Turkish Delight

Conjuring up exotic images of colorful bazaars, grand palaces, and traditional hammams, Turkey never fails to capture the imaginations of those who visit. An intoxicating mix of East and West, the country is where Asia and Europe come together, both literally and figuratively. Its longstanding spa tradition also makes it an ideal setting to experience a time-honored Turkish bath. Spa-goers wanting to mix that taste of tradition with more contemporary comforts needn't look far, thanks to the introduction of two new Swissàtel spas.

Bosphorus Bliss

In the country's beloved capital city, Swissàtel The Bosphorus, Istanbul invites guests to recharge their batteries at its recently opened Amrita Spa & Wellness. After an afternoon spent roaming the city's infamous Grand Bazaar with more than 3,000 stalls, guests will be hard-pressed to find a better way to recover than with a visit to the inviting 14-treatment-room spa, featuring a private hammam, a lavish couples' treatment room, and a spa suite complete with a private steam bath, a sauna, and a Jacuzzi.

 The lavish spa suite at the Istanbul-based spa features a Jacuzzi along with a private steam bath and sauna.
The lavish spa suite at the Istanbul-based spa features a Jacuzzi along with a private steam bath and sauna.

The staff, which is trained in both Eastern and Western techniques, relies on products from Futuresse, Valmont, and Ytsara. Based on an "East meets West" philosophy, Futuresse pairs Far East traditions with Western research. Spa director Anja Engels selected the line, in part, because the company's philosophy fit with the spa's unique location—in the one city to straddle two continents. It was also important to Engels that the spa's chosen skincare lines have great product support.

In Istanbul, the Amrita Relaxation Massage is a favorite among guests.
In Istanbul, the Amrita Relaxation Massage is a favorite among guests.

In creating the menu, Engels sought to offer a mix of treatments that would appeal to locals, business travelers, and those guests accustomed to five-star luxury. From Balinese-inspired treatments to Watsu, the menu is chock-full of pleasurable pursuits. Despite the variety of offerings, most guests gravitate toward the Turkish Bath ($136, 60 minutes) and Amrita Relaxation Massage ($106, 60 minutes; $149, 90 minutes).

 Spa-goers can relax in the foyer before entering the private hammam.
Spa-goers can relax in the foyer before entering the private hammam.

With 10 therapists on hand, the spa can cater to approximately 60 guests in a typical day. According to Engels, a spa membership plan is available to attract locals. Priced at $2,332, a one-year membership includes access to the fitness facilities, indoor and outdoor pools, and Jacuzzis and saunas. It also features four free day passes; two complimentary 60-minute massages; two complimentary visits to the solarium; a private fitness session; 50 percent off on group lessons; and 20 percent off on spa treatments and daily entrance fees to other Amrita Spas, and more. Although the spa is still recruiting, it currently has 280 members and a plan to cap membership at 850. In the meantime, Engels is busy striving for excellence. "As a member of The Leading Spas of the World, we set our standards very high," she says. "We would like the Amrita Spa brand to be known worldwide for offering quality and excellent service in a luxurious environment."

Izmir's Amrita Spa features inviting treatment rooms
Izmir's Amrita Spa features inviting treatment rooms

Aegean Respite

Located in the third most populous city in Turkey, Swissàtel Grand Efes, Izmir can be found holding center court in the heart of the city. Home to one of the first Turkish spas to be honored with membership in The Leading Spas of the World, the hotel serves up a wealth of healing options thanks to its 59,200-square-foot spa. Amrita Spa & Wellness caters to both local residents and international travelers by offering an authentic taste of Turkey in a thoroughly modern setting.

An outside area where guests can relax.
An outside area where guests can relax.

According to spa director Narendra K. Shetty, N.D., the spa reflects Izmir's long history as a place of health and healing. "Izmir was home to the Asclepieion Health Centre, dedicated to Asclepius, the deity of healing, all the way back in 400 B.C.," says Shetty. "Galen, one of the founders of modern medicine and pharmacology, was a son of the region, and he developed his science studying the unique endemic flora of the environs." Drawing on that history, the spa offers a diverse menu with offerings such as the Oriental Experience ($35, 30 minutes), a vanilla-scented bath, and the Amrita Signature Experience ($88, 90 minutes), which involves a massage using an aromatic blend of grapeseed oil combined with a range of fresh fragrances.

A hammam, without which no Turkish spa would be complete
A hammam, without which no Turkish spa would be complete

Not surprisingly, the spa's Turkish hammam is one of its main attractions. "Turkish baths play a very important role in Turkish tradition and culture," says Shetty. "Even though the Romans are the ones who developed the culture of independent bath construction, the Ottomans not only built baths in the capital but also constructed countless baths across the wide sweep of their empire. Many historical baths still exist across the country, and today, Turkish baths are an integral part of every spa in Turkey." At Amrita Spa & Wellness, the Turkish Hammam Experience ($47, 40 minutes) is the one most spa-goers gravitate toward.

Amrita Spa & Wellness (Istanbul, Turkey)
Amrita Spa & Wellness (Istanbul, Turkey)

Guests are encouraged to embrace a healing lifestyle and incorporate balancing rituals into their daily routines. To help them do that is the spa's team of 18 full-time staff members and 16 part-time attendants. Although the spa is still relatively new to the scene, it already has more than 300 members. In order to keep the spa and fitness center from becoming too crowded, there are plans to cap membership at 500. In the meantime, Shetty is focused on getting the word out and making the spa known.

Amrita Spa & Wellness (Izmir, Turkey)
Amrita Spa & Wellness (Izmir, Turkey)

"Most spas take pride in keeping up with the latest trends, from organic ingredients to Asian massage," says Shetty. "In addition to offering contemporary treatments and luxurious new facilities, we are also looking to the past for inspiration in everything from our spa decor to our authentic spa experiences."

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