Travel around Turkey: Discover the best of the southwest
Road trip along the country roads of southwest Turkey, and experience everything from luxury resorts, to mountain wine tasting, to natural wonders…
Turkey has so much more to offer than hot air balloon festivals and hammam spas (although both are worth checking out). The country is rich with natural beauty, friendly faces and hints of luxury nestled amongst wallet-friendly experiences. Bodrum is a four-and-a-half-hour plane ride from Dubai and FlyDubai offers convenient holiday packages for those looking for a short break.
Despite a turbulent summer, including vicious fires and a recuperating travel industry, the country remains resilient and ready to welcome tourists. But, as lovely as Bodrum is, there’s more to see than just the one city. What’s On recommends renting an affordable car (for roughly Dhs250 per day) and taking three or four days to explore more of what the local area has to offer…
To ease yourself into your adventure, begin with barefoot luxury at the new Mett Social Living Resort, Bodrum. A beautiful hotel with Dubai-style touches to make you feel right at home, with jaw-dropping ocean and mountain views and Dubai-exported dining concepts Mood Rooftop and Isola. The 72-room resort also has 31 luxury villas which are perfect for friends looking to getaway as a group. With chic, beach-inspired interiors, the rooms will make you feel instantly relaxed as you enjoy soak view of yachts bobbing the balcony. For those who want to experience a traditional hammam treatment, Moi Spa is the ideal place to scrub your stresses away. Rooms start from Dhs 1,396 per night.
A highlight of your stay at Mett will no-doubt be lunch at Folie Restaurant and Sea (a concept by the team behind Drift Beach Dubai). The Provençal menu is heaving with top-quality ingredients and fresh, irresistible dishes. Set on an over-water deck, you can hear the tide crashing below deck, and guests can even arrive by boat if they wish. A DJ and live entertainment bring up the vibe in the afternoons, including a saxophonist and roaming dancers. The staff are well-versed in not only their menu, but also excellent conversationalists (something of a rarity in the region). Make a day of it and book a sun lounger or cabana on the adjacent platform and soak up the sun, dipping in and out of the sea in between glasses of ice-cold rosé.
After a relaxing couple of nights in Mett, we suggest to hop in a rental car and head for the beautiful (occasionally bumpy) road towards Pamukkale. There are only seven official natural wonders, but Pamukkale should definitely be somewhere on the list. This collection of thermal pools have been around for thousands of years, once used by Ancient Greeks. Pamukkale translated to ‘cotton castle’ a reasonable description of the beautiful white and blue surrounds, which might just take your breath away. One night is enough and local accommodation is basic, but if you can brave an early start, the gate opens at 6.30am and then you’ll also be able to see the local hot air balloon rides enjoying their trips.
Spend an afternoon here
Make your way to the ‘Turkish Maldives’, formally known as Lake Salda. The lake is huge, and visually stunning with a countless number of blue hues running through its glistening shore. Beneath the surface is hydromagnesite mineral – a dark mud known for its dermatological properties – so, if you fancy a free spa treatment, get stuck in.
Next up on our road trip, head back west towards Alaçati. The idyllic coastal town is perfect for wandering through pretty streets, filled with colourful doorways and Vespas parked outside boutique shops. Find a cute cafe with a table outside and order a tipple of your choice to enjoy while you watch the world go by. After, make your way up the beautiful winding mountain road to Ayda Winery and Vineyards for a local wine-tasting experience, where you’ll also be able to have dinner overlooking the lush vineyards.
Heading south, drive down to Ephesus to explore the Ancient Greek city. Built in 10th century BC, visitors can tour the space for around Dhs50. Now ruled mostly by cats, Ephesus’ structures have stayed mind-blowingly intact, and you can almost visualise exactly how it would have been to live there more than 2,000 years ago. Another one you should arrive early at, beat the crowds and get some great snaps in the iconic Library of Celsus.
How to get there
FlyDubai has direct flights from DXB Terminal 2 to Bodrum, with return fares starting from Dhs1,600 for economy and Dhs6,000 for business class. At the time of writing, vaccinated passengers don’t require PCR test to enter Bodrum, but PCR test required to return to Dubai – which your hotel will be able to help to arrange (but always check the latest travel requirements). Flights operate on Tuesdays and Fridays.