Turkey has become the holiday destination of choice for many travellers from the UK and Ireland. With highs of 33 degrees – even in late spring – it is clear to see why so many leave the lows of rain and more rain in Northern Ireland behind.
With its cheap exchange rate as a consequence of being outside the Euro-zone Turkey is more affordable than many of the other popular European holiday destinations. Renowned for its nightlife and exciting excursions it has everything to accommodate and entertain couples, friends and families so they have a perfect holiday.
The three destinations I visited, Bodrum, Kusadasi and Altinkum, all had different characteristics, allowing some to excel in certain areas more than the others. But the Venosa Beach Spa hotel in Altinkum has to be my clear choice of accommodation, as no previous perception of mine could have done this amazing resort justice.
As I entered the lobby area my reaction was literally jaw-dropping as I tried to take in the majestic surroundings. And as the time passed and I became more familiar with the rest of the facilities it got even more amazing.
The resort is located on a private beach with a partition of trees to separate it from the pool facilities. When I went up to my room I was welcomed by a robe and slippers laid out on the bed – upon which I happily spent most of the next half hour, smiling at the welcome sight of a bottle of complimentary wine and a fruit basket on the table No prizes for guessing which was consumed first. The spacious double room came equipped with an en-suite and balcony, offering a view of the beach – perfect for some quiet time to enjoy your surroundings and take onboard the stated aims of the resort – to provide a relaxing oasis for its clients away from the stresses and strains of modern living. As I explored the resort I saw that The Venosa Beach resort offered a wide range of facilities including its popular Spa that listed a Turkish bath and facemask for the great price of £24. The Turkish bath is a must in Turkey…. just like everyone has to try an authentic Finnish sauna in Finland!
There are changing facilities with lockers where female guests can change into their bikini and then wrap themselves in a towel provided. A note here to female readers though, when the attendants say ‘bikini’ they do mean a “bikini is needed” otherwise your will be stripped of your dignity as well as the top half of your swimsuit, although the staff will of course remain professional at all times. The spa also offers a range of other treatments, some can be accessed through the hairdressers and beauticians also located on site.
The Turkish Bath experience is intended to cleanse the body while relaxing you through the massage techniques performed during your session. I found the experience oddly relaxing as I lay in the private room having bowls of warm water poured over me. I was then given a thorough exfoliation of dead skin cells with an exfoliation glove before being covered in lashings of foam, which were then massaged into my skin to cleanse it. Again I was exfoliated, already feeling a significant change in the softness of my skin, before finally being rinsed off.
I was then led into the relaxation room where I received a “gift”, and assuming it was some sort of hot towel I placed it on my face and lay back to relax, only to be told it was the exfoliation glove they had used on me that I had placed over my previously-cleansed face. This humorous humiliation was soon forgotten as they applied a facemask, which I found helped cover the blush of embarrassment. I was then able to relax to the sound of the running water in the dim light of the Relaxation room.
The whole experience is an absolute must-do in Turkey, like, as I said before, sampling Saunas in Finland, Sipping Guinness in Ireland and Munching Pizza in Italy. The Turkish bath is also said to help tanning due to the exfoliation process, which is a reason for its popularity, and one I can vouch for.
This resort also boasts a games room, extensive pool equipped with three waterslides and private beach area with indoor and outdoor bar and dinning available at this all inclusive complex, so you will have little or no reason to leave the resort during your stay as everything is there for you.
Later, when I returned to my room during my last night of my stay I found the maid had folded my clean towels in the shape of love hearts which I personally thought was a great touch and show the lengths the staff will go to make you feel pampered.
North of Altinkum is the city of Kusadasi, one of Turkey’s most popular resorts for holidaymakers. It offers a little piece of everything you could want from your holiday, particularly if you like to delve into ancient culture.
Kusadasi is well-known for its location near the ancient city of Ephesus. A short driving distance from Kusadasi, the historic site attracts tourists from all over the world and many cruise ships will make a stop there for the sole purpose of dropping its passengers for a tour of the remains.
Ephesus allows visitors to see ruins from the city when the Romans settled there around 100-200 AD. One of the most famous ruins is the Celsus library that was begun in 100 AD and was later restored between 1970-1978 to raise its ruins from the rubble so its structure and the quality of its construction could be appreciated once again. Ephesus is also home to The Great Theatre, which can hold up to 24,000 spectators. History was never one of my favourite subjects at school, but I must say that I enjoyed this site much more than I had anticipated. It was the perfect place to capture some amazing photographs to take home to impress relatives and friends.
