Top 10 beach holidays in Turkey
Whether you're a gourmet or an amateur historian, an idler or an adventurer, a parent with a fun-seeking family or a couple looking for a romantic break, you'll find the perfect match on the Turkish coast this summer.
1. Perfection for foodies
The Turkish coast is foodie heaven, and there is no better place to sample the new wave in Turkish cooking than the Dionysos Estate, on the Bozburun peninsula south of Marmaris. Didem Senol is a rising culinary star, and at her father Ahmet's estate she curates a menu that emphasises locally fished seafood and organic produce from the estate's own farm. In the three gourmet restaurants, look out for dishes such as sea bass carpaccio laced with dill and grapefruit and drizzled with the estate's own olive oil, or meze favourites such as herb-stuffed zucchini fritters. Between meals, laze beside the infinity pool or in a hammock in shady gardens, or work off calories in the air-conditioned gym. Elegant rooms are in red-tiled cottages set high above the sea among fig trees and lemon groves. The private beach club offers watersports including windsurfing and sea kayaking, and the estate has its own stylish boats for picnic cruises. Perfection.
Exclusive Escapes (www.exclusiveescapes.co.uk) offers seven nights' b&b at Dionysos Estate from £650 (Dh3,690) per person, including a one-day cruise. Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com) flies to Dalaman, 120km from Kumlubük, from Istanbul Ataturk; Pegasus (www.flypgs.com) flies from Istanbul Gokcen. Fares start at around 80 Turkish lira (Dh160) one way.
2. Family fun
Arriving in Dalyan, you may ask: where's the beach? It's four kilometres downriver - a 40-minute journey through huge reed beds in a wooden ferry. Much more interesting for kids than going by car, and the five-kilometre-long Iztuzu beach doesn't disappoint. Endangered loggerhead turtles nest here, so building and watersports are banned. There are snack bars near the jetty, where you can rent sunloungers and umbrellas. Take a boat upriver from Dalyan for fishing trips on Lake Koycegiz and visits to the Ilica hot springs, where kids can wallow in warm, gloopy mud. The best place for families (and child-free couples too) in Dalyan is the Asur Hotel Apartments. This great little complex of hotel-style rooms, villas and apartments offers free boat rides to Iztuzu and has two big pools for days when you don't feel like commuting. The apartments have proper kitchens and are serviced daily, the hotel has an excellent restaurant and there are plenty more places to eat nearby.
A one-bedroom apartment (sleeps four) at Asur Hotel Apartments costs from £455 (Dh2,548) for seven nights. Two-bedroom apartments cost from £700 (Dh3,920) (www.asurotel.com).
3. Ancient history
Ephesus is Turkey's most famous archaeological site, and it is a must-see. But there are other ancient wonders nearby where you can escape the crowds who infest Ephesus. The Menderes Valley is studded with the remains of once-great cities such as Priene, Miletus and Didim, with one of the largest Greek temples ever built. The real prize is Aphrodisias, a temple city founded 2,600 years ago, abandoned 2,000 years later and rediscovered in the 1950s. You can wander around all morning here, meeting nobody except a tortoise or two. Kirazli, 15 minutes' drive from Ephesus, is an attractive base for exploring the region. The Muses House, an old villa converted into a boutique hotel, has a courtyard pool, a library of books on art and archaeology and five stylish en-suite rooms.
A double room at the Muses House costs from €110 (Dh517) b&b.Seven days' car rental from Izmir airport with Hertz (www.hertz.com) costs from €220 (Dh1,034).
4. Into the blue
Gulet cruises come in all shapes and prices, from trips that emphasise fun activities such as sea-kayaking, snorkelling, canyoning and beach barbecues to voyages led by experts on the region's past and present. The coast between Marmaris and Demre is the scene of one of the great Turkish holiday experiences - the classic "Blue Voyage". With a crew of three or four, these classy, two-masted wooden schooners sail or motor along the stunning Lycian coast, pausing for swimming and picnics in pretty bays and mooring at night in harbour villages such as Kas and Kalkan. Day trips to ancient ruins, caves and canyons are included in most packages. Some boats carry their own sea-kayaks, sailboards and scuba gear. Others moor at spots where equipment can be hired for the day. Smaller gulets sleep up to eight people in two-person cabins. The largest have berths for up to 24. On all boats, solo travellers pay a hefty single-occupancy supplement unless willing to share a cabin.
