When you think of rich blue lagoons, jaggered coastlines, fresh seafood and white sandy shores; where does your mind wander? Some might go straight to the paradise islands of the Maldives, whilst others drift to Greece but very few stray to the turquoise-blue water, with pine-fringed bays and white sand shores of ancient Bodrum, a city so pretty it should be added to almost every summer vacation list.
Protruding into the Aegean, the Bodrum Peninsula lies opposite the Greek island of Kos, greeting the crystal clear sea with dramatic cliffs, peppered with white villas. Low key resorts blend into the environment and seaside restaurants, which on are predominantly lined with an abundance of ships, that lay at rest in the infamous port, whilst owners are exploring the culturally rich and breath-taking beautiful surroundings.
Known as the French Riviera of Turkey, the centre of town is dotted with marinas, clubs, restaurants, shops and smartly-dressed clientele from around the world, all there to enjoy the cuisine, culture and beautiful weather, blessed with a cool sea-breeze all summer long. The cuisine, the bazaars and the hammams are ready to be explored and the culture is easy-going – much like Dubai, the intriguing mix of mosques and bikini-lifestyle is unobtrusively achieved. While much of the peninsula retains a basic charm, there are copious amounts to be discovered in this seaside town. Bodrum isn’t short on history – home to one of the original wonders of the world - make sure you leave time to visit the remains of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (aka the Museum of Underwater Archaeology) and St Peter’s Castle, a place that holds treasures recovered from 3,000 years of shipwrecks in the surrounding seas. The impressive medieval castle built by the Knights of Rhodes guards the entrance to Bodrum's blue bay and if you climb to the top, you’ll be able to take advantage of one of the best viewpoints in town.
The status of Bodrum's boatyard’s dates back to ancient times, and today, craftsmen still build traditional yachts that transport tourists and residents alike on boat trips through the Aegean waters. Known for exotic sea life, dolphin spotting, snorkelling and stunning sunsets, boat trips are a popular excursion from Bodrum and provide the perfect jaunt in the sunshine. Those who aren’t the biggest fan of the underwater world can retreat to one of Bodrum’s numerous beaches, many which are often hidden in secret coves dotted along the coastline. The region also offers natural distractions including winding trails for hiking, mountain biking or horse riding and forest glades ideal for picnics, relaxing and nature. Water sports can be enjoyed throughout the summer months and a nearby golf club offers avid golfers their fix. And of course, like everywhere in Turkey, shopping in and around Bodrum is quite an adventure, with dozens of shops lining the narrow streets offering everything from local trinkets to handmade sandals and more.
There are definitely many places to stay when visiting Bodrum, but none are quite as picture perfect as Amanruya, a place so beautiful, it could almost be made up. The name, translating from Sanskrit to Turkish to mean ‘peaceful dream’, could not be more appropriate, and the entire resort embodies exactly that.
Sitting in a secluded corner of Mandalya Bay, on the south-eastern coast of Turkey, the entire resort is surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty, including pine forests, olive trees and wild flowers. A 10-minute drive from the centre of Bodrum, this simple yet stunning resort is dotted with apricot-coloured guest cottages, restaurants, a shop and spa made of stone and terracotta, bleached by the Mediterranean sun, all resembling a small, secluded village - each building is created from local materials found in the surrounding areas - be prepared to pinch yourself. Local materials including stone, terracotta, acajau wood and Turkish marble in neutral hues make for an almost ethereal feel, most evident in the evenings as the Aegean sun sets turning the walls a blush shade of pink.
Away from the property’s jewel-like central pool that portrays the heart of the Amanruya, the resort’s olive groves and forest slope down, giving way to its sun-kissed private pebble beach and secluded Beach Club. Overlooking its own private bay, the Beach Club is an idyllic spot consisting of a series of intimate nooks and terraces, artfully positioned amongst olive trees, decorated with Ottoman lounge beds. The wooden jetty is the perfect sunbathing spot, with day-long rays beating down on its wooden decks whilst the beachside restaurant, nestled amongst the trees, offers freshly caught fish, salads and of course, Turkish mezze. Plucked straight from a fairy-tale, the beach club was enchanting and even thought the water was cold, I couldn’t resist diving into the clear, blue waters.
