1. Wedding Wreaths
There are some local wedding customs and traditions in many countries that go back centuries. Greece is no different. In the Orthodox church ceremony, two white circlets called stephani (meaning ‘wreath’) which are joined together by a ribbon, symbolising the unity of the couple. They are placed on the bride and groom’s heads by the priest during what is known as the ‘crowning ceremony’. There is much other symbolism contained in the stephana (pl), such as the crowning of the couple by Christ via the priest. The exchanging of the stephana from bride to groom three times by the best man (or woman), the koumbaro(a) seals the union. During our wedding, even though we married in England, we had stephana at our ceremony, swapped on our head by our koumbara
2. Throwing Rice
When leaving the church guests throw a handful of rice on the couple’s heads which is symbolic for the good roots of the marriage.
3. Parading the Dowry
For many decades now, most weddings in Greece are no different from anywhere else. For most, the traditional “Greek wedding” seems more and more like a distant memory. But there are some regions in Greece where old customs and more picturesque weddings still happen. In order to still see that kind of old fashioned wedding, one has to go to the small towns on Mount Olympus (like Livadi or Agios Demetrios), or the rural regions around Ioannina, and of course the islands. Even then, it is getting rarer and rarer. Old tradition dictates that the procession to the church is escorted by a horse carrying the bride’s most valuable belongings and embroidery, which are proudly displayed. Accordion and clarinet always prevail in the traditional wedding parties in Greece, as these customs derive from medieval Greece and Byzantium.
4. Wedding Favours
At the wedding reception it is traditional to give wedding favours known as bonboniera. These are usually bags or boxes filled with sugared almonds (koufeta). The white of the almond is for purity, the almond’s egg shape represents fertility, and the hardness of the nut personifies the endurance of marriage. The sweet sugar is symbolic of the sweetness of married life.The number of koufeta should be 5, symbolising health, joy, fertility, prosperity and longevity. Sometimes the number is more or less but always an odd number, which is not divisible by 2 and therefore representing the fact that the couple cannot be split up. Ideally the number should be a prime number - divisible by 1 and itself - symbolising that the couple can only be separated by death or themselves.
5. Traditional Treats
During the reception pasteli may be eaten. This delicious snack is made from honey and sesame seeds. We tried some at the Apolloniatisses bakery in Rhodes - and brought some home as it was so yummy.
In Crete another tradition is to decorate the wedding table with special decorative bread called Xóbliastres. At one time this would have been to feed the whole village but in modern times it is purely decorative rather than edible.
6. Pinning Money on the Bride & Groom
Of course most people have heard of the pinning of money onto the bride’s dress instead of giving wedding gifts at Greek weddings. It is still a common practice in Greek communities around the world, although probably not so much in Greece. Unfortunately nobody did this at our wedding!
7. Plate Smashing
Although a tradition which people associate with Greek celebrations, the “Breaking of the Plates”, which once implied abundance, to symbolize good luck and happiness, is now considered to be in very bad taste. It is also officially discouraged by the authorities as being dangerous in most regions of Greece.
Dreaming of a 'big fat' Greek wedding or a small, intimate event? We can help you incorporate some of these traditions and customs into your dream wedding in Greece if you wish. Contact Sarah today to arrange your free consultation. We'll create the perfect celebration in magical Greece.
The strawberry, one of the most popular fruits in the world, comes originally from the Americas. It’s a member of the rose family and is a unique fruit as it has seeds on the outside rather than the inside. The most common varieties are a hybrid of the wild Virginia strawberry (native to the USA) and the Chilean variety (originally from South America).
Native Americans were eating strawberries when the European settlers arrived. Often the crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. After trying this bread, colonists developed their own version of the recipe which became the famous strawberry shortcake.
In the 1500s, explorers brought the fruit back to France from Virginia. The Virginian and Chilean varieties were then brought together accidentally about 250 years ago in a botanical garden in France, where a new type of strawberry was born. This is the variety we eat with such gusto in Europe today.
The strawberry was also a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, because of its red heart shape.
The English word "strawberry" comes from the Anglo-Saxon "streoberie". The word was first spelt in the modern way around 1538.
In 1625 the British Francis Bacon described how ‘strawberry-leaves dying, yield an excellent cordial smell’, suggesting that strawberries were admired as much for their scent as their taste. It is still true that the very smell of the fruiting strawberry plant gets your mouth watering. Indeed the strawberry features in many works of fiction throughout history, including these:
The strawberry grows underneath the nettle
And wholesome berries thrive and ripen best
Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality.
