Fun in fabulous Fethiye

by Richard Baker

Richard Baker enjoys the sights, sounds of tastes of this lively Turkish Aegean town

It was the yachts that we noticed first.
As we arrived in Fethiye in Turkey’s Aegean coast, there were literally hundreds of them anchored in the marina facing the 48-room, boutique Ece Satray resort hotel where we were staying. They ranged from rows of small sailing boats, some of them for rent, to enormous, floating gin palaces which must have set their owners back close to a million quid apiece.

But if they looked good in the sunshine, they seemed positively magical lit fore and aft after dark, as my wife and I had dinner under the stars at the hotel’s superb, marina-side, al fresco restaurant. This was a nightly treat for us as we were booked in on a half-board basis. Normally, eating at the same place all the time can be something of a chore on holiday, but not this time. Ece Saray’s restaurant offered some exquisite dining, combining superbly prepared, international main dishes with delicious, traditional Turkish desserts.

In fact the hotel had a lot to recommend it, including a beautiful – and underused – pool, where we spent many happy, lazy hours soaking up the rays and cooling off. Then there was the spa, which included a well-equipped gym, complete with personal trainer, and a wide variety of treatments and massages. But be warned: if you do sign up for the latter be prepared to be well and truly pummelled. I did, and afterward felt like I’d done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. At one point the guy was walking about on my back!

Although Fethiye has long been a favourite with the yachting set – as demonstrated by the number of craft moored there – it’s by no means a millionaire’s playground. Rather, it’s a traditional market town built round a natural harbour. It’s this which first attracted the ancient Lycians to build their city of Telmessos on the site, some ruins of which can still be seen, including a Greco-Roman amphitheatre and the tomb of Amyntas, a Doric temple facade carved into a rock face and dating from 350BC.

But mostly, Fethiye is a working town, and one of its highlights is the massive market held every Tuesday. Here you can find everything on sale from fruit and veg to leather goods and carpets, including all manner of “designer” brands which traders are unabashed to describe as “genuine fakes”. Whatever takes your fancy, expect to haggle, and as a general rule start at 50% of the asking price and work up.

Nightlife in Fethiye is lively if limited, with most of the better bars, clubs and restaurants located in the town itself rather than on the waterfront. Best of the bars – and believe me, this is based on extensive research – are the Capkin and strangely named Car Cemetery, both of which offer live music, the Deep Blue Bar for friendly service, and the 4 Corner Bar for a wide and imaginative selection of cocktails. If you’re in a dancing mood head for Club Bananas, which belts out hip hop and house sounds until the early hours. In fact, true fun seekers can check all of these places out in a single evening as they are within a stone’s throw of each other down two parallel streets. For the more adventurous there is the Black Pearl, a “pirate ship” which doubles as a floating nightclub and sets sail out into Fethiye harbour most evenings.

As for restaurants, although my wife and I spent most evenings eating happily at our hotel, my wife and I did venture out to the Arena for some excellent Turkish/international dining and – unusually for Turkey – quick, efficient service, as well as Fiore which specialises in Italian food.

I always think that a good measure of how much you’ve enjoyed a place can be gauged by how sorry you are to leave it. As far as my wife and I are concerned, we were so reluctant to say farewell to Fethiye it was almost painful.