Dalaman is a part of Turkey less visited than its nearby and much more developed neighbours along the coast – you won’t find a Bodrum here. Instead you’ll find a rather rural landscape full of pomegranate and citrus trees, a lovely coastline, mountains, islands, archipelagos and the remains of the mysterious Lycian civilisation whose mausoleums are carved into the rock face of mountains and sea cliffs. It’s an ideal place to relax. At the Dalaman Hilton, they have the relaxation thing nailed – 10 pools (indoors, outdoors, heated or not, kids or adults only), private gazebos by the beach with a bar and butler service, a hammock and your own hot tub. There are nine restaurants and the same again in bars, daily activities from archery to zumba and not one but two spas.
In the first, Byblis, you’ll find pools, sauna, steam, Jacuzzi and a Turkish bath. But for a real Turkish bath, go next door to the Elysion Spa where you’ll find all the treatments. Most places that call themselves Turkish baths are spacious steam rooms with a bit of marble to sit on. A real Turkish bath is not a place, it’s a process, indeed a ritual of great age that will leave you cleansed, relaxed and oiled in equal measure. And where better to find the real thing than in an unspoiled part of Turkey where the local council runs a public one – because here it’s regarded not just a pleasant way of spending an afternoon, it’s a necessity for a healthy life.
So my classic Turkish bath took place in the wonderfully calm surroundings of the Elysion. The spa itself is enormous with coolly shaded corridors, fountains, marble, plants and pebbles. In the hammam, you go through archway after archway, the sound of water and the temperature steadily rising. My own temperature had already risen having been put first in the steam room which was the hottest I have ever experienced – just breathing was painful. Having been told to stay for five minutes, I think I managed two. After a few quick gasps of air, I staggered in to the sauna which was a doddle by comparison and, while hot, infinitely more bearable, even quite relaxing. Nevertheless, when the lovely Zeinab, my therapist, came to collect me, I swayed as I stood up (she caught me). Amazing the power of heat…
And so it would prove. There was a heated marble plinth laid out with a towel in my own room off a central circular hammam. The marble was boiling hot (the towel made it bearable) and my “room” was lit by flickering candles, the light dancing off marble and glittering mosaic tiles on the ceiling. Zeinab began by pouring hot water all over me including my face and hair. Then comes the scrub using an exfoliating mitt. This lasts for quite some time and Zeinab pointed out finally a little heap of shredded dead skin. There seemed to be quite a pile so clearly this needs to be a regular for me. She covered every bit – my face, the back of the neck, the toes (each popped out of its socket individually), the soles of the feet and up the legs and body even into the armpits. Then I turned over and it all happened again on the other side. While Zeinab sluiced me down with more hot water, the table itself was heating me up even more, so my pores opened and the the toxins moved out of the skin and on to that mitt, she explained.
This, though, was just the beginning. Next there was the cleanse. Imagine an enormous roll of bubble wrap or a bubble bath gone mad. This actually comprises a kind of foam. Zeinab wrings it out over me and it forms a solid, yet quivering blanket the depth of three duvets. Zeinab now uses a loofah-like weapon to get rid of every last speck of London grime and then I’m polished and massaged until I am limp with the heat and all muscular resistance has retreated. Finally she washes my hair and sluices me down with ever cooler water, then dries me like a mother with a baby. Wrapped up in my robe, my hair in a towel she leads me to a relaxation room where I sip fruit tea and wait for my temperature to subside to something like normal. My skin is baby soft and I am officially the cleanest woman in Turkey.
The range of treatments here is extensive with lots of facials, wraps and massages. I had a lovely facial using Themae products that are based on four different kinds of tea “elixir”: antioxidant green tea, regenerating white tea, soothing red tea and stimulating black tea with pure spring water. There were cleansers (two), exfoliant (though I couldn’t have had a scrap of dead skin left), a detoxifying mask with added argan oil, serums and moisturisers, as well as plenty of face, scalp and neck massage.
I tried one of the massages, too. Spoilt for choice – should I go for Balinese or Ayurveda, hot stones or Shiatsu? – in the end I chose the Horoscope Massage, a concept I’d never previously come across. What could it possibly mean? Was someone going to cast my horoscope and work out the right combination of oils and techniques to align my stars? In fact, it was relatively simple as I was asked which was my sign. Of course, it wasn’t that simple because I fall between two signs but decided to plump for Leo deciding that you could never have enough strength or confidence. It was a lovely massage and the Leo oil turned out to be a combination of sweet almond, safflower, argan and vitamin E. Though whether that only works for Leos, I couldn’t be sure.
You have to explore the area, too. There are the local Dalyan peloid mud baths, open to the public, where you wallow in thermal muddy waters, applying the mud itself all over the body for skin disorders and joint inflammation (good for detoxing and general anti-aging too apparently). Then there are endless beaches, river tours where you meet the local Caretta Caretta turtles, trekking through the forests, river rafting and yachts for hire to take you along a perfect, unspoilt coast where the occasional restaurant sits on a beach just waiting for you to pull in. The weather, incidentally, is sensational. I was there at the very end of October and it was still in the mid-20s. R+R? They’ve pretty well got it nailed.
For comprehensive information about Hilton Dalaman Sarigerme Resort & Spa, Turkey, including details of accommodations, activities, services and wellness programmes, visit www.hiltondalaman.com.