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Meze, markets and monk seals: one of the best of Turkey’s Aegean coast | Turkey holidays



It was on a visit to Cunda island that I realised the massive distinction between Turkey’s Aegean area and the glittering Mediterranean shoreline of the south. The Med resorts are stuffed with overseas holidaymakers, flooding in by Bodrum and Dalaman.

Farther north, most guests are Turkish, so as a substitute of adapting to the wants and needs of European holidaymakers, the cities and villages that dot the shoreline supply an genuine slice of Turkish life.


The Aegean area is completely different in different methods too: waves of immigration, a westerly dealing with facet and the proximity of a number of Greek islands offers it a extra cosmopolitan really feel, with town of İzmir also known as Turkey’s San Francisco. Not the entire locations beneath are someplace to remain for per week, however knitting collectively two or three affords the prospect to essentially get beneath the pores and skin of this extraordinary nation.


An extravagant bougainvillea on a cafe in the foodie town of Alaçatı.
An extravagant bougainvillea on a restaurant within the foodie city of Alaçatı. {Photograph}: Kevin Hellon/Alamy

On summer time weekends, this picture-perfect former Greek fishing village throngs with {couples} from Istanbul and İzmir, lured by the idyllic mixture of hip inns, bougainvillea-draped streets and cocktail bars, housed in restored Ottoman homes and Greek-style stone mansions. Set barely inland, it’s a simple 10-minute drive or dolmuş trip to the small resort city of Ilıca, with its lengthy sandy seaside.

Alaçatı is known as Turkey’s favorite foodie city, with its personal meals pageant in March and about 200 eating places scattered by the streets. Many nonetheless cleave to the normal manner of ordering; no menu, only a journey to the chilly bar to pick out a alternative of meze (freshly made salads) and contemporary fish or succulent kebabs. My favorite is Papazz (mains about £17), run by the pleasant Murat and his household, who makes a splendidly moreish sourdough and succulent, tangy lamb, carefully adopted by Fava for its scrumptious, conventional meze (mains from £12), and Sota (mains about £20) for wonderful sushi, ceviche and oysters.

Lodges in Alaçatı come and go however the İncirliev (doubles from £104 B&B) is an establishment; two outdated stone homes with an oasis-like shady backyard, run by the charming Sabahat and her husband, Osman.



Cunda is known for its chic cafes and cocktail bars.
Cunda is understood for its stylish cafes and cocktail bars. {Photograph}: theendup/Alamy

It took 25 years of visiting Turkey earlier than I made it to this small island, linked by causeway to the beautiful city of Ayvalık – however it immediately turned a favorite. A Greek fishing village till 1923, many of the structure has remained untouched, pairing a Greek island really feel with an unmistakably Turkish environment. Cunda’s recognition as a weekend retreat from Istanbul and İzmir has given rise to a clutch of stylish cafes and cocktail bars alongside conventional eating places, specialist meals retailers – olive oil, cheeses, spices – and small boutiques.

With no seaside, Cunda is extra of a spot to spend a few days than per week, pottering throughout to Ayvalık for a day ramble across the vintage retailers, stopping for espresso and simit (a form of bagel-pretzel hybrid) beneath the vines on the Kahramanlar bakery – one of many oldest on the town. It’s within the evenings when Cunda is at its finest; it’s fantastic to look at the sundown with a beer at Taş Kahve on the waterfront, after which dip into the streets behind for dinner at Ayna (mains from £14), and a cocktail at La Fuga – at present the hippest spot on the town.

Among the many finest locations to remain is Otel Sobe (doubles from £150 B&B), a restored stone home with seven stylish bedrooms, a stunning courtyard backyard for breakfast and its personal seaside membership (albeit a half-hour drive away).


Çeşme Castle.
Çeşme Citadel. {Photograph}: Kayihan Bolukbasi/Alamy

Simply quarter-hour’ drive from Alaçatı, Çeşme has a really completely different really feel; a bustling resort city with family-friendly inns, an extended seafront promenade and loads of conventional, excellently priced eating places, catering to weekending İzmirians who drive down from town on Friday evening.

The dependable winds make the seashores round Çeşme excellent for windsurfing, kiting and winging, with Ilıca providing a shallow, sandy shoreline that’s excellent for all ages.


The city is dominated by the Sixteenth-century citadel, now an archaeological museum, which seems to be out over the marina to the Greek island of Chios. 5 miles throughout the Aegean, ferries take simply 45 minutes and run twice-daily, making a twin-country break a simple possibility.

Çeşme can also be ideally located for exploring the Urla wine route – a group of seven vineyards, together with a number of olive oil farms – all providing tastings and excursions.

An ideal place to remain is the Eski Taş Otel (doubles from £55 B&B) within the picturesque outdated city, a renovated stone home with a small pool, simply 5 minutes’ stroll from the centre of city.



A fisher fixes his nets in Foça harbour.
A fisher fixes his nets in Foça harbour. {Photograph}: Oguz Dikbakan/Alamy

One in every of Turkey’s 22 cittaslowscities recognised for his or her gradual tempo and dedication to sustainable and natural dwelling – discovering Foça felt a bit like stepping again in time to the Turkey that I first encountered within the mid-Nineteen Nineties.

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