The next day we went to try out the thermal baths in the old Italian spa hotel Therma Loutra. The first time we went there, we found out that it was only open for non-residential guests for a few hours in the afternoon. We came back when it opened, really looking forward to trying the baths which supposedly should be a great experience – only to find out that you have to be 18 years old to enter. What a disappointment! It meant that our children could not go and, of course, then we would not go. I wish we had known beforehand as we had wasted a great deal of time going there and waiting for it to open. However, if you are travelling without children it would probably be something to try. The hotel Therma Loutra looks like something from a different age – and it is. It must have been a very elegant and exclusive place when it was built.
We went to see the volcano and it is a must. Make sure you wear solid shoes when you go. The surface is quite hot in some places, and if you want to walk around in the area, wearing sandals is definitely not a good idea. When we parked our car a guy came up to us to sell tickets to enter the area. At first, we were not quite sure whether this was someone trying to make money on ignorant tourists, but as we hadn’t really run into this kind of problem here, we trusted the guy – and he turned out to be quite legitimate. He was quite helpful in telling us where to go – and where not to go. In some places the smell of sulphur was so strong that we had to hold our noses and breathe through our mouths. Down in the crater itself, there were steam holes which you don’t want to get too close to. The walls of the crater were in all kinds of beautiful colours, and it was a truly fascinating experience. We kept having the feeling that the volcano could explode anytime….
At the top of the volcano there is a small village, Nikea – beautiful architecture, with the most stunning view of the volcano and surroundings. It’s worthwhile taking a walk around the narrow alleys where you never seem to put your camera down. Again, people are extremely friendly and put up with the tourist with a smile.
As I have mentioned before, in spite of our island hopping the Greek islands in the midst of the peak season July August, there was plenty of room everywhere (almost everywhere!). In Mandraki town we saw many bars and restaurants with few or no guests; especially the ones along the ‘tourist’ street going from the harbour toward the centre of town. We recommend continuing further along the road, past the post office, and a bit further yet till you come to town square in the old centre of Mandraki where we didn’t see many foreigners. However, this was where all the Greeks seemed to come for dinner, drink coffee or whatever. We went to ‘Taverna Irene’ where we felt welcome, had great food and Greek coffee. The atmosphere was so different from the restaurants along the ‘tourist’ street.