Steer clear of Turkey's busy beaches with this inside track on where to find peace, says Katie McGonagle
Ask a holidaymaker what they want most and – aside from die-hard adventurers – a chance to relax and recharge is likely to be top of the list.
But there’s no bigger disappointment than getting to the beach to find the only spot of sand still free is smaller than a postage stamp, forcing you to elbow other sunseekers out of the way or trek for miles until you find room to stretch out a beach towel.
Never fear – while Turkey is home to some popular tourist towns along its beautiful coastline, it also boasts plenty of quieter escapes. From up-and-coming seaside resorts that haven’t yet hit the mainstream, to traditional fishing villages or luxury villas in the heart of the countryside, clients seeking seclusion will find it here.
So you know where to send them, we asked a series of Turkey specialists to share a few of their favourite getaways.
ROYAL RETREAT: PRINCES ISLANDS
Where? Nine islands in the Sea of Marmara, off the coast of Istanbul
Best for: Escaping the hubbub of the busy city
Tell me more: Istanbul is one of the most exciting cities around, but when hordes of tourists, non-stop traffic and endless sightseeing start to take their toll, these islands are a worthy escape. Free of cars, visitors get around by horse-and-cart, bike or on foot, so it’s easy to see why the pace of life is rather slower here.
Inside scoop: Akin Koc, managing director of Anatolian Sky, says: “The largest island is Buyukada, but I love Heybeliada, which is the second-largest and known for its natural beauty and beaches. You can head to the bakeries and delicatessens to pick up supplies for a picnic, and head off to explore the pine groves and beaches. You can also take the ferry to Istanbul for a day of sightseeing, but return in the evening to the peace and quiet of island life.”
Book it: Anatolian Sky offers a five-night stay at the historic Merit Halki Palace Hotel from £645 in October, which includes bed-and-breakfast accommodation, flights, ferry tickets and transfers within Istanbul. Twin-centre breaks with Istanbul are available.
0844 273 3585
BEAUTIFUL STRANGER BOZBURUN
Where? A seaside resort 30 miles from Marmaris
Best for: Sipping wine by the waterfront
Tell me more: The Bozburun peninsula, best known for mega-resorts like Marmaris and Icmeler, has been quietly expanding its accommodation in smaller spots such as Selimiye and, now, Bozburun itself. Many of these seaside towns are already popular with the yachting crowd thanks to their small harbours and fine restaurants, but the addition of hotels, villas and apartments has attracted more mainstream holidaymakers.Bozburun was traditionally a place for building Turkish gulets and producing thyme honey, but it’s also a great base from which to explore.
Within a short drive, visitors will find a beautiful waterfall – best visited early to avoid day-trippers – plus they can feel like they’re walking across water with the shallow sand bar stretching across the bay at Orhaniye, or hire a fishing boat from the tiny village of Sogut.
Inside scoop: Jane Baxter, Turkey manager at Ilios Travel, says: “This village has been known for many years for its boat-building but the gorgeous location – an almost land-locked bay with small offshore islands – has seen the opening of a few chic restaurants and hotels. The bustling village centre comes alive at night with seaside restaurants vying for the custom of overnighting yachts and wooden-built gulets. When Roman Abramovich was holidaying in the area aboard his super-yacht, he joined the locals in the tea house for a glass of aromatic sage tea.
“We think staying in this area is a privilege – an authentic and unspoilt region where the emphasis is on relaxation. Few holiday choices could be better.”
Book it: A week at the Loryma Hotel, Bozburun, starts at £420 staying bed-and-breakfast in a standard room. Ilios Travel can add flights and transfers on request.
COASTAL ESCAPE KUMLUBUK
Where? On the opposite side of the Bozburun peninsula, 12 miles south of Marmaris
Best for: Beach holidays minus the crowds
Tell me more: You know you’re in for a treat when you pick a destination whose name literally means ‘sandy bay’. Kumlubuk is a small village, but holds one of the longest beachfronts on the peninsula. It boasts silence and solitude, sheltered by pine-covered mountains, but with other tourist resorts, such as former fishing village Turunc, near enough to explore.
There is a smattering of restaurants along the waterfront: one of the best is the Dionysos Sea Club offering light bites by day or freshly-caught fish come evening. The Dionysos estate and Serendip Select Hotel make up the two main accommodation options, with the latter being one of Classic Collection Holidays’ favourite hideaways.
