“You’re going to Turkey….Why, do they have Hideaways at all??” were the sceptical reactions I got at my mentioning I was once again going away for Local Hideaways. For me, this was the ultimate confirmation that I was right in deciding to go to Turkey, for I so wanted to prove that Turkey is so much more than big, impersonal ‘all-inclusive’ hotels. And so, at the beginning of May, I set out to Izmir for a road trip along the coast, visiting 4 Local Hideaways. Wow, it was a party, with endless beauty surrounding me and lots of friendly meetings…..genuine Turkish Delight!
In a rental car, I’m travelling from Izmir to Antalya, which is quite a distance….we’re going to have to make some miles. But the roads are good and there is plenty to see along the way. My journey starts at Alaçati.
Alaçati is located on the peninsula, an hour’s drive south of Izmir and close to Cesme. Not long ago, it was a sleepy little town, until, in the late nineties, Zeynep Öziş found it and opened the first boutique hotel here, Taş Otel. And not only was she a trend setter in this respect, she also contributed greatly to the restoration of the deteriorated buildings and has done everything in her power to turn Alaçati into the lovely town it now is: one of Turkey’s most beautiful villages. And it is a beauty indeed…. gorgeous buildings that still show traces of their Greek past; narrow, cobblestone streets; quaint little shops; lovely terraces and inviting restaurants… great Bohemian vibes! And, surprisingly, I don’t encounter a single foreign tourist, only several (very affluent) Turkish tourists. By the way, I am told the summer months are very crowded here, so be sure to visit in the early or late season! Another added benefit: the azure sea is close by and very popular in the (kite) surfing scene.
I continue my journey along the coast to my next destination, and en route I stop over at Ephesus: remnants of the great Ionian trading and harbour town. Even though this is very popular among tourists, it is certainly worth a visit, considering that it is one of the most important archaeological areas in Turkey and one of the largest excavations of an ancient Greek site.
The Second Local Hideaway on my list is on the Bodrum peninsula, in the hills above Yalikavak. The Bodrum peninsula is gorgeous with its green hills, magnificent views and the turquoise sea that is always near. The downside is that new properties are constantly being built around here…. It’s as if they want to use every bit of the peninsula to the full by building houses, apartments or hotels everywhere. It’s a tragedy that the local government doesn’t restrict this more actively, especially considering the high vacancy rate. But, thankfully, there is still an unspoilt part in the hills above Yalikavak.
This is where I’m staying at the 4Reasons Hotel+Bistro, a boutique Hotel with phenomenal view of the bay in which Yalikavak is situated. It’s a lovely town where the old fishing village, with its local charm, contrasts nicely with the modern and trendy part where Europe’s largest harbour is located….this is where the real jet set can be found. A visit to the local market on a Thursday is another must. From far and away, people come here to sell or buy food and wares. Guaranteed local flavour with a whiff of ‘tourists shopping for bargains’:-).
It’s time to continue my journey, and driving along the scenery around me changes gradually. This part of the Lycian coast is characterised by lots of green and spectacular bays with azure waters. The views are breathtaking. I pass Fethiye and Öludeniz, both of which are dominated by large resorts. You can imagine my surprise when, having left Öludeniz behind and having circled my way through the hills over hairpin curves, I arrive at the small village of Kabak. The road literally ends here and I am forced to park my car at the ‘Last Stop’ Café. Gee, this is something special and my heart leaps with joy and curiosity, for rarely have I come across a Hideaway that couldn’t even be reached by car! A local 4×4 taxi bus takes me through the Bay to Turan Hill Lounge.
What a beautiful place, I feel like I have stumbled upon a fairyland: beautiful flowers, lush greens, turquoise dragonflies, dancing butterflies and brightly coloured birds, impressive limestone cliffs and, ahead of me, the azure sea. This type of landscape reminds me of Asia, not Turkey. Kabak Valley is located on the Lycian Way, an ancient 500 km hiking trail around coast of the Lycia. It is therefore a mecca for hikers, but nature lovers and ‘free spirits’ in general certainly will like it here. It’s one of those places you hope will always stay the same and not be ruined by commerce and project developers.
Unfortunately, I can’t stay in this little paradise forever and I get my car to drive to my final destination: Cirali. This town also on the Lycian Way, but an hour’s drive west of Antalya. Cirali is surrounded by breathtaking nature, majestic limestone rock formations and a large bay with the clearest azure water. This is where, from May through August, the endangered loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach at night…….awesome. It is why Cirali is an area protected by WWF and where, consequently, high-rise buildings are prohibited. The atmosphere is very laid-back and the primary means of transportation is the bicycle, which you can rent in various places.
This is where I found a Local Hideaway where authenticity makes all the difference and where your holiday will be truly wonderful (especially with children)….Azur Hotel. In addition to a lovely beach, this town offers two very special highlights: excavations of Olympos and the mythical Chimaera: where, in several places, natural flames burn from gaps in the rocky hillside: “Chimaera’s eternal flames”.
And here, after two weeks of travelling, my road trip along the south-western coast of Turkey comes to an end and it is time for me to say goodbye to this beautiful and diverse country. I am so glad that I have been able to prove people wrong: in terms of tourism, Turkey has so much more to offer than mere large-scale hotels. And to think that I have only seen a fraction of this wonderful country….work in progress ;-)!
Esther van Onna – Founder Local Hideaways. June 2015
Local Hideaways Turkey: www.localhideaways.com