Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Greece's Hot Springs

Imagine being able to cure your ailments without a visit to the doctor, or feeling years younger in a single day. This is not just wishful thinking; the myriads of hot springs scattered throughout Greece can do just that. The discovery of their therapeutic properties dates back to ancient Greece, when the historian Herodotus mentioned them in his texts and Hippocrates analyzed their mineral waters. Even though there are hundreds of springs in Greece, a few of them are especially noteworthy, attracting locals and foreigners alike each year.

For those in Athens who desire a quick escape from the noise and bustle of the city, the hot springs at Lake Vouliagmeni are a perfect option. Only a half hour away from the capital, the lake remains at a temperature of 68 to 80°F even in the winter. It was formed when an underground cave collapsed, which explains the beautiful rock formations that surround the shores. Lake Vouliagmeni’s waters contain salts and metals, mainly sulfur; for those looking for a relief from their afflictions, the waters are said to help with rheumatism, gynecological problems, arthritis, eczema, and even headaches.

Another famed location of hot springs is the “island” of Euboea, which can actually be reached by car from the Greek mainland. More specifically, the city of Edipsos on the northern part of the island has several hot mineral springs that were known even to Aristotle. There, the tourist can enjoy a stay in one of the hotels that cater to those visiting the hot springs. The hotels themselves offer spa treatments, which can add to the benefits of bathing in the natural waters. The foreigner may be surprised to learn that Thermopylae is not only known as the famed battle site between Leonidas’ Spartans and the Persians in 480 BC, but also for its mineral springs. In fact, “Thermopylae” in Greek can be translated as “hot gates.” A small waterfall with hot spring water is located right across from the statue of Leonidas, allowing the visitor both a glimpse into the past and the promise of a more restful future.

Of course, these are not the only hot springs in Greece. It is also worth visiting those of Loutraki, where Apollo and Hera were worshipped, those in Aridaia and Agistro, located in northern Greece, and finally the famous radioactive waters on the island of Ikaria. Whichever ones you choose, it is certain that the warm waters and calming environment will leave you both physically and mentally refreshed.

This post is based off of Heidi Fuller-Love’s article in the Los Angeles Times, titled Greece's soothing hot springs.

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