A complete guide to the best lakes in Andalucia for an unforgettable holiday.
Summer sun holidays in Spain almost entirely revolve around the beach with the resorts along Andalucia’s Costa del Sol, one of the best places to soak up the Mediterranean sunshine.
However, you may not know that the citizens of Andalucia have some secret places where they like to go and cool off during those lazy, hazy summer days.
As well as the lovely sandy “Blue Flag” beach Andalucia has 24 natural water sources where you can cool off. Varying in size, the lakes in Andalucia offer some of the best freshwater swimming in Spain.
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The quality of the water is excellent, and the temperature of the water can range from icy cold to just about as perfect as it gets.
OVERVIEW: The Best Lakes in Andalucia
The list below is what we consider as being the best six lakes in Andalucia:
- Los Bermejales Reservoir: Not far from Granada, excellent beaches, shallow water
- Cueva del Gato: Idyllic location, near Ronda, cold water
- Embalsa de Zahara de la Sierra: Incredible greeny/blue water with a pleasant temperature
- Iznajar Lake: Spread over three provinces, Iznajar is the largest lake in Andalucia
- Lake Vinuela: Popular with canoeists it’s a great place to picnic
- Cascadas de Hueznar: Off the tourist trail, loverly waterfalls and refreshing pools
The Best Lakes in Andalucia
1. Guadalteba Lakes (Malaga)
Located in the heart of Malaga Province near the Camino del Rey, the Andalusian lake Embalses Guadalhorce-Guadalteba is a man-made reservoir on the Rio Guadalhorce.
Surrounded by Mediterranean pine trees and wild herbs, the Guadalteba Lakes is an ideal day trip from the coast that you can combine with the Camino del Rey. – Check out guided tours to Camino del Rey here.
You will find plenty of picnic areas and places to rent pedalos and kayaks at the lake.
Carp and Barbel are the predominant fish in the lakes, but if you look to the sky, you may spot a Griffon Vulture or the rare European eagle owl.
Directions:From Malaga, take the A-357 and then the MA-5403 in the direction of El Chorro. Once you pass the town of Ardales, you will see signs for the lakes.
Entrance Fee: Free
2. Cueva del Gato (Benaoján, Málaga)
Located a couple of miles from the tourist hotspot of Ronda, the Cueva del Gato (Cave of the Cat) is in an idyllic location.
It is called the Cueva del Gato because the entrance to the cave resembles a cat’s face and it’s one of the best lakes in Andalucia to visit vith kids.
The large natural pool of water is fed from an underground source that stretches five miles back through the porous limestone.
If you wish to explore the cave properly, you will need to hire a guide in Ronda.
Access to this natural swimming pool is easy, and because it is located not far from Ronda, it can get a little busy during the summer months with locals.
Try to avoid the weekends, and it should not be that bad.
Directions:From Ronda, take the road to Seville and turn left towards the village of Benaojan/Montejaque. After 3.7 miles, turn right onto a track and follow the Hotel/Restaurant Cueva del Gato sign. From there, take the wooden walkway across the river to the natural pool.
Entrance Fee: Free
3. Embalse de Zahara de la Sierra – El Gastor (Cadiz)
The Zahara de la Sierra Reservoir is situated between the provinces of Malaga and Cadiz, close to the lovely city of Ronda.
It is a part of the Sierra Grazalema National Park and is just beneath one of the most beautiful white villages in Andalucia – Zahara de la Sierra.
The lake is a large body of water ideally suited to boating, swimming, and all the other things you like to do during summer.
Besides swimming, canoeing, and fishing in the lake, the municipality offers a 15-acre recreational area with a lake fed by a natural stream
The water temperature in the Zahara de la Sierra is near perfect during the summer, allowing you to swim out to petrified trees and small islands near the shore.
Picnic areas and BBQ pits are on-site, as is a cafe bar-restaurant. All in all, this is by far one of the most beautiful lakes in Andalucia.
Directions:From Ronda, take the road to Seville, and as you pass the village of Montecorto, look for a sign on the left of the road for Zahara de la Sierra.
Follow the sign and drive across a bridge, following the lake around until you get to the eight-kilometer road marker. Park up and take the footpath down to the lake.
