Radioactive Springs, Lizard Crossing & Sunburnt Skin

Oertzen's Rock Lizard ( Lacerta Oertzeni ) | Credit: Talita Bateman

Oertzen's Rock Lizard (Lacerta Oertzeni) | Credit: Talita Bateman

Last time we were in Ikaria, we talked about visiting one of the many famous hot springs around the island but got too distracted by the beautiful walks to actually do it. This time, we made a point of finding one and having a relaxing bath. So, we set out to do some research on the geothermal springs available around the island. It was during this research that we discovered a very interesting fact about Ikaria's hot springs - they are amongst the most radioactive in the world. 

Lefkada thermal spring by the sea | Credit: Talita Bateman

Lefkada thermal spring by the sea | Credit: Talita Bateman

Lefkada thermal hot spring by the sea | Credit: Talita Bateman

Lefkada thermal hot spring by the sea | Credit: Talita Bateman

Radioactivity in geothermal springs is nothing new. In fact, you can find them all over the world. However, the level of radioactivity recorded in Ikaria was rather high when compared to some other places in the world and it seems to be mainly due to radon (depending on the trajectory of the water to the surface). As far as I can tell, it was noticed and recorded for the first time in 1936 by M. Pertesis and many islanders claim that the springs have healing powers. Although there seems to be a lack of supporting studies to this claim, I did find an interesting piece of research carried out by G.  Trabidou and H. Florou for the Radiation Protection Dosimetry in December 2010 that aimed at assessing the risk of radiation exposure to the population coming from the spring water in Ikaria. I am by no means an expert in geology or radiology so will speak no further of any benefits or risks from bathing in these springs. I can only tell you that despite the hot weather, bathing in a natural coastal hot spring was pretty magical.

Lefkada hot spring salts | Credit: Talita Bateman

Lefkada hot spring salts | Credit: Talita Bateman

Apparently, we chose one of the hottest springs in the island where the water can reach temperatures of 58 degrees Celsius and is situated in Lefkada. I've seen people on the internet complain about the lack of warnings. You see, there's no spa around it or grand entrances. The path down to the rocky area by the sea where the spring is located is barely marked at all - which only makes it that much more special to me. Yes, you have to be careful not to go in via the hottest parts. Yes, you're essentially in the sea, so if the sea is rough that day, you will have a hard time getting in and enjoying yourself. However, whilst there I was imagining how people, years and years ago, would have enjoyed the pleasures of a natural hot spring by the sea without a care in the world for health and safety or levels of radiation.

Juvenile Oertzen's Rock Lizard ( Lacerta oertzeni ) | Credit: Talita Bateman

Juvenile Oertzen's Rock Lizard (Lacerta oertzeni) | Credit: Talita Bateman

The drive back was rather uneventful. We were all quite relaxed and proudly sporting a few cuts from trying to get in and out of the spring. We had to slow the car down to an almost stop in order to allow a very unimpressed and lazy lizard (Lacerta oertzeni) to cross the road and eventually returned home with a smile on our faces. If there's one piece of advice I would give you, however, is that if you are as pasty white as me, to perhaps make sure that you visit the spring before you get so terribly sunburned that you feel as though your unattractively red skin is in direct contact with the sun.