top greek spas right now

More and more spa fans are travelling to Greece every year to relish a plenitude of excellent spa facilities and treatments on offer across the land, as wellness is now officially a leading travel trend.  Here we direct you to some of the most alluring wintertime options for you to try (or simply fantasize about) on your next trip.

In Athens:

Electra Metropolis Hotel
At the spanking new spa, which even has a glass floor revealing the ruins of the Themistoclean wall, you can let go with aromatherapy, deep tissue and lymphatic massages as well as beautifying flash treatments. Try the signature Cretan massage, in which warm raki (60% alcohol) is vigorously rubbed on the body to relax the muscles and clear the respiratory system. Next, gently heated olive oil is used for a (very) deep tissue massage to loosen every knot of tension throughout the entire body.
INFO
15
Mitropoleos, Syntagma.
Tel: 214 1006200


GB Spa

By far the city’s most luxurious spa, and right on Syntagma Square. Spend at least 5-15 minutes in the steam rooms such as the Amethystos Grotto, followed by a dip in the ozone-rich pool. To re-balance after the holidays, try a two hour Ayurvedic therapy, which encourages a profound rebalancing and regeneration of the mind and emotions using sensual, floral and exotic oils massaged on the marma points (mini chakras as defined in ancient Indian medicine).
INFO
Grande Bretagne Hotel, Syntagma Square.
Tel: 210 3330799 / 772.

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GB Spa at Hotel Grande Bretagne

Hiltonia
The Hiltonia Spa (http://www.hiltonia.gr/spa.html) has a progressive treatment menu, with treatments such as the Cleopatra Sperience Jacuzzi Therapy, which includes milk proteins and seaweed collagen, a Vit C+ facial that is based on pure vitamin C combined with extract of Ume, an anti-ageing Japanese plum, Diamond Noir facial exfoliation, and Golden Sensation body sea weed wrap. Try the Exceptional Anti-Wrinkle Therapy and Lift Facial Therapy to start the year as a fresh-faced, bedazzling you.
INFO:
Athens Hilton, 46 Vas. Sofias Ave.
Tel: 210 7281812 / 210 7281801.

Hammam Baths
Hammam is inspired by the baths of ancient Greece and Rome and more recently Constantinople. Start with a steam session in the circular, marble-benched bathing room, letting your skin, muscles and lungs ‘open up’, as you occasionally pour cool water on yourself from brass bowls and lather yourself with soap. Follow this with a deep tissue, exfoliating or beautifying massage in which therapists use Savon noir  black soap made with olive oil paste, Dead Sea black mud, and loofahs and silk Ketsea ‘brushes’ for scrubbing the body and face.
INFO:
17 Agion Asomaton Str. & 1 Melidoni Str. Thissio.
Tel. 210 3231073.

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Hammam Baths in Thisseio

Le Hammam, Kifissia
A pampering escape in the verdant northern suburb of Kifissia, Le Hammam (http://www.lehammam.gr/) is inspired by therapies and products from the world’s most exotic destinations, such as Bali, Polynesia, Morocco, Hawaii, the Himalayas and Thailand. Try the Queen Nefertiti, in which Balinese jasmine, lotus flowers and 18 karat gold powder are used to activate the feminine energy, or Shirodhara, an Ayrvedic therapy in which a mixture of essential oils is poured slowly on the forehead to clear the third eye and induce deep tranquility.
INFO:
8 Aghiou Trifonos, Kifisia.
Tel: 210 623 3143.

Beehive Spa
Obeying the Hippocratic philosophy of holistic wellness and making the best of Greece’s purest bee products (honey, pollen, royal jelly), Apivita’s Beehive Spa offers a sumptuous series of face and body treatments and two types of massage. Try the Queen Bee Firming Treatment, a luxurious anti-ageing therapy inspired by the bee dance that helps firm and lift the skin while increasing elasticity and glow.
INFO:
Apivita Experience Store, 6 Solonos & Kanari, Kolonaki.
Tel: 210 3640560.