From Marbella take the AP-7 to exit 172 for the A-397 toward Ronda/San Pedro de Alcántara.Stay on the A-397 until you come to a roundabout with an exit for the A-394, and then follow the signs for Zahara de la Sierra.
Entrance Fee: Free
4. Junta de Los Rios (Granada)
In English, Junta de Los Rios translates to “the joining of the rivers.” In this place of outstanding natural beauty, the Rio Verde and Rio Negro merge to form stunning waterfalls and natural pools.
Not on the tourist trail because you need to be physically fit and adventurous to get there; the experience pays off tenfold once you arrive.
While the Junta de Los Rios is an idyllic spot to spend a hot summer day, take some snacks and plenty of fresh drinking water.
Also, be aware that there is no mobile phone reception because of the steep ravines. The Junta de Los Rios is one of the best lakes in Andalucia for wild water swimming.
Directions:From Almunecar, get on the A-4050 heading north towards Granada through the fertile tropical valley. Once you pass through Jete and Otivar, look for a gate a mile and a quarter up the road on the left-hand side.
There is a cabin (closed Monday) where you need to pay 5€ per person and another 5€ for your vehicle. The money is used to help maintain the track towards the river gorge. Drive up the track for three and a half miles and park up.
While the river and pools may look good, if you follow the river north, you will discover larger and deeper pools.
Entrance Fee: 5€ per person and 5€ per vehicle.
5. La Poza De Los Patos (Nerja)
Famous for its spectacular Balcon de Europa (Balcony of Europe) and the beautiful views across the Mediterranean Sea.
The Malaga town of Nerja is a holiday favorite with Northern Europeans and home to hundreds of ex-pats who moved there when they retired.
La Poza De Los Patos, Nerja is the last water pool on the hike up the Rio Chillar. The walk is of medium difficulty through beautiful fauna with water up to your ankles.
Along the walk, you will pass through steep canyons and come across natural pools where you can swim and cool off.
If you are doing the hike with young children, we recommend that you only go as far as the first pool at Los Cahorros, which is a 3.1-mile walk there and back.
If you want to push on to De Los Patos, it is around a ten-mile hike in total.
Before you embark on the Rio Chillar hike, wear suitable shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, and take plenty of water and snacks to eat along the way.
Because the walk is in an area of natural beauty, it is not promoted by the Nerja town hall, so to help keep it clean for other visitors, be sure and take all your trash home with you.
While in the area, be sure and check out the Caves of Nerja is a vast underground network of caverns stretching over three miles. – Check out guided tours in Nerja here.
Directions:From the center of Nerja, drive towards Burriana Beach and at the roundabout, follow the sign for Verano Azul, tuning right onto Calle de Julio Romero.
Continue straight, veering to the right until the road becomes the Avenida la Constitución. As the road continues to climb, take the second turning on the left onto Calle Mirto and look for a place to park in the urbanization.
Entrance Fee: Free
6. The Malaga Embalses (Malaga)
Supplying the Costa del Sol with all its freshwater, the Malaga Embalses are three large reservoirs in the Guadalhorce River valley and some of the most well-known lakes in Andalucia.
Located 18.6 miles from Malaga, the lakes provide a great alternative to the beach.
The calm turquoise-colored waters are ideally suited to various water sports like swimming, canoeing, and fishing.
Enriching the environment with flora and fauna, the man-made lakes are now home to many animals and provide an excellent place for hiking and bird watching.
While visiting the Malaga Embalses, why not combine it with the Camino del Rey? – Check out the guided tour here.
Touted as one of the world’s most dangerous walks, the Camino del Rey is a narrow pathway along the side of a steep gorge 350 feet above the Guadalhorce River.
Directions:To get to the Malaga Embalses from Malaga, take the A-357 for around 21 miles, look for signs for Ardales El Chorro, and then the sign for El Chorro Embalses. The journey should take approximately 50 minutes.
Entrance Fee: Free
7. Lake Istan (Marbella)
Built in 1972 to provide additional fresh water to the growing town of Marbella and others along the Costa del Sol.