William Shakespeare, Henry V (c. 1599), Act I, scene 1, line 60.
The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.
Dr William Butler, 17th Century English Writer
In Britain many regions grow strawberries, including Kent, Devon, Cheshire, Lancashire and Scotland. But of course, the fruit grows equally well in warm and Mediterranean climates of the northern hemisphere. In Europe there are even annual strawberry festivals in the Greek towns of Paradisi and Nea Manolada, and in the French town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, as well as many in the US. There are also many strawberry fayres in the UK too, from community events to music festivals. In parts of Bavaria, the annual rite of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of cattle as an offering to elves is still practiced by country folk. Elves are believed to be passionate about strawberries and the offering will mean healthy calves and abundant milk.
It is impossible to mention strawberries without their mouth-wateringly perfect complement, cream. There is something quintessentially British about strawberries. An English summer wouldn’t be the same without a bowl of strawberries drizzled with cream. This delicious combination has been enjoyed for centuries, from kings to commoners. But nowhere is it more iconic than at Wimbledon, the international home of lawn tennis.
Celebrate this decadent fruit. Use our concierge service to add Wimbledon or festival tickets to your holiday itinerary or book a tour around the strawberry growing regions of the world.
There is nothing like travelling to a great destination, eating delicious food and having new experiences. But today travelling is not just about flying and flopping. It is exploring the place, getting to know the landscape, culture, tradition and cuisine.
Travelling gives us an understanding of people from other lands, and can be a journey of self-discovery. First-hand knowledge is so much better than reading about it or watching on TV. You can see awe-inspiring sites, have unique experiences, see works of art, have wildlife encounters, eat great food and try new drinks. All in all, travel makes memories that last a lifetime.
Stir your imagination quite with a new adventure. Knowing that you have a trip planned is a great motivator; something to look forward to. If you are hungry for food experiences, craving excitement and new cultural insights, then speak to Tasteful Travel about your dream bespoke holiday.
When planning a holiday, whether it’s a multi-stop adventure to far flung destinations or a week in the Isle of Wight, it’s vital that the trip is tailored to you. Designing the perfect holiday is not easy but with the help of a specialist travel consultant, the process can be stress free and simple.
We are happy to meet you in person to discuss your trip, either over a coffee or on a home visit. If more convenient we can discuss plans over the phone or via email.
All aspects of the trip from flights to transfers, accommodation to excursions, Tasteful Travel design the perfect journey for you. Destination, budget, likes and dislikes and holiday style are all taken into account so that you get the travel experience you love.
No matter whether you seek a relaxing getaway in luxury resorts with day trips included; an action-packed break exploring by camper van; or a foodie extravaganza; Tasteful Travel can help make the dream a reality.
Our in-depth knowledge of European, Middle Eastern and Antipodean destinations, coupled with our passion for helping clients plan amazing holidays, mean that you get the very best bespoke trip planned for you.
Visit stunning locations on open-jaw land itineraries with cruises, a unique way of travelling between incredible places. Fancy a Greek odyssey with some island hopping built in? Have a desire to journey from Singapore to Sydney? Prefer to travel across Australia on the Ghan train on an Aussie adventure? No problem. Having travelled extensively in Europe, made many trips to Australia and lived in Kenya, Singapore and Dubai, I have the experience and insider tips to make a great itinerary extra special.
The personal service that Tasteful Travel provides is not limited to just flights and accommodation. Our concierge service can add spa visits, restaurant reservations and excursions to your trip. We will also be with you every step of the way, from planning your holiday to providing on-tour assistance and checking in with you when you get home.
To get in touch and find out more, contact Sarah today or check out our website at www.tasteful-travel.co.uk.
The roots of May Day can be traced back at least 2,000 years. The celebration as we know it in the UK today is the result of melding Pagan, Roman and Medieval traditions.
The Celts and British Pagan Heritage
New life and fertility with the coming of summer were marked by the ancient Celts with May Poles and dancing. The May Pole is a tall pole with coloured ribbons tied to the top. Originally the pole would have been a tree cut when it reached the correct height and with the branches cut off, a powerful symbol since the Celts worshipped trees. Young men and women would each hold a ribbon and would dance weaving in and out of each other to plait the ribbons into a complex patterns. The pole signified fertility and dancing around it was supposed to bring this benefit to the dancers.
The Celts divided their year by 4 major festivals. The first day of summer was called Beltane, 'the fire of Bel'. Bel was the sun god worshipped by Celts across Continental Europe, Britain and Ireland. Beltane was celebrated with bonfires to welcome the new season. Fire was believed to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. The Celts jumped over the fire to pledge themselves to each other. Animals were driven through the smoke to protect them from diseases. At Beltane, couples went A-Maying - spending the night in the woods, fields and brought back May and hawthorn blossoms as a sign of fertility and the new season.
In England this became May Day but in Scotland the festival is still known as Beltane. In Edinburgh the spectacle now includes fire displays, drumming, processions with pipe bands and plenty of body paint.
During the 300 year long Roman occupation of Britain the Floralia was celebrated. Flora was the goddess of flowers and spring and the festival in her honour was held for 6 days at the end of April. The celebration was for everyone, not just the nobility, and was all about pleasure, fertility and flowers. The festival included games and dancing so it is easy to see where the flowers, foliage and fun elements of modern British May Day stem from.
Morris dancers are traditional folk dancers. This form of dance dates back to Medieval times. The earliest written record of a Morris dancing performance in England is from 1448 but the origins of Morris are lost in the mists of time. Morris dancing used to be confined to male performers but nowadays both men and women take part. Traditionally dressed in white with strips of bells on their legs, colourful neckerchiefs and belts across their chests, Morris dancers perform jigs, kicks, jumps and set patterns. Morris dancers have become closely associated with May Day. Performing with wooden poles and handkerchiefs, they are a wonderful sight, especially on a village green on a sunny day.
Georgian Era and After May Day Customs
Jack-in-the-Green is a May Day character first recorded in 1770. The man playing Jack is dressed in a conical wicker or wooden framework covered in foliage. The look is completed with green face paint. The character is likely to have evolved from an earlier tradition of milkmaids carrying milk pails decorated with flowers. The use of foliage and flowers firmly associates this tradition with the spring/summer season and the fertility and new life it brings. The tradition went out of favour in the 20th century but has been recently revived and the Jack-in-the-Green features in several May Day celebrations in England.
Hobby horses (or 'Obby 'Osses) feature in festivals in Padstow and Minehead. Music accompanies the wild dancing of the 'osses which are men dressed in 6ft wide wooden hoops draped in black sailcloth and wearing fearsome masks. The origins of the tradition are not known but theories abound. The 'obby 'oss is a rainmaker, a fertility symbol or a deterrent to a landing by the French, or a welcome to summer, dependent on which legend you believe.
Another local festivity in early May is the Helston Floral Festival. This centuries old tradition is most likely to stem from the anniversary of the apparition of St Michael (patron saint of the parish church in Helston) on May 8th. Heralded by an early morning ringing of the church bells, Floral Day features the Furry Dance which weaves in and out of the streets and local houses. The male dancers dress in top hats and tails and the females in beautiful, colourful dresses. Flora Day also features the Hal-an-Tow, a mummers play where St George and St Michael slay the Dragon and the Devil. The players are cheered on by a crowd dressed in Lincoln green and Elizabethan robes.
As the dawn breaks in Dorset on May 1st, Morris Men dance on the site of the old maypole above the Cerne Abbot Giant. Local folklore has long held that the huge chalk figure carved into the hillside is an aid to fertility. The dancing moves to the village square, then a well-deserved breakfast.
Queen of the May is a girl who personifies springtime and summer on May Day. Traditionally she wears white to symbolise purity and a garland or crown. In some older village traditions, there was a Lord and Lady or King and Queen of the May. This custom persists in some areas of England but the Queen of the May is everywhere seen.
Places to Celebrate in Early May
To book your holiday at any UK celebrations of May Day, get in touch with our staycation experts.
When planning family holidays there are lots of factors to consider to make your trip the very best. Looking at temperatures, short flight times, family activities available and value for money, we find the most family friendly destinations in Europe are:
Although Turkey enjoys the highest average temperature, with Gumbet, Belek and Bodrum all enjoying averages of 25 degrees C during the summer.
The Costa Blanca on the Spanish mainland comes a close second, averaging temperatures of 24.5o between May and October.
Average sea temperatures
For comfortable swimming temperatures, especially for younger children, resorts across Turkey also fit the bill with Antalya, Alanya, Belek and Side all enjoying averages of 25o. Cyprus also has lovely warm sea, with an average temperature of 24.5o.
Water parks and amusement parks
Amusement parks and water parks are great for family fun. Crete, Greece's largest and most southerly island, has the most parks with a massive 10, including WaterCity in Anapolis near Heraklion.
Next is the beautiful island of Cyprus with 9 attractions, including award-winning Fasouri Watermania Water Park in Limassol.
Spain also offers a variety of park options for families. The Costa Blanca, Costa Brava and the Costa Dorada all boast 7 water or amusement parks, as do Sardinia, Italy’s largest island, the Algarve region of Portugal and Tenerife in the Canary Islands.
A short flight is a big consideration for those planning a family holiday. If you are looking for a beach break with a limited travel time you should consider the Costa Brava and the Costa Dorada regions of Spain. These destinations both have average flight times of just over 2 hours from the UK.
Majorca, the sun-kissed Balearic Island is also a great choice for a close to home destination, with an average flight time of just short of 2 and a half hours. Alternatively the Costa de la Luz region of Spain is also perfect for families looking to minimise their travel time, as are Ibiza and Sardinia.
Best value for money
A big factor for British families is to minimise cost. Based on a family of 4, the lowest cost holiday destinations are the Costa Calida and the Costa Brava on the Spanish mainland and the Canary Island of La Palma.
Travel to Kefalonia in Greece or the Algarve in Portugal to get more bang for your buck.
For great family deals just search our latest offers here.
Named 16th best hotel in the world by TripAdvisor in its 25 Top Hotels of 2019 awards is the Ikos Oceania in Nea Moudania, Greece. Voted for by millions of people this accolade is no mean feat. It goes to highlight the quality of hotels to be found in Greece, a country that has long been thought of as the home of the basic and dated accommodation.
Halkidiki has long been a holiday destination for Greek tourists and many people from the nearby city of Thessaloniki have their holiday homes there. Travellers from outside Greece are increasingly discovering the three green "fingers" of land that make up Halkidiki. With outstanding beaches, a range of accommodation to suit all budgets and plenty of activities and excursions, it is a great destination for all. But Halkidiki is particularly wonderful for the luxury traveller. Having predominantly Greek customers keeps hoteliers and restaurateurs on their toes. Quality is the watchword here. Halkidiki delivers luxurious comfort and a gastronomic experience that will keep you coming back for more.
The Ikos Oceania, like its sister hotel the Ikos Olivia in nearby Gerakini, has contemporary design in a soft pallet of colours. Choose from a range of elegant rooms and suites then enjoy sophisticated dining and opulent leisure facilities.
At the Oceania, the landscaped gardens cascade downhill to the private beach on the azure Aegean. The setting is lovely for a relaxing holiday and dining is especially recommended here. Choose from four à la carte restaurants, most with menus designed by Michelin-starred chefs. Added to this the hotel offers a "Dine Out" experience taking guests to some of the best local restaurants for the perfect modern Greek food experience.
As well as the excellent beach, there are plenty of pools at the Ikos Oceania to suit all ages and styles, toddlers, children and adults, together with a heated indoor pool and a private pool for the exclusive use of Deluxe Collection guests. Enjoy all-day waiter service at your chosen pool for that extra touch of comfort. Or relax and rejuvenate in the tranquil spa.
Prefer a more active holiday? The Ikos Oceania has a huge range of included activities to keep everyone happy, including tennis, mountain biking, canoeing, aerobics, yoga and much, much more. With evening entertainment, bars and children's shows, there is always something happening at the Oceania. No wonder it is the people's choice!
Why not book your next holiday at this fabulous luxury resort? Sign up here for the latest deals.
New Orleans is a testament to living history. Entire neighbourhoods, buildings, cobblestone streets and ancient oaks are markers of bygone eras. The history of New Orleans has turned the city into a colourful and exciting destination.
The History of New Orleans
Claimed for the French crown by explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1682, La Nouvelle-Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville and became the capital of the French Colony in 1723. The city developed around the Vieux Carré (Old Square), a central square from which the French Quarter evolved.
A vital trading and commercial hub, Spain took control of New Orleans in 1763 and this 37 year rule can still be seen in the city’s street names and architecture, like the Cabildo and the Presbytere. This period also reflected Spain’s more liberal views on race that fostered a class of free people of colour.
