Turkey: Get swept away by Cesme's charms

The waters around this windswept peninsula prove a challenge for windsurf novice Laura Holt

Windsurfing? A piece of cake. There I was, scudding across the waves just off Turkey’s Cesme peninsula with the words “Alacati Surf Paradise” etched into the hillside in front of me. This wasn’t so hard after all, I thought. “Good Laura, now turn!” I heard my instructor, Omer, yell from the shore.

Friends back home had warned me about this: it’s not surfing itself that’s the tricky part, they’d said, it’s the turning. But I wasn’t fazed, because I had Omer watching over me – a pro-windsurfer who has competed for the Turkish national team and in international freestyle competitions. He now works for  Bu Bi Surf School, one of a string of places that line the bay nicknamed Alacati Surf Paradise.

Of course, I’d been paying close attention as he tutored me on the beach, only momentarily distracted by the twinkling Aegean waters, the rolling hills and the surf school’s adopted dog. Now, upright on my board and moving across the water, surely I could turn. Move my feet; adjust my hands; swing the sail; something, something, something and then ... splash!

It was my first lesson in the elegant art of windsurfing, a sport for which this windswept peninsula on Turkey’s western limit, is known, along with kite-surfing and stand-up paddleboarding. Indeed, this week sees the PWA World Cup, run by the Professional Windsurfers Association, roll into town, welcoming thousands of professionals to Alacati’s waters from 26 to 31 August.

It was my first lesson in the elegant art of windsurfing, a sport for which this windswept peninsula on Turkey’s western limit, is known It was my first lesson in the elegant art of windsurfing, a sport for which this windswept peninsula on Turkey’s western limit, is known Back on the shore, Omer showed me pictures of him performing impressive displays of acrobatics off the coast of Jericoacoara in northern Brazil. Slightly intimidating, I thought, as I studied his bone-dry hair and blacked-out Oakleys, still perfectly in place mid-way through our half day lesson. I, however, could not have been wetter.

Still, at least I didn’t feel as silly as the surfer who had travelled all the way from Australia to Turkey, in search of the ultimate barrel, having heard about a mythical place called: Alacati Surf Paradise. “I had to tell him,” Omer explained, “this is for  windsurfers. There are no big waves here. I felt really bad.”

It’s these gentle yet consistent currents that make Alacati a dream for novices, who can test out the sport in safe, shallow waters, propelled by the steady pull and push of placid waves. Then, when the wind picks up, pros can take their turn at chasing white horses to the horizon.

Mercifully, the town of Alacati itself also has plenty of diversions to bolster the spirits of slightly-sore, would-be windsurfers. The town sprang to life in the 1850s as the Greek settlement of Agrila, before the Turks claimed it in the 1920s.

They uprooted the tried-and-tested vineyards which had proved so successful for their predecessors, in order to plant tobacco crops instead, which ultimately failed because the local climate was not suited to them. The town and its economy slumped, until windsurfers discovered its secrets in the 1990s.

Gradually, artists started to follow, in search of the quieter life, and restaurateurs came to set up pretty courtyard eateries. It then became the go-to destination for wealthy weekenders from Istanbul, but it’s only recently that foreign tourists have discovered the town’s tree-shaded streets, vine-clad houses, buzzy cafés and boutique hotels. I was staying at one of the town’s smartest new addresses, a 25-room retreat set up last summer by a Turkish husband-and-wife team, called Alavya.

It was from here that I embarked on a cycling tour of the area, with Uli, a septuagenarian guide who has twice completed the formidable Iron Man competition and the local Cesme triathlon too, having moved to Alacati from his native Nuremberg a decade ago.

Thankfully, our pace was a touch more sedate, as we cycled past  VW campervans, along roads lined with wildflowers, prickly artichokes and goats grazing on the long grass. There were five hills on the 10-mile loop to the town of Cesme and back, increasing in intensity as the ride progressed.

“Some days, I have to change the route,” explained Uli in his thick German accent. “The wind is so strong, it can take you clean off your bike. Whoosh!” Sure enough, as we cycled back along the promenade of Ilica Beach, a perfect stretch of white sand and Aegean waters, the wind howled.

The wind was there again, as I sailed across to the nearby Greek Island of Chios, on a passage that nearly had me bidding farewell to my breakfast. But the journey was worth it, as I discovered the idyllic fishing town of Lagada and spent the day watching swifts skim the surface of a perfectly still bay, where just five miles west of Cesme, the wind was almost entirely absent.

At night, the action in Alacati moves from the waves to the town, as streams of people parade along its narrow streets and congregate in the main square. Here, cats and dogs loll about beside lively cafés, such as Kose Kahve – one of the first to open in the town, with a prime roost overlooking the hubbub.

I was tipped off about Agrila, a restaurant set in a charming courtyard garden, named after the old Greek settlement, that serves excellent steaks. But there’s also atmospheric, Asma Yapragi, where guests are led into the family home of landlady, Ayse Nur Mihci, to pick starters from a long table of fresh mezze platters.

Before I left Alacati, there was time for one more windsurfing lesson. My arms had just about recovered from the first attempt so, wetsuit on, I heaved myself up on to the board and set off towards the horizon, coasting on the waves.

From the shore I heard Omer shout once more: “Right Laura, now turn!” This time I’ve got it, I thought, as I repositioned my feet, adjusted my arms, swung the sail and then ... wobble and ... turn! I was gone with the wind.

Getting there

Laura Holt travelled with Exclusive Escapes (020 8605 3500; exclusiveescapes.co.uk) which offers three nights’ B&B at Alavya with easyJet flights from Gatwick to Izmir from £700pp.

Staying there

Alavya (00 90 232 716 66 32; alavya.com.tr) has B&B doubles from €190. Half-day cycling tours depart on Wednesdays for €15pp.

Windsurfing there

Bu Bi Surf School (00 90 232 716 68 76; bubisurf.com) offers a package of five windsurfing lessons from 530 Turkish lira (£150).

Eating there

Kose Kahve (00 90 232 716 04 13; kosekahve.com).

Agrila (00 90 232 716 8594; agriliarestaurant.com).

Asma Yapragi (00 90 232 716 01 78; asmayapragi.com.tr).

Red tape

British travellers to Turkey require a visa, which costs US$20 (£12.50), when purchased in advance through the website  evisa.gov.tr

More information


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own