The Mediterranean Sea is always a pull and so are the further reaches of the region. Follow me as I check out some the best and let’s face it luxury offerings in Turkey on the Aegean Sea and inland. I’ll warn you now, this review might make you want to pack you bag and book a flight pronto!
Quicker than driving down to Devon from London or the immigration queue to enter America, the flight to Dalaman in Southern Turkey is easy and simple. My destination, D-Resort Grand Azur was a short drive from the airport. I checked into my suite on 5th floor and was around the pool with a cocktail before you say Turkish delight.
This is the life I thought. The sea gently lapping the shore, a local band playing Ed Sheeran numbers in the moonlight and a warm gentle breeze that started to prepare me for the hotter weather the next day. Happy days.
After an excellent breakfast that would put any other five-star hotels to shame, I headed out to Marmaris, the nearest town. Once a sleepy fishing village that I visited over twenty years ago it has now been transformed into a slick St. Tropez of Turkey. The super yachts are moored along the 7km of winding harbour glistening in the morning light waiting like faithful pets expecting their owners to take them out. I could smell a late breakfast from some and the noises of preparation from others. Another day in paradise.
The D-Resort Grand Azur Marmaris is the place to stay at. Views of the sea, roof top bar and steak restaurant, wrap around modern design (think curved Modernist) and lush gardens with plenty of space around the pool and with 324 rooms and suites (lush by the way, think Mad Men wooden interiors, with my own private balcony and sea view) it can hold its own. A very comfortable hotel with super-friendly staff and a cocktail never more than a few minutes away.
The tall hexagonal marbled room didn’t offer many clues about what was about to happen next. In the centre of the chamber a large hexagonal alter-like structure made of marble beckoned me.
I was wearing trunks and lay vulnerable and nervous on the slab. The first part of this Turkish ritual is to soften you up. Water of varying temperatures was thrown over my body in a haphazard way. All good so far.
I turn onto my front and I hear the sound of sand paper on wood and feel a rough rubbing sensation. I realised they are linked. I was being meticulously scrubbed like a stubborn stain in a casserole dish. Head to toe.
By now the words running around in my head were ‘every sinew of my being’. Respite was at hand. Another sluicing of warm water and the lathering began. I’m washed all over like a baby gently with a kind of stealth massage thrown in. As quickly and abruptly as it started, it was over. I’m instructed to stand up and more water is poured over me then very hot water poured over me, and finally the revenge. Stone cold water is poured over my head and makes its way into every crease and contour of my body forcing it to shiver.
But it’s not all over. I was led to a rest room and given cold refreshment. Then called back. What had I done?
I’m led to another room. I lie down on a comfortable thin bed and receive an aromatherapy massage. I’m so delighted that this involved no pain at all that I nearly fall asleep. My muscles are relaxed, my mind is calm and a reluctance to move an inch is the end result, total body bliss.
My next stop is D-Resort Göcek an hour’s drive away. If the Azur was good then this is superb, 103 rooms in a series of modern buildings separated by gardens. At only 20 minutes from Dalaman airport its location is perfect too. The rooms here have four-poster bed with drapes offering a kind of beach relaxing. Its look is softer with plenty of blues and creams. Stone floors with tasteful rugs and large sofas to watch TV from or sip a drink on the balcony (with sea view of course).
The hotel has two distinctly cool venues for eating. Breeze restaurant is on a pontoon sitting over the Aegean Sea with open walls and roof in the summer. Scrubbed wood, relaxed food, great place to while away lunch with family or friends, seriously good food too. The second is place up on a cliff like an eagle’s eyrie. This is where you’ll find Q Lounge. With Japanese/Peruvian fusion food somebody on the decks ‘till late and cocktails that are out of this world it’s hard to beat. Get there as the sun’s going down to enjoy the view and languish in the brilliant design of the place. It’s open to the elements, on different levels and is fitted with banquets of hard wood (with cushions) and stone floors.
Clearing one’s head the next day may not be as hard as you’d imagine. The hotel owns its own yacht, which you can take out with crew and a few friends to explore the nearby 12 islands. Drop anchor, take a dip and have a spot of lunch and just a glass or two of chilled wine to ease you into the late afternoon.
There is a spa here too and I went for a deep massage performed by the expert Dewe. She did a fantastic job of relaxing my body and soul with no prospect of pain at all! The spa rooms are underground and very spacious and stylish. Candles and shadows abound.
It was my last night, so I thought a steak would be in order. Fortunately the Günayan, kebab, butcher and steakhouse were on site to help. Eating outside in Turkey is a way of life, you can watch the meat being prepared or just sit back and enjoy the good wine list. I had a great meal, with kebabs and a fillet steak that was to die for. Just when I thought I couldn’t eat any more out came Katmer, a rolled pastry with ice cream in the middle and crushed nuts on top made at the table. Delicious.
This journey showed me how life can be horses for courses. The D-Resort Grand Azur was a perfect holiday pit stop. Recharge your batteries, head into town, take in the nightlife and pad around your suite in the evenings. The D-Resort Gocek is another beast altogether. Slick, modern, up to the minute spa and peace and calm if you want it or dance the night away at Q Lounge. With golf buggies to transport you over the vast site and they even have their own private beach next to Breeze for that essential after lunch nap. The place makes you feel special and looked after. You can do it all or do nothing both are appealing to be honest. I wonder what I’ll do on my next visit?
Rates at D-Resort Grand Azur Marmaris start from £120 per night for half board, including taxes. D-Resort Grand Azur is the only hotel in Marmaris to offer half and full board ensuring flexibility. Book online at www.dresortgrandazur.com
Rates at D-Resort Göcek start from 448 EUR. Rates are per room per night on a B&B basis. Book online at www.dresortgocek.com
Neil Hennessy-Vass is Contributing Editor for Our Man On The Ground as well as a widely-published globetrotting food and travel writer and photographer.
Photographs by Neil Hennessy-Vass