It’s not hard to see why Turkey, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, has risen to fourth place in the world tourism rankings. Summer sunshine is guaranteed on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, with the gateway resort of Antalya’s daytime July highs averaging 34C, and sea temperatures an inviting average of 28C in the same month.
Beaches abound, often set against dramatic backdrops of pine-forested mountains. Then there’s the fantastic array of ancient ruins to explore, from St Paul’s Ephesus to Homer’s Troy, the majority of which are easily accessible from the coast. Water sports from scuba diving to kitesurfing, kayaking to windsurfing, entice the active. The cuisine, too, is superb, with a dazzling range of mezze, succulent charcoal-grilled kebabs and syrupy walnut- and pistachio-stuffed baklava.
Turks have turned tourism into an art form, with hotels and guesthouses almost always extremely well run, chefs skillful and proud of what they do, and staff generally attentive and friendly. It doesn’t hurt that Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism oversees the industry. With tourism revenues making up some 12 percent of the country’s GDP it’s of national importance that holidaymakers are well served and become – as many do – regular visitors.
And the best news? Despite the huge number of visitors Turkey receives, this is such a big country (the size of France and Germany combined) with such an extensive coastline (the third longest among countries bordering the Med) that there are still plenty of unspoilt, hidden gems where you can avoid the crowds of Antalya, Marmaris and Bodrum. Here are 10 less-discovered places to visit this summer.
The shimmering blue expanse of Turkey’s second largest freshwater lake is ringed by mountains. Its natural hub is the modest market town of Eğirdir and the small island just off it, linked to the mainland by a causeway. Highs rarely exceed 30C and humidity is low, so walks along the long-distance St Paul Trail running by the town are pleasant, as are swimming, fishing trips, kayaking and windsurfing. Nearby are the incredible mountain-set Greek-Roman ruins at Sagalassos and the equally evocative remains of Antioch in Pisidia, while there are plenty of low-key family-run pensions and guesthouses to stay in.
Most of the houses in this scattered hamlet, set among terraced fields layered down the dramatic slopes of 6,500ft-high Baba Dağ (Father Mountain), enjoy spectacular views over plunging limestone cliffs to a Mediterranean Sea of the deepest blue. Tucked into a cleft below the village is Butterfly Valley, famed for its pretty beach and – you guessed it – dazzling butterfly population. Faralya is linked to the nearby resort of Ölüdeniz by dolmuş (minibus) and taxi, though you will need a hire car to explore ancient sites such as Tlos and Xanthos. The village also lies astride renowned long-distance walking trail the Lycian Way.
A few miles north of the cruise ship port of Kuşadası and the same distance west of the delightful inland town of Selçuk is Pamucak, one of the longest stretches of beach on the Aegean coast. Its soft sand backed by wetlands home to flamingos attracts more locals than visitors, in part because access is free. Its southern reaches are being encroached upon by hotels but many visitors prefer to base themselves in Selçuk and mix days on the beach with exploring the region’s wonderful array of ancient Greek ruins, including Ephesus, Priene and Miletus.
Çıralı’s protected status, earned because of its nesting loggerhead turtles, atmospheric ancient ruins of Olympos and the geological wonder of the eternal flames of the Chimaera, have shielded it from the excesses of all-inclusive development along the coast at Kemer. The two mile-long curve of sand and shingle beach, mountain backdrop and sea of citrus groves concealing a myriad of simple pensions make this a supremely peaceful place, especially as it is set at the end of a dead-end road so there’s no through traffic.
On the radar of discerning Turks rather than tourists, the former Greek fishing village of Alaçatı is today a hip destination of bars, restaurants and boutique hotels fashioned from old stone houses. It‘s also one of the premier wind- and kite-surfing locations in the Med, with its sandy beach shelving gently into a shallow bay usually caressed by a steady southerly wind. A day trip to the nearby Greek island of Chios makes for a fine day out, as does the largest and best-preserved of the many ancient Greek-Roman cities littering Turkey’s Aegean littoral, Ephesus.
