The best resorts in ...Turkey

Bodrum and Marmaris may have been over-developed, but there are still some Turkish resorts that have not lost their charm. Jill Crawshaw decides, reluctantly, to share them with us

Jill Crawshaw
Sunday 14 February 1999 01:02

BASKING IN a Nineties tourist boom, the vast Turkish coast is a travel cliche of golden beaches and local hospitality, a rich history and archaeological sites galore, not to mention a Wonder of the World (the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus). But not everything is rosy in the Turkish garden. Vast swathes, particularly around Bodrum and Marmaris, have been engulfed in a tidal wave of tacky development, hassling vendors, kebabs with ketchup, and karaoke.

The more inaccessible Lycian coast has fared better. Here are some resorts where the Turkish spirit lives on.


Loggerhead turtles take precedence over tourists in Patara, which has the best beach in the whole of Turkey - a nine-mile stretch of soft golden sand backed by dunes, without a building in sight apart from the odd beach bar. It is off-limits after dark to allow the turtles to lay and hatch their eggs in peace, and a small charge is made during the day which contributes to the conservation fund. Even at the peak of summer, if you're prepared for a hot walk, you can find your own patch of glorious solitude.

Greeks, Romans and Lycians recognised a good thing when they saw one, and founded a port and naval base there, leaving behind a host of splendid ruins including arches, baths, a granary, temples and city walls scattered among the dunes. Twentieth-century visitors stay in the sprawling village a mile inland due to conservation laws - it's little more than a jumble of pansyons, bars, restaurants and market stalls. There has been heavy pressure to build villas and a hotel on the beach - but so far, at least, Patara is a conservation success story.

Metak Holidays has introduced Patara this year. A b&b week at the Beyhan Hotel costs pounds 279-pounds 349, two weeks pounds 329-pounds 419. Tapestry Holidays and Sunquest also feature Patara.


Accessible only by boat, Kale, on the Lycian coast, is a tiny village forgotten even by most of Turkey. It has only 250 inhabitants who live in a jumble of 50 or so little stone houses - there are no roads and not even any drinking water, which has to be brought by sea. Its antiquities outnumber both buildings and people - the ruins of a crusader castle sits on top of the hill like a crown, fallen columns are overgrown with hollyhocks and bougainvillaea, the villagers use sarcophagi dated 1000BC that are scattered in their tiny gardens as waste bins.

In peak season, a few tourists may make whistle-stop visits on gulet cruises (the ruined underwater city of Kekova lies opposite Kale) and get chased by women selling embroidery, or drop anchor at one of the fish restaurants on the waterfront. There are even a couple of houses where you can become a villager for a fortnight. How many of us can return from holiday boasting of Lycian tombs in the garden?

Savile Tours offers several cottages in Kale from pounds 539-pounds 649 a week, pounds 659- pounds 749 for two weeks, based on two sharing, less if more share, including flights, water taxi, transfer and hamper.


One of my own favourite Turkish resorts doesn't have a speck of sand, though shuttle boats chug you off to the little coves and beaches on the Twelve Islands which guard Gocek's circular bay. The perfect natural harbour has attracted yachties for years, and Turkey's own late President Ozal chose to holiday here in the Eighties. But most visitors have preferred to keep the laid-back little haven a secret to themselves.

The resort may lack a beach, but it has a peach of a promenade with only one small pink hotel but a huddle of cafes, patisseries and restaurants where the clientele ought to pay rent for their Turkish coffee and meze, so long do they sit idly speculating about the owners of the sleek schooners, stubby gulets and gin palaces that crowd the harbour. Behind the promenade, Gocek reverts to being a traditional Turkish village, with a charming little square, mosque and mini bazaar.

A few designer boutiques and jewellery and hammock shops have sprung up to attract the well-heeled sailing set, but for serious shopping you have to catch the regular bus to the big market at Fethiye. There is even the odd jazz bar, but Gocek isn't for night owls. Music is strictly rationed after midnight.

Simply Turkey offers the simple waterfront Hotel Deniz. A week's b&b costs pounds 365-pounds 475, two weeks from pounds 495-pounds 645. Savile Tours features Yonca's Retreat, a tiny, traditionally furnished luxury hotel with small pool, from pounds 579-pounds 599 for a week, pounds 699-pounds 749 for two weeks.


