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TERMAL


Atatürk's favourite spa                            Population: negligible

Yalova1Feeling hot and in need of somewhere close to İstanbul to cool down? One option that is better known to Turks than foreigners is to head straight across the Sea of Marmara to the tiny thermal resort of Termal.

Termal was built on the site of a kaplıca (hot spring) and it was here that Atatürk used to come when he fancied a swim in health-giving waters.

It was here, too, that he had an arboretum planted. Today it boasts more than 1,800 different types of tree although the most obvious tend to be plane trees and firs.

First let’s get a bit of geographical confusion out of the way. Most people say they’re going to the hot springs at Yalova when what they really mean is that they’re going to Termal. But of course to get to Termal they have to transit Yalova. You say Yalova, I say Termal - basically we both mean the same thing.Yalova2

Once you get to Termal what you find is a neat little spa resort nestling amid fir trees and a flurry of  rhodedendrons or hydrangeas depending on when you visit.

The health benefits of bathing in its piping hot waters were recognised as long ago as Byzantine times and there are a few unexpected reminders of those early visitors dotted about the site – tombstones given new life as decoration for the Kurşunlu bathhouse, for example, and a pillar reconstructed in front of what appear to be the remains of a church behind the Sinema Cafe.

The Ottoman travel writer Evliya Çelebi passed this way in the 17th century and recounted how the main bathhouse – the Kurşunlu Banyo – was erected by a grateful father when his daughter was cured of scabies after drinking the waters on the site. Today visitors can still bathe in a bathhouse which dates back to the reign of Sultan Abdülhamid II. Few things could be more delightful than a swim in an outdoor pool surrounded by fir trees, especially when the waters are so lovely and hot.Termalmem

But the Kurşunlu Banyo is not the only place to bathe at Termal.

A stream of hot water runs out behind the bathhouse and trickles into the forest. Backing onto it are two more big bathhhouses – the Valide Banyo and the Sultan Banyo – as well as a number of smaller hot-water outlets which purport to be good for different bits of the body, especially the eyes, the stomach and the feet.

YalovahealingEven more curious is a raised stone “sculpture” which emits scalding, sulphurous steam. Local visitors love holding their face into the steam and then scribbling their names onto the carved cistern (the Memba) across the way despite a note from the religious authorities forbidding them to do so.

The main thing to do at Termal is bathe, whether in a pool, a private cabin or a single-sex Turkish bath. The private cabins are pehaps the biggest surprise and it’s rather a shame that they turn out to be hospital-bathroom-like spaces rather than something more suited to the fashionable idea of “pampering”.

Otherwise this is great place to come for a picnic or a trout lunch at the Methal Restaurant. With time on your hands you can also visit Atatürk’s summer house up on the hills amid the hydrangeas.

YalovacafeTo be honest, this is not a very exciting proposition. The contents and decor of the house rarely rise above the dreary, even if the compulsory guide does feel obliged to detail every last piece of Yıldız porcelain (in Turkish only).

Art lovers may find the huge allegorical canvas by Nurettin Niyazı on the ground floor of passing interest.

Others may think the entrance fee better spent on a coffee in the Sinema Cafe, a wooden summerhouse nearby that can’t quite make up its mind whether it wants to be posh or not but which screens free films every evening.

WHICH BATH?

Kurşunlu Banyo

Termal’s best-kept and newest facilities

Open: 7.30am-10.30pm

Swimming pool: 20TL for 1.5 hours (22TL at weekends)

Private bath: 22TL (one person), 33TL (two people)

Massage: 25TL

Half-price: Summer Thursdays

Valide Banyo

Wonderful hot pools. Excellent massages.

Open:  8.30am-10.30pm

Turkish bath: 10TL for 1.5 hours

Massage: 25TL

Sultan Banyo

Most utilitarian – but also cheapest – facilities

Open: 8.30am-8pm

Private bath: 18-20TL (one person), 25-30TL (two people) for one hour

Sleeping

Cheaper accommodation can be found in nearby Gökçedere.

Çınar and Çamlık Hotels

The nicest places to stay are the two main hotels on site, the Çınar (Plane Tree) and the Çamlık (Pine Tree). The courtyard of the Çınar in particular is almost completely filled by a giant plane tree whose 200-year-old boughs are held up by lampposts. The decor is a little masculine and prices are pretty steep but they’re in a great location.

Tel: 0226-675 7400, www.yalovatermal.com

Otel Termal

Tel: 0226-674 7400

Transport info

Catch an İDO ferry from Yenikapı to Yalova and then a dolmuş from the otogar beside the ferry terminal to Termal (12km).

Day trip destinations

Gökçedere

Karamürsel

Yalova

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