With the peak of the summer frenzy behind us and the weather starting to get colder, there is no better time than now to take part in a relaxing and healing mud bath in one of the many vacation destinations though. -loved but off the beaten track of Turkey.
Turkey has a number of historic and well-known mud baths and hot springs that can easily be incorporated into a vacation or weekend getaway. Accessible by boat, plane, train, and automobile, discover some of Turkey’s most beautiful towns that are home to historic and medicinal mud baths, featuring a detoxifying and healing beauty regimen that has been common in this region for eons.
Natural mud baths in Turkey are mainly created from thermal waters rich in sulfur and minerals considered to be an elixir of youth for the skin. The tightening effects on the skin when the mud dries can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and stretch marks and heal certain skin conditions. Mud baths are also believed to cure rheumatism and joint disease, and the overall experience of playing and soaping yourself in the mud is both exhilarating and relaxing.
Egyptian Queen Cleopatra was famous for enjoying a number of Turkish hot springs and in fact her swirling love affair with Mark Antony was deliciously marked by them. The Roman general must have been well aware that soaking in the pools of sulfuric thermal water and washing in its mud was an integral part of the beauty regiment of the Egyptian queen. It is even said that he offered the queen the thermal bath that bears his name in Pamukkale of Denizli.
Getting muddy in the ‘Château de Coton’
The UNESCO-listed Pamukkale site of Denizli, which translates from Turkish to ‘cotton castle’, consists of the miraculous formation of saucer-shaped pools of leveled white travertine created from calcium and minerals from thermal springs. Visiting this destination is a must and although it is not on the coast, Denizli is easily accessible by plane, car, bus and even by train! Although a train ride was the longest option in terms of time, I used to incorporate it into any tour with friends in Turkey. The charming sleeping cart with a window from where you can look at all the towns you pass would make the trip an equally interesting part of the adventure. In Pamukkale, many bed and breakfasts line the town with the stunning views of the pools as a backdrop. The mud bath part of the excursion takes place on the heavily calcified terraces themselves, and you will see the terraces where the mud has developed as you walk the marked path, barefoot as required by the protective measures.
The site of Pamukkale also has Hierapolis, which was an ancient spa town built by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. columns in the water which was a gift from Marc Anthony to the Egyptian ruler. For a stroll on the wilder side, head to Karahayıt, a town less than 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of Pamukkale, which serves as a miniature version of its historic neighbor as there is a smaller version of the Level Pools. in travertine, thermal springs, mud baths and fish foot massages, in which small fish eat the dead tissue of your feet!
Sultaniye mud baths and thermal springs
The Sultaniye Mud Baths and Hot Springs, located along Lake Köyceğiz between Köyceğiz Town and Dalyan in the southern province of Muğla in Turkey, are the most visited mud baths in the country and are said to have been visited occasionally by the Egyptian queen at the time. But in this case, Cleopatra is in good company as the headlines have cited Spain’s Prince Felipe De Carlos, Sting, David Bowie, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Maxwell for bathing in the mud and hot springs of Sultaniye. , which continues to be a popular tourist stopover today.
Literally bordering Lake Köyceğiz, the Sultaniye Mud Baths and Hot Springs are most regularly visited by one of the scenic ferry boats that depart from Dalyan and Köyceğiz. The boats were specially designed to have shallower bottoms and covered propellers due to the Iztuzu Beach connection being a popular nesting site for Caretta carettas, also known as loggerhead turtles. The sea is connected to Lake Köyceğiz via a maze of reeds that lead to the canal that borders Dalyan. The thermal baths and the beach are well served by the area’s unique ferries, which are in fact adorned with signs saying they are ‘Captain June Approved’, in reference to the famous British expatriate who still lives in Dalyan and has well over 90 years old. Decades ago, she and others came together to protect the beach from development.
Although it is also accessible by vehicle via Ekincik, arriving by boat you will have a mystical view of the green domes that house the thermal baths. The mud bath is outside in a huge pool that you can splash around in. Once you are covered in mud, you can lie down by the lake and see if you can spot any giant tortoises passing by. I know I did it! After the mud bath, then head to the thermal baths, a few of which serve as hot water pools both outside and inside domes.
The salt lake of Gökçeada
Gökçeada, Turkey and the first island in the world to be named the slow city of Cittaslow, has as much history as its spectacular nature, including a salt lake that flows into the sea at Eşelek, which adjoins the beaches of Aydıncık and Kefalos, an area famous for its roaring winds, making it one of the country’s top destinations for windsurfing and kitesurfing.
The island is located in the western province of Çanakkale in Turkey and can be reached by boat from the city of Çanakkale or Eceabat, if you are coming from Istanbul. There are remains of a castle built during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, a waterfall in Marmaros, Turkey’s very first underwater marine park, and the rock formations of Peynir Kayalıkları that look like blocks of cheese. With a coastline of 95 kilometers, it is the largest island in Turkey. The town itself shows harmonious remnants of its Greek and Turkish heritage and has the cuisine to go with it, as well as the fact that the farming practices on the island are almost exclusively organic.
As for the mud, the mud baths in Gökçeada are all natural, you just need to go where the salt lake meets the sea, let your skin soak in the mud while you lie on the beach and watch the colorful kites and daredevil sails chase the wind over the water, then take a refreshing dip in the sea to wash it all off.