Only two small specialist operators feature this off-the-beaten-track Turkish village which offers just a few rooms for tourists seeking peace and quiet. The tough conservation laws of the quite breathtaking Bozburum Peninsula, where Orhaniye hides out, has prevented much modern development - it is almost impossible to believe that the resort of Marmaris, the Benidorm of Turkey, is only 20 miles away.

Orhaniye's beaches are small - the best nearby are at Dalyan, accessible only by boat, and apart from the old ports of Caunus and Knidos, nearby historic sites are insignificant. And though Tapestry Holidays can offer a number of optional "jaunts" such as kayaking, white-water rafting or visiting traditional Turkish baths, the resort is for potterers who want to experience Turkish rural life at first hand. Take plenty of books.

Anatolian Sky offers simple self-catering apartment holidays, with free vegetables from the owner's garden thrown in. The cost is pounds 279-pounds 339 for one week, pounds 299-pounds 379 for two weeks, including flights. With Tapestry Holidays, a week's b&b in a small family-run pansyon (with pool) costs pounds 310-pounds 440, two weeks from pounds 370-pounds 480.


It is little wonder that holidaymakers get nervous when they hear it is situated on the Bodrum Peninsula, but Gumusluk is the perfect antidote to the tourist excesses of Bodrum and the unspeakable Gumbet.

As usual, the boat brigade got there first, attracted by the deep sheltered anchorage of its bay; a sprinkling of discerning visitors followed, staying in old jasmine-covered waterfront houses, now converted into holiday homes. They should offer up daily prayers to the ancient inhabitants who built Myndos here - the archaeological service has prohibited building and traffic here to protect the ruins, though many are underwater.

A dozen or so restaurants compete for the passing yacht trade, but check the menu before you enter; it says a lot for this little gem of a resort that the only complaint you're likely to hear is about the high prices of the meze and fish dishes.

Simply Turkey offers studios, cottages and waterside houses from pounds 275- pounds 395 a week, pounds 335-pounds 465 for two weeks. Ilios Travel also offers holidays there.


A few very smart holiday-village complexes and modern hotels are beginning to cling, somewhat precariously, to the steep hillsides surrounding Kalkan, but the village still retains much of the endearingly haphazard atmosphere of a Turkish community. The lack of a good sandy beach will hopefully keep it that way.

Kalkan can no longer be called a fishing village, but it has not yet acquired the status of an international resort. Boats cram its harbour, carpet shops and restaurants and bougainvillaea jostle for space in its narrow alleys. There is no better base for exploring the ruggedly beautiful Lycian coast with its old 1200BC capital, Xanthos, and Bezirgan where Kalkan villagers would take their sheep or goats in search of cooler climes in the summer.

You can stay in the heart of the village in restored traditional houses for two to six people, with walled courtyards and wooden balconies. Prices are from pounds 519-pounds 569 a week, pounds 539-pounds 599 for two weeks (including flights) from Savile Tours. Sunquest, Anatolian Sky and Metak also operate here. There are some excellent pansyons for the independent traveller.


Akyaka is a resort with a difference in that it was built with holidaying Turks in mind, rather than Western Europeans. Fifteen years ago there was almost nothing there other than a farming village at the head of the Gulf of Gokova with a dramatic mountain backcloth - now there are neat mock-Ottoman suburbs of balconied villas with ornate wooden ceilings and pantiled roofs, all subject to strict building controls.

A handful of small British operators have moved in on the resort, but it is still Turkish haggling you hear at the daily market, the village bakery, the specialist kebab-makers and the famous restaurants on the river where ducks fight for titbits and birds and dragonflies skim the reed beds.

Lots of very different beaches, lots of walks by the streams and waterfalls; and yes, it is very busy in August, but there's not a karaoke bar in sight.

Ilios Travel offers hotel and villa accommodation; a week at Villa Sultan, for example, for two to five people, costs pounds 460-pounds 560 a week per person, pounds 520-pounds 680 for two weeks. Other operators include Tapestry Holidays and Simply Travel.


TURKish resorts

Tour operators

Specialist operators offer the lesser-known resorts:

Anatolian Sky

(tel: 0121-633 4018);

Ilios Travel

(tel: 01403 259788);

Metak Holidays

(tel: 0171-935 6961);

Savile Tours

(tel: 0171-625 3001);

Simply Turkey

(tel: 0181-747 1011); Sunquest

(tel: 0171-499 9992);

Tapestry Holidays

(tel: 0181-235 7777).


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