Starting from Pozar Thermal Baths, part b

In the previous article we had promised to talk in detail about Pozar Thermal Baths and the time has come!

Read the first part of our article based in Pozar Thermal Baths:

In our new article we enjoy relaxation and wellness in the wonderful Pozar Thermal Baths, dine at the excellent tavern Karafaki in Aridaia, explore the Nymfes Hotel-Spa, visit the Monastery of Agios Hilarion Moglenon, where we have a very interesting discussion with a nun, and discover the impressive cave of Agios Ioannis in Thiriopetra, Almopia.

Nymfes Hotel that hosted us is located in a very convenient location, just a 5-minutes drive from Pozar Baths, or Aridaia Baths or Loutraki Baths, as they are called. The day was beautiful, with some sun and a few clouds, although we did not worry much about it, since the baths are warm. We put on our swimsuits and left!

At the entrance of the Pozar Baths

Pozar Baths are thermal baths, which are located at a distance of 13 km from Aridaia and 100 km from Thessaloniki, which makes them a very popular destination for the weekend. The baths have received a license from the Ministry of Tourism since 2019 and are an officially certified Spa Treatment Unit. They are visited by visitors from many places, nearby and not. The reason why? Their healing properties, the beautiful landscape and the relaxing atmosphere.

Thermal baths include various points of interest: waterfalls, cafés, caves, the Gorge of Agia Paraskevi, Kounoupitsa stream and more.
In front of the small, natural waterfall and one of the artificial swimming pools
The small swimming pool, next to the natural “pools” of the warm river

The landscape is characterized by a natural ravine on a mountain, into which flows the warm Toplitsa river (or otherwise the Nikolaou stream), which forms natural waterfalls and shallow riverbeds on the banks. We read that the river is created by springs that gush at an altitude of 360-390m and are created by rainwater that penetrates the ground, reaches great depths, and after heating rises higher enriched with minerals and other beneficial components.

The Toplitsa river and in the background one of its natural waterfalls

Even without entering the baths’ pools, you can enjoy the warm river lying down in the small, natural, shallow “pools”, with warm water, with a wonderful turquoise color, at a temperature of 37°C both in winter and in summer, below the shade of tall, green trees, which consist mainly of black pine. This is exactly what we did, for many, many hours…

Inside the natural, shallow, warm, individual “pools”
At the small waterfall
One of the swimming pools of the baths, beautifully integrated in the natural landscape

The thermal baths have many healing properties: hydrotherapy cures rheumatic diseases, cervical syndrome, diseases of the circulatory system, heart problems, diseases of the respiratory system, skin diseases, gynecological diseases, urinary tract diseases, migraines and headaches, and more. In addition, the idyllic landscape of the baths, along with good company, rest and relaxation contributes to good mental health.

Unique hours of relaxation and wellness
The large, outdoor swimming pool, on a specially designed plateau with a layout parallel to the river
A natural source of “hydromassage” that perfectly relaxes the back and neck

We had such a nice time in the natural “pools” of the warm river, that the day passed without even entering the indoor pools of the baths. From their website we saw that they also have their own character. The main facilities are located in the Alexandrio hydrotherapy center, which includes 11 swimming pools with artificial waterfalls, with a capacity of up to 6 people each. The indoor facilities also include the “Old” hydrotherapy center with 2 swimming pools with artificial waterfalls and 2 hammam pools.

The indoor pools of Pozar Baths (source)

Pozar Baths is a beautiful destination, which combines relaxation, healing, sports and entertainment. It is undoubtedly a visit worth doing, which we will definitely repeat in the future!

After a fantastic day at the baths, what we lacked was good food. Our friend and owner of the Nymfes Hotel, Mr. Vangelis Amanidis, suggested that we try the Karafaki tavern in Aridaia. Of course we followed his advice, and as it turned out we did very well!

Aridaia is the seat and the largest town of the Municipality of Almopia of the Regional Unit of Pella. It is the third largest city of Pella after Edessa and Giannitsa. Aridaia has developed tourism, as it is a city within walking distance of the baths. It also has educational institutions, such as a Public Vocational School and an evening Highschool.

Arriving in Aridaia we took a walk in the square we passed by, the Square of Epilochias Ath. Setskos. There was a lot of people in the square, children and adults, as well as in the shops around it. A nice fountain, tall trees, plenty of space and several benches made it a very beautiful location and a landmark of the city.

In the square of Aridaia

Our destination, however, was different. We were going for an evening meal at the ouzo-tavern Karafaki at the eastern entrance of the city! With many indoor and outdoor tables, Karafaki was full of life and people all night. And its food, unbelievable! In addition to the delicious, modern food we tried, we learned that the store also hosts live music nights. We would love to attend one of them!

