Need some inspiration for your Turkish bookings? Karl Cushing gets some tips from those who know it best
Affordable, accessible and deeply versatile, Turkey’s popularity can present a challenge to agents, as experienced clients may feel they have it covered.
However, clued up agents can make themselves indispensable if they know their Bodrum from their Alaçati.
Regardless of how many times they’ve visited, or how deep their pockets, help your clients to think outside the box and they’ll keep coming back for more. Here we ask some experts for their insider tips to help you do just that.
Ali Selcuk Can, director, Turkish Culture & Tourism Office, London
Beach: Cleopatra, a Blue Flag beach to the west of Alanya renowned for its clear waters. According to legend, Queen Cleopatra once swam here.
Food: Kumru, a special kind of sandwich found in the Izmir region. It’s filled with cheese, spicy Turkish sausage (sucuk) and tomato, and served with cucumber pickles and hot pickled pepper.
Cultural highlight: It has to be the people’s hospitality. People like to chat and will often invite you to join them for a glass of tea (cay) or more. Food is an important part of the culture and sharing it with newly-made friends is an honour.
Hidden gem: The ski resorts of Mount Erciyes, near Kayseri, are accessible for visitors to Cappadocia. With a winter sports centre on its northern slopes, Erciyes offers year-round glacier skiing and skiing at heights of 2,100-2,900 metres.
Nightspot: Reina is probably Istanbul’s most glamorous club. Here the city’s glitterati dance the night away on the banks of the Bosphorus with the super-flash arriving by boat.
Activity: Enjoy the lunar landscapes of Cappadocia from the sky at dawn in a hot-air balloon ride.
Stay: The Voyage Belek Golf & Spa in Antalya. Beautifully located in pine forests, it’s a modern hotel with a wealth of facilities and perfect for enjoying golf on some of Turkey’s best courses.
The Bosphorus seen from various vantage points, including Camlica Hill and Rumeli Hisari fortress.
Akin Koc, managing director, Anatolian Sky
Beach: Iztuzu, a relaxing boat trip away from Dalyan. I love the soft sand and lack of development, which has protected the rare turtles that lay their eggs here.
Food: There’s a lovely place in Akyaka called Halil’in Yeri. It’s set on a platform in the middle of the Azmak River, in beautiful surroundings, and serves delicious freshly-caught fish.
Cultural highlight: Cappadocia. The first Christians lived here up to seven storeys underground, to avoid persecution, and the vast subterranean cities and churches are astonishing.
Hidden gem: It amazes me that more people haven’t discovered Datça. The water here is the clearest, brightest turquoise and the nearby ruined city of Knidos is fascinating.
Nightspot: I prefer the laid-back bars and cafe life of Kalkan.
Best excursion: Definitely the ancient city of Ephesus. Everyone should go – the scale of it is astonishing. You could combine it with a visit to Pamukkale, a unique natural wonder.
Stay: I love Fethiye. It’s a proper market town rather than just a resort, and it has a really good selection of traditional restaurants. I like to stay in the Yacht Classic or Ece Saray, both of which overlook the marina.
View: The view from the Likya Residence Hotel over the bay of Kalkan and out to sea. Simply stunning!
Andrew Lee, director, Exclusive Escapes
Beach: Patara. It’s the longest beach in the Med with 11 miles of golden white sand and not a building on it – perfect. Also Kidrak. Everyone goes to the famous lagoon beach at Olu Deniz, however Kidrak, just 10 minutes away, is stunning and remains quiet year round.
Food: Kuru’s, near Kalkan. It’s a very simple roadside restaurant run by a local family, with virtually all the ingredients coming from their garden.
Cultural highlight: The Lycian site of Arycanda, about 90 minutes from Kas, has a stunning setting and, in my opinion, is superior even to Ephesus in that the site is extensive, but you have the entire place to yourself to let your imagination run riot.
