On the last leg of a reasonably punishing schedule through Turkey, I made a choice to spend the last three days of our trip in the small town of Alacati, on the Cesme Peninsula a short drive west of Izmir.
Alacati is barely on the international tourist trail, however it’s very well populated with Turkish holidaymakers who have been visiting the hamlet in increasing numbers over the past ten years. Originally a windsurfing community, the little town swells to over ten times its population in the summer season.
It’s become a haven for Istanbul’s arty set, with its cobbled streets and picturesque stone buildings. Galleries, boutiques and antique shops abound (along with a curious number of shoe shops and sunglass shops). There is barely an inch of streetspace which is not lined with tables, chairs and cushions beneath fairy lights and lanterns, and the warm summer air is perfumed with cascades of bougainvillea and jasmine.
When we visited, the amount of restoration taking place was incredible –Alacati has become hot property, and derelict stone buildings are suddenly emerging from their chrysalises of scaffolding as artist’s ateliers, boutique hotels and hip bars.
One of the forerunners of this transformative process is Alavya, a group of 6 stone terrace houses around a central courtyard, now a delightful boutique hotel. Rooms are spacious and decorated with mix of Scandinavian simplicity and ethnic chic. Timber furniture is painted in soothing pale olive or dove grey tones, and accented with delicious textiles from Rifat Ozbek and contemporary artworks. Bathrooms are enormous and clad in sheets of marble, punctuated with the welcome yellow pop of Aqua di Parma toiletries. The Mediterranean gardens house grassy courtyards, shady olive and mulberry trees and a pretty azure lap pool. There is a tiny spa and gym, and Pilates and yoga are offered.
The amazing thing about Alavya is that, via its gorgeous restaurant Muti, it actually opens right onto the main street of the town – but is a haven of peace and quiet that you would barely know existed. You could not ask for a more central location.
Breakfast was divine – local cheeses, honeycomb, fresh tomatoes, dried olives , local fruit preserves and home baked breads, and then a walk straight out of the door into the thick of things. So days in Alacati were spent strolling the streets and popping into coffee houses for thick Turkish coffee, or perhaps a late afternoon ice-cream. The artist’s quarter of Hacimemis was a treat: we visited the enchanting studio of ceramicist Serap Yurdi to buy feather-light pottery with vibrant glazes. We loved the gorgeous hand printed silk and cotton dresses by Milanese designer Sonya Corti, and bright textiles of Yastik by Rifat Ozbek.
Further afield on the peninsula itself , there are plenty of water based activities to suit the non-shopper as it boasts lovely beaches with clear water and beach clubs to suit every taste.
And in the evening – Alacati has some of the best restaurants we found on our trip, from the fairytale garden setting of Asma Yapragi with its welcoming kitchen table heaving under platters of freshly made mezes, to the equally divine but more sophisticated Agrilia.
Sitting on my terrace, shaded by a large fig tree and with the prospect of freshly grilled fish for dinner at the marina, I had no doubt that my choice was the right one. I’m glad I’ve got in at a time when you can still see the locals haggling at the fish markets, when sleepy cats can be found in doorways down winding streets, and when you can still get a room at Alavya.