On the road to Ephesus you can choose to stop of fat the House of the Virgin Mary, which is a small church ground just outside the ancient city. Here you may enter the church for a prayer and to light a candle before continuing to the wish wall. This long wall is coated in prayers and requests from people all over the world and has to be stripped every week to make room for new requests.
If your idea of a perfect holiday is avoiding the culture and just having fun – or in fact enjoying the sun – just outside Kusadasi is Adaland Water Park. This was personally one of my favourite places during my stay, one of the largest water parks in Europe housing more than 20 water rides. I was happy to spend my day on every slide in the park but if waterslides do not appeal to you there are numerous pools lined with sun loungers where you can spend your time.
The water park also hosts a superb dolphin show, during which members of the audience can volunteer to go on stage. I must confess that I volunteered a little too enthusiastically given that there was dancing involved, but it was an amazing experience to see the dolphins close up. If this experience leaves you hankering for more there is also the chance to pose for a photo and to swim with the dolphins after the show – for a fee of course. Personally I found Adaland the perfect way to spend a day in Kusadasi. The water park includes a shop and a café for food so you could stay the whole day and make the most of the facilities.
Bag a Bargain in Bodrum
South of Altinkum and Kusadasi was the final stop of Bodrum which is the well-known destination for many people as it offers modern city with great shopping and nightlife – and a little haven called Starbucks I had been missed until this point in my trip!
As you walk through the streets of Bodrum there are numerous blue eyes embedded into the ground often surrounding their places of business. This is Turkeys’ “Nazar bead”, an ‘amulet’ that protects from the “evil eye”, therefore offering good luck – apparently the more you own the more luck you will have, therefore making me very lucky and the shopkeeper very rich!
Bodrum town centre consists mainly of shops and markets selling “genuine fake” goods accompanied by the enthusiastic shopkeepers spinning flattering compliments to lure you inside.
If you are willing to participate in a round of haggling for your purchase, you can find yourself walking away with a “genuine fake” bargain – such as my rather stylish genuine fake Converse shoes.
During the night-time the town is transformed into a beautiful place peppered with karaoke bars and nightclubs as entertainment and is well known host to Halicarnassus – said to be the biggest open-air disco in the whole country. Unfortunately I arrived a week before its summer re opening. This however is giving me a plausible reason to return to Bodrum next summer!
I still wanted to experience a taste of the nightlife Turkey had to offer and it was then I discovered the bars offered a sheiska pipe and I couldn’t think of a better place to score it off my ‘to do’ list.
I would stress to Travel News readers this is in no way any form of narcotic – this pipe is used to indulge your taste buds with flavoured water and tobacco which can be accompanied with a drink with a group of friends.
Now back in Belfast with the rain and wind beating against the office I think fondly of my first time in Turkey and the wonderful experiences and sights it offered. Already I am planning my return as it has completely won me over with its sun, fun, culture and friendly people.
It’s a laid-back life on the Aegean wave!
Looking for a more original place to stay during your holiday? The popular resort of Bodrum offers the chance to book your accommodation onboard a gullet cruise so you can sail away and leave your cares and the usual hotel holiday scene behind.
These beautiful boats have been crafted in Bodrum, and many were previously fishing smacks before being renovated to accommodate more passengers and upgraded to a higher level of luxury. These vessels usually run a week-long cruise of the Aegean, taking guests along the beautiful coastline with occasional stops at local towns and beaches. The cosy cabins have two single beds and a washroom with a nozzle that can extend and be hooked up to form a somewhat makeshift shower that I found easy enough to use. On the deck above the cabins there is a bar and dinning area where the meals, dominated unsurprisingly by fresh fruit and fresh fish, are served.
The yacht has many areas to enjoy the sun including two spacious and extremely comfortable sitting areas at the rear. There are more sun loungers located on the higher decks at the bow of the boat but you will have to fight the urge to re-enact the classic scene from Titanic anytime you venture forward.
The ‘gullet cruise’ around the Aegean coastline is well worth considering if you’re heading for this part of Turkey on holiday… it provides a real change of scene, an idyllic floating hotel on which to chill out and enjoy the coastal panorama. It will sometimes anchor at a beautiful sandy beach or rocky cove and the more active can use the makeship diving board or ship’s ladder – or even just throw themselves off the side – into the crystal clear water where they can have a leisurely swim.
Late afternoon our boat docked in Bodrum marina allowing us to explore the town, just a short walking distance from the pier.