The bizarrely beautiful central Anatolian region of Cappadocia has soared in popularity in recent years, unsurprising given its unique volcanic landscape of weirdly eroded rock spires, mesas, deep gorges, snow-clad volcanoes and fresco-adorned rock-cut Byzantine churches. Some 3,000 feet higher than coastal Turkey, it’s cooler and less humid, making exploration of this unique landscape a joy. Uçhisar village, clustered around a 200ft-high rocky citadel, has largely avoided the development marring nearby Göreme and offers superb views across the strange but sublime Cappadocian landscape.
For a truly adventurous experience head out to high-altitude Lake Van near the Iranian border. An azure sheet of blue, Turkey’s largest lake is ringed by snow-streaked mountains soaring to 13,000 feet and dotted with remains of its Urartian and Armenian past. Swimming in the buoyant, soda-rich waters of the lake is a joy, the boat trip out to Unesco-listed Akdamar island and its splendid church an unforgettable experience, a walk through the abandoned old town of Van at the foot of its ancient citadel rock haunting. Van breakfasts are deservedly renowned – eggs fried with lamb, herb-infused goat cheeses, clotted cream, honey and much more.
Foça, with its old Greek fishermen’s houses, has retained a timeless air despite being located only 50 miles from Turkey’s third biggest city, Izmir. In addition to the town’s pretty harbour and Byzantine-era fortress, there are several fine (pay) beaches on the scenic road north to Yeni (New) Foça.
A tiny waterfront hamlet beneath a stunning ancient site of the same name and overlooking deep blue waters separating it from the Greek island of Lesbos opposite, Assos is a magical place, as is the old stone village of Behramkale above it. Classicists will love it for ancient Assos, complete with stunning Temple of Athene, close-by Alexandria in Troas and Homer’s Troy, the latter a 1.5-hour drive away.
Leaving the broiling shores of the summertime Mediterranean behind and heading up to cooler altitudes is the traditional way to do things in Turkey. Islamlar, perched high in the limestone mountains behind Kalkan, is cooled by a combo of altitude, tumbling streams and greenery. It’s only a short drive down to the superb beach at Patara, the restaurants of Kalkan, or up to the beautiful scenery around the almost 10,000 feet-high Gömbe Akdağ.
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Set on the East coast, Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort offers the idyllic getaway this summer. Overlooking the crystal waters of the Indian Ocean, the resort offers everything you need for a mid-year retreat, from unwinding on a peaceful, private beach to an evening of culinary delicacies under the stars.
Just a 90-minute drive from Dubai International Airport, this resort is an ideal location for getaways, weekend breaks, anniversaries, wedding celebrations and family holidays.
Here are just five reasons why you should book with the Le Méridien Al Aqah.
1. Views all around
This chic Indian Ocean resort hotel with iconic architecture is set against the extraordinary backdrop of the Hajar Mountains, among lush gardens and has its own private stretch of sandy beach. All 218 rooms offer beach and landscape views as well as the resort also offers 66 interconnecting rooms to accommodate families of all sizes.
2. Dining extravaganza
The pioneer of hospitality on the East coast, the resort offers extensive F&B offerings with five dining outlets. Gonu Bar & Grill is signature beach-front restaurant and grill and is best known for its surf and turf, while Sapore, with chic ambience, offers authentic Italian cuisine. Taste offers a unique combo of Asian flavours with Indian and Thai cuisine, while Baywatch restaurant keeps the beach goers and pool lovers hydrated with an extensive beverage menu.
Views, the all-day restaurant, offers an extensive buffet selection for breakfast, lunch and themed dinners throughout the week.
3. Packages for all pockets
Catering to everyone’s need, the resort offers a variety of deals to choose from: the Half Board package transforms your visit into a gourmet staycation with a spacious sea-facing room, including breakfast and dinner at Views restaurant, from just Dh973++. Or upgrade to the All-Inclusive package from Dh1,285 ++ and explore multiple dining venues and an array of house beverages during your stay. A standard Bed-and-breakfast only package is available as well as the Escape! Spa Package, which is curated to offer tranquillity and features a selected spa treatment.