Cocoon Urban Spa
A unique mix of therapies here, such as Chavutti, an ancient southern Indian massage performed in a rhythmical motion by the therapist’s…feet! Try also the Spice Market Hammam, which starts with a deep scrub in the marble steam room, after which you will be lathered up with savon noir and then slathered in rassoul clay while your face drinks up a royal jelly mask. That’s only the begining, as after that comes a full body massage using rose, pomegranate and sandalwood oils.
INFO:
9 Souliou & Eryfilis, Ag. Paraskevi.
Tel. 210 6561975.

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Greece-wide:

Thermea Sylla, Evia
A luxurious accommodation complex offering a highly sophisticated, in some cases high-tech range of curative, aesthetic and soul-blissing treatments. Most of the therapies revolve around and make the very most out of the famous benefits of Edipsos’ thermal waters. Try the Oriental Rasul experience with a partner: in a herbal steam sauna, you can slather each other using different kinds of Rugen island mud, and then have it all washed away by warm rain that falls from a ceiling vaulted with LED stars.
INFO
2 Posidonos Str., Edipsos, Evia.
Tel: 22260 60 100.

Anazoe Spa, Costa Navarino
Discover the wisdom of ancient Greek healing philosophies and techniques that soothingly enfold guests in a curative, restorative and relaxing experience enhanced by calming music, a form of sound healing that’s based on ancient Greek modes and scales at Anazoe. Try any of the Oleotherapy® Signature Treatments, which, intriguingly, are based on local practices inscribed on clay tablets that were discovered at the nearby Palace of Nestor. As their name suggests, they are based on the use of pure, virgin olive oil, but also include ingredients and application techniques inspired by modern science.
INFO:
Navarino Dunes, Messinia, Costa Navarino.
Tel: +272 309 6000.

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Anazoe Spa at Costa Navarino

Imaret
At Imaret, housed in a Koranic school founded in 1813 by Mohamed Ali Pasha, escape to the “hidden” Hammam that offers therapies derived from traditional eastern rituals, using ingredients like curative muds, exotic oils, herbs, flowers, honey and milk. Try the Harem Massage, a deeply pacifying  therapy in which aromatic poultices filled with fresh chamomile and mint that are dipped into warm essential oils of myrrh and applied to relieve tired muscles, nourishing the skin and boosting circulation.
INFO
30-32 Th. Poulidou, Kavala.
Tel: 2510 620151.

Mikro Papingo 1700 Hotel & Spa
This eco-friendly gem of a boutique hotel, restored from 1700, is actually within the lush Vikos gorge. It’s Spa menu is not long and fancy, but its treatments are top quality and it uses fresh mineral water sourced from the nearby mountains. After a long day exploring the 20km gorge, try the energizing and muscle-relaxing Deep Trail Hiker’s Stretch Massage, while if you need to clear out from your urban lifestyle try the aromatic Mountain Massage.
INFO
Zagori, Epirus.
Tel: 2653 041179.

Asian Spa Ayurvedic & City Retreat
Eastern sensuality reigns supreme at the Asian Spa with treatments that celebrate the touch, smell and sight involved in relishing inventive treatments like Apricots and Cream or Chocolatier, the latter being a romantic ‘flowers & chocolate’ couple’s massage involving an antioxidant cacao scrub and choco-massage, followed by a blissful soak in an aromatic floral bath. Then there’s Glittering Prize, in which the therapist applies a gold scrub and mask, followed by gold dust powders. Several sophisticated Ayurvedic treatments are also available.
INFO
Hyatt Regency Thessaloniki, 13 kilometres Thessaloniki-Perea.
Tel: +211 40 40 115.

Polis Hammam
Modelled on the traditional Turkish Hamam, this boutiquey haven of peace, cleansing and restorative therapies bang in the heart of Thessaloniki encourages you to lie back in the marble sauna, where you can bathe and then enjoy a re-energising and purifying signature massage such as the Aritma Polis massage, which thoroughly works on the entire body and includes the application of brushes and essential oils with stimulating fragrances.
INFO
40 Karamanli St., Kalamaria
Tel: 2310488216.

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 As also published in Greece Is

ancient greek massage

“Therapy”: From Greek therapeia ‘healing’, from therapeuein ‘minister to, treat medically’.

Ancient Greek Massage is a therapeutic approach developed by physiotherapist and alternative therapist Elly Tsouknaki, who says “I suddenly realized, after years of practicing massage therapies such as Thai, Balinese, Swedish and other techniques from around the world, that there was no massage style based on Greek therapy principles! So I spent years extensively researching ancient theories and practices and created the Ancient Greek Massage.” She has now trademarked the massage, which is by now practiced at many of the best health centers and spas around the country, and is also gradually gaining momentum abroad.

The massage is based chiefly on methods created by Hippocrates, “the father of medicine” and which were used at wrestling schools and gymnasiums in ancient Greece as well as at the numerous Asclepion healing centers.

The method
The treatment begins with ‘dry kneading” of the body, that is, without the use of any oil, after which the therapist covers the skin with powder, and with a brush made from horse hair, brushes it in circular movements into the skin, activating the circulatory movement of the blood while ‘drying’ any humid areas. “Hippocrates believed that humidity was detrimental to the healthy functioning of the body,’ Tsoukani says, adding that athletes would rub a magnesium chalk powder into their skin before exercise.

Using hot extra virgin olive oil mixed with pure essential oils made from Greek herbs and flowers, the therapist then proceeds to massage the entire body, pressing points to relax and ‘open’ knotted muscles and energy meridians. This is followed by another method employed by the ancient Greeks, that of using suction cups – interestingly, the ancient Greeks used animal horns that were heated at their base with fire and then stamped onto the skin to create the suction action.

The cups are moved along the skin, further activating circulation (Tsouknaki explains that in order to achieve this effect otherwise one would need to use a very strong, massage technique, which can be painful and uncomfortable and which she deems unnecessary). Activating the circulation and deeply relaxing the muscles, this procedure helps the body not only release tension but also toxins, and creates an effect of relaxation and invigoration at once.

The massage concludes with a focus on the neck, head and face, which Hippocrates called ‘rubbing out sadness’ believed trapped a great deal of tension (especially the jaw, which tightens even when one has negative thoughts, or Tsouknaki says, “every time we want to express something but decide to keep it in”).

Where?
etBy now, Tsouknaki has taught her method to numerous spas and therapists around the country as well as a few abroad, but to receive a treatment from her personally visit her at her Athens (Aigaleo) studio.

Elly Tsouknaki is reachable at: (+30) 210-5310336 & (+30) 6973085104.

why ikaria feels so good

Ikariotes – the locals of Ikaria – have always captured the imagination of the rest of the Greek population because of their ‘eccentricity’. They are famous for having their very own sense of time and space, and for their freedom-loving, convivial spirit.

An independent state for several months after releasing itself from the Ottoman grip in 1912 (with its own cobalt blue flag stamped with a thick white cross – still seen in numerous homes around the island today), Ikaria was baptized ‘the red rock’ when it became home to some 13,000 communist exiles during the Greek Civil War of 1946-49. These and other factors have led the idiosyncratic Cycladic island to develop a character that differentiates it from its neighbours on either side, Samos and Mykonos – and indeed every other Greek island.

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Sunset at Armenistis beach

Anarchically lush, hearteningly unpretentious, and only demanding that you let go of your set expectations in order to enter its mesmeric and intrinsic flow, the island started attracting ‘alternative’ travelers in the 80s, such as bohemians and artists, who rejected the touristic paradigm emerging in Greece at the time, and who preferred to pitch tents on the beach and integrate with local life. In 2012, however, came a great shift.

