Boutique partying in Antalya

Laura Ivill
PROMISING “legendary” DJs, the SunSplash boutique music festival at the beach resort of Hillside Su in Turkey has earned itself a reputation. Now in its fourth year, each May it attracts a loyal following of British – and Turkish – devotees, wanting a hassle-free, high-quality, small, friendly and laid-back week-long party in a single beach resort – no cabs, no extortionate club entrance fees, no camping horrors and definitely no wellies.

With only 400 tickets, the DJs themselves feel it’s the kind of place they can kick-back and relax, listening to their superstar brethren play around the pool, at the beach bar and in the resort’s two nightclubs – “I said hi to Norman Jay yesterday,” one forty-something guest told me last year, “and I had breakfast with Mad Professor.”

Joining these two names in the line-up this year are Gilles Peterson, Phil Asher, Theo Parrish and Louie Vega among others, over six days. It’s still an under-the-radar fixture on the global festival circuit. The same clubber pleaded with me not to let on about it: “We don’t want the secret to get out,” she said. “We don’t want it to become too big. It’s really friendly, probably because it’s a slightly older crowd. We’ve met so many great people.” There is a mix of ages, everyone just loving the music and having a good time. “It’s so cool here,” said Dean, 27, from Fulham, dancing in the hotel’s club Voda with a group of 10 late-twentysomethings from London. “Everyone I met is amazing,” he said with a huge grin.

When Hillside Su was finished in 2003, the resort was Turkey’s first design hotel. Step through the doors into the enormous all-white, nine-storey atrium, the lobby lounge, and you can’t fail to be wowed by its retro-futurist feel. Overhead, six oversized, rotating glitter balls (each six metres across and weighing 450kg) spill pools of light all around the pristine decor of the lobby and bar, splashes of red neon the only other colour.

This sets the theme for the whole resort – the Turkish architect and designer Eren Talu has used a palette of only three colours throughout – all-white architecture and interiors, red typography and lighting, and swathes of midnight black in the nightclubs. It’s a dramatic homage to Sixties’ minimalism – think 2001: A Space Odyssey meets A Clockwork Orange, with a scattering of Seventies’ Saturday Night Fever.

In the lobby lounge, spotless mirrors clad every pillar, guests sit on white stools along a 22 metre bar which serves sushi as well as cocktails, while the hotel’s resident DJ pumps out a mix that might be featured on its own compilation CD. As a party hotel, outside of the festival dates, DJs and music will lift your spirits most Friday and Saturday nights throughout the summer.

SunSplash’s tagline is “sun, sea and legendary music”. Once you have your festival wristband on, everything else is easy – simply nip back to your room after dinner, leave your euros behind, and use your room key as a charge card for drinks. It’s like having a party at your own place; except your place is a spacious complex of 294 rooms and suites, a full spa, fitness centre, boutiques, a salon and Olympic-length outdoor pool with loungers enough for everyone and call buttons for service to the decked poolside and pebbly beach.

It’s a hotel with personality – fun and funky – which pulls in the Hollywood crowd: Charlize Theron, Kevin Spacey, Sophie Marceau, Micky Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Shakira have all stayed here.

As a group of girls, relaxing in the spa, we chatted about the decor: in the spotless white bedrooms, the hotel has not just a “maxi bar” of tempting treats but also a whole host of items that would usually be sold in a shop, including razors and tampons, displayed like rows of ornaments against the white walls. I wanted to stuff them all in a sack out of sight, but my friend Emma, a designer, liked their “artistic” quality and thought the whole hotel theme worked for the holiday vibe.

When choosing your room ask about the view, as the hotel has better and worse outlooks, including towards a main road. I’d recommend one of the suites – I stayed in room 326 and it was quiet and faced out across the pool to the lush green gardens (yes, green!) and the sea beyond, with a private balcony on which to linger over breakfast and feel thoroughly spoiled.

A cavernous, white (of course) Zen-like space, the Sanda Spa has red neon lighting throughout, which worked especially well in the treatment rooms. As the resort is one of international cuisine, retro decor, British DJs and clubbers from home, it’s nice to be reminded that you are in Turkey, and the spa has a modern Turkish hammam.

I lay on the heated stone slab and was treated to 45 minutes of being sluiced down with warm water, gently scrubbed all over with a mitt infused with mint, sluiced again with soft bubbles, and thoroughly massaged limb by limb. I had my hair washed, I was dried and then finally worked on again all over with lemon-scented oil. Bliss.

Details: SunSplash Antalya, 23 May-3 June 2012 costs from £225 per person for three nights, including half-board accommodation at Hillside Su, use of the spa, sauna, gym and all special parties, concerts and workshops (excluding flights to Antalya).