In 1800, the Spanish ceded Louisiana back to France but after only 3 years Napoleon sold the city and the French Colony to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. Despite this sale the residents of New Orleans held tight to their Francophile ways. Language and customs, cuisine, opera and social mores were still French. A sophisticated and cosmopolitan society was created by the Creoles (the American-born offspring of European settlers) in New Orleans. This French influence can still be seen in the Creole cottages, the Ursuline Convent and Charity Hospital as well as the streets of the French Quarter.
War of Independence & Civil War Eras
The British tried to claim the land during the War of Independence in 1812 but Andrew Jackson turned back more than 7,500 British soldiers, forcing them to abandon the area and ending the war.
As American plantation owners prospered, the French and Creoles of New Orleans socially rejected these nouveau riche. This led to the Americans staying across Canal Street in their own neighbourhoods.
In the mid-1800s, the highest concentration of millionaires in America could be found between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, fortunes founded on the slave trade and huge sugar plantations along the Mississippi River. Louisiana sugar plantations produced an estimated 450 million pounds of sugar per year, worth more than $20 million in the 1850s.
Elegant mansions were built by these millionaires on their plantations. Both depended heavily on slaves, one of the key motivators of the American Civil War. Union troops occupied New Orleans but the city didn't fight back, thus sparing itself from destruction. This signalled the end of New Orleans halcyon days, an era to become known as Antebellum (after the war).
After the war there was poverty, racial tension and governmental chaos. The city’s plantation owners could not match their antebellum success but the port of New Orleans preserved its essential status, as it does to this day.
Discover the period at the Old U.S. Mint, the only Confederate mint and the oldest U.S. mint in existence; or visit Louisiana’s Civil War Museum in the Warehouse District; see the statue of Margaret Gaffney Haughery, a beloved Irish immigrant whose bakery supplied bread to hungry families during the war and founder of orphanages, in the Lower Garden District.
World War II
New Orleans played a special role in the second world war. Shipbuilder and local industrialist Andrew Higgins invented a boat designed to float in Louisiana’s shallow water swamps and marshes. Built in local shipyards, “Higgins Boats” were used throughout the war for getting soldiers, vehicles and equipment off big ships to shore, most notably during the D-day invasion on the Normandy beaches.
After WWII land reclamation allowed New Orleans to expand. Similarly the history of New Orleans continues to create a city of rich culture, an eclectic mix of neighbourhoods - from the funky, bohemian Bywater all the way to the oak-lined Garden District, and civic pride. There's something for every type of traveller from authentic live music, historic architecture and vibrant nightlife.
New Orleans was an important port for trade with the Caribbean quickly becoming a target for piracy. Brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte were perhaps the most infamous. Visit Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop on Bourbon Street, the base of these pirates, which claims to be the oldest structure housing a bar in the United States.
The first Mardi Gras in the United States was celebrated in March 1699 when Iberville and Bienville landed at the mouth of the Mississippi River on Mardi Gras, 60 miles south of New Orleans. They named the spot Point du Mardi Gras and celebrated with their men. By the 1730s the Mardi Gras was celebrated with parties and street fairs.
In 1857, a secret society of New Orleans businessmen called the Mistick Krewe of Comus organized a torch-lit Carnival procession. The present-day New Orleans Mardi Gras with marching bands and floats can be traced to this celebration.
Speak of New Orleans and you immediately think of jazz. Evolving in the late 19th century, jazz combined ragtime, blues, spirituals and the American songbook, a result of the diverse ethnic and racial groups — French, Spanish, African, Italian, German, and Irish — found in New Orleans.
The 1920s roared along the Mississippi, ignoring Prohibition and welcoming travellers. Authors, artists and the adventurous discovered the French Quarter. Le Petit Theater was opened on St. Peter Street. New Orleans provided the soundtrack to the era.
The city’s music is its beating heart. The musical notes of jazz, brass, R&B and soul fill the air along with night–blooming jasmine. Walk down Frenchmen Street, in the Marigny neighbourhood and take in the vibrant cafes, music clubs and restaurants including Snug Harbor, dba. and the Spotted Cat.
New Orleans has produced musical giants like Louis Armstrong, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint. New acts follow in the tradition at Preservation Hall on Bourbon Street, Mother-In-Law Lounge on Claiborne Avenue, Rock-N-Bowl in Mid-City, the Maple Leaf Uptown and Vaughn’s in the Bywater where you can dance the night away. It’s all part of the magic that is found only in New Orleans.