4. Members prevail
Awarding patrons for their loyalty during summer, Marriott Bonvoy members are rewarded with additional 3,000 loyalty points when staying at the resort for two consecutive nights or more until September 20. Download the More Cravings App, and avail exciting deals at participating dining outlets such as 2 for 1 and 20 per cent discount on your total bill.
5. Kids are free!
Let’s not forget the little ones! Le Méridien Al Aqah offers a kids’ club and dedicated kids’ pool area with an abundance of fun activities and games to keep the little ones entertained so you can enjoy a lazy, peaceful afternoon on the beach, while they play and make friends at the club. Also, children under the age of 12 dine and stay for free!
To make your reservation, call 09 244 9000 or visit www.lemeridien-alaqah.com.
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Wondrous whale watching in the Azores
There are whales swimming all over the planet but seeing them can be difficult and/or expensive for several reasons, including small numbers (England) or iffy weather (Scotland), unsustainable numbers of tourists (Mexican Gulf) and long-haul flights (Argentina). The island of Faial in the Azores is a sure bet, year round, for seeing sperm whales as well as bottlenose, common and Risso’s dolphins. From March to May, blue, sei and fin baleen whales can also be spotted.
The Azores is also abound in great coastal and hill walking, innovative winemaking, with windbreaks built from volcanic stones, and lush subtropical vegetation. The beaches are beautiful, though best experienced in late summer when the ocean warms up.
From São Miguel or Faial – the latter is the ideal base – it’s easy enough to arrange a whalewatching outing to see sperm whales; the season is April-October as wintry weather makes boat trips unfeasible. Stay three days and your chances of seeing other species are much better. CW Azores (cwazores.com) has whale and dolphin-watching excursions from €69pp. Whale Watch Azores (whalewatchazores.com) has expert-led five-night tours from €1,175pp.
Where to stay
Airbnb and small hotels are readily available across the Azores. Horta is the main town in Faial.
Marvel at Milford Sound
Milford Sound is the oft-photographed icon of New Zealand’s South Island. All the elements that inspire travellers to make the long journey are focused in this pristine corner of Fiordland. Scenic backroads and well-marked trails, combined with pellucid waters, soaring mountains and temperate rainforests make it a peerless place to hike and bike. At the centre of it all is the majestic 5,560ft-high Mitre Peak (Rahotu in Maori), actually five separate peaks clustered around a single arrow-headed summit. While cruises and lodges are aimed at the luxury market, you can actually “do” Milford Sound for almost nothing, once you’re there.
Fly to Queenstown and hop on an InterCity bus (intercity.co.nz) to Milford Sound (around six hours). The 33-mile Milford Track hike has become almost too popular, but it’s still a great introduction for first-time visitors. A maximum of 90 walkers can start the trail per day. Sutherland Falls is a 90-minute (return) walk from Quintin Public Shelter on the Milford Track.
The track ends at Sandfly Point on the water’s edge, where there’s a 15-minute ferry ride to Milford Sound township. For details see newzealand.com.
Where to stay
Independent walkers must spend the night at one of three huts: Clinton, Mintaro and Dumpling Huts ($110pp per night in dorms). The season runs October to April (book at booking.doc.govt.nz). Camping is not permitted along the track.
Rock-hewn city of Petra
Petra is one of those places that is even more impressive in real life than in artfully composed photos. The Unesco-listed site is Jordan’s number-one tourist attraction, hitting 1 million visitors in 2019, but is big enough not to feel cramped. Tombs, temples and a Roman-style theatre evoke how important and affluent Petra was during its apogee between the 1st centuries BC and AD. The eastern entrance leads you through a narrow cleft in the rock known as the siq (the “shaft”). On exiting, you’re greeted by Petra’s centrepiece, the Treasury, with its elegant facade carved out of red sandstone.
Most people see Petra on a hurried day trip, but it’s worth a couple of days, and can be combined with Wadi Rum and Aqaba, or Amman, Jordan’s underrated capital. Avoid midsummer, when it is busiest.