Inside scoop: Classic Collection Holidays’ head of purchasing Gary Boyer says: “This hotel offers peace and tranquillity in a back-to-nature setting. The hotel is located in beautiful Kumlubuk Bay on the renowned Turquoise Coast, where crystal-clear waters meet a backdrop of pine-covered hills; the latter boasting delightful trails for walking, and marvellous views.
“Delicious cuisine packed with flavour is savoured at the à la carte restaurant, where fresh fish and seafood feature daily, and there’s an attractive swimming pool in the hotel’s mature gardens that lead down to a jetty and 180-metre private stretch of shingle beach.”
Book it: A week staying bed-and-breakfast at Serendip Select Hotel (pictured below) with Classic Collection Holidays starts at £811 in late September, including flights and private transfers.
0800 008 7299
MOUNTAIN LIE-IN ISLAMLAR
Where? Four miles inland from Kalkan
Best for: Total seclusion with a traditional twist
Tell me more: A lot of holiday destinations lay claim to being a ‘village’, espousing their tiny size, traditional way of life, and charming locals. Then you get there to find it’s only slightly smaller than Birmingham, and lacks anything remotely resembling charm.
Not so in Islamlar – this is a genuinely secluded spot in the Taurus Mountains whose claim to fame is its local trout streams.
Visitors won’t find any hotels or amusement parks, just a few locally-run restaurants serving traditional Turkish fare, a bakery and an old tea house, plus spectacular mountain scenery and a lot of quiet. Car hire is recommended to allow for trips to Kalkan and excellent coastal spots Patara Beach and Kaputas Beach.
Inside scoop: Andrew Lee, owner and manager of Exclusive Escapes, says: “Our Turkey programme includes several hidden gems in off-the-beaten-track locations along the Lycian Coast, but one of our favourite spots is the mountain village of Islamlar, about 20 minutes’ drive from Kalkan, where life seems to have changed little over the years.
“A handful of restaurants specialise in local trout caught in the river, local men sit sipping tea and playing backgammon, and the mountain air is fresh and cool even at the height of summer.”
Book it: Exclusive Escapes has half-a-dozen contemporary villas in Islamlar ranging from one to three bedrooms, including romantic mountainside spot Salkim Evi, or modern design-focused one-bedroom property A View with a Room. The latter starts at £900 for a week including flights to Dalaman, transfers, car hire, a Turkish bath, an evening meal at Uzum Bistro, daily maid service and a welcome hamper.
020 8605 3500
OUTSIDE THE BOX OLUDENIZ
Where? Yes, Oludeniz, on the Turquoise Coast
Best for: Branching out from well-loved resorts
Tell me more: Some of us might say we want the holiday equivalent of being stranded on a desert island, with no one in sight for miles and nothing to do except relax, but when it comes to booking, we don’t always follow through. What if we get bored? What if there’s nowhere nice to eat? Why can’t we just stick to what we know?
The answer: nudge nervous customers towards a property that offers the best of both. There are plenty of serene hideaways even amid the bustle of tourist towns. Olympic Holidays has introduced two such resorts near Oludeniz for its summer 2014 programme.
The four-star Nirvana Boutique Hotel is a modern adult-only escape with just 16 rooms – 11 deluxe rooms and five Jacuzzi suites – set in a stunning hillside location overlooking the famous Oludeniz lagoon; the view is best enjoyed from the terrace restaurant or infinity pool.
The second is the four-star boutique Belcehan Deluxe Hotel, slightly larger at 41 rooms, but set just a stone’s throw from Belcekiz beach and both within reach of popular hiking trail the Lycian Way.
Inside scoop: Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides says: “Turkey has an extensive hotel collection and it is adding smaller properties to complement the larger resorts, often in peaceful locations for those seeking a quieter holiday. “We’ve added the Nirvana and Belcehan Hotels to meet growing demand from honeymooners, couples and older clients, wanting smaller hotels with good facilities away from the mainstream.”
Book it: A week staying bed-and-breakfast at the four-star Nirvana Boutique Hotel starts at £459 with Olympic Holidays, based on flights from Gatwick in May and transfers.
0844 499 4449
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