New Orleans has a love affair with its traditional fare. Join the romance over by crawfish etouffe at a smart restaurant or with a bowl of gumbo at a backstreet bistro. Grab a po-boy sandwich stuffed with fried oysters for a picnic. This heady mix of Creole, Cajun and Anglo-American cuisine is totally unique. Discover the most famous dishes below.
New Orleans King Cakes
New Orleans Pralines
In a city steeped in history, New Orleans has a history of mixing innovative cocktails. Antoine Amédé Peychaud, is thought to have mixed the very first Sazerac in his pharmacy on Royal Street in the 1830s. From an eye-opening Brandy Milk Punch to a flaming Café Brûlot, the quintessential Crescent City nightcap, raise a glass to New Orleans’ past and a toast the city’s most famous cocktails.
New Orleans is a great destination for any time of year and any type of holiday. Speak to us to plan your food adventure in the Big Easy.
In Greece, well-being has a long history. What is not widely known is that Greece has many therapeutic thermal springs, mostly on the mainland but not exclusively. From antiquity to today, these numerous thermal springs and spas have alleviated ailments, revitalised the body and the mind, stimulated and relaxed the body and soul. The waters from the springs have a blend of natural minerals that can have a positive effect to humans in a number of ways. Thermal water is known to help improve the condition of various skin decease like eczema among others; it also helps in medical conditions like rheumatism, arthritis and gynaecological problems.
According to the Special Committee for the Protection of Natural Mineral Springs, there are 20 recognised thermal springs in Greece. Here is our pick of the best.
The oldest and best known natural spa in Greece. Edipsos is mentioned in the works of Aristotle, Plutarch 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 and remains of the Roman Baths still exist.
It is possible to bathe in the rock pools where steaming hot water pours through, leaving multicoloured sediment in strange formations. It gets very busy and there can be jellyfish so most people nowadays prefer to enjoy the healing benefits at one of the many spa hotels in the area. Perhaps the most historic is the Thermae Sylla Spa, which is built on two ancient thermal springs.
The healing properties of the thermae is due to the sodium chlorides, strongly carbonated and moderately sulphurated waters. The baths are recommended to be taken at temperatures of 28 to 34o C for a range of conditions, from rheumatism and arthritis to skin and respiratory diseases. It is certainly a relaxing way to feel better.
Vouliagmeni Lake, Attica
Located in the Attica region just outside Athens, Lake Vouliagmeni is a spectacular natural phenomenon. Formed as a covered lagoon about 2,000 years ago, the roof collapsed. This gave the lake it's name, from the Greek word “vouliazo” that means to submerge. It is now a national monument and part of the Natura 2000.
The lake’s waters are fed both by the sea and the underground thermal springs and so offer an excellent thermal spa experience. Swimming in the lake promotes wellness from the water temperature of between 22-29 degrees and the minerals in the brackish water. The healing properties of the lake come from its potent mix of salts and minerals (sodium, potassium, lithium, ammonium, calcium, iron, chlorine, iodine and a small amount of radiation). The lake also contains Garra Rufa fish (known as spa fish) which aid exfoliation as well as giving you a massage!
Around the lake there are grassy areas equipped with sunbeds and umbrellas for relaxation. A range of amenities are available, including Wi-Fi, changing rooms, lifeguards and medical facilities, playground, parking, etc. All in all, Lake Vouliagmeni provides an outstanding natural spa experience.
Loutra Pozar, Aridea
Located in the Pella region of Greece, Loutra Pozar thermal baths are at the bottom of the Vouras mountain, fed by waterfalls. Pozar hot springs are created by rain water, which penetrates deep into the ground, where is heated and then gradually rises and is enriched with minerals and other elements. The water has a constant temperature of 37 °C and can be enjoyed in the natural swimming pools or in a bath at one of the spas. The water has healing properties against arthritis, kidney diseases, skin diseases, gynaecological problems and circulatory problems.
Pozar's hot springs are a short distance from Loutraki and Edessa, located amongst huge trees. For those wanting to combine nature, relaxation and healing waters, Loutra Pozar is the perfect choice.
