Monday, May 30, 2016

Prime contender


Prominent beyond mention (in soaking sense) is the little town of Loutra Aidipsos (Edipsou / Edipsos) on the Greek island of Evia (Euboea) which is regarded as one of the nations premier hot spring resorts.

With this reputation comes a tad of tackiness: there's little the town can endear itself except a plethora of hot spring related / tourist business. 
And there's a lot of this, tripadvisor alone refers you to more than 100 accommodation options. Add to that a plethora of rental apartments. 
And you'll have to conclude that soaking is a way of life in Aidipsos.

Mint
And why is soaking so popular? 

One aspect would be it's vicinity to Athens. In a way it's far away from the capital yet not so poorly accessible especially figuring in the ferry after which it's just a 1,5 hours car drive to Athens.

Ferrying to the mainland, just half an hour but a step back from the hustle and bustle.
 
Then the number of hot springs themselves: 80 of Greece's 752 hot springs are located in Aidipsos according to wikipedia. Which is lot. So a lot of choice. Many are also on the seaside, so what better than have a peaceful holiday on the beach and soak at the same time? 
And with the visitor having a choice of where to stay and what soak to enjoy comes a distinctive turn away from the general Greek (Mediterranean?) penchant for medicinal soaking shunning the fun.

Then there's the historic edge. Matt has this:
'Edipsos is not a new phenomenon. Even though few travelers from other countries have never heard of  it the cosmopolitan atmosphere combined with the healing spas have attracted reknown politicians, artists, writers and other notable people like Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onnasis, Maria Callas, Greta Garbo and Omar Sharif. But it is mentioned in the works of Aristotle in his Meteorological, and by Ploutarch and Strabon. The town even minted its own coins. In Roman times the area flourished and its healing waters were visited by the emperors Hadrian, Septimus Severus and Marcus Aurilius. The baths from the Roman period are the best preserved and are known as Syllas Baths. During the Byzantine era it was destroyed for being an area of paganism though it was visited by the Emperors Theodosious and Constantine the Great'.
So well connected thus, historically speaking.

Disorder
It's quite obvious that soaking has always been an attraction here. And still is. 

Tripadvisor rates Aidopsos soaks with 4 stars (based on 55 reviews), mostly an average review from a diverse range of nationalities.  
Tripadvisor also ranks the hot springs as the number 5 of things to do on Evia island, itself the second largest island of Greece.


But let's look at more detail into the springs themselves. This website notes:
The hot springs of Edipsos are known since the ancient times. In the archaeological collection of the city, the visitor has the opportunity to see important ancient baths remains dating from the Hellenistic and Roman period. A large modern complex of hydrotherapy, including steam baths and Jacuzzi, operates in Edipsos. It has an outdoor Olympic-sized pool which waters come both from the hot springs and from the sea, as well as two indoor pools of thermal water. The hydrotherapy center does not have a hotel. Hence, the visitor must book their rooms in a lodging option in the area. These waters are said to treat acute and chronic rheumatism, arthritis deformities, espondilartritis, neuritis, sciatica, lumbago and injuries caused by ankylosis, gynecological disorders (salpingitis, endometrial infections, ovaries disorders, leucorreas and even some forms of infertility). Source: www.greeka.com
'The hot springs of Edipsos are known since the ancient times. In the archaeological collection of the city, the visitor has the opportunity to see important ancient baths remains dating from the Hellenistic and Roman period. A large modern complex of hydrotherapy, including steam baths and Jacuzzi, operates in Edipsos. It has an outdoor Olympic-sized pool which waters come both from the hot springs and from the sea, as well as two indoor pools of thermal water. The hydrotherapy center does not have a hotel. Hence, the visitor must book their rooms in a lodging option in the area. These waters are said to treat acute and chronic rheumatism, arthritis deformities, espondilartritis, neuritis, sciatica, lumbago and injuries caused by ankylosis, gynecological disorders (salpingitis, endometrial infections, ovaries disorders, leucorreas and even some forms of infertility)'.
The hot springs of Edipsos are known since the ancient times. In the archaeological collection of the city, the visitor has the opportunity to see important ancient baths remains dating from the Hellenistic and Roman period. A large modern complex of hydrotherapy, including steam baths and Jacuzzi, operates in Edipsos. It has an outdoor Olympic-sized pool which waters come both from the hot springs and from the sea, as well as two indoor pools of thermal water. The hydrotherapy center does not have a hotel. Hence, the visitor must book their rooms in a lodging option in the area. These waters are said to treat acute and chronic rheumatism, arthritis deformities, espondilartritis, neuritis, sciatica, lumbago and injuries caused by ankylosis, gynecological disorders (salpingitis, endometrial infections, ovaries disorders, leucorreas and even some forms of infertility). Source: www.greeka.com
The hot springs of Edipsos are known since the ancient times. In the archaeological collection of the city, the visitor has the opportunity to see important ancient baths remains dating from the Hellenistic and Roman period. A large modern complex of hydrotherapy, including steam baths and Jacuzzi, operates in Edipsos. It has an outdoor Olympic-sized pool which waters come both from the hot springs and from the sea, as well as two indoor pools of thermal water. The hydrotherapy center does not have a hotel. Hence, the visitor must book their rooms in a lodging option in the area. These waters are said to treat acute and chronic rheumatism, arthritis deformities, espondilartritis, neuritis, sciatica, lumbago and injuries caused by ankylosis, gynecological disorders (salpingitis, endometrial infections, ovaries disorders, leucorreas and even some forms of infertility). Source: www.greeka.com
Then there's this link:
'Edipsos is located at the green Northern part of Evia and is one of those unique places in Greece, where one can combine Natural Traditional Therapy, the latest in Thermal Spring Therapy with the beaches and atmosphere of a Greek island, the cosmopolitan atmosphere combined with the healing spas. There are more than 80 individual hot-water-springs ranging from 28 – 86 degrees centigrade, that can be very effective in curing problems like rheumatoid and inflammatory arthritis, spondylo- arthritis, tendonitis and many more'.
It's quite odd that most internet sites out there solely focus on attracting  the tourist; there seems little first-hand experiences.

Findings

We spent two nights in Aidipsos. I had banked on there being free and easily available seaside soaks, that much I had gleamed from internet. 

We arrived late the first day, spending a bit of time finding our digs even though the town plan seems very much straight forward (three long lanes running parallel to the long side of the beach cut through by small crossroads often). 

Along the beach itself is the main drag, mostly restaurants, not much to choose between. 

After dinner we move further to the cape, rounding it which passes the entry to the apparent gem of Loutra Aidipsos: the Thermae Sylla Spa & Wellness Hotel (photo below). It's regarded by some as one of the worlds premier spas (source):
'... one of the top 10 natural spas in the world, as voted by the prestigious Conde Nast Traveller [CNT] magazine'.
one of the top 10 natural spas in the world, as voted by the prestigious Conde Nast Traveller magazine - See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2015/08/28/revitalize-yourself-in-greeces-hottest-spa-resort-in-edipsos-on-euboea-island/#sthash.RZUgkixU.dpuf
It actually was ranked fifth in 2011 in the Readers Awards of CNT category Medical, Thermal and Natural Spas.

 

Continuing: the road follows the cape and just beyond the hotel the beach gives way to 5-10m high cliffs. This would be where the soaks should be, but it seems in the closing of the day pretty much deserted (which in itself is a good sign for natural soaking) but also slightly eery. After the first cliff there's a bathing building which has been closed altogether and certainly has seen better times. There's precious little to soak in, just a trickle here and there. 

Surprisingly there's a building a block back on whose ground seems to give rise to many a hot spring. We circle the building the wrong way, around the back the going gets difficult in the dark. All very strange, back in the light of street we can follow an overflow along a bathing building (closed) and the waters disappear underground. 

How odd all. Are the springs all siphoned off for hotels? Even though there are not so many tourists (probably even less than there are soaks). 

Changes
The next morning we learn. The grounds on which the springs spring belong to the National Tourist Organisation. 

