I continue my journey along the Lycian coast towards the small town of Cirali, situated in the Antalya province. 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.

The Local Hideaway I’m staying at is the Azur Hotel, run by Ahmet and his wife Dilek. Ahmet is a local from Cirali and, over the years, has created a marvellous place here. He started out with eight stone bungalows (all with two bedrooms, a bathroom, air conditioning, and a terrace) and a restaurant, after which he put body and soul into creating a stunning garden. This garden boasts a large variety of fruit trees, special types of roses and exotic flowers and plants. Having finished with the enormous garden, it was time to start the next phase: 20 wooden cabins were placed throughout the garden, all spacious and decorated very efficiently with a porch, two rooms, a comfortable bathroom and air conditioning for warmer days. His final project was to install a state-of-the-art, temperature controlled, saltwater  swimming pool; comfortably warm in the early and late season and pleasantly cool in midsummer.

Ahmet and Dilek (and their staff) extended me the warmest of welcomes, which is saying quite a bit, considering that hospitality is one of Local Hideaways’ main criteria! They show such honest  kindness and  commitment….it’s heart-warming! I feel that this constitutes the soul of the Azur Hotel;  making  you feel like you’re visiting close relatives. Also, it is a kids’ heaven, for nothing is too much here. There are Tripp Trapp high chairs in the restaurant, the ladies at the reception happily walk around carrying your child in their arms in order to allow you to enjoy your breakfast, there’s a playground and a baby bath…..in short,  all the ingredients for a relaxed holiday with kids.

And the garden….a true paradise! Ahmet proudly tells me about all the exotic plants. Wandering around the various pathways, my nostrils fill with the scent of orange blossom and I am able to pick the ripe oranges right off the trees. You name it and it grows in this garden, from avocados to figs… and all yours for the picking. And that is not to mention the beautiful flowers, giant roses, flaming red flowers on the bottlebrush tree and the scent of jasmine.

The large beach, where you will find complimentary sunloungers that belong to the family’s beach restaurant,  is only a few minutes’ walk away. Breakfast is a sumptuous and delicious affair, with freshly squeezed orange juice and fruit from the garden and a large selection of cheeses, olives, jams and fresh bread. Or you can have some eggs prepared just the way you like them. They also serve a lovely dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, where the food is delicious and Hasan is a wonderful host.

Several times a week, there are boat trips or excursions to, i.e., a local market. I decided to go to Chimaera, where, in several places, natural flames burn from gaps in the rocky hillside: “Chimaera’s eternal flames”. Getting there by tractor and cart was an experience in itself and after a steep climb this mythical place awaited me: indeed, flames were burning from  the ground here, fire that we were even able to roast sausages on! How very extraordinary!

I remember the Azur Hotel fondly, for this is such a wonderful example of a Local Hideaway where authenticity makes all the difference and where your holiday will be truly wonderful (especially with children)! So forget all those large impersonal resorts and come and enjoy the true Turkish hospitality at the Azur Hotel!

More about Turkey can be read in my blog ‘Turkish Delight, Local Hideaways style!’