Take some respite from the vibrant and bustling city of Thessaloniki at Lagkada. The first balneotherapy (bathing in the thermal waters) facilities in the region of Lagadas dated back to 900 AD. It is thought that the baths were created by Ioustinianos, a byzantine military doctor. Today, two baths from the years 900 and 1400 are still used. Modern day development of the baths began in 1925 and today Lagadas is a large and thermal city. In addition to the ancient baths are two modern group tubs, 21 individual jacuzzis and 20 personal tubs. Face and body treatments, beauty and rehabilitation care are available.
The hot springs curative water is 39oC and contains sodium, potassium and calcium amongst other minerals. The waters are recommended for rheumatism, arthritis, gynaecological ailments, skin and kidney problems.
The springs at Kallithea have been famous since Hellenic times for their beneficial properties. The waters flowing into the sea from the surrounding rocks attracted visitors from all over the known world. Kallithea Thermal Spa that we can see today was built by the occupying Italians in December 1928. The buildings were damaged during World War II and allowed to fall into disrepair until Kallithea town council and its mayor, Yannis Iatridis, renovated the site. The springs were restored to their former glory with great attention to detail and were successfully reopened to the public.
The waters of Kallithea are thought suitable for the treatment of arthritis, skin conditions, obesity, diabetes, tropical diseases, dysentery, malaria, allergies, asthma, cystitis, diarrhoea and intestinal conditions.
Having swum in the healing waters and walked through the fabulous art deco buildings and seen the wonderful local black and white pebble floors, I can highly recommend a visit to this spa.
The thermal springs of Loutraki promotes wellbeing and revitalization of the body. It is also thought to treat and prevent various diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, gynaecological disorders, sciatica, musculoskeletal complaints, and skin disorders. The healing waters have been known since ancient times, indeed Xenophon refers to the use of this special water by the Spartans. These thermal spas have turned Loutraki into an important tourist attraction in Greece, due partly to its fame and partly due to its convenient position just one hour from Athens and close to the Corinth Canal.
20th century visits to benefit from the healing waters were boosted by containing the springs in a spa built in 1932. Restored in 2009 and connected to the luxurious modern building of Loutraki Thermal Spa, a host of treatments are offered here in addition to balneotherapy. A charming town has grown up at Loutraki and it makes a great base for an exploration of the region.
Agios Fokas, Kos
The therma or hot springs are situated in the southeastern corner of the island 13 kilometers away from Kos town at Agios Fokas. The area has a wild beauty of deep gulches, rocks and black pebbles, the result of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago.
The hot springs have been present here for centuries. The waters reputed healing properties result from water rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur and sodium, elements considered beneficial in curing skin, arthritic or rheumatic ailments. The temperature of the waters hovers between 30-50 Celsius.
A pool has been dug so that seawater enters, cooling the hot thermal waters so that it is pleasant to bathe in. The time I visited the area (some years ago!) the pool didn't exist so you either sat in very hot water or cool sea water. Even so, it was still on of the great experiences of any visit to Kos.
For those seeking to combine mountain sports with a touch of nature’s luxurious sensations, the mythical Lake Drakolimni offers a unique experience. At an altitude of 2,050 meters, on the Gamila peak, in Epirus region, Lake Drakolimni is not an easy conquest. The path up to the lake, which starts from the village Small Papigon, takes about 4 hours to walk, giving visitors the chance to enjoy diving into the bracing waters.
If you want to promote your wellbeing and health, the natural thermal springs of Greece are a great choice. It is easy to add them to a Greek holiday itinerary. Get in touch with us for more details.
Travel planning can be daunting. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, especially when it is a complicated itinerary or a long world-spanning journey.
I have planned countless trips and holidays for over the years (for myself, friends, family and customers) and understand how getting the essentials right is key. So here is a step-by-step guide on how to travel plan effectively and with less stress.
1. Decide on your destination(s)
This sounds as though it should be the easiest step of all. With all the destination guides available on the internet nowadays there can be a risk of information overload unless you have a clear idea to start with. Instead of thinking that you want to go to a continent or country, it is much better to hone in on a specific region, island or city. Saying that you are going to Antigua rather than the Caribbean concentrates your mind and makes planning much smoother. Guidebooks and maps are also useful ways of finding out more about your chosen destination, routes and culture.
2. Decide the length of your trip
How long are you going away for? Until you know that you can't have a concrete plan. Sometimes it will be dependent on how much time off you have from work. Other times you might be flexible from 7 to 10 days. Try to be specific, for example "I'm going to Antigua for 14 nights". This will make it easier for you to find the right flight, hotel or package out of the vast array available.
