(updated 07 September 2015)
(updated 30 August 2013)
When in Turkey, if you need or want to relax and take in a bit of sun, there is really only one place to go on the Agean Coast: the Cesme Peninsula. And on the peninsula, there is only one two to stay in: Alacati.
Alacati is a small village a couple of kilometres from the beaches and don’t worry, you can do the walk with ease. Not only is the walk pleasant and you will see numerous summer houses, but it also gives you a bit of a push for the long day ahead of relaxing on the beach.
There really is only one place to stay in Alacati: the Alacati Tas hotel. (http://www.tasotel.com/). Never have I stayed someplace so welcoming, so wonderful, and so relaxing. The breakfast every morning is served outside in a peaceful courtyard looking at the pool. And every afternoon, there is tea time that consists of tea, lemonade, and fresh made cakes. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Oglum, the most adorable golden retriever who doesn’t know he is 8 years old. (Sadly, Oglum passed away and has been replaced by a bunch of adorable and rambunctious kittens!) Really, there are other places to stay in Alacati – Zenyap, the owner, tells me there are now about 100 boutique hotels in Alacati yet she was still the first – but look no further than this wonderful hotel.
The Tas Otel still remains my favourite place to stay in Alacati. Seynep, the owner, has such a deft touch with the hotel and the staff that it just seems that she knows what the guests want. Salih, the manager, is a welcomed smile after a long day of walking, beaching, or shopping that, even if I found myself grumpy or tired, he always made me smile. And then there’s Gökhan, the newest member of the staff who is just the most smiling and friendliest person you will ever meet. I think Gökhan has the night shift which can’t be fun but every morning, he had a smile on his face and when he returned in the late afternoon, he was still smiling. And good news: Seynep has rescued a 1-year old golden retriever puppy named Pan. He’s playful, “teething” a bit as of this writing, and just wants to be the centre of attention and I loved seeing him every day. But, fear not: the cats still rule the otel and Pan knows his place in the larger pecking order of things!
The Agrilia Cafe has moved from the former cigar factory across the street from Tas Otel to a new location but nothing has been lost. If you are in Alacati during the summer, you must go here and you must sit outside in the courtyard. The courtyard remains lovely, although a bit smaller than the former location, and the food here is outstanding. The staff here are lovely and the food outstanding. And unlike most places that are popular, they don’t rush you out: the table is yours for as long as you want it.
But, if you only have 1 night in Alacati – a real shame I tell you – you must go to Beatrice Ristorante (Kemalpasa Cad Barbaros sk No 4 [no website]). [CLOSED]
This restaurant is only open during the summer months because the only seating it has it outdoors. When I was there, the lemon, orange and pomegranate trees were all in bloom, the flowers were fragant, and the staff incredible. If I remember correctly, the chef is Italian and her husband is Turkish. Because my friend and I both lived in Italy, we took the opportunity to speak with the chef in Italian and ask for a few special things that weren’t on the menu: I had caprese with a Turkish twist. Lip-smacking good!
If you are in search of one of the best meals you will probably have, anywhere, you most go to Barbun (http://www.barbunalacati.com/). The food was absolutely divine and the staff attentive but not disruptive. Before my starter even arrived, I was presented with 5 small tastings that were prepared just for this vegetarian! Oh, and the location: barbun is located on a side “street” right off the crazy and packed main drag. But these few metres from the main drag will transport you to a new land and an amazing dining experience. I can’t wait to return!
A new arrival to the culinary scene, and definitely worth the splurge is Alancha (http://www.alancha.com/en/). A very short walk out of Alacati, and up a meandering hill, is this somewhat secluded restaurant with stunning views and even more stunning food! You are greated at the top of the stairs by the staff, then given the opportunity for a drink inside or to be shown to your table on the very large terrace. The views! And the food? Very modern Turkish in its presentation and preparation. The traditional tastes are there, and the incredients outstanding, and definitely not what you would find on any other menu (except, perhaps, something similar to Barbun, one of my favourates in Alacati, and a sister-restaurant to Alancha). It’s a set menu, which is a tad on the pricy side for Turkey, and the wines just as pricey, but I say do it; you only live once!
New to the restaurant scene, and one of two overall favourites in Alacati is Asma Yapragi (https://www.asmayapragi.com.tr/). (My second favourite remains Barbun, above.) If a trip to Alacati for the Tas Otel is not enough for you (which it should be), then this restaurant should do the trick! Slightly off the touristy “passagiatta” that takes place nightly on the “main street”, this restaurant is situated in a lovely courtyard where, once seated, you are shown in to the kitchen where all of the locally sourced food is on display for you to choose from. And these aren’t just samples of the food: this is what you receive and if something is out, you need to move on. Most of the non-meat dishes are room temperature but when it’s still hot and muggy outside, that’s okay. And god were they amazing! In fact, the food was so good that we tried to return on our last night only to be told that they are booked solid and there’s a wating list! So please, take my advice, and beg your hotel to make a reservation 1 month in advance. (Most places say that’s not necessary but when they book fast, you’d be sorry to miss this one!
Another new edition to the dining scene is Babushka (http://www.babushkaalacati.com/). I truly loved this restaurant and encourage everyone to gohere. Ozgur, our waiter, is also the husband of the wife/chef and was so incredibly helpful and encouraging about everything on the menu. And when the Olga, the chef, comes out to meet everyone, that says oodles to me! Much like Asma Yapragi, without the tour of the kitchen, the food is all sourced from local food markets that morning so there isn’t much of a change to change things up on the menu, but there are many many options, and each one outstanding! And if they have the potaoe pancakes, order 2!
Other than the beach and some night-time shopping, there isn’t a lot to see or do in Alacati. But that’s okay: relax, enjoy the weather and the people, and eat and be merry. One day a week, there is a local market where the local farmers come in with their goods. You can’t get any more fresh than what you see at the market and when you’re at the beach, what’s better than fresh fruit?
There are really 2 beaches to choose from here: Ilica and Alacati Bay. The later is a bit more windy and favoured by the wind surfers so I recommend Ilica. The water is perfect and there are plenty of options in terms of sun beds and umbrellas. And the water is so crystal clear it almost feels as though you are walking on glass the first time you go in to the water. So once you get on to the beach, walk in whatever direction feels good to you, find that perfect location, pay the man to rent the sun bed and umbrella, and relax. And whatever you do, don’t go to the Sheraton; they do, indeed, rent sunbeds but they charge about $100 per person, rather than that $10 everywhere else. There really is no difference.
Alacati bay, walking in the other direction, is indeed the wind-surfer’s paradise. The only real difference between this beach and Ilica is the walk: walking to Alacati bay is in the blazing sun. There are very few trees, and no sidewalk for much of the walk, and it does take about 10 minutes longer, but if you want to try something different, then this is the beach for you!
I don’t always like to recommend shopping suggestions but when I find something outstanding and worth the experience, I will certainly share. There is amazing little shop, a bit off the beaten path, called Lisa Corti. This store has everything: clothes, textiles, ceramics, jewelery, and even glassware. What makes this store special? I was looking for pillow covers with a very colourful design: Carolina, perhaps the manager?, spent about 30 minutes with me trying to find something and then suggested that I buy 2 shopping bags, they could make them in to pillows, and they would be ready the following day! And they did and are absolutely amazing. See this store out one evening before going to dinner. Just allow yourself plenty of time to browse!
And with that, enjoy!