I live in the centre of Athens, and regardless of how much Lykavvitos’ greenery replenishes my spirit when gazing out at it every day, the air (and sound) pollution is an accumulative problem.
With autumn in the air, I’ve been fantasising about a holiday near the mountains, but my commitments are keeping me firmly rooted in urban existentialism. When I nagged a friend about this she suggested I try halotherapy in southern Athens. Does that entail becoming a saint and getting my own wreath of golden light? I asked. Not really. Halotherapy, a Greek-origin word based on the words halo or ialo for salt, and also known as salt therapy, involves sitting in a space made up completely of kinetically activated dry salt. The salt is usually mined from Poland and Kashmir, India from a depth of 350 metres underground, as well as from the Dead Sea. Apparently, just 45 minutes in a salt cave equates to three days of frolicking in a seaside paradise; health benefits include an uplifting disposition, detoxification of the respiratory system (the negative ions in salt have antimicrobial, anti-fungal and antibacterial qualities) and the regulation of the nervous and immune systems.
Seeking a good dose of physical-emotional seasoning I visited the Salt Cave in Glyfada to experience it for myself. I’m not one to skimp on therapeutic, hands-on treatment, especially when it comes at very reasonable prices, so I also booked a massage to boost the benefits. The manager informed me that many come here to just sit and breathe, while some come to meditate and attend popular yoga classes. Once a week, sound baths (with gongs and singing bowls) take place, and independent therapists periodically book the space for their own healing workshops.
The womb-like ‘cave’ is a room in which the ceiling, floors and walls are all completely covered in tons of salt, with a tranquillising soft pink-orange light glowing through. There are two fountains that create humidity (around 50-60%) and the temperature is at 22 degrees C, which feels neutral in winter and refreshing in summer. A skilled massage therapist helped me stretch and ‘open’ my tightly-wound body with a mix of traditional Thai massage and deep-muscle oil massage, followed by a facial that sent me into a deep sleep. I woke up feeling deeply renewed and was breathing more deeply, as lately. All the products she used included salt combined with oils, herbs and flowers with sweet aromas that enhanced the floaty feeling I walked out with. She told me that salt isn’t just detoxifying for the skin (and beneficial for conditions like eczema and psoriasis) but also makes it softer and soothes inflammations because it is so rich in minerals. Most people come here to relieve stress, although some people with more chronic conditions like insomnia, depression, digestive issues or a weak immune system have found that coming here has alleviated their symptoms.
I’ll be honest, as I approached the Salt Cave, located in Glyfada, I wasn’t sure what to expect; but I found the experience refreshing, unique (and it is the only one of its kind in Greece) and therapeutic, and recommend it – unless you suffer from kidney problems, are allergic to iodine or are undergoing chemotherapy. The service was friendly and I felt the benefits for at least a few days. This will definitely be on my stuck-in-the-city list of weird and wonderful places to go.
Visit the Glyfatha Salt Cave here.