The friendly mood of the owner Mr. Christos Tourpesis, who welcomed us to the family business and offered us dishes to try from his menu, the helpful, courteous staff, the beautifully decorated interior with wood and stone, the cool, large outdoor space, the wonderful food made with passion and love make it undoubtedly a hangout of the neighborhood and the whole city.

The menu includes handmade dips, hot and cold appetizers, salads, seafood and fish, and many main meat dishes. We are sure that whatever we chose would have the same high quality and rich taste. From what we tasted we were terribly impressed by their homemade, deep taste that shows that everything is made with pure local ingredients; especially its meat was one of the most delicious we have ever tasted! A unique touch is added by selected, special products from other parts of our country, such as Evrytania prosciutto, Katiki of Domokos, Anevato of Grevena, Graviera of Crete and Lefkada salami. For a drink one can choose between beer, bulk wine, retsina, ouzo, tsipouro, drinks and Greek bottled wines. So, take a look at what we ordered… We are sure you will like everything!

What to try?
A table full of delicacies!
Rocket and spinach salad, with peach compote, Evrytania prosciutto, almonds and Anevato of Grevena
Potato salad with Lefkada salami, sun-dried tomatoes and parsley-lemon oil and Vergina beer from the Brewery of Macedonia-Thrace based in Komotini
Macedonian kopanisti (a salty, spiced cheese) with smoked Pella pepper
Handmade cheese croquettes with pepper jam
Nest with grilled pork, smoked roast sauce, yogurt and country potatoes
And for dessert syrupy orange pie with ice cream

In Katafaki everything was really wonderful! Leaving Aridaia, we would like to close with a report on the Tsipouro Festival that we were told about, in Piperia, Almopia, a 7-minutes drive from Aridaia. The festival started about 17 years ago and is now an institution of November; in the village square crowds come to enjoy appetizers, traditional music and lots of dancing. We hope that one of the next autumns we will attend it!

At the Tsipouro Festival of Piperia of 2019

The next morning we woke up at the wonderful Nymfes Hotel-Spa in Pozar Baths, which hosted us for a second day, and went downstairs for breakfast. We drank coffee, hot because it was a cloudy day, and enjoyed our breakfast, which had everything, as always: egg slices, sausages, bacon, boiled eggs, toast, breads, cold cuts, cheeses, cheese pie, spinach pie, potato pie, breadsticks, croissants, bougatsa, cakes, galaktoboureko, puff pastry with tahini-praline, praline, honey, jams, yogurt with oats and honey, and more.

Cloudy weather and hot coffee
A wonderful, complete -and even more- breakfast to start the day well!

After we had had breakfast, we took a walk inside the four-star hotel, in order to take a look at its suites, which we had heard were perfect! We were able to see two of the four, the Neoclassical and the Red Suite, and we were left with the Modern and the Stone Suite to see on the company’s website.

Entering the Neoclassical Suite, we were speechless! A large open space with neoclassical columns that separated the airy bed from an oval bathtub. And in addition a fireplace by the bed!

In the Neoclassical Suite

The Red Suite had nothing to envy! Modern decor with bright colors, a large round bed, fireplace, sofa and plasma TV, and the highlight -a hot tub next to the balcony door with a nice view!

In the Red Suite
The endless view from the balcony of the Red Suite
The Stone Suite (source)
The Modern Suite (source)

Before leaving for the visits of the day, which had in the program religious tourism, we spoke with one of the owners of the family business, Mr. Vangelis Amanidis. We talked about tourism in the area and he told us that in the last ten years Pozar Baths have become a well-known domestic destination outside Thessaloniki. Tourists also come from abroad, with a large percentage from Israel. Important sports events take place in the area, which attract sports tourism. For example, in August 2021 in Aridaia was held the 9th European Under 16 Aridaia Cup Tennis Championship with the support of the Municipality of Almopia and the Municipal Enterprise of Loutraki Baths.

Chat with Mr. Vangelis at the reception of the Nymfes Hotel
In the beautiful living room on the ground floor of the hotel

The main destination of the day was the Monastery of Agios Hilarion in Promachoi, Almopia. It is 14 km, 25 minutes by car away from Pozar Baths, so it is an important pilgrimage to the area. The Monastery of Agios Hilarion, Bishop of Moglena, is a nunnery of the 12th century. It has as its owner and founder Saint Hilarion himself, who was a great Hierarch of the Orthodox Church, who lived and acted in the area of Almopia in the 12th century.

Outside the Church of the monastery
Exterior view of the buildings of the monastery

In the monastery we were welcomed by one of the nuns, who had the kindness to tell us facts from the history of the monastery. Along with her wonderful company, she brought us treats, while she also gave us four awesome books that we enjoy reading!

