Thermopylae is one of mainland Greece’s hidden gems. With a location only two hours from Athens you would expect this destination to attract more visitors, but it has remained one of the unknown places in Greece. So why is Thermopylae worth a visit? Because of the museum about the iconic Battle of Thermopylae and the amazing Thermopylae hot springs. Did you know Thermopylae literally translates to Hot Gates, as this area was already known for its sulfur springs in ancient times? This blog will tell you more about visiting Thermopylae, including the exact locations of the best hot spring baths and a useful Thermopylae map.
How to get to Thermopylae in Greece?
Thermopylae is located in mainland Greece. The famous archaeological site of Delphi is only a 45-minute drive from Thermopylae. You can reach the capital Athens in just over two hours and that is where you will find the nearest international airport.
The Battle of Thermopylae
The name Thermopylae is usually associated with the famous battle that took place here in ancient Greek times. In 480 BC, the Greek army fought against the invasion of the Persians at this location. The army of the Persians had of thousands of men, while the Greek general Leonidas I of Sparta had only three hundred men at his disposal.
The outcome is quite obvious: the Greeks could not win against the Persian supremacy, but they didn’t go down without a fight. Leonidas had chosen his best men strategically and positioned himself with his men in one narrow mountain pass. However large the Persian army was, for days they could not break through the Greek front at this narrow location. Finally, the Greeks were betrayed by someone in their midst who told the Persians about a second mountain pass. Almost all Greeks and Spartans were eventually killed, but they went down heroically fighting as was the greatest honor in those days.
Although the battle was not decisive in the Persian war, the Battle of Thermopylae went down in the history books as a great heroic defeat. The Hollywood movie ‘300’ from 2006 also helped in the fame of this story.
The site nowadays doesn’t look like an ancient battlefield, but a museum and monuments have been built in memory of the Battle of Thermopylae. The monument with a statue of Leonidas of Sparta stands on the spot where the battle once took place. The mountain pass here is not as narrow as it once was, so you won’t fully experience how it must have been back in 480 BC. There is also a memorial on Kolonos Hill. The Thermopylae Museum – or Historical Information Center for Thermopylae – is the best way to learn more about the legendary battle.
The Thermopylae Hot Springs
Thermopylae can be translated as ‘Hot Gates’, a reference to the volcanic hot springs near this Greek town. Directly opposite the monument of Leonidas of Sparta is a volcanic area with several of sulfur hot springs. According to the Ancient Greeks, these springs would be a gateway to the hell of Hades. Yet another story is that the water got this temperature when the Greek hero Heracles washed off poison in the pools.
The pools are accessible for free and you can take a bath in them. You can park your (rental) car in all places right next to the hot water baths. Because it is a source of sulfur, the water is said to have medicinal properties. The sulfur also causes that well-known stench of hot springs, although we personally found that not too bad at Thermopylae.
You can find several hot springs around the area, but the hot water baths closest to the source are the warmest and therefore the best to take a bath. They are freely accessible and deep enough to submerge yourself in its hot water. The water is most hot directly at the source. We couldn’t stay in the water for too long and were still feeling all warm and glowing long after our bath. This is the location on Google Maps.
You can take a more idyllic and less hot bath further down the road. On this location on Google Maps you can shower under a kind of waterfall. Our favorite might be this location on Google Maps, where the warm water ripples over a lovely hot water stream with perfect temperatures for long baths. You can park right next to it, which is also done by many campers who stay here for one or more nights.