Lake Istan is located on the Rio Verde, a watercourse that collects water and melting snow from the Sierra de las Nieves mountains.
Lake Istan is a great place to go canoeing and fishing with motor boats and jet skis prohibited. Species of fish in the lake include carp, catfish, perch, and black bass.
Directions:From Marbella take the A-7 west, and exit onto the A-7176 in the direction of Istan. You will see the lake on the left-hand side. You can take one of the many pathways to get down to the water. There are no recreational facilities or picnic areas at the lake, so take what you need for the day.
Entrance Fee: Free
8. Arcos Reservoir (Arcos de la Frontera)
Located in Cadiz province, close to the town of Arcos de la Frontera, the Arcos Reservoir has been declared a Natural Site and Special Protection Area for Birds.
The reservoir’s crystal clear water makes it ideal for swimming during the summer.
Unlike many of the lakes in Andalucia, motor boats are allowed on the reservoir, which means you can go water skiing. Canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, and paddle boarding are also popular.
Direction:From Cadiz, take the E-5 and then the A-382 in the direction of Arcos de la Frontera
Entrance Fee: Free
9. Los Bermejales Reservoir (Arenas del Rey, Granada)
Located 30 miles from Granada at an altitude of 2,844 feet above sea level, the Los Bermejales Reservoir is one of the area’s main attractions.
Fed by the water of the River Cacín, special beach swimming areas have been set up with floating pontoons, water slides, and a beach bar.
Fringed with pine trees and a majestic mountain backdrop, the 17 miles circumference of the lake is a great place to chill out and relax during the summer.
Other activities in the area include hiking, horseback riding, and a new zipline attraction.
Directions:Take the A-385 from Granada and exit onto A-338. Continue straight for 12 miles until you see signs for Los Bermejales Reservoir.
Entrance Fee: Free
10. Iznajar Lake (Cordoba)
Located an hour’s drive from the Mediterranean beaches, of the Costa del Sol Iznajar is a pretty lake with 38 miles of shoreline.
Surrounded by hills and neatly arranged olive groves, Iznajar is a popular summer destination with man-made sandy beaches complete with beach bars, sun beds, and umbrella rentals.
Swimming and non-motorized water sports are allowed at Iznajar, as is fishing with a license in specific locations.
Species in the lake include large Carp, Barbel, Tench, Pike, Black Bass, and Trout. Limits at catch sizes apply, so be sure and know the rules ahead of time.
Valdearenas Beach is the most popular place where you will find a campsite shop and a couple of bars where you can have a drink and grab something to eat.
Directions:From Malaga, take the A-45 and the A-92M and exit 1 onto the A-7200 and A-333. Once you cross over the bridge, turn left down a narrow road to the lake.
Entrance Fee: None
11. Pantano del Chorro (Malaga)
Located in inland Malaga just over a mile from the popular Camino del Rey, the Conde del Guadalhorce reservoir has the first lake beach in Andalucia to ever be awarded a prestigious “Blue Flag.”
Surrounded by nature, visitors enjoy swimming in its crystal clear waters and renting kayaks to explore the shoreline.
The lake also offers floating castles and adventure parks for the kids, making it a perfect place for a family summer day trip.
For those who want to spend more than a day, there are plenty of hotels and guest houses within the vicinity.
Directions:To get to the Pantano del Chorro from Malaga, take the A-357 for around 21 miles, look for signs for Ardales El Chorro, and then the sign for El Chorro Embalses. The journey should take approximately 50 minutes.
Entrance: Fee: Free
12. Charco del Canalón (Istán, Malaga)
Located in the district of Istán on the southern edge of the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park the Charco del Canalón is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Concealed between two limestone rock faces carved out by the Rio Verde, the Charco del Canalón has remained a secret, with locals not wanting to see it overrun with tourists.
Large and small waterfalls fill rockpools where you can cool off from the hot summer sun, and because it is off the beaten track, it is tranquil during the week.
In recent years the sport of canyoning has become popular, and it is where you make your way down a river by hiking, climbing, jumping, and swimming.
If this is a sport you like to do, the Charco del Canalón won’t disappoint.
