Story and photos by Sharon King Hoge

Doga Spa Exterior

Doga Thermal Health & Spa
Karahayit Mah. 147 Seyir Sk. N0:9-1,
Karahayit, Pamukkale, Turkey

This is a destination that had me exclaiming "Why didn't anyone ever tell me about this before." Chances are you've never heard of Pamukkale's  travertine slopes that tend to overwhelm first-time visitors. What  appears to be a sheer cliff of snow rising above the plains of central Turkey is actually the "Cotton Castle," a mountain coated with calcified carbonate with thermal hot springs bubbling through it.  The ancient  Romans and earlier civilizations recognized the region's "curative"  qualities and built Hierapolis, a vast city atop it. The remains of its boulevards, cemeteries, fountains, pools, and bathhouses have been  designated a UNESCO Heritage Site. Today Pamukkale (pronounced  pa-moo-ca-lay) is, as in Roman times, a destination for modern tourists  who flock to soak and swim in its healing waters.

Doga Cotton Castle Cliff and Thermal Stream 1

After soaking our feet in the springs atop the cliff, the travelers in our  Gate 1 tour group chose to stay about ten minutes away in the authentic  local village of Karahayit at the wonderful Doga Thermal Health &  Spa, a contemporary elipse which encircles a series of indoor and out,  chilled and steaming swimming pools and natural springs.

Doga Natural Hot Spring Pool

Ground floor reception is located on the middle, third floor, of the five  story building and is furnished with Barcelona chairs and seating nooks overlooking the azure tiled pool which meanders through the oval  central lobby around the glass elevator and encircles a central dome  equipped with twinkling lights and bubbling water jets. A handy gift  shop sells tea cups, books, and swim suits. The bar overlooking the  pool is a place to play cards or table games. A gift shop is stocked  with souvenirs and extra bathing suits for men and women.

Doga Front Desk

Ascending two floors in the glass elevator to the top, I checked into room 501  furnished in comfortable contemporary shades of gray including a throw  across the foot of the queen size bed.  Convenient shelves on either  side of the bed were topped with extra reading lights and plugs for  recharging cell phones and electronics. Facing the bed, a handy console held a coffee maker, glasses with a wine opener, and a wide screen TV  broadcasting the BBC and TCM in English along with several Turkish  channels.  There was a safe and an extra pillow in the sleek armoire and a mini-bar stocked with basic beverages. Sliding glass doors opened to a balcony with city views and a table and chairs for lounging.

Doga Bedroom

The bathroom was lined in matte gray with a modern stone slab sink  providing natural hot water pouring at will from the faucet.  The wall  above the bathtub was a window looking into the bedroom with blinds that could be opened or shut for privacy.  Offered on the counter were the  hotel's own name brand amenities along with a cotton bathrobe and  slippers.

Elaborate buffet meals were served in the second floor dining room, furnished  with brocade upholstered side chairs and white linens.  On refrigerated  cases decorated with charming food "bouquets," chefs provided full  selections of cheeses, meats, vegetables, and prepared salads which  preceded the hot selections which one night included chicken roti,  eggplant casserole, mushroom gratin, steak wrap, and "furnace" fish  stuffed with lemon and grilled in parchment.  A large variety of  delicious local olives are served only with breakfast. 

Doga Buffet

The spa and fitness facilities are located on the below-grade first floor. Besides the exercise room with fitness machines, the spa provides a  full array of services: sauna, steam room, hammam Turkish bath. Massages, facials, and other treatments are conducted in  spacious, dimly lit rooms with soothing music. The charge for a  half-hour standard massage was $30.

Swimmers can meander around the curves of the indoor pool pausing within its  bubbling dome. One standard outdoor swimming pool serves for stroking  laps and sunbathing. But the piece de resistance is the outdoor pool fed directly by three natural hot water thermal  springs which gush into a steamy central dome and heat the full-size  swimming pool to the temperature of a bathtub.  Guests can stroke around the pool or sit on benches beside the flowing springs savoring the same therapeutic waters that Romans basked in centuries ago.




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