Experiencing our first Hamam in Fethiye – A Turkish Bath

| May 11, 2012 | 35 Comments

If you are lucky enough to travel to Turkey then I would definitely recommend a Hamam or Turkish Bath. It is an extremely traditional and relaxing experience that you will never forget. And like most tourists we were able to arrange our Hamam in Fethiye through our hostel. The added bonus of being outside of the super touristy Istanbul is that it only cost us 35 Turkish Lira each.

Fethiye Hamam

We really did not know what to expect from our first Hamam but luckily were warned to take along our bathers. Cole was keen to go traditional but considering we were with 5 other randoms from our hostel he decided against it. And yes, while unexpected for us, there were random butt naked Turkish men there getting their Hamam on at the same time as us. They will try to be a tad discreet with their sarong but it does not leave much to the imagination.

Being greeted by big, hairy Turkish men with nothing but a small sarong on definitely came as a surprise and we were glad that we were there with our new found Hostel buddies. Nothing secures a friendship like awkward situations! And even though our masseuses didn’t speak a word of English they were very professional from the beginning which made us feel very comfortable.

Word of advice; Generally the Hamams will be conducted by men but if this makes you slightly uncomfortable you can ask for a female.

To begin our experience we were ushered in to a sauna for 20 minutes and proceeded to sweat out all the delicious bread we had consumed over the past week. The heat to begin with is totally unbearable but after about 5 minutes you start to relax. Cole seemed to think that being stuck in a claustrophobic hot room with half naked foreign men is a great time to practice his language skills and continued to butcher the Turkish language.

All sweated out after the sauna we were taken to an intricately carved marble room that had a large platform in the middle. Ushered onto the marble surface, which to my surprise was lovely and warm, we were suddenly assaulted by cold buckets of water as they were tossed over us. Spluttering there was no time to regain our senses before the real Hamam started.

The same big hairy Turkish men began to scrub us vigorously with an exfoliating glove all over. It feels amazing as you are literally shed of layers of skin turning us a sparkling pink. Being flipped from front to back on the slippery marble tiles is actually quite fun although I was worried about being flung across the room. And my knobbly knees and hip bones were getting a beating!

I again tried to strike up a conversation to mask the awkwardness I felt when they were scrubbing my chest however their English was limited so don’t expect too much conversation or the chance to ask too many questions.

Hamam in Fethiye

Next up was the massage. You are literally covered head to toe in soap bubbles until you look like a giant snowman. The masseuses are extremely gentle and have a knack to hit all the right spots where you are tight and sore from travelling. Their gentle hands are a massive contrast to the hard marble beneath you and are very relaxing after the skin cleansing scrubbing and sauna.

Halfway through the massage I was awoken from my half sleep state by my back being cracked in seven different places. My first thought was “oh my god I hope he knows what he is doing” whilst picturing myself walking out of the hammam hunched over. But the more he cracked the more the tension drained out of my back, neck and shoulders. There didn’t seem to be a method though to how they were performing the Hamam’s as Cole swears he didn’t get the back cracking while some of the others in our group did as well.

Be careful when they motion for you to sit up as the overwhelming heat may leave you a little bit light headed. And close your mouth as the next cold bucket of water is thrown over you! The “hair wash” comes next although it was actually more like a “head wash” as my whole face got washed with shampoo! A pleasant enough experience as long as you remember to keep your mouth and eyes closed.

Feel free to sit back and relax in the warm Hamam room while your friends go through the same experience. And it is quite nice being able to provide them with a bit of support if they have been watching you the whole time as well. We just had to constantly keep dousing ourselves in cold water from the basins dotted around the room while we waited so that we didn’t overheat.

When you are all done you will be ushered back out into the bright sunlight are are quickly wrapped up in far too many towels and ordered to lie down in the cool breeze with a refreshing bottle of water. You will feel totally relaxed, invigorated and exhausted all at the same time. While all you will be thinking about is when you can do it all again!

Travel Tip: Don’t do the Hamam at the end of your time in Turkey or you will lose all of that hard-earned tan you have been working on!

Photo credits: Bex Walton and Mr Kubi

About the Author ()

Adela is one half of the New Zealand Adventure Couple who have been travelling since 2009. She loves the outdoors and has a real passion for Snowboarding, Mountain Biking and Surfing (apart from being scared of sharks). She loves food and writes all our food posts. Consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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  1. Natalie says:

    Hubby loves his Turkish bath – quite a social event for him and his friends. I can think of better places to relax with good company but I suppose it is what you are used to.

