While many destinations market themselves as healthy, Greece is unintentionally the perfect wellness destination
When you think of destinations associated with wellness and healing it’s likely that the following places come to mind: Bali and its Eat Pray Love stamp of approval, India and its (often bogus) gurus, or Costa Rica, the unofficial capital of yoga retreats. Greece, on the other hand, is more likely to conjure up images of beach time, sunset captures on Santorini, eating feta, and activity of the general vacation sort.
Yet, unintentionally, Greece possesses an unintentional healing prowess. Have you ever noticed how healthy and vibrant friends look upon returning from the country? The natural makeover I receive from my time there far surpasses the noticeable effects of a summer tan. While the country doesn’t have the healthiest overall population (uh em, smokers), its natural potential for healing can be found in aspects of its diet, lifestyle, and natural resources.
The sheer amount of yoga and wellness retreats happening in Greece speak to its powers. Heck, the Hippocratic Oath, recited by all doctors before they begin to practice, originated here. From Greece’s easy climate to its fresh, food (yes you’ve likely already been told by a doctor to follow a “Mediterranean diet,” but I’d argue the Aegean diet is even better), below are ways that Greece is an inherently healing place and why it might just be your next wellness focused destination.
Sage grows abundantly in Greece.
“Faskomilo,” as it’s called, is found commonly all over Greece. Drunk as teas or used as deodorizers in rooms, it has less of the “dirty hippie” connotation associated with it in the states. In the U.S. you almost can’t mention sage outside your more holistic-minded circles without garnering an eye roll, but in Greece, it’s nothing extraordinary.
And! You can find it growing wildly quite easily, or in stores that sell Greek products. Much like organic food, its healing properties doesn’t mean it goes for exorbitant sums like these types of products do in the U.S. (It simply IS organic because it is without overdone branding and markups. end rant..)
(If you missed our interview with Aegean Herbs, read it now, and consider buying some of their herbs grown without pesticides and using all natural techniques on the island of Amorgos)
Thermal springs are kind of everywhere
According to Greece Is, the country is home to approximately 800 locations of natural springs. Dating back even further than even Homeric times, Greek’s bathed in these waters to improve cleanliness and eventually discovered the more holistic properties of the waters.
Thermal springs have many benefits, including improved circulation, relieving chronic muscle pain, stress reduction, and skin issues such as eczema.
While many have capitalized on this trend, you can also find PLENTY of springs on your own and not pay a thing for your dip. I personally have soaked for free in both Ikaria and Milos, but there are organized, higher end options aplenty.
It’s home to one of the world’s rare Blue Zones: the island of Ikaria
Ikaria has gotten a lot of press lately. It just so happens to be a “Blue Zone” island. I waxed semi-poetic on this in my other post about Ikaria, which is worth a read if you’re curious to discover more about the wildness of Ikaria.
If you’re unfamiliar, the “Blue Zones” are five zones in the world noted by anthropologists for the longevity and health of its populations.
Ikaria’s laid back attitude, homemade wine, olive oil and tight-knit communities have been credited to its inhabitants long lives. I’d also make an argument that the abundance of “panigyria,” aka the gatherings where Greeks gather for food, dancing, and live music in celebration of a Saint’s feast day, might just have something to do with it. Any place with this much sanctioned joy is a special one, and music has been cited as a tool for brain plasticity over the course of one’s life.
The traditional diet is (mostly) super healthy
I don’t need to give you a rundown on the Mediterranean die or preach the health benefits of olive oil. Or remind you that on Greek islands you can toss your fish oil supplement for a fresh fish caught that day. Hello, brain health!
Let’s visit a quick story.
When I did a yoga teacher training, our “end of training celebration” dinner took place at a Greek restaurant. Because many were vegetarian (not I. I love goat. I love lamb. I am Greek. I digress…), there was a general concern there wouldn’t be enough options.
We ate a three-course meal that was entirely vegetarian. People couldn’t even finish the second course.
While Greeks tend to eat a lot of meat, there are so many vegetarian options: varieties of greens, salads, lentils, fava, gemista, etc. The health-conscious person may see “Greek food” and think “lamb,” but this is entirely a misconception. Unless, of course, you want lamb.
Which is generally very fresh and delicious and readily available in Greece.
And that may be the best part. Whereas in the U.S., eating fresh, “farm to table” generally entails paying a lot of money (it’s sad that this is a country where fresh food isn’t a “right,” but a luxury…), and dealing with people who really want to make over the fact that the food is farm to table. In Greece, you pick out the fish that was caught that day. When they run out, they run out. The lamb is from the other side of the mountain. The greens are from the garden. The tea is from the mountain. Obviously, there are MAJOR exceptions to this, and Greece, like all developed nations, has its share of junk. But compared to the U.S., the sheer availability of fresh food is unparalleled.
Moral of the story, I challenge someone to name a country with cuisine that’s as fresh, tasty, and healthy as Greece’s.
In my completely objective opinion, Greece has the best honey, and honey is one of nature’s greatest gifts. The sticky stuff can help prevent allergies and is one of my favorite homeopathic treatments for sore throats.
If you’re only used to American store bought stuff, prepare to be blown away by the nuanced flavors of fresh Greek honey. It’s rare you’ll take a countryside drive without seeing honey supers (the boxes that collect honey), especially on the island of Crete.
SHAMELESS ENVIRONMENTAL PLUG:: bees are going extinct at a rapid rate and we need them. Don’t forget that we need nature much more than nature needs us.
SO many yoga and wellness retreats are now happening here (something we at DR are cooking up as well)
A quick search down the Google lane reveals that Greece has already become a major destination for yogis and wellness aficionados. Combined with its inherently healing properties, the abundance of opportunities for those seeking deeper wellness experiences makes it a no-brainer for those seeking a rejuvenating vacation.