Summers in the South of France are warm and sunny with endless blue skies pretty much all the time. So, you definitely need a place where you can cool down. Of course, there is the “grand bleu”, as the French call the Mediterranean Sea. But inland, you will also find many gorgeous natural swimming spots. Rivers, rock pools, lakes, Languedoc-Roussillon has it all! Here are my top 7 wild swimming spots – which means unsupervised swimming spots – in the Hérault department.
1. Gorges d’Héric
In summer, the beautiful Gorges d’Héric in the heart of the ‘Parc Naturel Régional du Haut-Languedoc’ are well worth a visit. Perfect for a swim in the river Orb and the naturally formed rock pools. Only for the brave though, because the water is cold as ice, even in the summer! To round off the day, you will find plenty of wonderful places to spread your picnic blanket. If you would like to visit this magical place, you drive in the direction of Olargues. As soon as you see the Mons la Trivalle sign, as well as the Gorges d’Héric one, follow this direction. You can park your car for 3 euros between April and September, and parking is free during the other months. In the parking lot, you will also find a bar – Le Snack Loulette – where you can have a drink or buy an ice cream. The bar closes in low season; please keep this in mind as there is nothing much to buy after this point.
2. Gorges de Colombières
These beautiful gorges are not very far from the more famous Gorges d’Héric, as mentioned above. However, somehow the Gorges de Colombières are less frequented, which is weird because it is an equally gorgeous spot with stunning landscapes. Despite the name of the village- Colombières-sur-Orb- it is actually the Arles streamlet that flows through the Gorges de Colombières and not the River Orb. The terrain is also rougher than the Gorges d’Héric, which might explain why fewer people visit it. You can park your car for free behind the Mairie of Colombières-sur-Orb. From here, you can access several hikes as well as the Gorges de Colombières and the nearby bar (up the path). Climbing the larger rocks behind this bar will lead you to the gorge. The incredible naturally formed pools with crystal clear water are perfect for swimming. In some places, the water even has a sparkling emerald green colour!
3. Lac du Salagou
If you want to wind down in a magical landscape, the Lac du Salagou is where you should go. This artificial lake was built in the sixties to irrigate the surrounding agricultural fields. Because of the red earth around the lake, the landscape is often compared to the Arizona desert. In France! The scenic surroundings of the lake invite you to marvel at this surreal environment of remarkable sand. Peacefully, with a simple stroll or picnic on the shore, or more actively by practicing a wide range of (water sports). Swimming, of course, but also (mountain) biking, sailing, canoeing, surfing, to name a few. At the ‘Base de Plein Air‘ just outside of the village of Liausson, you will find all the rental equipment and a small restaurant with snacks. Be careful to avoid swimming at the barrage (dam) and the La Sure area.
In summer, you can take a dip in the refreshing Orb River with the scenic picture-postcard view of Roquebrun in the background. Locally known as the Nice of Hérault, Roquebrun benefits from a microclimate. We love to go here to escape the crowds on the beach, swimming while our children catch our evening meal. Not really, the fish are very tiny, but it keeps the kids busy for ages. Do bring your water shoes to protect your feet from all the pebbles. When arriving from Cessenon-sur-Orb, you can reach the pebble beach by turning right just before the bridge to Roquebrun. In summer you can park your car for 3 euros, and you can buy an ice cream and some drinks. On the left side of the bridge, at Canoe Roquebrun, you can rent out canoes and stand-up paddleboards (sups).
5. Pont du Diable
Near one of the oldest bridges of France, you will also find a really cool swimming place. The Pont du Diable crosses one of the most important rivers in the Massif Central and Languedoc region: the Hérault. The bridge was built in 1031 to connect the abbeys of Aniane and Gellone in Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert on Saint James’s Way (Santiago de Compostella). On one side of the bridge, you will have a breathtaking view of the Gorges d’Hérault. The other side has a natural pool with a pebbled beach, so bring your water shoes. Be careful when swimming into the gorge, as the young and brave (or reckless?) tend to jump off the old bridge and even the higher new bridge next to it. You can easily spend a day at the Pont du Diable, but you can also combine it with a visit to the Grotte de Clamouse and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. From April to October, you can park your car for 5 euros at the Maison du Grand Site at the Pont du Diable. From here, it is a short walk to the beach at the lake.
6. Lac de la Raviège
The beautiful and serene Lac de la Raviège spreads out over the two departments of Hérault and Tarn and is the biggest lake in the Haut Languedoc with a surface of 410 hectares. The Lac de la Raviège was created in the 1950s as a hydroelectric power reservoir. However, you would never guess that it’s an artificial lake, as today it fits in perfectly with the landscape of surrounding pine trees. I thought the frame of evergreens even had a Norwegian feeling to it. Lac de la Raviège is about 12 kilometres long, and its main nautical base is at Plage de Bouldouïres near the village of La Salvetat-sur-Agoût. It’s a very inviting place to practice all kinds of water sports, like stand-up paddling, sailing boats, surfboards, pedalos, water skis and kayaks. We rented a small motorboat to cruise the lake. The climate around Lac de la Raviège is cooler and wetter than the coastal areas, which means it can be challenging to take a dip.
7. Lac de Jouarres
Right on the border of the Aude and Hérault departments lies the pleasant Lac de Jouarres. The lake is officially part of the community of Homps in the Aude, and the most important part of this lake is in this department as well. It doesn’t matter though, as you will find refreshment in the cool water regardless of which department you’re in! The pebbled beach and grassy shore invite you to spread your towel and cool down by this delightful lake. The Lac de Jouarres is a reasonable sized lake, not too big and not too small. A walk around the lake is only 5 kilometres long. Or you can rent a boat, stand-up paddleboard, windsurfing board, pedalo or canoe at the Club Nautique to add to your water enjoyment. During July and August, a lifeguard monitors swimming in the lake, and there is also a small restaurant.