A geologic oddity-cum-spa treat with which Turkey is uncommonly blessed is the mineral spring. Thermal baths flow freely throughout the countryside and, depending on the properties and temperature of the water, are reputed to address such varied ailments as obesity, digestive problems, rheumatism, and urological disorders. Soaking in the springs and covering yourself with mineral-rich mud are some of the country's lesser-known pleasures. You can experience the thermal springs enclosed in pamper-me surroundings or in humble out-of-the-way sites.

In Bursa, history and pampering go hand in hand, and no historical pilgrimage to this city would be complete without a long soak in a mineral-rich thermal pool. The Kervansaray Termal Hotel's 700-year-old thermal bath takes advantage of the Eski Kaplica thermal spring, an ancient source used as far back as Roman times. The bath was built in grand Ottoman style by Sultan Murat I in 1389, and a soak here (7am-11pm) is made all the more satisfying with its multiple domes and old stonemasonry. The price of admission to the thermal baths, including massage and kese (sloughing), is 30€ ($42/£21).

No one knows who originally occupied the Yeni Kaplica hamam, Yeni Kaplica Cad. 6, Çekirge (tel. 0224/236-6968; 13YTL/$11/£4.75 entrance to man's side; 10YTL/$8.70/£3.80 woman's entrance; 6YTL/$5.25/£2.30 sloughing, 12YTL/$10/£4.60 massage), built in 1555 and reconstructed for Süleyman the Magnificent by Grand Vizier Rüstem Pasa. The hamam (or at least, the men's side) still displays its original opulence, allowing wide-eyed tourists to feel like Julius Caesar for a day.


Separated from the Yeni Kaplica building by a tea garden is the less-impressive Kaynarca, Yeni Kaplica Cad. 8 (tel. 0224/236-6955; 6YTL/$5.25/£2.30 entrance, treatments extra), essentially a mud pit catering to women only. Kara Mustafa Pasa Thermal Bath, Mudanya Cad. 10 (tel. 0224/236-6956), was left over from the Byzantine era and was actually the first building on the site. There are two sections, including one where you can ooze yourself into a gravelike tile ditch full of scorching hot mud (avoid wearing a white bathing suit for this). There are also the regular bath facilities and cubicles for changing and resting. Kara Mustafa also has rudimentary hotel accommodations. Granted, it's all rather gritty, but thoroughly worth the experience. The more luxurious Çelik Palas Hotel thermal pool (30YTL/$26/£11 entrance for nonguests, free for guests) rests beneath a single multiple-sky-lit dome; the hotel's facility offers opulence while the others excel in local character.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.