3. Cost planning
Now you know where you want to go, where you going and how long you are going for, you need to set a budget. Firstly consider your style of travel, luxury hotels, all inclusive, backpacking, etc. You can then check out costs online on holiday comparison sites. Travel forums are also useful to find out how much things cost in your chosen destination. This gives you a guide as to how much you'll need for spending money. Don't forget to check the exchange rate so you know how much local currency you'll need to order. These days I find it more economical to get a small amount of currency for immediate needs on arrival then get what I need from the ATM in the destination. Of course this won't work if you're going somewhere remote!
4. Check for last minute deals
It's always worth checking travel offers to see if you can save money. You may dream of Antigua but perhaps there are special offers to Barbados right now. Maybe you can get an upgraded cabin on a cruise, or maybe you can go further for your budget. The world is a big place and there are so many places to see. Sometimes you can get a better deal if you're flexible. This does, of course, mean that you start your destination research again. But it is much quicker when the place has already been chosen.
5. Package deal or separate elements?
It is most often better to book your holiday as a package if you are taking a stay-put holiday in one destination. If you're planning a trip itinerary with multiple stops then you will almost certainly have to book your flight, accommodation and transfers separately.
6. Plan your activities
OK, so you have planned how to get to your destination and where you are staying, now you need to think about what you'll do when you get there. Of course you don't need to know every detail, just outline the major activities you want to enjoy and have an idea of the cost. Activities available will vary dependent on your destination and again, Tripadvisor forums can be really helpful. You can ask fellow travellers or local residents whether you can parascend, bungee jump or horse ride. Find out which local suppliers offer quad biking, surfing, gorge climbing or child-friendly activities. The internet is also a great place to find out more about landmarks that you want to discover on your sightseeing days. Not forgetting which are the best restaurants to try. Whatever you want to do you should make sure that your insurance covers it, particularly adrenaline sports.
Now you've decided where you are going, when, how and what you'll be doing when you get there, you are ready to plan what you need to take with you. A great tip to ensure you don't forget anything is to have a packing checklist. I've been using the same list for over 30 years and it hasn't changed much - apart from replacing the Walkman, camera and film with my mobile phone!
Make sure you include the essentials such as passport, tickets and money. You can add types of clothing and footwear (the checklist stops me forgetting nightwear!), toiletries, medication, etc. What you pack depends entirely on where you are going but I just cross off what I don't need from the list and add extras. When I go shopping pre-trip I take the list with me and highlight items as I buy them. When I pack my suitcase I lay out the items on the bed first and tick them off the list before packing the case. Happy days.
Why not download my checklist to get you started?
Still feeling overwhelmed? Why not use an experienced travel agent to make the travel planning process a cinch. Tasteful Travel are with you every step of the planning journey and can support you before, during and after your holiday.
Designed for adults who are looking for a fun, lively holiday in hotels with great design but a relaxed vibe, Cook's Club from Thomas Cook is a great offering for couples, groups of friends and families with children over 16. With simple, stylish rooms and a central pool hub the hotels have great quality casual dining and lively bar areas.
Enjoy poolside soundtracks throughout the day and a DJ on the decks at night. Cook's Club hotels also offer themed evenings, from RnB parties to BBQ cookouts. Dance till midnight at your chosen hotel and enjoy cocktails at the Captain Cook bar, mixed with premium spirits and served in quirky glass tumblers.
Dine informally at the street-food inspired Cantina. Instead of buffet style canteens, all dishes are made fresh to order - from hangover brunches to vegan treats.
Cook's Club Adakoy Marmaris has been named one of Europe's best new hotels 2019 by The i Paper. The hotel is nestled in a secluded waterfront location and offers great watersports.
Along with the Adakoy, an especially selected group of hotels form the Cook's Club. The concept is a new collection of hotels which are stripped back to focus only on the things that matter to a new generation of travellers. Here you can be surrounded by like-minded people here and spend an action-packed yet relaxing break.
Cook's Club will also be available in super cool Sardinia, Italy; Kos, Greece; Alanya, Turkey; Palma Beach, Majorca; and Sunny Beach in this year's hot spot, Bulgaria. All will have the urban chic look even though in coastal locations. The focus is on what today's traveller wants, especially the young and hip.
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