Relaxing places in Europe
Ayia Napa is Cyprus' party and water fun holiday spot number one. Here are nothing more than sandy beaches, hotels, restaurants, and theme bars. It's one of those unstylish holiday destinations that you either love or hate – and judged by the hordes of tourists here (many from the UK and Russia), people love Ayia Napa.
Below pine covered hillsides lies the crescent-shaped Konnos Beach. Though it's a popular beach for locals, it is a great alternative to the even more crowded beaches in Ayia Napa.
Svanemølle beach is one of Copenhagen's not-so-few city beaches. It's a new and artificial stretch of sand located a bit north of the city centre wedged by the districts of affluent Østerbro and posh Hellerup. During grey and cold days, not much is happening, but duirng a hot summer's day (yes, Denmark does get a few of those), every single square metre of the small beach is occupied by half-naked bodies soaking up the sun.
One of the favourite weekend destinations in summertime for Talllinners is the gorgeous, crescent shaped beach at Vaana-Joesuu. Expect crowds of sun seeking bodies and families on picnic. However in winter, it's of course a totally different story...
The coast at the Black Sea, and especially at Batumi city, is a very popular summer destination for Georgians. During Soviet times, it was a favourite holiday spot for people from all over the Soviet Union. Today, Batumi beach is for Georgians, Armenians and Azeris what Cancun is for American spring breakers and Sunny Beach is for Europeans. The water is warm and not too salty, but there is no sand, just rounded pebbles. The rest of the setup is worthy of any beach resort with deck chairs, beach-front cafes, clubs during the night, a wide promenade and even a fairground. It is fun place to relax for a couple of days - or just people-watch Georgians when they let loose.
Without the masses of tourists and just a short (1,5 hour) ferry ride away from Santorini, Anafi is a great small island to kick back and relax for a few days. The hilltop town of Hora feels like it hasn't changed all that much in the last 20 years and the local people still live there, work there and sit in front of their houses and on the squares. By vehicle you can get to the other end of the island in less than a half hour and on foot it takes a couple. There is a small monastery and a hiking trail to the top of the enormous rock where you find beautiful views and another small monastery. The beaches on Anafi are not exceptional but nice with beautiful calm waters. Although it's not officially allowed, many people camp out on some of the beaches. All in all, it's a great island to escape the tourism madness of Santorini for a couple of days!
When you climb the Acropolis, you realize Athens is quite close to the sea. It only takes a tram or bus ride to reach the coast, which is dotted with both public and private beaches. Mind you, they're nothing like the ones on the islands, but if you can't wait, Athens' beaches make a nice side trip from the dust and heat in downtown. A thumb of rule, the further you get from Athens, the nicer the beaches, and the private beaches are definitely better than the scruffy, but free, public ones. But all of them are good for people watching.
Thermal baths are a big thing in Hungary and Szechenyi Thermal Bath is the king of them all. Build in 1913 and slowly extended through times, it is the biggest of its kind in Europe. Today there are three large pools along with 12 smaller sitting pools. Though the two thermal springs that supply Szechenyi have temperatures over 70 °C/158 °F, the pool water is pleasant, ranging from 26 °C/79 °F to 38 °C/100 °F. Beside the big outdoor pools area, there are also a range of health and spa services, but most people just come here to relax and hang out, and maybe a game of chess.
Iceland has a plethora of geothermal pools, but Blue Lagoon is not quite like any of the others. This is both good and bad – there is far more to do here than at most other pools in Iceland, but it is also much busier and more crowded. However, Blue Lagoon easily lives up to its hype. Not always blue (this requires a blue sky, so expect milky white water on an overcast day), Blue Lagoon boasts a large network of pools at varying temperatures (find yourself a hot-water outlet to get some serious heat), excellent saunas, in-water massage treatments (incredibly relaxing), out-of-water beauty treatments and a good restaurant – try the sushi. While in the water, enjoy a complimentary silica face-and-body scrub, have a drink by the bar, or pick up a rejuvenating algae masque. Renting a robe is highly recommended, as the air gets pretty chilly in Iceland even in summer. For a novel experience, make use of the late opening hours (to midnight) during summer.
The Mývatn Nature Baths are sometimes called the Blue Lagoon of the north, but this is hardly a fair comparison. Mývatn has less to offer in terms of extras (beauty treatments and the like), but on the other hand you will not need to cue up for an hour just to get inside. Much of its appeal is about location: a backdrop of steaming vents, black lava formations, Lake Mývatn and surrounding mountains make for a very dramatic setting. There are steam rooms, ample space in the pools as well as a restaurant, and these baths make for a perfect end to a day of running around belching mud pools and gushing steam vents – the baths are open late every day of the year. Whatever you do, don’t forget to wash vigorously and fastidiously before entering the water.