A contemporary spa in Sparta draws inspiration from antiquated health theories that are both stimulating and luxurious.
I’m floating in the middle of a sphere, surrounded by crystal blue seas, and I can hear whales singing in the hemisphere below. Light streams from an opening in the dome above. It will soon be time to get a carefully crafted snack to satisfy my demands and unwind on a chaise overlooking a lush Greek valley. There is no stress at all.
I realized I had never heard of someone going to the ancient Greek town of Sparta until I attended the “Spartan Spirit of Adventure” in a spa near it. Of course, I chose Santorini, Crete, and Athens, but never Sparta. Being a historian, my initial reaction was to look for an explanation in Thucydides’ writings, as his narrative of the Peloponnesians’ battle with the Athenians is among the most important historical accounts. Indeed, the solution was present—uncannily gauging my curiosity almost 2,000 years later. Imagine, he says, if Sparta was destroyed, leaving only its temples and the structural underpinnings of its structures. It would be difficult for future generations to accept that its reputation justified its might. Thucydides says they “live in village settlements in the traditional Greek manner, but instead have no lavish shrines or public buildings, unlike the urban Athenians.”
Euphoria Retreat, my destination, is only a short jog from Sparta, situated on the outskirts of the little village of Mystras. There were quite a few shrines and public structures to view there; more about this in a moment. However, the Spartan Spirit of Adventure demands undivided attention once one is there.
It starts with a series of tests to analyze a person’s fitness and metabolism. “Euphoria 3GL Methodos” is a critical component of the procedure. The three GLs are glucose, glutathione, and glycogen. The three GLs may be measured with a pinprick blood test, and respiratory equilibrium—defined as “the ratio of the volume of carbon dioxide produced to the volume of oxygen used”—can be measured with a face mask breathing gear. Specific diet suggestions are then made based on these findings. I was heartened because all of my measurements were within a respectable range. A fitness evaluation with a personal trainer follows.
This event always humbles you since it evaluates your talents by a superfit specimen half your age. Like many others who work out at home, I choose activities I enjoy over the most necessary ones. I knew I needed to strengthen and expand my core, and the evaluation reaffirmed this. My Apple Watch has been making me feel good.
According to Euphoria Retreat, their methodology, or “Methodos,” is founded on a “blending of ancient Greek and Chinese” procedures concerning the “four or five elements” shared by both traditions. Upon enrolling in the Spartan Spirit course, participants get a loose-leaf notebook with an extensive overview of the spa’s methodology and an itinerary of events. You may either immerse yourself in the various activities and let the Methodos develop, or you can go further into the philosophy and learn how each of the five “elements” is supposed to regulate different organs in the body and how each element is associated with a season (harvest time being the fifth season in this case). (The spa provides various programs, such as yoga, detox, mental well-being, weight management, etc.) One of them is the Spartan Spirit program.
Though I generally find contemporary, technologically advanced medicine relatively acceptable, the ideas that Euphoria Retreat practices—such as exercise, healing, balance, the Mediterranean diet, and the benefits of meditation—are all well-established and common sense. The potential of belief to advance any therapy is another well-established fact—the placebo effect may take many different forms. I gladly threw myself into the events of Mystras, and I’m pleased I did. The other visitors I spoke with were happy as well. The spa’s holistic wellness approach, extensive program choices, and convenient location drew in a sophisticated yet laid-back mix of professionals from Western Europe, Athenian entrepreneurs, and a few Americans.
The fitness evaluation was held in one of the spa’s training rooms, filled with spotless equipment to target various muscle groups (the Pilates equipment is located in a nearby room). However, when it came time for my first session with the trainer, we went outside to a waiting vehicle and were taken to a public park nearby, surrounded by ancient, tall olive trees that showed signs of wear and tear. The sole piece of gear was a TRX Suspension Trainer System, a rather basic arrangement of straps and grips fastened over one of the olive trees’ trunks at head height. The resistance of the TRX system comes from one’s body weight. Then, without adding weight, we immediately worked on the muscle areas I had been neglecting, gradually building resistance by altering the angle at which I positioned my body. My trainer was enthusiastic and supportive of my hard work, and I was exhausted after seventy-five minutes.
The next scheduled item made sense: a 20-minute “infrared sauna” session for rest and recovery. It turned out to be a standard sauna with infrared heating devices heating the rocks, unlike what I had imagined, which was something like an infrared tanning bed. My muscles felt unkink and relaxed thanks to the dry heat; a deep tissue massage would be even more beneficial later that afternoon.
