Kalkan: the least visited Mediterranean seaside resort that appeals to the whole family | Travel
AWhen I pulled up the burnt orange curtains after waking up like an excited child on Christmas morning, I got my first glimpse of Kalkan. The panorama stretched before me: a wide azure bay enclosed by the Taurus mountains, covered with thorny shrubs and fragrant pines. I waded out onto the balcony as the cicadas sang loudly, warming themselves in the intensifying sun. It was as if I had opened the window, and myself, to an entirely new world.
As I pulled back the burnt orange curtains after waking up like an excited child on Christmas morning, I got my first glimpse of Kalkan. The panorama stretched before me: a wide azure bay enclosed by the Taurus mountains, covered with thorny shrubs and fragrant pines. I padded on the balcony as the cicadas sang loudly, warming themselves in the intensifying sun. It was as if I had opened the window, and myself, to an entirely new world.
I had always avoided Turkey as a vacation destination. In my mind, the seaside resorts that dotted the Turquoise Coast were filled with Brits abroad, mass tourism and budget holiday packages; places where the lowest prices meant compromising on quality. Then this year, as the holidays got closer and my family of six hadn’t booked anything for our first summer vacation in three years, I started to reconsider.
There were still some criteria. Everywhere we went we had to have a swimming pool for my youngest, Peter, 16, as well as a gym for Joseph, my 18-year-old fitness freak, and enough sunshine for my daughter Jessie, 19. , can bathe. After a lot of scheduling, a European destination was ruled out, thanks to the 90 day rule which meant my eldest, Billy, who had spent his year abroad in Spain, couldn’t come. My friend Caroline, who runs Spirit Away Travel, gave me a little help. What about Turkey?
With Caroline’s help, I settled into the Kalkan Regency, a 41-room mint-green boutique hotel overlooking the bay, run by the Tomanbay family. After an arduous (and very delayed) 23 hour journey from the UK, my weary and weary group of travelers arrived at the hotel at 2am to be greeted in the marble lobby by the smiling owner, Nuri , who had waited for us with cold towels and homemade lemonade.
After a deep, peaceful sleep, our vacation fell into place effortlessly. Nuri and his wife, Masuda, couldn’t do enough to help and were always there to talk to guests. Long days were spent lounging with a glass of rosé under the fuchsia umbrellas that dotted the edge of the pool as the children happily splashed nearby. In the evening, after watching a spectacular sunset from the hotel terrace, we were served several courses including plates of sea bream, red onion and tomato salads and fluffy flatbreads, all for around £35 each including cocktails and wine. Then we got into the habit of walking down the street to Kuytu Cafe & Bar, the rival of all the bohemian nightspots in Ibiza I’ve been to, where jazz musicians played on the dimly lit terrace under the olive trees while we drank mojitos and crunchy Efes beers.
I managed to get away from the pool to try out the small steam room a few minutes away at the Aqua Wellness spa center, although the hotel also offers each guest a free body massage. Between breaks to sip delicate thimbles of mint tea, I was rubbed, beaten, and scrubbed by a woman singing traditional Turkish folk music. The price? Only £60 for a three hour session, around a fifth of the cost for the same experience in London. As I lay face down on the marble slab, I had the same sense of excitement I had in my 20s when discovering Thailand for the first time. What had I missed all these years?
A couple we befriended by the pool were already in on the secret. Lottie and Jamie, from Hungerford in Berkshire, were regular visitors to the Kalkan Regency, drawn time and time again for the family atmosphere, breathtaking location and service to rival any five star hotel in the Maldives .
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We were already planning our return visit too. We vowed to return at a cooler time of year to visit the ancient Lycian city of Xanthos with its ruined amphitheater and intricately carved tombs, 25 minutes from town.
Our best days, however, were spent on the water. The hotel offers a free boat ride for all guests, so on the second day we boarded Poseidon, a traditional Turkish wooden boat. schooner. The hull cut through the waves on the way to secluded bays where we dove in water so clear you could see dozens of fish swimming meters below.
Kalkan Old Town
Some evenings we took a five-minute taxi ride to the pretty whitewashed town of Kalkan, a tangle of cobbled streets with overhanging balconies draped in bougainvillea, where the smell of meat and fish grilled meat from the terrace restaurants floats in the hot air. The town is packed with tourists from all over the world, and our kids loved rummaging through heaps of counterfeit designer goods, picking up fake Nike and Adidas trainers at a fraction of the “real” price in the UK. There are also hippie and bohemian shops – I found a homemade artist’s blouse as a gift for my mother. As we walked up the hill to the hotel for bed, our eldest clubbed in the lively beach bars of Kalkan until the early hours, and even took the obligatory dip in the sea at 3 a.m. morning.
As I watched the sun go down on our last night over the same view I had woken up to seven days before, I knew I would be back in Kalkan. My love affair with Turkey had just begun, and it’s a whole country waiting to be discovered.
Mary Greenham traveled independently. Seven nights B&B at the Kalkan Regency from £830 pp, including flights, steam room and an all-day schooner trip, departing October 16 (simpsontravel.com). As said to Katie Gatens
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