Turkey’s hidden delights

Uncover the Bodrum Peninsula’s unspoilt nature, rich culture and coastal beauty


From the terrace, the shifting Aegean Sea twinkling in the distance is mesmerising. The air is scented with sage, citrus and olive, and is heavy with the heat of a beating sun. The only sounds are the swallows and warblers swooping overhead and the whispering breeze in the laurel trees.

This is al fresco living as championed by Bodrum Loft, an intimate new hotel and villa development on Turkey’s south-west coast, also known as the Turquoise Riviera. It may be just a 30-minute drive across the peninsula from Bodrum, but it is a world away from the bright lights of the town’s infamous nightlife.

While Bodrum remains a jet-set destination for party-lovers (it first became fashionable in the 1970s when the likes of Princess Margaret, Michael Caine and Mick Jagger made it a hip hotspot), this latest opening is harnessing a more peaceful allure.

Made up of a collection of 36 hillside villas, overlooking the tranquil and unbelievably azure Demirbükü Bay, Bodrum Loft has been built to be camouflaged within the landscape.

Look closely from the shore and you can just about see glimpses of the stone and wood buildings, as though they are peeking out of the steep, forested slopes.

Istanbul-based Tabanlioglu Architects came up with the concept, which aims to capture the uniqueness of the wild nature surrounding the resort. Two thirds of the land it sits on, which stretches across 57,000 sq m, remains untouched, with groves of mature sandalwood, olive and citrus trees.

The villas are also traditionally constructed out of rock, specially treated using an ancient Aegean recipe of hay and olive oil.

This sustainable approach is the very essence of the ‘build it back better’ ethos that many in the travel industry have been predicting for a post-pandemic world. It is also in keeping with the zeitgeist as it taps into the current trend for long-term holiday rentals, appealing to those wanting to decamp and work in new locations, drawn in by a seductive holiday-like lifestyle.

As a consequence, while all the villas are available for typical holiday timespans, it is also possible to rent them longer term, with all the usual hotel amenities — three high-end restaurants, swimming pools and spa — to enjoy.

“Nature is of the utmost importance at Bodrum Loft,” explains co-owner Pelin Akın Özalp. “We approached this project with the utmost sensitivity to the environment, taking great care in preserving the flora in the bay, carefully marking and sheltering all the nearly-extinct trees and natural rocks that give us a true sense of the place.”

Throughout the resort, there is a merging of the indoors and outdoors, inspired by the traditional way of life that people have led for centuries in Bodrum. As a result, you’ll find countless terraces, courtyards and patios to allow you to be at one with nature.

“The resort is based around progressive adaptable spaces designed around courtyards,” reveals Pelin. “Being authentic to a local aesthetic was key, hence the doors are made of local wood and there are rustic, traditional mosaics to give character. Flooring and walls are made with local cement mixed with other raw materials to reflect that mood.

"Meanwhile, there are a series of patios which link the buildings, with stunning views of the bay at every turn. Green roofs are pleasing to the eye but they also work to collect precious rainwater, which is then recycled through a water filtration system and used in irrigation.”

As well as a sushi bar, Italian restaurant and French patisserie, a highlight is the local Aegean dining, on offer at the signature restaurant, Loft Elia. You sit amid olive trees with delicious, local delicacies — such as stuffed pumpkin flowers and fried okra — created by Chef Yılmaz Öztürk to tempt you.

Encouraging guests to explore the local destination is a key focus, says Pelin, with the in-house concierge able to organise trips to little-known beaches, local eateries and trekking in the Bodrum hills.

You can also access the ancient Carian and Lelegian routes, trails which take you through tiny mountain villages, boulder-strewn hillsides and through what feel like biblical vistas, discovering the ancient civilisations who lived here thousands of years ago.

A 15-minute drive south brings you to the sleek Amanruya, another one of the destination’s high-end resorts. Built within olive groves and cypress trees, guests stay in their own classical pavilions with private gardens and heated pools.

The resort also specialises in uncovering untapped local experiences. You can experience tasseography sessions — a form of ancient fortune telling carried out with coffee grounds — and trips to the untouched Anatolian mountain village of Etrim, known for producing some of the most intricate hand-knotted carpets in Turkey.

Guests can also sail along the coastline, stopping off at secluded bays, such as Hattat Bay, Paradise Bay, and the charming seaside town of Türkbükü, also referred to as Göltürkbükü.

Here, you can find some of the most authentic restaurants on the peninsula. Garo’s, for instance, serves the freshest and widest choice of mezze, with a good vegetarian selection — think roasted, rich aubergine, stuffed vine leaves and baked artichokes. You sit at tables covered with blue-and-white-checked cloths, directly on the seafront. It’s the ultimate in holiday ‘feels’.

By night, the promenade comes alive with little boutiques selling shells, jewellery and homewares; while by day, the same restaurants turn into beach clubs to cement the carefree vibe.

Further on, at the tip of the peninsula, is the quiet town of Gümüslük, better known as a laid-back destination for Turkish tourists. One of its charms is its open-air market, selling ceramics, and local crafts, such as the typical, and very pretty, dried gourd lanterns.

Head to the boho, al fresco café Limon, for a cooling glass of ‘Mama’s mint lemonade’ and the most dramatic views of the sunset in the region. Its dreamy garden has mismatched vintage furniture and, as the sun dips, it is lit with bulbs strung-up in the trees, giving a magical feel.

At the often overlooked south-western corner of the peninsula, Akyarlar Bay is a serene place to escape for the day. With a sandy beach, rustic restaurants and views across to the Greek island of Kos, you can truly get a sense of the maritime history of this area.

Once a fishing village, renowned for its sponge-divers, the sheltered bay has a little harbour from which you can hire a traditional gulet boat to explore the tiny islands, secret coves and blue lagoons that seem to have remained untouched since time began.

Back at Bodrum Loft, this sense of authenticity was something the owners really wanted to capture, says Pelin.

“Bodrum is a place where agriculture, fishing, sponge diving and boating activities have prevailed for centuries,” she says.

“Even despite the boom in tourism, which started in the 1970s, this region has never lost its history, culture and natural beauty. Bodrum Loft not only aims to keep these fundamental qualities intact but also to showcase them to our guests.

“Just like the ebb and flow of the tides around us, we’re swayed by the past but we have our eyes on the future.”


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