On The Road: Getting steamy in Istanbul's spa of the sultans

Stepping into one of Istanbul's hammams is like parting steamy curtains on to ancient Asia Minor. Visitors bake on marble slabs, sweating out life's impurities; attendants massage, pummel and buff; bathers emerge baby soft and squeaky clean.

Yet as the city modernises, its historic hammams are slowly morphing into a tourist-only attraction, charging the equivalent of £30 a session. This year, I asked around to find out where the locals go to soap up, soak and sweat it all out. The top tip? Head out of the city across the Sea of Marmara to Termal (yalovatermal.com), the ancient thermal springs just outside of Yalova.

I grabbed my husband and my swimming costume and we were off. An hour-long boat ride from Istanbul's Yenikapi Ferry Terminal followed by a 20-minute bus ride and we were in the leafy resort of Termal Kaplicalar, the creatively named "Thermal Thermals (Spa)".

Built by Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century, Termal was beloved of Byzantine rulers. Ottoman sultans expanded the complex during the 19th century, constructing most of the ornate bathhouses still in use today. In 1911, an international jury awarded Termal first prize as "the world's most healing hot waters". Even Turkey's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, spent summers here: his holiday home, Ataturk Kosku, is currently under transformation into a state museum.

We found Termal's visitors to be a colourful mix of Turks, young Emirati men and older Russian women, all taking in the local waters. There are three hammams (including one that is mixed-sex), an Olympic-sized outdoor spa pool fed by a scalding spring and two-person private steam baths. Pongy thermal gas inhalers are dotted around the complex, and the three hotels onsite remain pleasantly dated.

Best of all? We shelled out a mere £35 per person, covering unlimited spa access, plus hotel room, buffet breakfast and three-course dinner, served by bow-tied waiters and backed by the warbling tunes of a Turkish folk singer. All of which proves that it always pays to ask the locals.



Footprint's 'European City Breaks' is available in May (£14.99). For a 35 per cent discount off any Footprint guidebook go to footprinttravelguides.com and enter 'indy11' at checkout.

Suggested Topics
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower