Sign up to our newsletter

I bathed in Greek radioactive waters to live to 100 – here’s where else you can take a dip

Greek cruise vacations summon up images of magnificent ancient ruins and whitewashed island buildings but dig a little deeper and a world of wellness awaits.

Words by Samantha Priestley

As we pull into our first port, Ikaria, our cruise coordinator, Dietmar, tells us the island is a ‘blue zone’ and the people here regularly live to 100.

“We will take you to the town of Therma,” he says, “Where you can bathe in the radioactive hot springs.”

Everyone on board immediately puts two and two together and decides they too will live to 100 if they just spend 20 minutes in these magical waters.

I’m on the ‘Unexplored Greek Island’ cruise with Variety Cruises, aboard the Pan Orama, and it’s a memorable start to our week-long cruise.

A minibus takes us around winding mountain roads to Therma, where we all strip down to our swimmers and take the rocky steps into the natural pool. The hot springs on Ikaria are free to enter and easily accessible, the pool in a small cave is at the edge of the sea along a small promenade.

Once in the water, there’s a rocky circle that’s been made to show where the hot springs are. We all make our way over to this rocky spa and feel the unusual sensation of comings and goings of warm and hot bursts of water.

As we try to move around the spa to follow the random flows of hot water, one or two of my fellow passengers are startled by fish nibbling at their feet. I joke that not only are we now living to 100, but we’re getting a free fish pedicure in the bargain.

Scientists are currently looking into why the people of Ikaria live so much longer than most parts of the world. It could be the Mediterranean diet, the slow pace of life, or the strong sense of community. Personally, I’m holding onto the hope that it’s those radioactive waters.

But Ikaria isn’t the only place in Greece where you can dip into healing waters and natural spas.

4 other Greek hot springs and baths to boost your wellbeing

Thermopyles Hot Springs


Greek mythology is, obviously, everywhere in Greece, but there aren’t many places in the country where you can bathe in the entrance to Hades. Like most hot springs in Greece, this one [below, left] in Thermopylae (which translates ‘Hot Gates’) in mainland Greece is also free to use and anyone can rock up and take a dip.

It’s quite spectacular with a waterfall tumbling from the rocks, though there is a very strong smell of sulphur, so be prepared. You too will most likely smell of sulphur when you’ve been in the waters.

There’s a museum nearby that will tell you all about it, but legend has it that following the Battle of Thermopylae 300 Spartan soldiers bathed right here and the water healed their wounds.

Edipsos Hot Springs


Sitting on the island of Evia, the most popular spa town in Greece, Edipsos [above, right] has more than 60 natural springs, giving you the perfect choice of free-to-enter natural spring waters and spas offering indoor pools, outdoor pools, Jacuzzis and hydro-massage.

These healing waters are said to help alleviate back and neck aches, rheumatism and circulation issues as well as bring bathers beauty. Sign me up.

As always, there’s a Greek myth to go with the waters, and this one is about the goddess Athena. Apparently, she asked her brother to create the hot springs here so she could watch Hercules, whom she was clearly in love with, rest and bathe here.

Lesvos Hot Springs


The island of Lesvos (otherwise known as Lesbos) has quite a few hot springs, some inland and some part of the seawater, though some are part of facilities and not all of these are still open, sadly.

However, even if the ones at the seashore do have facilities attached to them, you can still enter for free because, well, the sea is free and you can simply swim into them.

Perhaps the saddest of these springs is Skala Thermi. This is a historic bathhouse that’s been pretty much left to ruin, despite the ancient ones having real historical value – although a new bathhouse has been built here now.

As for the health benefits, it was once the divine spring of the goddess Artemis and the waters are said to heal hardening of the arteries, liver disease, sciatica, and, bizarrely, spleen enlargement.

Krinides Mud Baths


A mix of thermal waters and mud, this one’s an unusual natural spa in Krinides, a town in the Kaval region of Macedonia [above]. Visitors have an appointment with an onsite physician first, to have their blood pressure taken and to answer a few medical questions, and then you can delve down into the mud.

It doesn’t exactly look appealing, but it’s said this mud has healing properties that can help with dermatological issues, musculoskeletal and urinary problems. A good shower is needed both before and, of course, after a dip in the mud, and men and women are segregated due to most visitors diving in naked. Note, at the time of writing, the center is temporarily closed.

Published 10.26.23