Hot Springs Aficionado

My first experience at a hot springs was Eco Termales in Costa Rica several years ago. I’ve been hooked ever since and actively seek out hot springs where ever we go. My goal: becoming a hot springs aficionado — at least in my own mind!

Turkey is volcanic and, as a result, has its fair share of hot springs. The one nearest Istanbul is Termal, home to hot springs favored by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Turkey’s George Washington) for their medicinal properties.

Termal is only about two hours from Istanbul. You travel by ferry across the Gulf of Izmir to Yalova, then catch a minibus or taxi that delivers you to the front gate of the bath complex which is nestled serenely in a mountainous forest.

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Our ferry ride over this morning was very pleasant as we sat with an engaging young man who had been in Istanbul visiting his girlfriend.  He is an architect in Yalova, a growing city of more than 200,000. He was kind enough to direct us to the minibus pickup area as it is a much cheaper means of transportation to Termal. About $1 as opposed to a $30 cab ride.

The hot springs in Termal were used in Roman times, rebuilt by the Ottoman sultans and last renovated in the 1930s. They don’t call them hot springs for nothing. The indoor and outdoor pools in Termal range from 103 to 104 degrees. Toasty.

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Termal is an interesting combination of a typical hot springs experience and a Turkish bath. The atmosphere in the indoor pools is like that in a hamam. Lots of steam and marble slabs with people (mostly men) laying around sweating.

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Massages, and a Turkish bath, were available for an additional fee, but John and I opted to end our visit by giving ourselves a bath in the family area. Once sufficiently relaxed, clean and dry, we strolled over to an outdoor cafe and gorged ourselves on a feast of merçimek çorba (lintil soup), kebabs, salad, bread and grilled mushrooms topped off with my favorite dessert here — sütlaç (cold rice custard).

We waddled to a minibus and made our way to the Yalova ferry sailing for Istanbul — fat, clean and happy.

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A boat's-eye-view of Istanbul.

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