Another definite highlight of life at Amanruya are the cottages. Home to only 36 contemporary stone pavilions, positioned amongst terraced gardens, scented by thyme and shaded by olive trees, each generous space emphasizes Aman’s signature design philosophy. All free standing and hidden amongst terracotta walls and olive trees, expect immaculate white marble floors, high mahogany ceilings and white Mugla, hammam-style bathrooms with skylights. Ottoman influences include Bursa arches that join the bedrooms and bathrooms and Turkish charcoal fireplaces to warm rooms and terraces in cooler months. Further indulgences include a private pavilion, outdoor shower and swimming pool, all found in each cottages personal garden.
The rest of the resort’s facilities are housed in free-standing stone structures scattered around the 50-metre infinity pool, the pièce de résistance of Amanruya. They include an intimate top floor lounge, several Dining Pavilions and a Wine and Cigar Lounge. According to Executive Chef Ercan Soylu, Turkey’s variety of microclimates makes it a cornucopia of diverse fresh produce, allowing him and his team to deliver an ever-changing seasonal menu, incorporating Turkish and Western cuisines. Breakfast, mostly enjoyed on the terrace or in-room, was a highlight, and I particularly enjoyed the Cilbir (Turkish eggs with yogurt) and the Menemem. Lunches were generally enjoyed at the beach club, whilst dinners on the whole gave me an insight into typical Turkish and Ottoman cuisine – the chickpea soup, leg of lamb and multiple mezzes were a all particular highlights.
The resort is also home to a small spa with two treatment rooms offering massages, foot wraps, scrubs and manicures. In addition there is a small boutique containing beautiful local textiles, jewellery and artefacts – shoppers heaven! There is also a carpet gallery which can be found inside a hand-built, beehive-shaped brick structure designed in the style of a traditional rainwater cistern housing a comprehensive selection of Turkish carpets, whilst the library is housed in a striking three-storey tower complete with fabulous views of sea and forest, offering a wide selection of books and DVDs.
Whilst it might be tempting not to leave the resort (ever), Amanruya also provides an extensive array of unique experiences - If gourmet is your thing then try the myriad of fantastic restaurants, whilst those with an adventurous and cultural streak can book onto a range of excursions to the wealth of classical sites in the region -including the ancient ruined cities of Didyma with its towering Temple of Apollo, Priene and its 5,000-seat theatre and Ephesus with its magnificent Gate of Hercules. Fans of the sea can experience Amanruya’s own 40-foot Vicem yacht, offering a unique way to experience the coastal beauty of the Aegean Sea. Opt to discover the famed Blue Voyage cruising route that sets sail from the Bodrum Peninsula and takes in secluded coves, beaches and ancient ruins, giving you the opportunity to snorkel, dive or explore en route.
Another trip that offered a true insight into true Bodrum life was a visit to the village of Etrim, known for its wonderfully intricate hand-knotted carpets, a trade that has been passed down from generation to generation. Witness the spanning and dyeing of the thread, as well as the weaving process itself and make sure you don’t leave without purchasing one of their many masterpieces – varying from centuries old to modern silk marvels.
A hidden gem that has so much to offer, Bodrum is not only beautiful, but it’s also easy to get to. With Turkish Airlines offering 14 flights weekly from Dubai to Bodrum via Istanbul, Turkish Airlines is an affordable option that is seriously comfortable too! Winning “Best Business Class Onboard Catering”, “World’s Best Business Class Lounge”, and “Best Business Class Dining Lounge” at the 2017 Skytrax World Airline Awards, you can understand why flying business with Turkish Airlines is an experience in itself – so kick back, relax and please, enjoy the cheese!
An Anatolian dreamland, make sure you add Amanruya and bountiful Bodrum to your summer schedule.