Go beyond the eurozone, try Turkish luxury ...
This eastern outpost has a cheap and cheerful reputation. But now the boutique hotels are arriving. Paul Gogarty reports
Sunday 11 January 2009
Looking up from our broad terrace at Beyaz Yunus, I see a dozen paragliding pterodactyls drifting gently and silently on thermals. One hundred metres beneath me the sea sighs contentedly, while out on the horizon the sun blazes a fiery farewell.
As the cicadas commence their early evening concert, I abandon the scattered debris of our completed chess game and move my glass of wine from the table to the side of the Jacuzzi. Having inelegantly clambered in, I turn to musing on what Turkish delicacies our chef will dream up for us tonight.
For far too long, holidaymakers to Turkey have been willing to put up with decidedly average hotels because of the backdrop, the cuisine, the value, and the friendliness of the people. But that is all changing with the opening 18 months ago of Beyaz Yunus in Oludeniz and the Deniz Feneri Lighthouse on the Kas peninsula.
Following an evening stroll and sundowners in Oludeniz, we return to the blue door of Beyaz Yunus that conceals its wonderful riad-like oasis. Oil lamps have been lit in alcoves and the bright Turkish colours of the day have now softened and become more muted, like the landscape.
We chat with a couple of guests at the pool bar and then drift down to yet another terrace where other guests are staring equally dreamily seawards as they await their first course.
There is no menu at Beyaz Yunus, only pleasant surprises. Mustafa, the attentive and brilliant manager, checks ahead that each guest is happy with that night's suggested dishes (and always provides an alternative if it isn't greeted with wholehearted enthusiasm). Notwithstanding the advance warning, each evening is still a revelation as to what Turkish cuisine conjures from "barbecue meats", "grilled red mullet", or "a lobster dish".
Having spent a week doing very little at Beyaz Yunus, we transfer to do very little at our second new oasis, the Deniz Feneri Lighthouse, where we exchange the stylish rustic of Beyaz Yunus for contemporary minimalist.
The villa-style, local limestone apartments are scattered across a precipitous grassed hillside just a slingshot from Turkey's prettiest coastal town, Kas. The suites closest to the water are circular, designed like lighthouse towers, and come with balconies upstairs and wrap-around terraces below.
There are no TVs at Deniz Feneri: a holiday here is all about feeding the eyes a healthier diet. Waking, you fling back the curtains to watch from your balcony the sea gently waking in the protected bay. Over breakfast on the al fresco terrace above the infinity pool, there's as much time as you want for staring up into the riven gorges of the Taurus mountains. The rest of the morning can then be spent watching fellow guests swimming, snorkelling and canoeing from the rock platforms; you may even snatch a glimpse of George, the veteran local turtle, visiting from its nearby cave (we did, twice). And finally, as the day wanes, you watch spellbound as the sun slowly sinks out at sea and signals your ascent back up the stairs for cocktails and dinner.
The Deniz Feneri seems to attract a younger crowd – late twenties and early thirties mostly – who take it in their stride to be offered a glass of champagne with their first breakfast and cope manfully with the sometimes brutalist minimalism of the rooms (I would have preferred paintings and some Turkish colour in rugs and cushions). It is, however, stunningly beautiful: sensational vistas, rock walls, geraniums, hibiscus, rose, scrub olives, and nooks and crannies to disappear into for another angle on the sublime meeting of land and sea.
Nasrim, the Turkish Cypriot manager, and his Dutch wife, Linda, take Turkish hospitality seriously, as if inviting you into their own home. Nothing is too much bother.
The food, meanwhile, is Turkish with a gastro-pub twist. The chicken kebab with roasted beetroot on a bed of lentils was excellent and the appley custard dessert tasted like the very best strudel with a cinnamon twist. The salads all make use of the freshest local produce and tangy dressings; and there are plenty of clay oven and barbecue dishes – succulent lamb casseroles, sea bass and bream, calamari and prawns.
While Beyaz Yunus is more intimate, Deniz Feneri has a chic beauty and the additional advantage of having Kas on its shoulder with its artisan and clothes shops, as well as a bevy of impressive restaurants. Deniz Feneri and Beyaz Yunus both have perfected the art of transmitting a sense of enormous wellbeing.
I swore I'd never become one of those homing holidaymakers who annually return to the same destination but I am already beginning to feel a strong pull eastwards.
How to get there
Exclusive Escapes (020-8605 3500; www.exclusiveescapes.co.uk) offers one week's half board at Beyaz Yunus Olu Deniz from £900 per person and a week's B&B at the Deniz Feneri Lighthouse from £500 per person. A two-centre fortnight's holiday costs from £1,025 per person. All prices are based on two sharing and include return flights and transfers.
Turkish Culture and Tourism Office (020-7839 7778; www.gototurkey.co.uk).
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