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In summer, Lake Vouliagmeni is a popular spot on the Attica coastline. It’s something of an alternative to the beach clubs along the Athens Riviera. But it’s so much more than that.
This protected gem is a beautiful location for year-round swimming, thanks to the fact the water stays warm (22-29°C/71.6-84.2°F) in all seasons.
Having driven past the entrance several times, I decided it was time to stop by. If you head out to Cape Sounion for a half-day trip to the Temple of Poseidon, you’ll pass it, too. Some of the tours from Athens actually include a stop at the Lake.
I went in January, and having heard mixed reviews, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it was really idyllic. In keeping with the area, the venue feels classy, and I had a lovely visit in nature.
The maintenance and housekeeping teams were visibly working. The people who served me were friendly and helpful. And it made my day that I saw some stunning King Fishers swooping about the water. (Too fast for photos.)
I’d recommend it as a half-day activity at any time of year. I can imagine that in the summer, it can feel quite hectic when it’s busy. But in those warmer months, you could definitely spend the day around the location.
When I went, re-entry was permitted. But check that in the summer, as I read in the small print that the payment is for one visit. It could be that in the winter, it’s too cold to sit around. So you can come back to swim again to get your money’s worth.
What Is the Lake Water Like?
The water is classed as “brackish”, meaning it’s saltier than fresh water but not as much as seawater. I understand the lake is filled with a combination of salty seawater and freshwater from natural springs, which dilutes the salinity.
The site’s information says that since it’s above sea level, water from the lake flows down to the sea. They said that because the lake leads to the sea, the water is continuously renewed. But I’m a bit confused as to how the seawater gets into the lake to replenish it. (See below regarding the area’s caves).
Anyway, the water is quite shallow in some areas around the edge of the lake (thank goodness because I dropped my phone!). You might find yourself swimming amongst pond grasses. I scraped my foot on the rocks when I was swimming because I didn’t realise it had got so shallow. So watch out for those.
Healing Properties of the Lake Water
Whatever is true about how the water gets in, there’s no disputing the fact you’ll benefit from a natural spa experience because of Vouliagmeni Lake ‘s water composition.
The water is high in calcium, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, sodium and chloride.
Together with the temperature, these make the water really beneficial for muscle problems. This mineral spa is also said to help with respiratory issues, skin conditions and blood pressure regulation.
Why Is The Water Warm?
Mystery and legend surround the lake because of the area’s network of subaquatic caves. I heard about the caves and their strong currents when I learnt to dive in Athens. We actually swam over the entrance to one of the underwater cave tunnels on a couple of our dives.
Some say the seawater going into the lake stays warm because it comes in via a series of sea caves under the lake that maintain it at the ambient temperature.
But others say the warm water is from underground thermal springs. (Probably leading from hot springs along the volcanic arc that includes Milos and Santorini.)
Doctor Fish Foot Spa
One of the selling points the company makes is about the Red Garra fish. The indigenous fish is also known as Doctor Fish. They’re the ones used for pedicures in fish spas.
When you get into the lake via the shallow areas, loads of little fish rush to your feet. I was going to sit and let them nibble my feet after my swim but the wind was too cold.
Anyway, I thought it was quite fun until I thought about it a bit more. Because skin surely can’t be their natural food of choice.
I looked into it, and apparently, the natural food sources for Red Garras are pretty scarce in thermal water. So, they eat skin as an alternative. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.
I guess if the fish are there anyway, then by letting them feed on your feet, it’s better for them to eat something than nothing.
Spa fish eating dead skin off my feet
But the lake is maintained. And with the level of human intervention there, it’s not exactly how things would be if the fish’s existence was completely left to nature, anyway. So I feel like they could be fed so they weren’t starving.
I really hope they aren’t intentionally kept hungry so as to be appealing to visitors.
Important Info About Lake Vouliagmeni’s Protected Status
There’s a species of sea anemone – Paranemonia Vouliagmeniensis – that’s unique to this lake. Because of the human activity in the zone, it’s become endangered.
It’s really important that to help ensure its survival when you visit, you don’t touch or take the sea anemone.
To help preserve this and Lake Vouliagmeni’s other flora and fauna, there’s no shampoo or soap available in the showers. Don’t bring anything like this yourself to use (in the showers or the lake itself, obviously), either.
About the Facilities at Vouliagmeni Lake
There are beach chairs and loungers around the end of the lake. And there are tables and chairs along the side.
If you want the upgraded experience, there are private, bookable seats amongst the pine trees on the waterfront.
You can book beds in this section via the Beach Booking app. Prices range from 45 – 100+ euro depending on the type of beds/seating and whether you’re going during the week or at the weekend.
Up-to-date prices for the seating below are on the Lake Vouliagmeni website.
- Sunbed set for two guests
- Cabana for two guests
- Lounge chair set for two guests
- Lounge sofa for four guests
Toilets and Changing Rooms
There aren’t any enclosed changing rooms as such, but there’s a large changing area with benches. There’s also a small bank of lockers where you can store your stuff. It’s handy if you’re there solo and have no one to watch your belongings while you swim.
To use the lockers, you just set them up with a code. You don’t need to take a coin or padlock.
The men’s and women’s toilets ARE inside and they were nice and clean. (Well, the women’s were, anyway. I didn’t check the men’s!). But a member of the housekeeping team was visible when I arrived so I assume they were.
In the changing area, there are four showers. I got a bit confused because all the doors had male symbols. In the end, I decided they were mixed, and the shower symbol was the important part of the sign, not the person.
The shower cubicles have a small changing area with a stool, wall hook, mirror and hairdryer. This was the only part of the facilities that felt like it could do with a bit of attention.
The shower section of the cubicles wasn’t to the same standard as everything else. But the combination of water and being outside probably means they’re harder to maintain.
I will say that I was massively grateful for the gloriously hot water available. I got cold quickly after swimming because of the wind, and it suddenly dawned on me there might not be hot water.
But there was, and the steam kept the little outdoor room warm while I got changed, too.
There’s free parking at the site. There’s a small car park past the entrance which I imagine fills up quickly. I used the large parking lot above the entrance beside the main road.
The site’s advertised as being fully accessible. Certainly, the walkways were wide and smooth, and there’s a pool hoist for getting in and out of the water.
I have to say I don’t remember seeing a disabled toilet or shower, but that’s not to say there wasn’t one.
Getting to the Lake By Public Transport
The hop-on, hop-off buses from Pireaus come along the coast and stop here. You can also get the normal K.T.E.L bus that goes to Sounion but they aren’t frequent.
Taxis from the city centre cost about 35 euro. You can see other tariffs in the picture below.
Opening Times and Costs
The lake opens at 8:30am and, in the summer, stays open until around 8pm. In the winter months, it closes at 4:30pm.
Check the current opening times and entrance prices on the website. Note that prices are higher at the weekend and on national holidays.
You can visit the bar/restaurant without paying to go in for a swim. It’s actually a lovely spot to go for a coffee, and it serves excellent food. The seating area is all wood and bamboo and fairy lights with a variety of spaces for small or large groups.
I wanted Greek yoghurt and granola after my refreshing swim but it wasn’t available that day. Instead, I had the eggs benedict, which was a good diversion because it was TASTY! And I loved the detail on my herbal tea. The bag was suspended by a little wooden stick rather than a string.
Other Things to Do in The Area
As well as this not-so-hidden gem, other things to enjoy along the Athenian Riviera are: