Best Travel Towel: We’re in Love with Turkish Towels for Travel

Knotty Turkish Towels for Travel

Putting those normal bath towels you use at home on your packing lists is a big no-no.

Being big, bulky, and slow to dry makes them terrible for travel. The last thing you want to do is have to pack up a wet towel into your luggage because, on arrival, there’s bound to be a musty stench to deal with. Yuck.

To combat this problem, we’ve typically recommended the pack towel, but that option also has its downsides. Most are barely big enough to wrap around your body, some tend to pick up a musty scent after so many uses, and the feeling of the shammy-like material on your skin isn’t always smooth.

But, we thought this was the best option, the best travel towel, until…

We discovered Turkish bath towels.

Knotty Turkish travel towels side by side

What are Turkish Towels?

Fellow traveler Camille already told us that Turkish towels are her one little thing she can’t travel without, and I have to be honest, I’ve become a new convert since Knotty sent me a few to try out for myself earlier this year. And I’m not the only one who’s put them to the test. I’ve had both my boyfriend and house guests use them in order to get a better review.

Known as peshtemals, Turkish towels were originally designed for use in public bath houses. In recent years, they’ve grown in popularity as beach/pool towels, travel towels, and even as gym towels thanks to their large size, high absorbency level, and quick-drying nature. But most of all, we love their ability to be packed down quite small – almost just as small as those teeny tiny pack towels you get at the travel gear shops!

The Best Travel Towel is a Turkish Towel

So let’s take a look at why Turkish bath towels are perfect for travel:

  • They’re thin. Even though they are cotton, they dry fairly quickly.
  • They actually cover you up. The size is not even comparable to pack towels, but since the material is thin, they still pack up small.
  • They’re soft on your skin. Unlike the sticky feeling of other pack towels, like my old faithful from Kathmandu, the Knotty’s Turkish towel pat down more like a normal towel given the fluffy thread of Turkish cotton.
  • Absorbency is high. All thanks to Turkish cotton.
Knotty Turkish towel comparison to a pack towel.
Knotty Turkish towel comparison to a pack towel on the left.

Turkish Towels Review

Knotty Turkish Towels

The Knotty’s brand of Turkish travel towels are known for their bright color combinations, which are really fun to have in your repertoire. The extra large size of their towels (100cm x 180cm / 39in x 71in) puts my normal large microfiber towel from Kathmandu to shame (it comes in at a measly 50cm x 96cm / 20in x 38in).

Brooke hanging a Knotty towel. They're really big!
Brooke hanging a Knotty towel. They’re really big!

However, the only place where the pack towel still has the Turkish travel towel beat is in weight.

My faithful pack towel weighs a mere 125g, or 150g (5.3 oz) with the zipper pouch, while my giant Knotty’s towel comes in at 272g (9.6 oz).

Sure it’s only 122g more, but for those who are packing ultra-light, you will want to make sure you have chosen a towel that can double as a scarf, or even work as a blanket on a plane. My Knotty’s towels make for bulky scarves, but there are thinner and slightly smaller Turkish towels on the market if you’re willing to put in the time looking.

>> Get 15% off a Knotty towel using code HPL16.

Knotty's Turkish towel vs  my Kathmandu pack towel.
Knotty’s Turkish towel vs my Kathmandu pack towel.

Cacaia Turkish Towels

[Caroline speaking] I purchased a Turkish towel from Etsy after admiring them on a trip to Turkey (and the Turkish baths) back in 2013. Cacaia is one of the lines of Turkish towels sold through the PestemalCom shop on Etsy. They come in a handful of colors with simple white lines as designs. The towels have knotted tassels on the ends and are made of 100% cotton. Pestemals from Cacaia are also more traditional in style than those from Knotty and are highly absorbent.

turkish towels from etsy

The Cacaia towels are 100 x 180 centimenters (40 x 71 inches), the same size as those made by Knotty, but much larger than pack towels sold at outdoor retailers. Best of all, these towels, sold through Etsy, cost less than $20 per towel. They’re not much more than traditional “travel towels” and can be used many more ways.


Many Uses of Turkish Towels While Traveling

Now let’s have a look at all the different uses of a Turkish towel.

  • Bath Towel – And they can actually wrap around you for optimal post-shower cover-up.
  • Travel Beach Towel – Because they’re big and absorbent.
  • Sarong – A sarong also serves many of these purposes, but the typical sarong lacks the absorbency of Turkish cotton.
  • Blanket – For planes, trains and other situations where you might need a nap.
  • Picnic blanket – Impromptu lunch dates in a foreign park are better with a big spread.
  • Tie into a beach bag – No need to pack an extra bag. You can tie a couple of knots and the towel is now a bag.
  • Privacy screen in hostels – Hang it from the upper bunk, or create a changing area in a part of the room.
  • Scarf – Yep, you can wear it when you’re chilly.
  • Baby Blanket – I can’t tell you how to do it, but apparently you can swaddle that little one in a Turkish towel.

How to Wear a Turkish Towel

The benefit that Turkish towels have over other travel towels is their multiple functions beyond drying off. Like a sarong, you can wear a Turkish towel many ways, making it both a clothing item and a towel. Here are just a few of the ways you can wear a Turkish towel on the road and at home.

how to wear turkish towels

1. Scarf– Because of the size, it makes for a large scarf, so you may have to loop it around a few times. There are so many ways to tie a scarf, so do some research on Pinterest. I did the simple wrap around, but you could also do the knot or loop. Be warned that because of the rectangular shape, you may have some extra fabric that makes certain scarf styles look a bit silly.

2. Blanket scarf or shawl– Wrap around your shoulders to keep you from getting chilly on a night out or, if you’re more ambitious, treat it like a blanket scarf. I laid the towel on my shoulders like I was going to wear it as a shawl, but once the ends reached my armpits, I tied a knot behind my back. Use these styles to cover your shoulders when entering a conservative site like a church or temple.

3. Bag– You may have to play around with it before you get it right, as I did. Tie edges of the middle together length-wise (hot dog style) before tying the longer ends together (hamburger style). I don’t recommend wearing your scarf as a bag if you’re carrying important things like your camera and passport, as it might slip out or hands might grab it, but is fine for going to and from the beach.

4. Sarong/dress– While almost as versatile as a sarong, a Turkish towel is thicker than the materials used on sarongs. Therefore, it may not be as flexible for tying. But I did manage to turn my towel into a dress. I wrapped both ends around me and crossed over to tie around my neck. It’s a bit short, so I wouldn’t wear it out much beyond a quick lunch or beach day. But you can even belt it to make it more flattering or pair with leggings for additional modesty.

5. Skirt– To use as a cover up, simply tie in a big knot at your hip and leave the slit. But I chose to turn my Turkish towel into a skirt I could potentially wear out as an additional clothing item. I took one end to my waist and then wrapped the other end on top of it, tucking it into the top when I reached the end. I then folded over the top for extra security. This is also great to carry in your bag if you need to quickly cover your legs to visit a temple or other holy site.

6. Head covering– Another essential style is the head covering, which you may need when traveling to certain countries. You’ll be required to cover your hair when visiting temples and mosques so it’s nice to be able to throw the Turkish towel into your bag and keep from being denied entry or forced to wear the full body robes they often rent. I took the middle and placed it over my head and wrapped each end around my shoulders.


Where to Buy Turkish Towels

Australia – Knotty Turkish Towels

The towels in this post have been provided by Knotty, an Australian business that gets their Turkish towels made and hand finished in Turkey from 100% Turkish cotton. If you’re interested in snagging one for yourself, be sure to use code “HPL16” at checkout for 15% off!

Australia – Turkish Towels on Sarosha

Members of the #HPLWorld group recommended Sarosha for Australians looking to buy Turkish towels. They sell both classic styles of Turkish towels as well as different patterns and circular shapes. Prices are similar to Knotty but you can get free shipping.

US – Turkish Towels on Amazon

Amazon sells just about everything you could possibly need, including Turkish towels. Prime members get free shipping on many of these towels and you can also purchase in bulk for more savings.

US – The Bali Market Turkish Towels

Another option for US shoppers is to check out those offered by The Bali Market. The color choices are on the soft and subtle side. Use code “HPL20” for 20% off your order!

International – Turkish Towels on Etsy

Buy handmade Turkish towels from around the world on Etsy to support local shops. Here you’ll find even more options in terms of patterns, sizes and colors. There’s also more of a range in prices as well, starting under $10 USD and going up from there.

International – Turkish Towels on Ebay

Order straight from Turkey on Ebay, where you can find many different styles of Turkish towels. Some items you’ll have to bid on, but many are available with the “Buy Now” option. Consider the size before you order, as there is some variation here.

Turkish Towel vs pack towel

Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

Add your voice & leave a comment!

Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Abby Woody says

    Aaah, this is AMAZING! The size comparison really drives it home when it’s hung up next to the PackTowel. The price is high, but they seem like investment pieces. Thanks for giving us a look at the Turkish towels, Brooke! Oh and p.s., summer is just beginning here in the U.S. (it’s 82 in St. Louis right now!) so seeing you in pants and scarf made me do a double-take!

  2. Lady Light Travel says

    I note that the Turkish travel towels are twice as large as your pack towel. That means that a Turkish towel the same size as your pack towel would be lighter. I estimate that the Junior size comes in at around 90g (more or less).

    • Brooke says

      Yeah I could easily do with a smaller Turkish towel, and one that is still able to wrap around my body would be the same or less in weight.

  3. Nancy says

    I don’t think the HPL code is working. I was interested in how much shipping outside of Australia was and when I entered the code it said it wasn’t valid.

  4. Jessica Lippe says

    Since hearing about Turkish towels from fellow HPL travelers, I’ve been thinking I should pick one up when I visit Istanbul in October. However, Turkey is the final destination of my 3-month Mediterranean Europe journey, so perhaps I need to find one ahead of time!

