The unspoilt Datça district is ripe for discovery and is the perfect retreat from the crowds. Katie Hope investigates.
SUSHI, 24-hour butlers and child-free beaches aren’t exactly the sorts of luxuries you expect from a holiday in south-western Europe’s answer to the Costa del Sol.
This corner of Turkey – the bit where the Aegean sea meets the Mediterranean – is far from recent disruption in the major cities or the Syrian border and these days it’s better known for gigantic all-inclusive resorts and a rash of fast food restaurants and English pubs.
But with a flying time of just four hours from London, and an average of 320 days of sunshine each year, it’s not hard to see how, with the right kind of offering, a more sophisticated audience could easily be lured to the region.
Turkey’s Dogus Group, the dominant player in media, construction and car imports, gambled on exactly that when it snapped up and renovated a tired resort, complete with a pink-painted hotel, half an hour’s drive from the sprawling town of Marmaris, where in peak season it’s hard to find space to lay a towel.
The result is the sophisticated D-hotel: nestled in the leafy hillside of the Datça Peninsula. Its dark brown, wooden interiors are reminiscent of an old gentleman’s club and a far cry from its more gaudy neighbours. With a choice of five beaches – really mini bays within the main bay – and its policy of no children under eight, peace is pretty much guaranteed. In fact, for a hotel with 200 rooms, ranging from standard doubles to villas staffed with a 24-hour butler, it’s astonishing how rarely you actually bump into another person.
In my three days there, I had the pool to myself each morning and a pick of spots on the beach, which is a stone’s throw away from the hotel by a chauffeured golf buggy or on foot.
The busiest place in the hotel is the breakfast buffet, with offers everything from the croissants and cheeses of continental Europe to American-style pancakes. Local fare is the tastiest with fresh figs and feta cheese drizzled with honey on the pistachio bread baked in-house is good too.
The terrace restaurant, where breakfast is served, is one of three in-house eateries. The Breeze restaurant sits on the sea front and offers fresh, local fish, while Spice specialises in great Asian fare including sushi, which seems somewhat incongruous in the Turkish heat.
If you can tear yourself away from the food and the sunbeds, there are also watersports on offer including scuba diving and water skiing.
With all this on offer within the hotel, it’s tempting not to venture out until it’s time to leave, but the surrounding area has a lot to offer that should not be missed. There are destinations nearby that give a glimpse into the real Turkey.
We took a yacht, arranged by the hotel, across the sea to the peninsula fishing village of Datça. Three hours by yacht, but just half an hour by hired car or taxi, Datça has weekly markets on Fridays and Saturdays, so if you go on the right day you can shop like the locals.
Alongside the stalls selling knickers and duvet covers and somewhat drab domestic fare, there are several selling herbs and spices – most of which would cost at least five times more in the UK. With the likes of pomegranate molasses and bags of purple sumac, fans of Ottolenghi’s middle eastern cooking are well catered for.
Honey is also a Turkish speciality, with 92 per cent of the world’s pine honey produced in the Aegean region. I picked up a huge jar sporting giant honeycomb wedges – which I’d conservatively estimate was about the size of my head – for just under £10.
Escaping from the frenzied markets back to the tranquillity of the hotel, there was one more Turkish tradition to try: the Hammam, a traditional method of cleansing the body and relaxation. Offered by D-hotel’s in-house Espa spa, I was sceptical whether it would be as good as the real thing but once I’d chosen my loofah strength, I was taken aback by how hard it was. It felt like being sandpapered all over.
Once I’d got used to the sensation, it was rather relaxing, and together with being covered in foamy soap washed off with hot and cold water, it left me feeling thoroughly clean, glowing and tingling for hours after.
I’m already planning my next visit.
WAY TO GO
Rooms at D-Hotel Maris start from €316 per night for the deluxe sea view room and breakfast www.dhotel.com.tr
Katie flew to Turkey via Monarch Airlines, which operates flights to Dalaman from London Gatwick and London Luton airports, with fares starting from £117.99 return including taxes.
Turkish Culture and Tourism Office www.gototurkey.co.uk