Party boats? What party boats? Turkey’s classier side is a mini revelation, and it’s outside the Euro zone to boot
To get from Dalaman airport, on southwest Turkey’s Lycian coast, to the Bozburun peninsula, you need to go through Marmaris. The bright lights and fun bars of this tourist-loving town will pass in a blur. You won’t have to go back, unless you want to pick up a toyboy or some egg and chips, until you’re on the way home.
The bays of Turunç and Kumlubük are reached by vertiginous mountain roads, and if you’ve been steered into a little air-conditioned minibus by tour reps in stylish linen pants, the chances are you’re here with Exclusive Escapes. The Richmond-based operator specialises in trips to ‘hidden’ Turkey and Cephalonia, and although it’s a raging middle-class cliché, their holidays are really rather nice.
Tucked into the southern crook of the Bozburun peninsula, the village of Turunç is by no means untouched by the hand of commerce; proper, tear-your-hair-out isolation is more likely to be found in the villas around Sögüt and Selimye. Views from the bay are pretty, though, and the stretch of restaurants along the shingle beach allows for as many different versions of deliciously charred lamb with garlic yoghurt as you’ve got time to eat. Ten minutes along the coast, Kumlubük is dominated by the area’s flagship hotel, the Dionysos, and nearby Amos beach, reached by boat, is the quietest of all. One simple restaurant supplies tomato salad and pide for lunch and, once you’ve washed the sand off, it’s a romantic spot for dinner too.
The tracks leading off into woodland here hint at the excellent walking to be had all over the area; caves dot the mountains, and walkers with strong shoes head towards archaeological sites like the Amos ruins, the remains of an amphitheatre and temple with their roots in the Hellenistic period. If your taste in history runs to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the extraordinary ruins of Ephesus are just about accessible on a long day trip, although an overnighter offers more time to explore.
Though the waterside is pretty, hotels set above the bays benefit from cooler breezes and great views. Up the windy hill road from Turunç, the Piynar Villa Hotel is a series of 10 two-bedroom villas with their own respectably-sized pools and views over the bay. Owner Sevgi oversees proceedings at the hotel clubhouse, where dinner is served on the terrace, and a little shop doubles as a book-swap facility for fans of chick-lit. It’s quiet: if a mountain goat ambles past, you’ll notice.
The swankier alternative to Piynar is the Dionysos, built into the hillside above Kumlubük. The best hotel for miles around, it has a boutiquey feel, with hammocks and hot tubs dotted around the extensive grounds and its own organic gardens, vineyard and olive grove. Rooms, which can be a fair climb uphill, are either ‘cottage suites’ or two-bedroomed villas with their own pools and terraces. It’s no great loss to be without a private pool here, though, since the Dionysos’s stunning infinity pool, framed by the mountainside, is the centre of activities. Down at the beach (there’s a shuttle service), the hotel’s sea club offers service right to your super-stylish big beach cushion, and at night the terrace is turned into a restaurant with tablecloths but not too much starch.
The sea club is also the boarding point for Dionysos’s old-fashioned gulet, on which a day’s sailing, complimentary for guests at the two hotels, shows off the area’s coves and islands. Lunch, afternoon tea and the appearance of a water-borne ice cream man contribute to a feeling of well-stuffed wellbeing, though it’s best not to drink too deeply of the welcome fizz if you intend to jump off for a swim later. Sounds like a party boat? Only in the classiest possible sense.