Dan Buettner wrote The Island Where People Forget to Die’ in the New York Times, sharing his groundbreaking Blue Zones research with the world. Since then, people have been flocking to Ikaria from every corner of the earth, thirsty to drink from the island’s legendary fountain of youth.

The locals – among whom you will find an impressive number of rosy-cheeked centenarians – haven’t got a clue what all the fuss is about, and frankly have grown a little weary of all the media and tourist attention. They are known for what visitors describe as a ‘Zen-like spirit’; they aspire to measured, Christian Orthodox ideals that keep them living in the present, and maintain an effusive attitude (that also prizes equality between the sexes). Ikariotes are also praised for their highly self-sufficient lifestyle, vibrant social life, healthy diet, and demanding physical routine of tending to land and livestock; and they are happy to stay exactly as they are.

1. THE CELEBRATION

Panygiri of Aghios Giannis in Christos, Raches. Photo by Constantine Malpas.

If you’ve ever heard of Ikaria, then you must know the two things it’s most famous for: the longevity of its inhabitants, as announced to the world in 2012 by Blue Zones research, and its Panigyria, the all-day/all-night festivals celebrating local patron saints which attract hundreds to thousands of revelers from near and far. Wine flows free, boiled or baked goat is chomped on by the kilo, and dancers from all around the island – and even the world – link arms to dance the trance-like Ikariotikos for hours on end. Locals do love to party, but the chief objective of these events is to use the proceeds to build, renovate and mend roads, buildings, churches and schools. They take place throughout the year, but almost daily from May to October.

2. THE SPIRIT OF THE PEOPLE

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French tourists possessed by the local love of music. Photo by A. Amvrazi

One of the most appealing and special aspects of the Ikaria experience is getting to know its unique people. The islanders are often described as highly self-sufficient and physically disciplined, as they dedicate most of their day to tending their land and animals. Yet, at the same time they are bon viveurs who know how to live life to the full and completely in the present.

Although philosophically minded, creatively inclined (there is an especially resilient passion for music across the island) and definitely able to take a joke, they’re essentially simple people who are satisfied with the little they’ve got – a fruit and vegetable garden round the back of the house, a community bound by loyalty, individual independence, the ability to follow a daily rhythm that suits their reality, and long-honored equality between the sexes (a rare find in provincial Greece). They are not thirsty for money or fame, and despite being warm and welcoming to visitors, they feel no need to turn their island into a polished tourist destination that changes to accommodate other’s needs. And ironically, this characteristic only serves to make them more alluring.

3. THE FOOD AND WINE

Photo by Constantine Malpas

Authentic, pure, organic, seasonal and straight from the garden is how Ikarian cuisine can best be defined, as throughout the island locals grow fresh produce in great abundance, while the wild “rasko” goats roam free, feeding on wild greens. Goat meat, milk and cheese are all staple foods, while in the coastal areas such as Armenistis, Nas and Evdilos you can stop for a bite of seafood with a view. The capital, Aghios Kirykos, and the Fournoi islands across from it are best for lobster. There are three wineries producing quality, award-winning wines on the island.

All located in very scenic spots, they offer a great excuse for a relaxed wine-tasting tour, although at most places you stop to eat, and particularly at local festivals, you will most probably be sampling the potent (15 percent alcohol content) red hima (non-bottled, locally produced) wine. In recent years a handful of restaurants on Ikaria have started serving more modern and creative dishes, often with exciting results, but overall the food is traditional and simple.

Local specialties include soufiko, the pan-fried Ikarian rendition of briam (Greek ratatouille); spongy, white kathoura goat cheese and giant zucchini. Wild herbs are added to all dishes and brewed as tea (water mint or fliskouni being a popular choice), lashings of olive oil on everything and common use of excellent, medicinal honey (white heather, pine tree, thyme, strawberry tree).