Take a bus from Amman (148 miles) or Aqaba (80 miles). Local minibuses are cramped and slow, so opt for the air-conditioned JETT buses (jett.com.jo; JD10), departing Amman at 6.30am and reaching Petra in 3-4 hours. Catch the return bus at 5pm or, better still, stay a night or two. From Aqaba the JETT takes three hours (JD15 one way).
Where to stay
A hostel or hotel in Wadi Musa, the closest town. A twin room at the basic Rafiki hostel (via hostelworld.com), less than a mile from the site, costs from £32.81.
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Timeless Weddings at the Taj
Whether you fancy a sunset affair with a walk down a sandy aisle, an old-world ceremony with horse drawn carriages or a glamorous Hollywood style shindig, everything is more perfect with Timeless Weddings at the Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, The Palm, Dubai. Elegance, sophistication, legendary hospitality and a sensorial journey awaits at the Taj. Celebrate your magical union where the blue skies meet the ocean. Exclusively private or boisterously lavish, a wedding here offers an infinite array of exotic moments. From breathtaking views of The Palm to the thrill of a starry night, the Taj has outstanding venues for all kinds of celebrations – be it grand lunches to cocktail receptions or twilight dinners. For those wanting to groove the night away, this distinctive island oasis offers endless possibilities of merrymaking.
Weddings at the Taj are inspired experiences that make for the dreamiest prelude to a beautiful new chapter in a couple’s life. Begin your happily ever after at the 500-sqm four-bedroom Presidential Suite Sea View, a sprawling residence designed for privacy and exclusivity with a lofty, mesmerizing views of the Arabian Sea and outstanding butler service. Newlyweds can also opt for a magnificent experience within the 165-sqm Exotica Suite Sea View, which boasts of an open jacuzzi and unique décor. For inquiries, call 04 275 4444 or visit tajhotels.com.
Go splendid at Swissotel
Host a dream wedding at Swissotel Al Ghurair, conveniently located where the rich history of Dubai meets the sparkle of this cosmopolitan city. The icing on the cake: win a chance to travel to the magical Istanbul to explore the rich crossroads of Asia and Europe at the stunning Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul.
A five-star luxury hotel in the heart of Dubai, Swissotel Al Ghurair has a team of dedicated event specialists who will meticulously plan every detail of the wedding day. Just 10-minutes away from the international airport, and well-connected to most tourist destinations, it is a perfect destination.
Choose from the rustic outdoor settings of the pool deck or the grandeur of the Al Khor ballroom offering seating for up to 300 guests. A personalised wedding setup including a red carpet welcome for guests, while the celebrations come to life with in-build audio-visual setup and a dance floor. The chefs offer a multi-cuisine three-course menu with soft beverages, and a welcome drink for each guest. Guests can avail a complimentary self-parking facility as well as exclusive room rates to stay the night.
To make the couple’s experience more special, the hotel offers a complimentary wedding cake and hosts them on their wedding night to wake up to a delicious breakfast served in the privacy of their room followed by a relaxing couple’s massage in the award-winning Swissotel Spa.
From Dh150 per guest booked before August 31, 2022 for a minimum of 100 guests.
For more information or bookings, call 04 293 3281, email [email protected], or visit swissotel-dubai-alghurair.com.
Weddings by the water
Ensure a magical experience on your wedding day by the glittering waters of the Gulf of Oman on one side and the majestic Hajar Mountains on the other. InterContinental Fujairah Resort will grant you the wedding of your dreams with the private stretch of the stunning Al Aqah beach and more. With the summer offer, benefits from Sunday to Thursday include preferential rates starting from Dh500 net per room with breakfast. Additional benefits include a complimentary wedding cake, 60-minute spa treatment for the couple at the O Spa by L’Occitane, one round of menu tasting for up to six guests, suite upgrade for the bride, groom and parents, exclusive check-in experience, 20 per cent savings on laundry, spa treatments and in-room dining, private beach and multiple venues for events. For more details, visit ihg.com.
