One of the greatest thrills of sailing and yachting is the boundless exploration of multifaceted coastlines and waters to dive into. With your personal boat you can ride the waves and hop out at special restaurants, solitary landmarks on rugged islets, faraway caves and stunning beaches only reachable by sea. So why not add visits to Greece’s curative island hot springs to the adventurous mix?
For millennia, (and notably since the 5th-6th centuries BC when they built the sophisticated Asclepeia health centers, much like today’s most spa resorts around natural springs) Greeks have cherished the multifaceted and profound benefits of bathing in thermal springs to soothe mind, body and spirit. Hippocrates of Kos, the ‘father of medicine’, discovered the different healing qualities amongst various types of water and their temperatures, recording the different curative effects they had on the human organism.
Although there are hundreds of natural springs around the mainland and islands, only over 30 have been officially recorded; meanwhile, the majority of springs, whether on the mainland or not, are along the shoreline and can be sailed to. Here we chart some of the best, most curative springs and the beautiful places where they’re located while sailing the Greek seas.
1. Kamena Vourla
The Place: Around 150km from Athens and on the northwestern shore of Maliakos Bay, the town has several springs such as the open-air public ones located in rock pools at Koniavitis and the Springs of Aphrodite. This scenic, sleepy coastal town became known for its therapeutic salt waters in the mid 1920s, when it was discovered that they had very high levels of radon and minerals. Info: Gushing from the foot of Mt Knimis, the waters are thought to alleviate arthritic, rheumatic, spinal, joint, skin, respiratory, gynecological and prostate problems. They’re also said to help reverse migraines, sleeplessness, sluggishness and depression. For a more organized and polished experience visit the springs at the five-star seafront Galini Wellness Spa & Resort and Hotel Violetta, where you can combine high-end spa therapies with a soak in the thermal waters (generally at around 35-38 degrees C) and some fine dining.
Swim: At Asproneri, Flisvos Lichadonisia.
See & Do: The Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Saviour, the spanning views from Giannakis and the picturesque village of Karya.
2. Edipsos in Evia
The Place: Lauded since antiquity by the likes of Plutarch and Aristotle for its therapeutic waters, Edipsos on the island of Evia has become a top spa destination.
Info: With nearly 80 springs at a temperature of 30-70 degrees C, spread across various ‘hotspots’, there is an abundance of steamy options for soaking your body in the mineral-rich waters (especially high in calcium, magnesium and iron). By far, the best place to visit to enjoy the curative qualities of the waters is the Thermae Sylla Luxury Hotel & Spa. Here, the medical-quality, modern and ancient therapies and treatments, in combination with excellent facilities that include an indoor pool with natural thermal waters, take your healing mission up a notch.
Swim: At the Thermae Sylla beach, Lychadonisia (some pretty islets described as the ‘Greek Seychelles’ and Kanatadika.
See & Do: The Cave of Syllae, the nearby, scenic fishing village of Ilia, the scenic coastal village of Agiokampos.
The Place: The rugged and alluring Blue Zone island “where people forget to die” owes a great deal of its healthy reputation to its radon-rich thermal waters, which have been known and used since the 1st Century BC. There are three main locations – the salt-water springs at Therma have the highest concentration of radon (which one absorbs through breathing its vapors rather than through the skin) in Greece and are considered among the most radioactive in the world! Other springs to visit are Lefkada, Asklipios, Spileo and Kratsas.
Info: The springs here, generally at a temperature of 38-40 degrees C, are best for treating ailments such as respiratory complaints, skin disorders, neuralgia, gout, gynecological problems, chronic fatigue and post-surgical pain. Note: Although the idea of breathing radioactive fumes sounds terrifying, Physiotherapist Francesco Frantzis, an expert on Ikaria’s springs, assures that “The lifespan of radon is very short… 80% of it is expelled within the first hour after bathing. The remaining 20% is expelled in 24 hours through perspiration.”
Swim: Seychelles, Nas, Miliopo, Kampos, Livadi and Prioni.
See & Do: Throughout the summer the island parties in traditional style via Panygiria dance and food fests that go on til dawn. Also see the remnants of Artemis’ Temple at Nas, the stone houses at Maganitis, Halaris gorge, Panagia Theoskepasti church and Fourni islet.
The Place: Sail to this volcanic, northeastern Aegean beach paradise to enjoy the healing springs of Therma Ifaistou, where the God of Fire, Hefastus, went to heal his wounds after Zeus expelled him from Mt Olympus. The hot springs at this verdant location have been enjoyed by visitors since the Homeric period, the Roman and Byzantine periods, and during the Ottoman reign of Hassan Pasha in 1770 a Hamam bathhouse was built here.
Info: The (supposedly drinkable!) spring water is at a temperature of between 39-43 degrees C and is said to help heal conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis, spinal problems, rheumatic pain and kidney stones.
Swim: Impressively unspoilt by tourism, Limnos is also blessed with a 260km coastline made up of magnificent and multi-varied beaches and wildlife. Swim at Thanos, Zematas Panagias, Megalo & Mikro Fanaraki and if you like kitesurfing, at wild and wonderful Keros.
See & Do: As it is home to some of Greece’s best wines, it would be a shame to not enjoy a wine-tasting experience here; several hotels can organize this for you or check out Lemnos Winetrails. Visit the ruins of the Prehistoric Settlement and the medieval Castle in the main town of Myrina, the 4000 year-old village of Polichioni and Panagia Kokoviotissa church.
The Place: With a history that spans back to two million years ago (and an impressive petrified forest to show for it), this volcanic island has a rich source of curative in-land and coastal springs – Eftalou, Thermi, Panagia I Krifti, Polychnitou and Geras – all of them known since antiquity and some located in age-old facilities.
Info: To do these justice, as they are amongst the best in Greece and some in Europe, and since each spring has differing benefits, read about them in detail here.
This lush, far-eastern Aegean island is also the home of the lesbian poet Sappho, Aristotle and the modern poet Odysseas Elytis, has a rich gastronomic culture (its salt-baked, sushi-like sardines from Kalloni are famous nationwide) that includes the country’s top ouzo production and several pretty villages.
Swim: Aghios Isidoros, Eressos, Vatera, Tarti and Faneromeni.
See & Do: The Petrified Forest, the Castle and the Church of St Therapon in Mytilini, the Roman Aqueduct, the Ouzo Museum, the Catacombs of the Church of Mary Magdalene, the Wetlands of Kalloni.