4. THE NATURAL VARIETY AND ABUNDANCE
Mostly blanketed in thick, verdant foliage throughout the year, predominately mountainous Ikaria is a delight to explore on foot or by car. Mapped walks in Natura 2000 areas such as the 25km Ikaria on Foot circuit trail immerse you in the beauty of gorges such as Halaris, with emerald-green lakes, cool steams, lush forests, waterfalls and paved donkey paths.

There are also several organized botanical tours (Ikaria has 1,100 endemic plant species) and food-foraging walks along the island’s paths, led by experienced local guides. Ikaria has also been named an important bird area: keen birdwatchers can enjoy spotting the peregrine falcon, Bonelli’s eagle and, closer to the coast, the sea raven, among other species. The rare lizard species Lacerta oertzeni and Stellagama stellio (or korkofylas to the locals) can also be found here. For aquatic pleasures, beaches like Nas, Faros, Seychelles and Armenistis are the most popular due to their invigorating crystal waters and aesthetic allure.

5. THE CURATIVE SPRINGS

Ikaria’s eight hot springs, which are said to be among the most radioactive in the world (but all very safe), have since ancient times been lauded for their curative properties that help treat rheumatic, skin, gynecological, respiratory and neurological ailments. The springs at Therma, Aghios Kirykos, Lefkada and Aghia Kyriaki have attracted visitors for millennia. In ancient times the people of Therma were called Asclepians after the god of healing Asclepios, while near Therma some ruins of the ancient city can be explored underwater.

Modern health tourism based around the island’s radium-rich springs started blossoming in the 1920s and remains popular, with organized spas, hotels and hydrotherapy pools offering sessions in the water combined with massage and more. Talking of springs, Ikaria is also known for its “immortal water,” a cold spring near the village of Xylosyrtis that is thought to be beneficial for treating kidney ailments.

Article By Alexia Amvrazi, as first published in Kathimerini’s Taxidia magazine.

Goat herd gathering milk to make kathoura cheese, Ikaria’s mozarella-like staple.

 

 

 

 

 

sound healing session

IMAGINE yourself receiving a deeply comforting, relaxing treatment on the massage table, and then, while you’re still floating in that dreamy rainbow-coloured bubble of pampering bliss, add the magical sound of crystal singing bowls, an angelic female voice and the sound of an ancient string instrument designed by Pythagoras, as waves and vibrations of sound flow up and down your body like the waves of the sea do when you bask on the shore.

Welcome to the millennia-old practice of vibrational sound healing.

As someone who is a great fan both of alternative therapies and the world of sound  – from natural to hyper-produced – I was most excited to try out a session, and was fortunate to find Sound and Energy healing therapist Kristina Alicia, whose clients (especially the creative types who experience ‘blocks’ and need to reawaken their awareness and sharpen their focus), rave about her work.

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5,4,3,2,1 – may the sound healing journey begin!
I had no idea what to expect, but being a new mother with an aching body and a sometimes alarmingly sleep-deprived brain, I was more than open and willing to encounter the benefits I had heard and read so much about. The science of sound has been explored since ancient times, and although in the present day plenty of knowledge has been gathered as to its therapeutic properties, we ironically continue to live in cities imbued by noise pollution, are glued to gadgets, TV sets and computers that produce constant chatter,  and on an average day, rarely make special time to tune out, let alone actually using sound for its healing properties.

Fortunately, there are therapists like Kristina Alicia in Athens, whose entire practice centres on the many benefits of sound, and who can help clients get the most out of its powerful healing properties.

didgeridoo_imagicity_1070There’s nothing new age or gimmicky about sound healing – in fact it stretches back into antiquity, even though the historical record captures only a fraction of its origin. It can be traced back to many ancient civilizations including Greece, India, Africa, and the Orient (learn more about the origins of sound healing below).

Before our session, Kristina Alicia explained to me that when an organ or body part is healthy, it resonates in harmony with the rest of the body. With dis-ease, a different sound pattern is established in the affected part of the body. When sound is projected into the dis-eased area, correct harmonic patterns are restored. During a session, Kristina Alicia follows a sequence of several relaxing and therapeutic techniques aimed at restoring a healthy flow and order in the mind, body and spirit, and leaving the receiver feeling re-balanced, blissfully peaceful and mentally open.