Luxury eight-day, expert-led cruises cost from £2,065 (Dh11,564) per person with Peter Sommer (www.petersommer.com). Prices include transfers, all meals on board, admission to sights, and excursions. Gulet cruises with Exodus (www.exodus.co.uk) start at £629 (Dh3,522) per person, including half-board accommodation.
5. Stretch your legs
If you're looking for a challenge, look no further. The Lycian Way stretches 509km between Fethiye and Antalya, traversing thick forests, deep canyons and high mountain ranges, so you're not going to cover it in one go. But there are plenty of packages that let you explore its more easy-going and accessible sections. Escorted walking tours in groups of 12 to 16 people combine tough and easy walks with stops on the coast and vehicles to carry your luggage and transfer you between your accommodation and the start and finish of each day's walk. The high point of the route is the ascent of 3,086-metre Mount Tahtali (aka Olympus), but it's not compulsory - many walkers stop at the saddle 1,800 metres up. To recover, bolt on a few days on a beach near Antalya or Fethiye at the end of your walk.
Ramblers Holidays (www.ramblersholidays.co.uk) has 14-night escorted walks from £1,097 (Dh6,143) per person including half-board hotel accommodation. A Walking the Lycian Way trip with Exodus (www.exodus.com) costs £499 (Dh2,794) per person, including five days point-to-point walking and seven nights b&b accommodation.
6. Just the two of you
Near the southernmost point of the Lycian coastline, Kas is a lively little spot that so far successfully juggles tourism and everyday life. In its harbour, overlooked by the minaret of the village mosque, fishing boats outnumber yachts, and locals outnumber visitors in its old-style cafes and tea garden. The beach is a 10m patch of pebbles, but beside it, patrons of the Derya Beach Restaurant can plunge into the clear sea from a bathing ladder and bask while sipping fresh-squeezed juices. And there are plenty of chic shops and smart places to eat and drink along the palm-fringed esplanade. The budget-friendly Hideaway Hotel has bright and breezy rooms, a rooftop restaurant where they serve a great buffet breakfast, a tiny pool and its own mini-lido with loungers by the sea.
Kas is fun, but for more peace and quiet in a gorgeous setting, head west towards Kalkan and a hotel that has been rated as the most romantic in the Mediterranean. Just east of Kalkan, Villa Mahal perches above the deep, calm blue bay. With 11 rooms sculpted into the hillside among grassy terraces and olive trees, it is the perfect grown-ups-only cocoon for child-free couples. Dinners and lavish breakfasts are served at the rooftop restaurant, and no fewer than 180 steps lead to the private swimming platform and sea-level cafe-restaurant. Who needs a gym?
Rooms at Villa Mahal cost from €220 (Dh1,034) per night, b&b for a double room to €550 (Dh2,585) for a suite with private pool (www.villamahal.com). Sea-view doubles at Hideaway Hotel cost from 135 Turkish lira (Dh270) b&b (www.hotelhideaway.com).
7. City lights
Most of those who fly into Antalya head straight for the Mediterranean coast, but Turkey's fastest-growing city is worth a longer look. It has a mellow climate and a great setting. Its archaeological museum has an outstanding collection of the relics of many civilisations, and its dazzling AKM cultural centre hosts world-class events and exhibitions. Kaleici, Antalya's old quarter, is an enclave of hundreds of old Ottoman houses, built around an ancient harbour and surrounded by ramparts built more than 2,200 years ago. Hadrian's Gate, built to honour the Roman emperor's visit to the city in AD 130, is impressive. You'll find cool boutiques and antique shopping in Kaleici's labyrinthine streets and the trendy quayside around the harbour, where locals go to Club Arma (www.clubarma.com.tr) for a smart night out. The place to stay is the urban-chic Hotel SU, where sea-view rooms have balconies overlooking Konyaalti Beach, 1.5km from the city centre. A fab rooftop pool, and indoor pool, six restaurants and a spa make this Antalya's coolest city hotel.
Doubles at Hotel SU cost from €120 (Dh240) b&b (www.hotelsu.com.tr).
Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com) flies to Antalya from Istanbul Ataturk Airport. Flights start at around 80 Turkish lira (Dh160) one way and take around 70 minutes.
8. Beautiful boutiques
The Bozburun coast is studded with chic boutique hotels where you can expect stylish surroundings, outstanding service, attention to detail and fine food. At Selimye, a newly fashionable harbour village called Badem Tatil Ev, which is one of the gems of Bozburun, has 12 rooms and suites around a fine infinity pool and has a private beach club. Great Turkish food, too, and the Selimye waterfront is a 10-minute stroll. Also on Bozburun, the Piynar Villa Hotel has 10 suites with private pools, a beach club with an array of watersports and a spa. On the banks of a river that meanders through woods to the sea, Bordubet, about 30km west of Marmaris, feels more like a stylish safari lodge than a typical Turkish hotel, but the sea and beach club are only a few hundred metres away. Ece on Sovalye, on a traffic-free islet, 10 minutes offshore from Fethiye, offers fabulous views and maximum tranquility. Free perks include one-day gulet cruises, kayaks and snorkelling kits, and there's a complimentary water-taxi to Fethiye for days out.
Exclusive Escapes (www.exclusiveescapes.co.uk) has a wide range of accommodation on its books, including those listed above. Prices start at £920 (Dh5,152) to £1,700 (Dh9,520) per person for seven nights.
9. Air, land and sea
The blue lagoon at Olu Deniz has become one of Turkey's tourism icons, and the low-rise, purpose-built resort that has grown up next to it has become quite a party town. But it's also earned a reputation as a great base for a plethora of land, air and water sports. On most summer days, the sky above is filled with the bright coloured wings of paragliders, who take off near the summit of Baba Dag, 2,000 metres above, and take 25-45 minutes to spiral down to land in the centre of town. If you've ever dreamed of being able to fly, now's your chance: you can take to the air in tandem with an instructor for a breathtaking descent to sea level. It makes land-based activities seem rather earthbound. But there are plenty of those around Olu Deniz, too. Black Tree Organic Farm and Cottage, in a tiny village 40 minutes from the resort and 1,000 metres above sea level, has mountain bikes for rides on forest trails and offers riding on the huge beach at Patara. There's a pool, and accommodation is in stone cottages or rooms in a 200-year-old farmhouse.
Tandem paraglide flights cost 185 Turkish lira (Dh370) with Skysports (www.skysports-turkey.com), including transfer to take-off point and all equipment. Cottages at Black Tree (www.blacktree.net) cost from €36 (Dh170) per night, room only.
10. Luxury beckons
The luxury hotels clustered around Belek, not far east of Antalya, aim to attract a discerning clientele with displays of sheer opulence. Vast pools, spas that offer the ultimate in pampering, and suites fit for the choosiest of emperors come as standard.
When the £1 billion Mardan Palace opened in 2009, Mariah Carey, Tom Jones, Sharon Stone and Richard Gere were on hand for the first-night party. Despite 10,000 square metres of gold leaf, sybaritic health and beauty facilities, and a pool as big as three UEFA football pitches, this isn't the most outrageously luxurious hotel in this part of the world. That honour goes to the 640-room Rixos Premium, which claims to be "Europe's first seven-star hotel" and has 12 restaurants, 10 tennis courts, a dolphinarium ... and its own artificial weather. Not to be outdone, the Marmara Antalya has a man-made river and a revolving penthouse wing, and the Kremlin Palace aims to make its Russian guests feel at home with near life-size replicas of the real thing, the Bolshoi and St Basil's.
Doubles at the Mardan Palace (www.mardanpalace.com) cost from €170 (Dh800) b&b; at the Rixos Premium (www.rixos.com) doubles start at €198 (Dh930) b&b; at Marmara Antalya a double costs from €104 (Dh488) b&b; and at the Kremlin Palace (wow.hotels.com) doubles cost from €190 (Dh893) b&b.
IF YOU GO
Etihad Airways flies from Abu Dhabi to Istanbul in four-and-a-half hours from Dh1,995 return (www.etihad.com). For information about onward domestic flights, visit Turkish Airlines at www.turkishairlines.com
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Published: May 3, 2013 04:00 AM