  5. Anonymous says

    Hi there, how quickly do these dry? Do they dry as quickly as Pack Towls? Worried about using this for backpacking and it not being as quick to dry as the alternative, thanks!

    • Brooke says

      Hi there! I did a side-by-side test the other day and the Turkish towel actually dried a little faster than my pack towel! I soaked them both in the sink, wrung them out, and then hung them on a rack in the living room (to get that feel of them being indoors, in a hostel room to dry). I did this mid-day, and they were both dry by the evening, but the Turkish towel made it there faster.

  6. Molly says

    Ive been looking at a Turkish towel for ages! But wasn’t sure! I just ordered one thanks to this post (and the discount code) thanks HPL 🙂 🙂

  7. Jen says

    These are quite pricey compared to the ones being sold by Calaca on Amazon. I got one similar to the knotty originals for around $15 US. It says it’s 100% cotton and came very nicely packaged with a real glass Turkish eye!

  8. Kallie says

    I can’t help but laugh at how relevant some of these posts are now that I’m BACK from my move to Costa Rica.

    Honestly, this is the thing I was most glad I packed, and I nearly didn’t pack it! I bought it a few years ago because I thought it was beautiful, but it ended up being my most useful travel item.

    I had my backpacker towel that was nice, but I honestly ended up preferring and using my turkish towel twice as much, simply because a) it dried me off quicker/more comfortably, b) was larger (I’m 5’11. This is always an issue for me and towels.), c) if left in the sun, it was dry in less than an hour, and d) it doubled as a blanket for me. In a lot of hostels, they only gave me a top sheet, and while it may be warm during the day, in many locations, it got pretty cool at night, so I was glad to have something to snuggle under that was breathable, but still warm.

    I’m still glad I had both – especially my last 6 weeks which I just spent on the beach every day; it was nice to have my turkish towel for beach time and my pack towel for shower time. If I had just stayed in the mountains the whole time, however, I would be happy with just my pretty blue striped towel (just like the one in your photo!).

  9. Jaye says

    I found a couple of turkish towels at Costco online – 2 for about $45. Not so many color choices (all white with different color borders). I fell in love with them and have been using them as my every day towels at home. I like that they wrap around me and dry quickly. I always take my own towel when traveling anyway, usually a microfiber XXL travel towel that I got from Rick Steves, but I’ll be taking my turkish towel on my next trip this summer. I plan to pack it flat in a one gallon zip bag with the air squeezed out, I admit I was skeptical at first about how they would dry me off but I think they actually work better than my microfiber towel. They are definitely more absorbent than a sarong. I’m a fairly light packer and am willing to take the few extra ounces this towel may cost me.

  10. MEISSOUN says

    You can buy these MUCH cheaper directly from Turkish vendors on ebay!
    I also bought a big one at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul for about 10 $, it’s great.

  11. Angela says

    I bought three of these Turkish towels on Amazon. Tried them out on my last holiday and they are definitely a thumbs up from me. I found them lightweight great for the beach and wrap around you better than towel. We even took one out with us when we went out one evening to put round our legs whilst sitting in an outdoor bar.

  12. Leslie L. says

    I love these towels!! I am leaving for Italy next week and already have one in my carry-on pack. I plan to use it for a blanket on the plane, a shawl/scarf when visiting places where I need to cover my shoulders, a picnic blanket in Tuscany, and an actual towel in Assisi when I relax by the pool! I got my in Los Angeles from The Folding Room, an on-line store. Love these things!! The only hard part is to choose a color!

  13. Loraul says

    This is awesome! I’m heading to London and Amsterdam next month and I’ve been there before but this will be my first time staying in a hostel and I just ordered one of these towels. They sound fabulous – Thanks!

  14. Molly says

    I fell in love with these towels as soon as I read this article, so I bought one straight away!! I was wondering how you tied yours into a beach bag??

  15. Rebekah says

    I missed this post from your blog, but I was looking at the 99 gifts for women travellers and I saw the knotty which then brought me here. I went on to the knotty website and bought one. It will be perfect for camping and going on longer trips. Thanks for the 15% off code. ?

  16. jeanine says

    Love these!! I’m from Canada and would love to know if there’s a place in Canada I could get one. They are expensive on amazon for Canada shipping.

  17. Sarah says

    Just got back from Australia and so glad I took a hammam towel – absolute life saver. Got mine from Sorbet.

  18. Rebecca says

    I purchased three for £20 off Amazon in May last year to take when we went to Austria for a three week road trip. We were staying in rented apartments, so most places provided linens, but our last place was a hostel with really tiny towels, so these came in handy! They also worked great to put on the floor in the bathroom under our hung up sink washed clothing so we didn’t drip water all over the floor. Love the Turkish towels!

  19. Nicole says

    Thanks for the tip! We just purchased a couple Bali towels after reading your post to travel with to the Dominican Republic this spring. <3

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