We must have missed the cave behind the building. Belonging to Sylla, wikivoyage has this:
'One of the surviving findings of the Roman period are the baths in "Cave of Sulla." The "cave" Sulla is a small building with a dome. The entire building is covered by deposits of sulfur waters that flow in the area and gives the impression of a cave entrance. At the entrance of the "cave" are two massive pedestals of statues with inscriptions in honor of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and Septimius Severus dedicated by the municipality Istieas. The first bear and later inscription in honor of Emperor Constantine of Byzantium. The "cave" was associated with the Roman general Sulla, who was visiting the spa treatment'.
 Around the corner the bathing building is noted as the
'... old spa of St. Anargyroi, a neoclassical architectural jewel gracing with his presence and reminds times when the resort of Edipsos dominated the Mediterranean'.
We do a similar swirl of town as the evening before. 
First it seems things have changed. Hot and sulphorous reeking water is flowing over the rocks  east of Sylla Spa. Has the tap been turned on (or off somewhere else?). 


Strange, but we conclude that the waters are hot and salty. Unfortunately the tide is in, so there are no appropriate pools to soak in: either boiling hot. Or cold.

Continuing onwards and today's discovery does certainly point to more waters as all along this shore waters are running over rocks and small culverts to sea. But nothing to really soak in. The famous sea based shower doesn't seem to be running either, so we leave it for today, not really over excited and look for a great alternative for today.

Looking back to the cape. The first cliff with a building on top, is what appears to be a shower (sometimes). The yellowish cliff has a couple of pools and in between are the deserted bathing facilities.

Dip
Is there anything else to Loutar Aidipsos? 

Well, the town's beaches are mediocre at best. Head over and beyond the bay for better or head along the south coast for more attractive settings.

There are also a hot spring nearby at Loutra Gialtron.

Head inland for some great scenery, some walks (I hope) but also visit the great Drimona waterfall (below), way up in the mountains. Very deserted on our visit it afforded us with delicious dip.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Red


It's not often that you (as a tourist) get the red carpet treatment. 

But we are in the small town of Loutra Ypatis and today's activities include hiking the paths of Mount Oiti (Oeta) to the south of village and researching the hot springs of said village.

So. 
There's surprisingly little info concerning hiking possibilities, so the idea was to drive into Loutra Ypatis which hosts the Mt Oiti National Park office and see if we can gather more info there. And look into the soaking possibilities available.

Loutra Ypatis village is quite spacious and seems to endear itself to humanity by allowing guests to use it's waters. Quite a few hotels. And lots of restaurants, all empty today.

But also precious little info to gain.

So ...
Plan B is to seek the national park office and see if there's more info available there, that seems quite straightforward

Though there's a ringer on the outer door, it's not necessarily welcoming for gaining info. 
But the buzzer sets off a frantic welcoming committee where not only am I receiving a poster size map of the area, I also receive an excessive amount of news about hikes in the area, a t-shirt, a hat, booklets, etc!

Back
Weighed down and hopefully not upsetting the hosts by not wanting all whats on offer, we retreat for the safeness of a car and speed off up the hill to the nearby village of Ypati (Υπάτη) to visit the waterfall of Kremastos which entails an hour's of walking from the village. And then another hour back.

Going from Loutra Ypatis to Ypati means a decent drive up the mountain. The village itself is just a square with a number of roads shooting off from here. 
It's claim to fame harks back to the dark days of war, both in anti-Ottoman and WWII times when it's position on the edge of the mountains overseeing the fertile plains nearby, meant it provided patriotic forces a starting point to oust the oppressors, even though it would mean backfiring on the village itself.

Continue onwards from Ypati, you'll pass a significant bridge, which (if having paid attention) you'll notice the path to the aforementioned Kremastos waterfall starts shortly before this bridge on the mountain side. This hike is relatively short and aside from the last hundred meters or so nothing technical: it meanders itself up the floodplain and then follows a stream to the east. This leads to a small canyon where the waterfall drops into (photo below). 


Or go straight from the village over the mountains. See also this description from the Oiti NP website. 

The link btw is also a good source for more hikes in and around the mountain.


Had it been a scorcher of a day, no doubt it would have been a great place for a cool down. 
It wasn't, so we returned the same way as we came by.

Rare
But after a late lunch in Loutra Ypatis, we pass by the bathing building. 

Despite the village being solely focused on the possibility to bath, there's little to discover soakingswise. Or otherwise.

The municipality of Lamia, under which Loutra Ipatis falls, has quite a bit to say on the hot springs, though somehow one fails to make much sense of what they are trying to communicate.

There are two not so meaningful, but positive reviews on tripadvisor of taking a bath here.