Directions:From Marbella, take the Ap-7 and then the A-7176 toward Istan. Before arriving in the town center, turn right following signs to Istan Alto, onto C/ Calvario.
Pass the sports center, and when you come to a crossroads, turn to the left, and after a couple of minutes, you will pass a picnic area. The road becomes a forestry pass you can follow down to the river and park.
Entrance Fee: Free
13. Las Chorreras (Granada)
Located near the town of Loja, Las Chorreras is a waterfall formed by the confluence of two streams, the Nieblín and the Viñuela.
Over millennia, the falling water has carved out a natural swimming pool that we can all enjoy today. The area is especially popular with bird watchers and hikers.
Directions:Take the A-92 and exit 187 to Santa Barbara from Granada. The journey should take around 48 minutes.
Leave your car at the entrance to the town and walk over the stone bridge accross the Rio Frio.
Continue uphill through the town until you come to a dirt track and a sign that says “Las Chorreras.” Walk just over a mile through the olive groves until you come to the waterfall.
Entrance Fee: Free
14. Lake Vinuela (Axarquia, Malaga)
Located less than an hour’s drive from Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (AGP) and only 30 minutes from Torre del Mar, Lake Vinuela was created following the construction of a dam on the Rio Guaro.
Considered an excellent place for canoeing, all non-motorized water sports are permitted on the lake as swimming.
There are plenty of picnic areas around the lake, some of which have BBQ facilities.
There is also a campsite for those who want to enjoy the lake and its natural surroundings for more than just a day trip, which makes it one of the best lakes in Andalucia for overnight camping.
A focal point is the white village of La Viñuela Pueblo, a stopping-off point for travelers on horseback journeying between the coast and Granada.
Directions:Take the A-356 from Torre del Mar to Viñuela and then the signposts to the lake.
Entrance Fee: Free
15. Cascadas de Hueznar (Ribera del Huesna, Seville)
Located in the Sierra Norte mountains, an hours drive north of Seville, the Cascadas de Hueznarand its waterfalls were declared a national monument in 2001.
You are well off the tourist trail despite access to the waterfalls and the swimming pools they create being easily accessible.
There are steps down the hillside to the water, but be warned, if you feel like swimming, the water can be pretty chilly. This is a less known place but nonetheless one of the most magical lakes in Andalucia.
Directions:Take the A-4 highway heading north from Seville and then the A-455 to San Nicolás del Puerto. Once there, follow the signs for the “Area Recreativa El Martinete” where you will find a restaurant with parking.
Entrance fee: Free
Our Recommendations for Visiting the Lakes in Andalucia
Many people do not realize how hot it can be in Andalucia during the summertime. With several places mentioned above being off the beaten track, you must prepare well before setting off.
When visiting the canyons and remote locations, you may have no reception on your telephone, so google maps will not be an option if you get lost.
Also, unless you are camping out, be sure and get back to your car before nightfall. Below we have listed what we think are essential items to take with you on any trip to the lakes in Andalucia:
- Plenty of water and some snacks
- Sunscreen and a hat
- Comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, better still if they come with ankle support (not leather hiking boots, though, as they get heavy when wet). Never wear sandals or flip-flops if you are straying far from a lakeside beach.
Where to Stay in Andalucia
In Andalucia, you will find many hotels to stay in that match every budget, from five-star luxury resorts to state-owned Parador Hotels.
If you want to spend your days here just like an Andalucian, we encourage you to choose from some of the best villas to rent in Andalucia.
Whatever city you choose to stay in, we have the best recommendations:
- For the best nightlife, take a look at the best things to do in Seville at night, not to mention you have the best boutique hotels in Seville.
Short FAQ about the Best Lakes in Andalucia
Can you swim in lake Zahara?
The town has become even more well-liked with tourists since the reservoir, which is relatively new.
Visitors can now participate in swimming and water sports, which weren’t available in Zahara ten years ago.
There is a place to park the car and walk by the reservoir just below the town. To paddle on the lake, you can rent kayaks.
Can you swim in the Guadalquivir river?
Despite the fact that some refer to the Guadalquivir River as the “Beach of Seville,” swimming is not permitted there due to safety concerns.
Sadly, Seville does not have a beach that is uniquely its own.