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Hamam or Hammam? All About The Turkish Bath

What is a Turkish Bath?

Don’t let the name mislead you, a Turkish Bath does not involve a bathtub. In addition to being a building, a Turkish Bath is a process – a marvelous process – that results in your body feeling relaxed, squeaky clean, perfectly smooth, and nicely moisturized.

  1. When you enter the hamam (or hammam, either spelling is correct), the hamam attendant will direct you to a change room and give you a little towel (called a pestemel or peshtemel) to wrap yourself in while in common areas of the hamam.
  2. Disrobe, leaving on as much clothing as makes you comfortable. (I usually wear bikini bottoms, and wrap the peshtemel around my top half.) There’s no need to be shy, as the attendants see bodies of every shape and size. And, the other patrons will be so focused on their own hammam experience they won’t be paying any attention to you.
  3. Head to the warm room (like a sauna) for a long, hot steam to open your pores and relax. Once you’ve sweated a bit, the hamam attendant will escort you to the steam-filled hot room for your actual bath. There will be a big, heated marble slab in the center of the room where you’ll lie for most of the process.
  4. From this point forward, the process varies from hamam to hamam (or hammam to hammam). Some attendants prefer you to lie down on the slab from the start, others like you to remain standing or sitting until the scrubbing begins. Don't worry if you don't speak Turkish, your attendant will instruct you on the preferred procedure using words, gestures and/or by physically guiding your body as required. When you're correctly situated, the hamam attendant will rinse the sauna sweat from your body by pouring large bowls of clean water over your head and shoulders.
  5. After the initial soaking, you’ll be scrubbed with a loofa to remove all the dead skin from everywhere on your body. Everywhere. E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E! It’s not the most comfortable part of the process, but definitely should NOT hurt. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel like you’re getting rubbed raw.
  6. Exfoliation is followed by another rinse with fresh water. Yes, that black gunk is dead skin from YOUR body.
  7. The next step is my favourite part of the Turkish Bath! It involves lots of foamy bubbles created with a köpük torbası, which is the Turkish term for what can best be described as a pillowcase soaked in an olive-oil soap solution. Foamy lather will be piled over your entire body, and then rubbed in by hand. The lathering process is repeated until every square inch of your body has been soaped and rubbed.
  8. Foaming is followed by another rinse with fresh water. Then the hammam attendant will wash your hair and give you a final rinse before wrapping you up in a big towel to dry.
  9. Depending on the package you’ve selected, you'll then be directed for a Turkish massage or other spa treatment, offered a cold drink in the cool room, or sent back to the change room to dress and return to the outside world, feeling squeaky clean, smooth and moisturized.
interior of a turkish bath or hamam in Fethiye

Some other tips for your visit to the Hamam

  • Although lockers are provided at most Turkish Baths, you should probably leave your jewelry and valuables locked in your hotel room safe.
  • Leave your eyeglasses in your locker. Your hamam attendant can guide you if you need assistance navigating without corrective lenses.
  • Hamams may be segregated by gender or combined. Ask for the hammam's policies at the front desk if this matters to you.
  • Like any spa service, tipping the attendant is customary. You may leave your tip after you have dressed and are preparing to leave the facility.
  • Have a Turkish Bath at the beginning of your Mediterranean holiday. Freshly exfoliated skin results in a better, more even, and longer-lasting tan.
  • Don’t get a Turkish Bath if you have a sunburn. Ouch!
  • If you wear your own swim suit during the bath, pack a plastic bag to carry it in after you're done. No sense soaking the other stuff in your purse, knapsack or camera bag after a fantastic hamman experience!

Our Favourite Turkish Baths

We have favourite Turkish Baths in Istanbul and Fethiye, including:

Please contact us directly if you’d like additional information about Turkish Baths.