Furthermore this source notes: 
'The medicinal bath of Loutra Ypatis is the only acid- carbonaceous spring in Greece and one of the rarest in the world'.

Trade today was certainly not roaring, there was actually no one at all aside from the 2 attendees. 

They graciously answered our questions and showed us a bath (below), which would have meant that we would be spending close to 10 Euros for the privilege of locking ourselves in this prison cell up for a half hour or so.


There's also a newer looking outside public pool, the cost for which was identical as for renting the cubicle. 



As there are a couple of wild hot springs half an hours drive away, we opt for these and leave the sulphur reeking pools for what they are.
But certainly not a bad place, just tough luck that we had an alternative. 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Gush forth


When researching hot springs you are either overwhelmed by all the information available or underwhelmed by the utter lack of information.  

Searching for the hot springs named Tria Pigadia on the Greek island of Milos, the latter is the case, such so that all I have is a hunch and a map with the name Tria Pigadia on it. 

Let's start with the hunch. Molos.gr
'Tria Pigadia
Temperature: 33-41 C
Composition: alipiges (hot springs)'
It then briefly mentions Tria Pigadia again:
'At the above beaches (Alikes, Provatas, Skinopi, Paliohori, Tria Pigadia, Kanava), in the places where hot springs exist, you will see fumaroles gushing within the sea water and you can enjoy your swim completely for free all year round'.
Not much to go by. A beach. 
Then the website greek-islands.us, which despite the excellent information given, always looks like it's an antiquated website, if such exists on internet:
'Tria Pigadia is not a village but a secluded beach [great]. It took its name from the three wells that are there for watering the animals. The Tria Pigadia Springs are long forgotten, which means you're unlikely to find anyone there.
How will you get there?
They're 9 kilometers away from Apollonia. You take the road to Varytini and after 5 kilometers you turn left (there's no sign). You enter a dirt road and travel for 2,5 kilometers until you reach a crossroad with a sign that says "To Tria Pigadia", on your left. After 1,5 kilometer you'll find the beach.
So, here it goes.
On the right side of the beach, facing the sea on the root of a secluded rock, you'll find the springs. There are two big rocks two meters inside the sea. Between them a natural basin is formed. It's the best spot for swimming.
That's about it for the Tria Pigidia hot springs: the hot springs are there and there is a beach with the same name. On the northeast of the island.

Profit
But how to get there?

One must note that large sways of Milos island are part of a mining operation(s) and thus the area where Tria Pigidia is to be found, lies in a massive area on the east coast which is home to quite a few mines and many a road connecting these mines.

Setting off after a lunch at Pollonia on Milos island's northeastern point.

Nothing ventured nothing gained. 

From the sleepy village of Pollonia (above), we head down along the eastern coast of Milos. 
Straight away we are in the midst of a mining operation. 
The road winds itself through a number of these mines upwards to the plateau. 


Then it gets tricky.

Like the description above, we take a left, which turns out to be a dead end. Back to the main road, return in the direction of Pollonia, then another track heading eastwards.  
Looks OK, miss what should have been our second left turn, but follow a circular road which ends as a trail but then all of sudden we end up at a significant crossroads. 
Another eastwards turn here and we are heading towards the coast, the road drops a little. 

At the edge of the island we stop: the road ahead is very steep. But it certainly looks like we are at the right place: google maps refers to a couple of switchbacks at the southern point of the beach.

Crashing
The car ditched, we continue on foot down the steep track to the beach. 

The beach is not deserted. A naked lady has set up shop in the center of the 500m or so long beach amply guarded by 3 barking dogs; no idea how she got here. 

From my info I know that the springs should be off the south cliff. Below is what the south cliff looks like.

  

Hmm, the seawater is still cold and the only way to explore is to jump in and wade oneself to the rock face. 
I am a little quicker in stripping and about 50m southwestwards, I gather some whiffs of sulphur. Close.

Exploring a little closer there's a sizable spring with water heading straight into the waves. 
Shifting some rocks here and there and there's a one person hot and cold soak: cold after a wave crashes the party every minute or so.

 

I explore more along the cliff face, the description does note 2 big rocks with a basin. The shore is a lot more steeper, so no more wading. And though I feel the temperature at some places to be higher than at others I have to conclude that, alas the basin is not to be found today. It will remain elusive.

