An old flame: a return trip to the beaches and mountains of ÃÄ±ralÄ±, Turkey
An old flame: a return trip to the beaches and mountains of ÃÄ±ralÄ±, Turkey Turkey holidays An old flame: a return trip to the beaches and mountains of ÃÄ±ralÄ±, Turkey
This low-key south-coast village with family-friendly beaches, natural rock fires, mountain walks and fantastic food proved just as special on a second visit
The second time you visit an area is always a test. You are presumably going back because you enjoyed it the first time. Will the second visit live up to expectations? We were f irst recommended ÃÄ±ralÄ±, on the Turkish coast south of Antalya, by a friend who had lived in Kardamyli in Greece. It was apparently very similar: a beautiful but low-key resort, surrounded by mountains and lots to explore. He was right: we loved it.
We made our return visit this spring, with our six-year-old and his 11-year-old sister. We arrived at our little wooden cabin at the Azur Hotel late in the evening, and went to bed hoping things would be as we remembered. We neednât have worried. ÃÄ±ralÄ±, at least for us, is the perfect place for a family holiday. Cabins are set around a gorgeous garden, produce from which is used in breakfasts, dinners and evening meals.DatÃ§a peninsula, Turkey, holiday guide: what to see plus best beaches, hotels and food Read more
The village is in a valley below the main coast road, and feels remote without being that hard to get to. Hotels and lodges are among the pomegranate trees, an d the only real development is a short main road of restaurants and shops, and a string of fish tavernas along the beach. Conservation laws mean things are likely to stay like this, and the pebble-and-sand beach, dramatically surrounded by mountains, is almost entirely pristine.
Some would be happy to spend a week on this beach â" big enough that you can always find a patch to make your own. There is so much else to do, though. A 15-minute walk south along the beach brings you the ruins of Olympos, a city that dates back at least as far as the Greeks, and continues through the Romans to medieval pirates â" always good with the kids. And this is a child-friendly ruin, stretching up another river valley and rewarding exploration, clambering and endeavour, with not much sign of fences or rules.
Phaselis, a 20-minute drive to the north, is a similar site â" a little bigger and busier, but with the benefit of three coves where bathers can jump off the ancient harbour walls and swim out to the old breakwaters.
The most surprising attraction of ÃÄ±ralÄ±, and the one my son, Jonah, had remembered best, is in the mountains above. We went up on our first day. Here, on a rocky hillside, flames have been curling out of small holes in the ground for thousands of years, a phenomenon called yanartaÅ (flaming stone) caused by natural gas emissions. Toasting marshmallows, or sausages, on the eternal flames is great fun, and most visitors get no further. However, well-marked paths lead up into the mountains past secret swimming holes (and more flames).
There is lots of interesting walk ing here. The village is on the 540km Lycian Way and coastal and mountain routes abound. For views without the effort, head 25km north to 2,366-metre-high TahtalÄ± DaÄÄ± mountain, which can be ascended by spectacular cable car.
A good family holiday, for us, also revolves around food. Breakfast at the Azur Hotel was as we remembered: a great Mediterranean spread of cheese, olives, homemade jam, fresh orange juice, good coffee and apple tea (our sonâs favourite). This was supplemented by eggs as-you-wanted, fresh from the hens that clucked contentedly just beside us. Lunch tended to be picnics on th e beach, or in the ruins â" the local shops are small but do good fresh food and bread.
In the evenings we were pleased to find our old favourite, YÃ¶rÃ¼k, was still in business. Inside there is a long counter where you choose meze, dips and meat to be baked or grilled, and a central fire pit for cooler nights. Outside are low tables and cushions for âtraditionalâ eating, and the standard Turkish holiday dishes of local pizza and gÃ¶zleme (pancakes) are available (and good).YaliÃ§apkini restaurant is only two miles from Turkeyâs raucous Dalyan â" but also a world away Read more
Anywhere else this would be a tourist trap but in ÃÄ±ralÄ± it is done well and Turkish visitors seem to agree. We also took pot luck on some of the fish tavernas on the beach, and never regretted it. Choose from the fresh seafood on display, be clear on prices, and enjoy â" the kids can play on the beach while you have a glass of wine and some starters.
On our last day we celebrated a birthday by combining food and mountains. The Rivera restaurant, in the hills north of the village of Beycik, is a wonderful combination of a river dammed in to various trout pools, topped by platforms in an ancient tree where you can eat the fish. When we turned up (mid-April), the place looked closed but Ali, the owner and sole builder of this dream, soon turned up. His conversation, and the expertly grilled trout he scooped out of the pools, left us thinking that a third visit to ÃÄ±ralÄ± might be in order.
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