
For the ice bears amongst us: Dorfer See, a glacier lake in the beautiful Dorfer Valley.

Wild swimming in the rivers

Besides mountain lakes, there are also many rivers and natural pools where you can refresh in summer or go ice bathing in winter. We are lucky to have this kind of natural pool - we call it the ‘magical pool’ - super close to our house. Regularly we walk down the MoaAlm road to the bridge and take a cold dip in the rushing water. It makes us feel alive and kicking! It’s a must-do during your stay at MoaAlm Mountain Retreat.

 River in the winter in Osttirol
At MoaAlm, we love ice bathing in the river.

The benefits of cold water swimming

But why would you go swimming in such cold water in the first place? Because it has many benefits for your body and mind!

Decreased inflammation

Did you know ice baths are used by elite athletes to improve their post performance recovery? When staying at MoaAlm, we are all a bit athletes, too: hiking up and down mountains, skiing and practicing yoga everyday. When swimming in cold water, our body reacts to the cold temperatures by directing blood away from our extremities (like our feet and legs). The low blood flow in your legs decreases inflammation and allows your muscles to recover faster.

Post-swim high

The post-swim high is a real thing! The combination of exercise like hiking or yoga and cold water triggers a release of dopamine. This is the hormone that makes you feel happy. If you take a dip in the cold water together with a loved one, some friends or other guests (who quickly became friends), you share this amazing experience and it will make you feel connected and excited. The water may be cold but it’s a great opportunity to leave your comfort zone and and give your morale a boost.

Everything tingles, you feel happy and awake: the post-swim high.
Everything tingles, you feel happy and awake: the post-swim high.
Mindfulness exercise

When you splash into (ice)cold water, your nervous system is being triggered and challenged. The intense sensation of the water doesn’t leave space in your brain to think about your to-do list or to worry about anything else but the cold. Sounds challenging? It sure is but it helps you focus on the present moment and it offers a welcome time out from your ‘monkey mind’ and into your body. It’s a form of meditation and mindfulness you will not quickly forget!

Wim Hof breathing method

Ever heard of the Wim Hof Breathing Method? This is a series of breathing exercises that will make it easier for you to go into the ice cold water and stay there without panicking or hyperventilating.  Wim Hof is a Dutch extreme athlete who is also known as ‘The Iceman’. He believes you can take full control over your body and mind by focusing on specific breathing techniques: powerful inhalation, relaxed exhalation and prolonged breath holds. Those breathing techniques combined with cold therapy and commitment will help you connect on a deeper level to your body and mind. Sounds interesting? Here’s where you can find some video’s for you to try it out!

Winter swimming in the natural pool by the bridge at MoaAlm
Practice the Wim Hof breathing method during an icy winter splash.
Assess the safety of a wild swim before you get in

Especially in the mountains, a reasonable degree of personal responsibility and caution is advised when swimming. The risks depend on weather, waterflow, exposure and you as a swimmer. Anyone should be aware of currents, altitude, water temperatures and changing water levels. In many areas is no mobile signal, such as at Dorfer See. We advise not to swim alone. Stay close to the bank in very cold or flowing waters. Always make sure you know how you will get out before you get in. Know your limits and build up your cold adaptation with short dips.

Wild Swimming in East Tirol
Getting Ready for a Wild Swimming in East Tirol

We shared our best wild swimming spots in Osttirol and around MoaAlm Mountain Retreat with you. The benefits of cold water swimming are amazing, and it will leave you feeling more alive than ever. You can even try the Wim Hof Breathing Method and see if you can stay in the icy water a bit longer. Enjoy!

Wild swimming is just one of many water-based activities available during your stay with us. A lot of fun and adventure awaits you rafting, canyoning or kayaking, which we are happy to organize for our guests with certified guides. You prefer to do laps in an Olympic size outdoor pool or relax in the sauna? Then the Dolomitenbad is worth a visit. Or just stay in our wood-fired hot tub all evening and gaze at the stars! What are you waiting for? Book your holiday at MoaAlm here!

Cold swimming in the river in East Tirol
Tobias is taking a cold dip in the rushing river close to MoaAlm.