Anyway we had a great day searching and finding another soakable spring.


Wrecked

As said, the area of eastern Milos is well-known for it's mines and is pretty desolate otherwise. 

Another great place to visit, not so far away from our soaking site, are the old sulphur mines which can be accessed more to the south than Tria Pigadia, which again entails a search for access (road), followed by a hike down (and back up!) thus avoiding ruining your rental car (if not already wrecked ....). 
Do note that finding this place is a lot easier than the above soakable beach.

It's locally known as Thiafes / Thiorychia (mymilos) or Paliorema (Tripadvisor). There's a lot of info about the mine on internet, the first already mentioned link is a good start as well as the Milos Mining Museum, their geowalk no. 3 heads this way.


Having completed the hike down, what waits is the eerily sight of a once vibrant mining community, now open to the elements of time and degradation.
Well worth the effort. 

The beach is also exceptionally nice and awaits the visitor willing to enjoy as naturally as one can / wishes ....

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Testing the temps

Hot or not?
The Greek island of Evia (Euboea) is well-known for what? 

Well, it's close to Athens, there are actually two bridges with which it's connected to the Greek peninsula, it's one of Greece's biggest islands, beyond's it's capital (Chalkida) it's sparsely populated thus has some rugged and deserted high country and beaches. 
And ..., oh there's a very popular hot spring town on the coast called Loutra Aidipsos, even regarded as Greece's most popular spa town (source). 

But besides the many hot springs which keep this town drawing in tourists, across the bay from Edipsos to the east, on the tip of the island is the other hot spring of the island by the name of Gialtron or Loutra Gialtron to be precise.
Likewise it's popular big brother, it's also located on the coast, but it has been spared all the hoopla of it's neighbour. It seems to actually have been forgotten altogether.

Strip
While exploring this part of Evia, we made it out to Loutra Gialtron, more on a hunch, with little intent. There's not too much info on internet, certainly nothing as complete as Loutra Aidipsos.

Feelgreece seems very typical of what can be found:
'Loutra Gialtron is the seaside area of the village of Gialtra. It also has mineral springs but tourists do no [not?] know about it as the place is not advertised and you can hardly find any information about it. 
...
Loutra Gialtron has a narrow beach strip of sand and pebbles and a small pier for fishing boats. Some taverns and cafes can be found along the beach but they operate only during the summer season'.
But the existence of the hot spring still came as a surprise. 

We had cycled the what was it, 15 km or so over from Aidipsos to Gialtron along the road and track hugging the coast and were catching our breathe while infusing on Greek coffee; but in all honesty we thought we were still off our destination by a bit. 
As stated the seaside village of Gialtron has a couple of seaside taverns and our hostess was trying to strike up a discussion with a mix of Greek, English and German. I took the opportunity to ask where the springs were, only to discover that the beach bar had been built just two meters from them!

From the terrace we could see water gushing out from the sea retaining wall. Stairs have been built into the wall and after descending these we can discover that 
a. the water is (too) hot, 
b. it's salty and 
c. not much effort has been made into possibly using this exit as a place for soaking.


Back up the stairs and across the road is something that was once a place to bath in. A number of structures resemble an oldish bathing building (photo below), but it's seriously into disuse. The hot water comes from beyond but there's nothing as such to establish as the source itself.


Not much to do than finish the coffee and pedal back along the bay.


Goodness
There is this source of info on the springs themselves:
'The name of beach is "Mylos" because of the Mill that exists in the region. The beach is in short distance from the village of "Gialtra". The beach is sandy with small pebbles and the green trees that create a very nice landscape. The vineyards that surround the area are an important piece of wine production from older years until nowadays. This kind of wine is well known for its quality and taste (mafrouka or moudiatis). The area is known for its warm waters ranging from 47- 49 degrees Celsius and its ingredients containing chlorine, sodium, carbonic acid and hydrogen sulphide, which help in the treatment of rheumatic'.
On our return we actually did stop at the Mylos beach, at least that's what I think it should be named, there was a mill (or was it a lighthouse?) Anyway a great place for a skinny dip, possible not so in the height of summer ...
 