Initially, the nun told us about the life of Saint Hilarion, Bishop of Moglena. Saint Hilarion has been distinguished for his anti-sectarian struggles and was a miracle worker -he healed the sick and the demon-possessed. In difficult times he miraculously filled warehouses with food and was very close to the people. He is also considered the protector of infertility and the barren woman; childless couples with the wishes of the Saint gave birth to children. After many years of significant action, he passed away and was buried in the monastery. His remains were initially saved and many people came to worship them, until they were taken by a Bulgarian emperor. When the Bulgarian state was overthrown by Turkey, the relic was transported to Constantinople and since then we do not know its traces.

Saint Hilarion, Bishop of Moglena

The monastery continued to operate in the following centuries. During the Turkish occupation, it had a secret school in a blind room, inside an 18th-century building, which has now been expanded as an exhibition. From oral tradition we learn that the monastery had numerous fraternities with about 170 monks, until the time of Ottoman rule. According to what the nun told us, the Turks deceitfully dressed as monks and deceived the monks, who hosted them in their monastery. From inside, they facilitated the invasion of the rest of the Turks who were waiting outside. The monastery was completely destroyed.

For 200 years the monastery remained in ruins. Nevertheless, people came and held services in the ruins. In the area of the old monastery, which was dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul, the inhabitants built a chapel in honor of St. Hilarion. Later, the monastery was renamed, which is the only monastery dedicated to Saint Hilarion in Greece. Not to be confused with the Monastery of Agios Hilarion in Kozani, which refers to Hilarion the Great.

The monastery was re-established in 2003 as a nunnery with the blessing of His Eminence the Metropolitan of Edessa, Pella and Almopia, Father Ioil. Today 8 sisters live in the monastery. The Metropolitan entrusted the reconstruction of the Monastery to Father Paisios, a student of Saint Paisios. The dear nun who spoke to us gave us, among other things, two books by Father Paisios, in which he narrates his experiences from Saint Paisios. Real masterpieces!

What else to add for the one who did not love praise, but only wanted to see our foresight? He used to say: “I want them to brag about you, Father, not in this life but in the next.” […] He was the fragrance of Christ and the joy of the Angels. Control of the unbelievers and a consolation of the faithful. A model for the monks and a sleepless Ambassador of the whole world. Holy Father Paisios, be an ambassador for us.

Monk Paisios, Α εωράκαμεν και ακηκόαμεν. My memories from Agios Paisios. Publications of the Holy Monastery of Agios Hilarion
The logs on the outside of the monastery that are designed to look like the logs on which Saint Paisios sat with his visitors outside his cell
The outer resting area outside the cell of Saint Paisios (source)
Saint Paisios with his visitors outside his cell in Panagouda (source)
Mosaic from the Church of the Monastery of Agios Hilarion (Monk Paisios, Α εωράκαμεν και ακηκόαμεν. My memories from Agios Paisios. Publications of the Holy Monastery of Agios Hilarion)
The place where we sat and talked with the nun
Spinach pie and syrupy sweet for a treat, a sign of love from the nuns
And an unexpected guest at our table!

Finally, the nun told us that according to the testimonies of the locals, before the re-establishment of the monastery, some villagers came and took wood and stones from the monastery to use as building materials. But when they tried to unload them, it was impossible, as they did not move at all. They considered this event a sign of Saint Hilarion and returned the materials to the monastery, where they unloaded them with great ease.

The nun showed us the book Monasteries of Macedonia and Thrace by Dimitris Sotiropoulos published by D. Sotiropoulos.
The wonderful gifts that the nun gave us to remember our visit…

Our visit to the monastery was truly a unique experience, worth living. The nun’s hospitality and kindness was a sign of the sisters’ love for the people. We thank her from the bottom of our hearts for the company, the important information and the new books for our library, which we will read again and again!

Our last religious destination of the day, as well as our article, is the cave of Agios Ioannis in Thiriopetra, Almopia. We heard that it is a very impressive setting, inside a cave in the mountain, dedicated to the grace of Saint John. It is located outside the village of Thiriopetra, in the west, a half-an-hour drive from the Monastery of Agios Hilarion, in the gorge of Ai-Giannis and is really worth it to get there. The point is approached by car, and has a slight uphill walk on the mountain, until the stairs leading to the cave appear.

The instructions we read on the web say the following: “After 3 km west of the village of Thiriopetra on asphalt you will find on your right a field road that you must follow for 1.5 km to the entrance of the gorge where you park. From there you hike around 700m into the impressive gorge and find the cave.”

Share our experience with us and do not forget to see it up close if you are in the area!

The uphill path that leads to the steps to the cave
The steps that go up to the cave of Ai-Giannis
The impressive gorge of Ai-Giannis
In front of the cave
The icon of Saint John on the rock
Seats, vouchers and icons
The stone-built iconostasis
Detail of the iconostasis
Returning from the path we came

With the beautiful view from the road on the slope of the mountain Vora (Kaimaktsalan) we will say goodbye once again, until our next article with our visit to Edessa with its fantastic Waterfall Park, and not only! Stay tuned!

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