Nuptial Festivities at Festival city
Make your dreams come true at InterContinental Festival City. Whether it be an Arabian wedding, an Indian celebration of tying the knot or an international style marriage ceremony, InterContinental Festival City has you covered. With a stunning ballroom and a beautiful waterfront setting, the hotel allows for a spectacular celebration of love worth remembering for a lifetime. Wedding packages start at Dh200 per person with a customized buffet menu crafted to your liking, free-flowing non-alcoholic beverages, mocktails and canapés to welcome your guests, an elegant 5-tiered display wedding cake, complimentary use of dance floor, complimentary use of LCD projector and screen, lighting effects to match the theme, an elegant dinner table set up and complimentary valet parking. The bride and groom will receive the following benefits: “Your Honeymoon on Us” a two-night stay at the InterContinental Maldives (minimum booking of 200 guests), a complimentary stay in a one-bedroom Panoramic Suite on the wedding night and a complimentary one-hour couple’s massage at the SPA InterContinental. For more details, visit dubaifestivalcityhotels.com.
Matrimony at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
With luxurious accommodation and an incredible choice of cuisines from around the world, the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai is a wedding venue that takes romance to new heights. Whether it’s an intimate gathering for a select few, or a grand celebration for 1,000 guests or more, intuitive service, personal touches and culinary flair will take your wedding celebrations to a whole new level. An enchanting pool deck with its outdoor terrace overlooking the majestic Burj Khalifa or the stunning Dubai Ballroom provides the perfect backdrop for your wedding. Finding inspiration in this diversity, over 200 Chefs from around the world will tailor a bespoke wedding menu to your taste. From authentic Arabic inspired menus to individually prepared international delicacies, let the chefs of JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai inspire your guests with a taste of perfection. For more details, visit marriott.com.
The Palace calls
Fulfil your fairytale wedding at Al Habtoor City Hotel; located in the heart of Dubai, it offers a wide variety of outdoor and indoor venues for every kind of celebration. Experience a charming Haldi function with the option of late breakfast or high tea at one of the urban poolside venues: Firefly at Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City and V Deck at V Hotel Dubai Habtoor Palace Dubai Garden, inspired by Versailles, offers an unrivaled backdrop for the most exceptional Mehndi. Celebrate your Sangeet at The Amazing Room, an eye-catching ballroom with a dome-shaped ceiling. Bring in the lavish Barat through the extravagant entrance at the hotel. Place your Mandap in the breath-taking ballroom palatial revel in luxury during your special day. At Al Habtoor City Hotel Collection, your event can be as lavish as your heart’s desire or an intimate ceremony for your closest friends and family. The three ballrooms offer different capacities ranging from 100 to 600 guests, ideal for any wedding reception. Packages start at Dh350. For more details, visit hilton.com.
Turn your special occasion into the world’s best event at luxury Ajman Hotel. Wherever you look to host a picture-perfect wedding, there’s nowhere else in the world than Ajman Hotel Wedding Hall and facilities that you can depend on, day and night, to make things happen just the way you imagine. Revel in a Ballroom or frolic in the beautiful outdoors, plan your perfect day with Ajman Hotel. The hotel offers a large seafront and resort lawns event space to elevate your celebrations to perfection. The hotel is known to be the ideal location for breathtaking wedding ceremonies, reception or any other private gatherings. Have your wedding as the sun sets and the scenic backdrop at Ajman Hotel provides for a set of unforgettable memories. For more details visit hotelajman.com.
Marry on the dunes
Get married in traditional Bedouin fashion at the traditional Bedouin encampment set within a 25sq-kilometre desert conservation reserve. In the tranquility of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the Al Maha Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa is an inspired choice for your wedding celebration. The exclusivity, the privacy and the tranquility make Al Maha synonym of a once-in-a-lifetime Honeymoon experience as well where newlyweds will indulge in some of the finest things in life throughout their stay. Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa, Dubai is a private, guest-only oasis nestled among the lush palm groves, emerald canopies and iconic sand dunes of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Wed amongst the dunes and within the privacy and tranquility of your choosing. For more details, visit marriott.com.
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