  2. Great experience, guys! How fun! I would definitely do it, sounds relaxing. I would probably prefer a woman, though. I could definitely go for a massage right now!

  3. bronwen burmester says:

    It sounds a real experience and I had a few chuckles reading your blog Adela! Thanks

  4. Angela says:

    I didn’t try Turkish bath because I didn’t have the time when I was in Istanbul, but I know it’s both relaxing and exhausting!

  5. Ayngelina says:

    I think it’s better that there was no English, I hate talking to people when I’m naked…you know what I mean.

    How rough was it? I remember watching Anthony Bourdain do it and it looked painful.

  6. I definitely wouldn’t be comfortable being scrubbed all over by big Turkish man! But a woman might be nice. I hear Hamams are both extremely rough and gentle at the same time – maybe one day I’ll see it for myself.

  7. Ali says:

    This just doesn’t sound appealing to me. I don’t like normal massages because they either hurt me or tickle me, and I’m just incredibly uncomfortable the whole time. I know I’m not normal in this, but it’s just not for me. Glad you enjoyed it though!

  8. Sounds like a very nice experience. It’s especially great that it’s not too much of a tourist attraction as compared to being in Istanbul and does not cost much.

  9. I am excited about visiting the Hammam when we eventually get to Turkey, but my husband is VERY leery about it. Glad to read that you had a mostly positive experience!

  10. Haha I love the reference to big hairy Turkish men! I’m happy to read that women can do this. I always just assumed it was a men’s thing in Turkey. It sounds painful and relaxing at the same time.

    • Traditionally it is a men’s thing but pretty sure the big hairy Turkish men don’t mind the odd bikini wearing tourist coming in haha. It is definitely no more painful than a regular massage!

  11. I rarely get massages, but sounds like I’d have to make time if ever in Turkey…

  12. We were not brave enough to do a hamam when we went to Turkey. We wanted to but…neither one of us knew the other wanted to. If we had, we would’ve talked each other into it. It’s on our list for next time!

  13. The Hamam bath is interesting but I don’t think I can to take to be thrown with cold waters. I’m not really not used to taking cold showers and I only bath warm water. However, I still want to try this one. I’m just curious, if you’re a girl, who will bath you? A girl or a guy?

  14. Turtle says:

    I think it’s quite interesting to compare the massage style from different countries around the world. I haven’t been to Turkey before but this one sounds pretty unique!

  15. I’ve always wanted to experience a Turkish bath, sounds like an adventure you won’t soon forget!

  16. Andrea says:

    I did one in Istanbul last year. I purposely chose one where it was just for women, by women. I really, really enjoyed it! No English was OK, gestures are enough to get the point across. My problem was I was in the cool pool (naked) and they never came to get me with towel, so I had to wander around looking for someone to get back to the changing area. Otherwise it was not only a cultural experience, but I felt fresh and new!
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  17. Mickf says:

    Hi

    I am about to go to Turkey and fancy a go at the traditional Turkish bath. A couple of questions, first which hamam did you go to in Fethiye? And second were these butt naked men in a mixed Turkish bath or was this a men only one? Seems a bit wrong if they are naked in a mixed bath.
    Mick

    • Hey Mick, thanks for dropping by the site. I can’t remember the exact name but I had a look on Google Maps and 99% sure this is the one – Sultan Hamam, Foça Mh., 48300 Fethiye/Muğla Province, Turkey. We organised it through our Hostel which was called Fethiye Guesthouse if you want to contact them?

      The men were decently covered with towels etc so it was not like they were parading around with their bits dangling out for everyone to see. But it was a mixed bath. I am sure you could probably ask for a bit more privacy but we were in a group of 6 and felt totally comfortable.

  18. Ralph Daughtry says:

    A Turkish bath is the experience of a life time. Nothing else can compare. The hairy men that do the job are marvelous, they show you what to do without a word of English or German or whatever…The atmosphere is like a men’s-club. All the water is warm and soothing and the bathing is clean, totally non-sexual, a Haman is not the place for this, a Haman is a sybaritic experience unequaled in the rest of the world. he other men are friendly and will often ask you to wash their backs if you are open to that. This is experiencing the loving touch of another human being and don’t go to you grave without a Turkish bath!!!

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