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A surge of warm water fell on my shoulders, with a rushing sensation that invited me to drop every tension. As I sat lightly in a lively swirl of 32⁰C waters, the rapid stream from the pool’s mushroom-shaped waterfall continued to gush down around me, and I tuned out the world.
Sliding into a warm bath after a long day is a classic form of relaxation, but the experience of a thermal pool soak in healing natural waters takes the mind and body to another level. Since ancient times, this ritual has been the prescription of choice for Greece. From aromatic baths to relaxing soaks and warm pools, Greece’s natural thermal waters continue to help people achieve a healthy body and calm mind, and are the basis of a natural spa trail that has existed for thousands of years.
Throughout the history of the area, anyone who explored it became fascinated by these waters, which were said to be miraculous. More than 115 natural therapeutic springs, thermal and mineral, dot Greece, and several have been transformed into luxurious spa destinations.
At one of the top resorts on Greece’s natural spa trail, Thermae Sylla on Evia Island, the source of water is hot springs once known as the Herculean Thermae. According to Greek mythology, Hercules, the strongest of all men, would soak in the waters to regain his powers. Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers of all time, visited the springs, saying they were the most powerful known to man, and Hippocrates, the most celebrated physician of antiquity, attested to their healing powers for skin diseases and muscular pains. Later, the Roman General Sylla famously found relief for his skin ailments here, which inspired the name of the modern spa.
Later on, I stepped out of the Thermae Sylla’s main building, a stately 19th-century neoclassical mansion, and was ready for another soak — this time right at the source. Standing on the marbled balcony, I breathed in the fresh air wafting in over the Aegean Sea, which seemed to stretch infinitely before me. I stepped down to the coast, a rocky ledge of erupting hot springs set in a haphazard form of several dozen pockmarks in the earth. I felt like I was stepping on another planet as I carefully tiptoed barefoot around each crater, where curls of steam rose high. I headed to one, gingerly testing the temperature with my toe, then within minutes, I was up to my neck, settled into the natural plunge pool. As the calescent waters gurgled calmly about me, I leaned back and listened to the cool sea lapping its waves in familiar rhythm.
Back on the trail, an array of luxury spa treatments promised a bit of modern indulgence, from silky milk baths to smooth chocolate scrubs, while still remaining true to the age-old principles of relaxation for body and mind. As Hippocrates famously said, “The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day.”
In one of those indulgent moments, I slathered a thick grey dollop of therapeutic mineral mud, odourless and creamy, over my bare legs and the rest of my body as part of the rasul treatment at the five-star Galini Wellness Spa & Resort in Central Greece. As the mud dried and gripped my body, my eyelids began feeling luxuriously heavy. I tilted my head upwards to gaze at my private spa chamber’s lights, twinkling like stars on the domed ceiling. I gave in and let my eyes slowly shut. The air remained comfortably warm, slightly thick and misty, as an exotic domed centrepiece released steam infused with relaxing aromas. I half dozed until the dome gently sprayed out a warm rain shower, washing away the mud to unveil my newly soft and deeply cleansed skin. These thermal waters are from the hot springs at the foot of Mount Knimis, not far from Thermopylae, “the hot gates,” which was the historic setting of the Greek victory against the Persians in 480 B.C.
I finished the day with a final nighttime soak at Galini’s softly lit indoor thermal pool. In a state of appreciating the calm warmth of the room, I wondered who could argue with this ancient recipe for wellness? The ambient lighting danced on the water, a healthy mist blurred any more thoughts, and the notion of time wafted away.
English Text by Marissa Tejada