Thermal Springs, Spas & Turkish Baths
Turkey offers the ultimate relaxation and spa experience, reflecting its unique geological and historic make-up where over 1000 thermal springs abound – and where the traditional Turkish hammam and massage treatments have been perfected over thousands of years. A huge array of modern spa-centres and luxury hotels also mean Turkey is the perfect place for health and wellness holidays to suit all tastes and budgets.
Thermal Resorts and Hot Springs
Thanks to its location on top of a major geothermal belt, Turkey boasts over 1000 natural hot springs or kaplica. With temperatures ranging from 20ºC to 110ºC – and containing minerals such as calcium, sodium, sulphur, fluoride and magnesium – the waters from these springs have restorative effects and provide therapeutic benefits.
The Romans were well aware of these therapeutic powers, building the ancient city of Hierapolis close to the waters of Pamukkale which is now one of the country’s most popular thermal resorts. A spa town since Roman times, Pamukkale literally means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish and is one of Turkey’s most impressive natural wonders boasting a series of white travertine terraces formed by the high mineral content of the natural spring water that runs down the cliff and collects in warm pools on the terraces. The white travertines are a protected site, but those who want to enjoy the thermal waters can do so in the nearby pool which is littered with fragments of ancient marble columns from the nearby ruins of Hierapolis.
There are also many other popular thermal spas dotted around the country: the Sultaniye hot springs in Dalyan where visitors can dip in 40ºC mud pools near Lake Koycegiz; Termal, a thermal resort with indoor pools in Yalova, just an hour from Istanbul by ferry boat; Cekirge mineral baths in Bursa; and the Balcova thermal resort, Cesme hot springs, and Sifne mud baths near Izmir. Many of the hotels in these regions also have their own spas which make use of the mineral water – whilst for something more unusual there’s the Kangal Sivas Balikli Cermik in Central Anatolia, which contains lots of tiny fish that are said to help cure psoriasis.
Turkey is famous for its traditional baths or hammams and a visit to one is a relaxing and invigorating experience not to be missed during your stay in Turkey. There are over 57 still operating in Istanbul alone, including the traditional Çemberlitaş and Cağaloğlu Baths in Sultanahmet, where you can enjoy the ancient rituals of steam-bathing, exfoliation and massage.
Besides its ancient mystical appeal, Hammam-goers cite countless health benefits, including improved circulation and respiration, intense relaxation, weight loss, clear skin, expulsion of toxins and relief of muscle pain and hangovers.
Istanbul has many beautiful old hammams surviving from Ottoman times, some of which cater mostly to tourists, which means visitors can expect English-speaking attendants –which is also the case in resorts around the country. But even small towns tend to have their own hammams, and some may want to try these out as they tend to have a more traditional atmosphere. Hammams either have separate men’s and women’s sections or different times or days reserved for men and women.
In contemporary Turkey, the hammam has paved the way for the modern spa – with spa and wellness holidays experiencing a boom due to a host of luxurious new hotel spas and modern resorts having opened in recent years, reflecting the current global trends in spas and treatments. Many also continue Turkish tradition by incorporating modern versions of Turkish baths into the spas, some with new twists such as hammams for couples or special types of massages.