The Euphoria philosophy suggests eating five tiny meals rather than three bigger ones. In response to the findings of the 3GL assessment, they devised two smaller meals to complement my program: a smoothie served at midday and situated in a tranquil spa room and a snack container filled with dried fruit, cheese or yogurt, and thin rice crackers at 5:30 p.m. Although Gaia provides wine and other beverages, one is only sometimes offered a wine selection, and I believe abstinence best embodies the Spartan Spirit.
The day after, I had my second training session, but this time, it was outside in a theater that looked more like a contemporary version of an old Greek theater than an indoor gym. This time, a medicine ball and an elastic workout band were the leading equipment employed. Once more, after working out for around 75 minutes, I was utterly exhausted and resolved to work out at home with greater diligence and methodicalness.
The spa publishes a weekly calendar of optional daily activities, which includes presentations on various themes, hikes, yoga sessions, group exercises (whole body, water gym, trampoline, circuit training), “sound healing meditation,” and more. I spent part of the day at a lecture on the five elements.
I was scheduled to go on a group walk to Mystras Castle the next day, and everyone interested was invited to an evening talk by a local archaeologist to prepare us for what we were about to see. While there is sadly little to see of ancient Sparta, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mystras, a significant late Byzantine Empire city, is located on the slope above the Euphoria Retreat. Founded by a Frankish prince in the middle of the 13th century, it was quickly taken over by the Byzantines. It continued as an Ottoman town until 1770 when it took part in a Greek uprising against Ottoman control and was devastated and extensively damaged. Some well-preserved ecclesiastical structures featuring Byzantine frescoes in varying levels of preservation are included in the remnants. At the base of the hills, below the ruins, is where modern-day Mystras is.
I planned to go to the “Euphoria Byzantine Hammam Ritual” when we got back, which I knew would happen in a steam room. But all I understood was that one should wear a bikini, and that was about it. I was first introduced to the pleasures of a steam bath by a friend many years ago at the Russian & Turkish Baths in the East Village. I was thus okay with spending an hour in a steam room. However, the encounter encompassed so much more. The masseuse gave me a massage with oils after lying down on the marble platform in the middle of the room. I was also given a salt scrub and some slightly abrasive mitts. Subsequently, a massive cloud of soap bubbles enveloped me; these are created by submerging a pillowcase, like a loose weave, in soapy water and then slinging it into the air by its exposed end. A rainbow of bubbles is produced as the soap is forced through the cloth mesh by the air. One sits up after basking in this soapy halo and is washed with buckets of water that get progressively colder. After exiting the steam room, I gave myself a last massage, dried myself, and took a few quick plunges in an icy water bath. Experience this if you visit Euphoria Retreat for any program or none at all. I smiled constantly for the following many hours.
Exploration might happen when you have free time. There is a forest just above the property with trails for independent hiking. Given the risk of flames, all too common in Greece this summer, the property debuted in 2019 and is protected by enormous water pumps that guard the forest. The spa facility is full of marvels; the main attraction is a spiral stairway that encircles a light well that spills light into a cold water pool. The structure is divided into four levels, and because of the hillside terrain, each level has a unique footprint, giving the exploration experience a feeling of ongoing unfolding. Several unique sections include a salt room, hot and tepid rooms, yoga rooms, private massage rooms, and the “sphere pool.” Shallower water surrounds the center pool area, and from there, one may stroll to other stations with water jets that can be utilized to relax different body regions. To experience something different, swim to a rectangular outside pool through a sliding glass door, do several laps in the sun, and then retreat to the tranquil sphere. It’s simple to feel at ease in such situations.
- The Euphoria Retreat near Sparta offers a unique spa experience, blending ancient Greek and Chinese health traditions, with a focus on holistic wellness and personalized fitness programs.
- The Spartan Spirit of Adventure program includes fitness evaluations, personalized training sessions, and a unique “Euphoria Byzantine Hammam Ritual” that combines steam bathing, massage, salt scrub, and a playful experience with soap bubbles.
- The spa’s methodology, called “Methodos,” incorporates the analysis of glucose, glutathione, and glycogen levels, emphasizing a balanced lifestyle inspired by ancient Greek and Chinese philosophies.
- Located near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mystras, the retreat provides not only a spa experience but also opportunities for exploration, including hikes and visits to historical sites, creating a comprehensive and rejuvenating retreat.