In the next stage, her therapy moves from the realm of ‘regular’ manual therapy and lifts one to the universe of sound healing. “In the second phase I work on the aura using the crystal singing bowls,” says Kristina, “and the tuning forks, to tune (exactly like adjusting a piano) our organs and nervous system so optimal balance is achieved.”  The experience of having crystal singing bowls placed and rung on my back and around my head immediately transported me to a different state. At first, my often over-active thinking mind was trying to trace the sounds, the feelings, even the direction from where the sound was coming, but then, just like that, I let go and allowed myself to be immersed in the experience, suddenly feeling myself distanced from mundanity, from thoughts, and even from the room we were in.
10997784_1061748203842696_1106981414360834350_nResearching the effects of crystal singing bowls a few days after the treatment I was not surprised to read that the notes of the crystal bowls are tuned to specific vibrational frequencies (notes) found within the human body. Thus when the sound moves through the atmosphere and touches us, it causes our cells to move in different directions at a different speed, in rhythm with the sound wave, which puts us in harmony with the sound wave. The sound penetrates into our very cells and rebalances them through oscillation and resonance; vibrational sound touches the body on a molecular and crystalline level. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.”

Next, Kristina Alicia placed the monochord, (an ancient scientific and musical instrument, invented in Greece in 500 B.C) on my back. She explained that “in the spiritual healing part of the session, the strings of the monochord bring healing harmonics in each cell of our body. From head to toe you feel this healing resonance, as our body is 75% water.” I actually felt the vibrations of the monochord flow and down my spine, very pleasantly intense at times, and then going from my head to my toes, even making me feel like I was the instrument itself, with its music pouring out of me. Kristina Alicia accompanies the instrument by singing sacred Aramaic, Hebrew and Sanskrit mantras.

“The voice,” she tells me, is the most precious instrument, as it can be filled with your intent”. That definitely made me think of how irresponsible most people, me included, are when using their voice to address each other, and how we hold such a powerful tool that we do so little with.

Sound healing therapist Kristina Alicia
Sound healing therapist Kristina Alicia

At this stage of the therapy I started to see vivid colours and patterns, as well as a few scenes that were reminiscent of a powerful dream that’s trying to tell you something. Later on, when I mentioned this to Kristina Alicia, she told me that through such a session one’s subconscious does usually unfurl to reveal our deepest messages to our self. In fact, she says, one of the key purposes of what she does is to help one “reconnect and listen to the sound of your soul.” She tells me that “some people have found their life course after receiving sound healing therapy.”

In the final part of the vibrational sound healing session, Kristina Alicia uses Tibetan singing bowls, which she says help the client “ground again” after having been on a different plain altogether. Sound Healing expert, Diáne Mandle states that Tibetan Singing Bowls don’t only affect a great deal of physical healing but also have far-reaching implications that occur on emotional and spiritual levels. It is a regenerative process married to a spiritual awakening that can have profound consequences on illness, disease, and all aspects of our lives.

Sound healing in mainstream medicine
In fact, mainstream medical teaching facilities like Duke University and the University of North Carolina have added programs that link body, mind and spirit to the treatment of cancer. Cancer prevention centers are utilizing sound as a vital part of the healing process for patients with astounding results.

Dr. Mitchell Gaynor,  director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine at the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in NY, has been using sound, including Tibetan Singing Bowls and chanting in work with cancer patients for many years. He says: “If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears but through every cell in our bodies.”

The medical director of the Deepak Chopra Center in California, Dr. David Simon, found that the sound from Tibetan Singing Bowls as well as chanting are chemically metabolised into ’endogenous opiates’, that act on the body as internal painkillers and healing agents.

INFO:
Kristina Alicia
on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/soundishealing soundishealing@gmail.com