Resort between the mountains and the sea

Costa Rica

Turkey is a very attractive destination in 2009. Outside the Eurozone, it is an inexpensive destination for visitors from Britain and elsewhere. Marmaris is a very good introduction to the country. A just-the-right-size resort on the south coast, in a glorious setting between mountains and the point where the Aegean and the Med merge. I visit a busy town geared up for all kinds of activities. (Photo shows Sogut, an hour's excursion from Marmaris.)

Town that shines

The tourism people can’t improve on Marmaris’s old meaning, “glittering and shining”. Whichever road you take in, your first glimpse will be from high up on a mountain side, looking down on a sheltered bay hemmed in by islands. They took a cautionary lesson from overdone, sprawling resorts elsewhere in the Mediterranean when the town was growing in the 1990s. It remains manageable, and extremely friendly. And even though it doesn’t have much history - the main feature is Suleiman the Magnificent’s 1522 castle – the coast all around is crowded with Greek and Lycian remains. The castle is worth a visit. One of the galleries within the castle walls displays archeological remains found locally. Another is a recreation of a traditional Turkish house. A third is the room of the castle’s commander.

Heat treatmant

There’s an exhilarating way to unwind in Marmaris. Head for the hamam, or Turkish bath, and take the treatment reputedly devised to cure Cleopatra’s headaches. This one of the few examples of authentic local culture you come across on holiday, where tourists can actually take part. It lasts about an hour. You will be sweated in a sauna, then slapped and stretched, pummelled and kneaded by skilled hands on a big marble table. Punishment over, you feel marvellous. Hamamcilar operate three hamams in the town, but you needn’t go any further than the one in the centre. the full treatment is £18 for two. 0090 252 417 53 74/ 5

Take a trip

Pass along the Marmaris waterfront at slower than an Olympic sprinter’s pace, and a silken tongue salesman will sell you a trip. They range from jeep safaris through the pine-clad mountains of the Loryma Peninsula (a piece of land once given as a wedding gift to a Trojan War hero) to full-scale day trips to Ephesus. My pick is Cleopatra’s Island, less than an hour from the town. Bask on legendary white sand they say was shipped in from Egypt by Marcus Antonius as a wedding gift for the queen. But you can’t fail with any boat tour. The gullets (traditional wooden boat) are big and comfy, and you dine well on your lazy, coast-hugging trip.

Turtle Beach

If you take only one trip, go to Dalyan, a brilliant example of tourism and nature conservation in harmony. In 1987 British conservationist David Bellamy campaigned against plans for a hotel which would have destroyed the habitat of nesting turtles on the three mile long sandy spit at Daylan. The government stopped the building and declared a nature reserve. Turtle Beach became one of the world’s leading eco-excursions. You won’t ever see a turtle, but you won’t mind. It’s enough to know the hatchlings will slip away to sea on black starlit nights when everybody's gone. The trip includes a jaunt up the meandering Dalyan estuary, with a stop at the Caunos rock tombs and the mud baths, a perfect hangover-free way to get plastered.
They sell Dalyan trips, (£20 - £28 for two including meals and drinks) on the harbour.

Top cafe

Karen’s café is a Marmaris institution, and our favourite over many years. There’s magic in the counters, crammed with seductive cakes and pastries from their own bakery. Sample a piece of baklava with a tea or coffee, and then buy a box to take home. (On the right on the waterfront road to Icmeler, 400 yards after the Attaturk statue.) carry on along this road from the best of the town’s beaches. There is a lot of recent tourist development in Icmeler, about 2 miles along this road. But if you want to take an afternoon excursion out of Marnaris I recommend the 30 minute boat trip to Turunc Bay, a little resort on the peninsula with beaches, bars, restaurants and shops.

Open air fare

As well as Karen’s, there is a big choice of standard Turkish restaurants. They are packed table to table along the harbour front under the castle. The endearingly persistent waiters work hard to recruit you to their tables. When (not if) you give in, insist on a terrace table.
Try the Equinox.They do a clever take on an old staple: my Ottoman kebab was a delicious mix of hazel nuts, dried apricots and figs. Ask for Turkish flat bread. We drink the Villa Doluca, a light, hot-weather red; the Cankaya Klavakidre is a nice light white. £30 for two.

It’s worth the walk to the Netsel Marina (turn left along the waterfront and just keep walking) for my favourite, the Antique Restaurant. Reserve a terrace table with a view of the sea and that astounding starry night sky. They do the full Turkish menu, and international dishes. £50 for two.

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