Not everyone is just as successful as we were, though not too difficult to find. Charliedogcametoo notes how they passed Gialtron twice:
'The sun returned the next day, revealing Evvia’s mountainous spine and providing a fine day to drive down the steep and rocky south coast. Another search again failed to spot the hot springs at Yiáltra [=Gialtra], we even felt the sea this time for signs'.
A visit report on virtual tourist (2014):
'It's best kept secret, that we only discovered from a local who saw me going for a swim, is the thermal spring. Completely free of charge, this spring gushes from the harbour wall and falls into a man-made pool from where it trickles out into the sea. There are steps down to it and a couple of plastic seats someone has placed there. I actually found the water in the pool too hot to sit in so simply had a swim in the sea where the thermal water mingled with the salt water. Later, I dipped my feet in the pool and rubbed thermal water over my body! We watched a German? man come and lie in the pool, my goodness, he must have had thick skin!
And then there is this blog report from 2012 which suggests that what i refer to buildings in disuse were only just then contructed. 

I did find some info in Greek on the set-up / situation of the baths. Istiea News (May 25, 2012) report mainly on the negligence involved. In summer the renovation works look to have been finished (source), certainly it look smart.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Soaking adventure

It's difficult to see how the country of Jordan should be part of Europe but as an exception we will cover some of Jordan's soaks. That's what exceptions are for.

Totally coincidentally, European Natural Soaking Society contributor Sascha has been to Jordan last month and took some time out to look and explore some of Jordan's hot springs.

In this first of two specials we'll look at what Sascha discovered. It looks still very much undeveloped and natural and/or naturally enhanced.

Readers should also heed the scientific publication The Thermal Waters of Jordan [1] which relates to the 59 known hot spring sources in Jordan.

But let's look at the follwing experiences:
  • Hammamat Borbata

This hot spring was indicated on the map as “closed”, so I did not expect too much. However, from the experiences I made, sometimes closed hot springs can turn into beautiful natural hot springs and therefore I travelled to the region of Tafila. 
Big deception, the ancient infrastructure around the hot spring was in a desolating situation, littering everywhere. But that’s part of the discovering of the natural hot springs.  
My evaluation: n.a.
Also known as H. Burbita (Burbayta / Burbeita), there's not much more available on internet. If you understand German there is this more satisfactory visit from bullireise from 5 years ago. Lonely Planet notes that it's a popular picnic place. The Rough Guide says it's not really woth an investigation.
  • Hammamat Afra
Close to Hammamat Borbata, these hot springs were open to the public. Not really natural and wild, but situated in a beautiful small canyon. 
Only accessible by car, you have to pay an entrance fee of 5 JD (around 6,50 EUR) per person. There are 3 pools for men with different temperatures; the hottest is probably around 40°C. 
Women have to take a soak in a cave that is accessible by an entrance door that can be closed. As there were no women present at the time of my visit, I could also try the women pool which was around 43-44°C. 
The pool is covered by a cave and a roof, the atmosphere is very relaxing and the local policemen told me that the water helps for arthrose and rheumatism.
If you intend to soak in the women pool, keep your food save, as there are some mice in the cave. 
Outside in the men pools, there were some friendly gypsy boys soaking.
Overall, it was not the cleanest place, and I was wondering for what I paid an entrance fee, but it was a nice experience on the road to the Dana Nature Reserve. 
My evaluation: 3 of 5 stars
Hammamat Afra is much more well-known than aforementioned. Rough Guide:
'There are some leisure facilities here, but this is no tourist spa: the atmosphere is unequivocally Jordanian'. 
The Lonely Planet write up is somewhat less enthusiatic.
  • Ain Zarqa
This hot spring lies directly at the Dead Sea in the Madaba region. 
The access is very easy by the main road and indicated on the map. 
Many locals go here for soaking because it is free and you can combine swimming in the Dead Sea with a shower or a soak in the hot river to clean your body from the Dead Sea salt water. 
The water in the river where soaking is possible, was around 43-45°C. 
Unfortunately, easy access and no entrance fee means that there are a lot of people and that there is a lot of littering close to the river and the spring which makes this place not recommendable. 
My evaluation: 1 of 5 stars

More info on Ain Zarqa is very scarce ...

Notes:
[1] Sass, I & R. Schäffer (2014) The Thermal Waters of Jordan. Environmental Earth Sciences 72: 171-187. Springer.

Euro soaks visited