Turkey: Smooth sailing

Turkey: Smooth sailing

Cash in on Kalkan and Kas with Katie McGonagle’s guide to these upmarket Turkish resorts

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If this is a race, I don’t like our chances: even with the wind at our backs and our catamaran in full sail, the pair of playful dolphins just spotted off the starboard side are leaving us in their wake.

Teasing us with the odd flash of white fin and occasional leap across the surface of the water as we try to keep up, these surprise guests are the unexpected highlight of our day cruise from Kas marina.

Since that also included dropping anchor for a dip in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, unbeatable views of neighbouring island Kastellorizo (known as Meis to the Turks) and learning to say ‘cheers’ like the locals with the help of our bushy-eyebrowed captain and his first mate (its ‘serefe’, in case you were wondering), that’s high praise indeed.

Then again, the low-key coastal resorts of Kalkan and Kas are all about uncovering unexpected delights. They might not have the sandy beaches and mega-resorts found elsewhere on this coast but these neighbouring towns more than make up for it in character, as I discovered on a fam trip with Exclusive Escapes.

Kalkan: Beauty contest

It’s easy to see why this one-time fishing village has become a tourist resort: with a small, calm bay framed by lush hills leading up into the Taurus Mountains and rooftop restaurants twinkling with lights at night, it’s worthy of any postcard.

The town centre is no less beautiful, with winding streets and Ottoman-style balconies draped in bright bougainvillea, only slightly diminished by the tacky tourist fare at its weekly market and in some of its shopfronts.

There is a comfortable sense of familiarity here, perhaps because of its high expat population, mostly made up of Brits. Yet it’s also unmistakably Turkish, from the gulets bobbing around in the harbour to the endless debates I overheard about the best way to deseed pomegranates.

The lack of a beach need not deter sun-seekers as beach clubs – paved platforms with sun loungers and steps down into the sea – are the order of the day here. One of the best is at Hotel Villa Mahal.

Not only can guests enjoy top-notch facilities, spectacular views across the bay (stay until sunset for a real treat), but they can also meet no-nonsense owner Ipek, who greets regular guests with a hug.

A step up from the beach club, though, is the chance to get even closer to those sparkling seas on a traditional Turkish gulet. Exclusive Escapes’ hotel guests get a complimentary day trip on a shared gulet with each stay (villa guests can pre-book for £65) and, with teak floors and mahogany interiors, it’s a boat trip with a difference.
Kalkan Shopfronts

Kas: Chill or thrill

Like Kalkan, Kas is small but full of character, provided you know where to look. Its shopping streets feature locally crafted wares sitting side by side with fake designer handbags – albeit pretty convincing ones.

Visitors browsing for more than a minute will be invited for a cup of tea and a chat with the shop’s proprietor. My favourite was Nazar Ceramic, where owner Mehmet proudly explained how he had been making hand-painted pottery for more than 20 years, based on designs that date back centuries.

Andrew Lee, director of Exclusive Escapes, says: “Kas has a wonderfully atmospheric central square with traditional tea gardens and ‘lokantas’, or cafes, where locals and visitors sit comfortably alongside each other.

“It’s a centre for diving with good access to hiking, kayaking and other adrenaline sports, whereas Kalkan has a series of chichi beach clubs, ideal for watersports and chilling out.”

Wreck dives and trips to the sunken city of Kekova – a popular stop for kayaking tours – are available from the marina. There’s also great cycling and hiking to be had in the mountains, which are home to the famous Lycian rock tombs – splendid when illuminated at night.

Where to stay: Kalkan and Kas

Kalkan Regency: It’s a good bet many of the photos you’ve seen of Kalkan Bay were taken from this relaxed, family-owned hotel. Set a mile out of town, its terrace restaurant offers sweeping views across the bay and a perfect vantage point to catch the lights twinkling in town at night.

The 41-room boutique venue is due to reopen on April 25 after a renovation that has involved fitting larger bathrooms and balconies in the standard rooms and creating more interconnecting rooms for families. Also new are eight impeccably designed pool suites, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay, huge bathrooms, lounge areas, private pools and little touches such as a telescope to enjoy the night sky.

The hotel’s key selling points are that it has the largest pool in Kalkan and its own Turkish bath, although it’s really the intimate feel and the welcoming staff that make the property stand out.

Kalkan Regency

Villa Mahal: This boutique property is on the opposite side of Kalkan Bay from the Regency, with a water taxi to the town centre for shopping, watersports and the best beach club in town. Incredible views are matched by well-appointed rooms, but clients should upgrade to the Sunset Suite for special occasions.

Deniz Feneri Lighthouse, Kas: Set on a peninsula just outside Kas, this laid-back property sports the best sunset views around. With just 30 rooms split across different levels, it’s small enough for guests to enjoy individual attention. There are no televisions or other distractions, so it’s a genuine escape.

Mavi Koy: This is one of Exclusive Escapes’ most luxurious villas, with five bedrooms, its own jetty and beach platform, gorgeous outdoor dining spaces (breakfast is laid out here each day) and a gym. This would be a seriously stylish venue for a big family or even a wedding party.

Korsan Guney: This super-villa was the setting for Myleene Klass’s cover shoot in Red magazine and, boy, did they choose well. With a heart-shaped infinity pool, whirlpool bath, barbecue, pool table and much more – all fragranced by fresh herbs in the garden and with knockout views – this five-bedroom villa is a stunner.

Book: Exclusive Escapes offers a week’s B&B at Kalkan Regency from £750 based on two sharing a standard room, or £1,300 for a pool suite. The price includes flights from the private terminal at Stansted or British Airways flights from Heathrow or Manchester, plus transfers, a gulet cruise and a Turkish bath.

A week’s B&B at Mavi Koy starts at £1,850 for the first two sharing and £750 for each additional guest, up to 14. The price includes flights, transfers, a Turkish bath, welcome hamper, daily bread delivery, cleaning and hire of a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
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