Hidden gem: In the craggy, mountainous Bozburun Peninsula you’ll find hidden Turkey, and an insight into life in rural Turkey much as it was 50 to 100 years ago. Even in the peak of summer, the peninsula remains peaceful and uncrowded. The coastal village of Selimiye stands out particularly.
Nightspot: Cosmopolitan, sophisticated and hugely colourful, Alaçati on the Cesme Peninsula is the place for trendy beach clubs, hip bars and great restaurants.
Activity: Nothing beats a luxurious, lazy day at sea on the inky blue waters of the Lycian coast. The only challenge is choosing between a gulet, speedy motor cruiser or sophisticated catamaran. For action you can’t beat private guided walking along the newly opened Carian Trail in southwest Turkey.
Stay: If pushed it would be a toss-up between Kas and Selimiye as they both have a real Turkish flavour.
View: Nothing beats a villa or hotel with uninterrupted views over the Bay of Kalkan.
Nejdet Sark, general manager, Turkish Airlines, London
Beach: Iztuzu, in Dalyan. The journey to the beach by boat is beautiful and seeing the tombs carved out of the rocks is very special. You might even see a turtle.
Food: The beautifully quaint Velvet Cafe in Galata. Seconds away from the Galata Tower it offers cakes and drinks served in vintage tea cups.
Cultural highlight: Cappadocia or Ephesus. Cappadocia is home to a wonderful array of beautiful boutique hotels and its quiet pace of life offers a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Plus, the sunsets are incredible.
Hidden gem: Alaçati. It’s a beautiful village formed around narrow streets filled with old stone houses, boutique hotels, eateries and shops.
Nightspot: Bodrum. As an area it has a fantastically exciting buzz, particularly at night. Best activity: Hot-air ballooning in Cappadocia. It’s arguably the best place to fly a hot-air balloon in the world with its landscape of breathtaking rock formations.
Stay: Old Istanbul near St Sophia (Ayasofya). The old city is home to much of Istanbul’s heritage.View: The Bosphorus. Forming part of the boundary between Europe and Asia, the enormity of the river is breathtaking.
Michael Fleetwood, Cox & Kings
For a magical experience, stay in one of Cappadocia’s cave hotels. With rooms hewn from the surrounding soft rock formations, I’d recommend the Yunak houses – or for sheer indulgence, the Museum Hotel.
Emre Pekesen, Pegasus Airlines
With 383 Blue Flag beaches, a great climate and a spectacular coastline, Turkey is ideal for watersports lovers and the resorts of Alaçati, Çesme and Foca – all located in Izmir – are perfect for adventure holidays.
Simon Scutt, On Foot Holidays
Along the Lycian Way are wonderfully-preserved archaeological sites, Olympos and Phaselis. Relatively unvisited, you just happen across them while walking and can explore them at your leisure.
Jane Baxter Gerçeksöz, Ilios Travel
Turkey suits the whole family; tinies love the beach, the teens the towns and the grown-ups love the food, wine, culture! Plus, last year the exchange rate was about 2.75 Turkish Lira to the pound, it’s now 3.69, and prices have not increased.
NEWS FROM TURKEY
Turkey’s current visa upon entry system will cease today, and a new visa procedure will be in place from April 11. E-visas must
be applied for online, with visitors able to complete the form, make payment and download their e-visas up to 24 hours before travel. Applications can be made up to three months in advance, and a UK multiple entry visa valid for 90 days will cost $20.
Visitors will need a passport that is valid for six months, a reservation for a flight or other means of transport, and a credit or debit card.
Atlasjet will begin its Luton to Istanbul Atatürk service on May 2, flying four times a week, with frequencies rising to daily in June. Flights will depart from Luton airport at 12.20 arriving in Istanbul at 18.05 and from Istanbul at 09.30 arriving at 11.20 in Luton airport.
EkonomiPlus fares start from £68 one-way and include complimentary food and beverages, 25kg luggage allowance and allocated seats.
Explore has two new eight-day Turkish tours this year. Best of Turkey Highlights, which visits Istanbul, Ephesus, Troy, Gallipoli, Pamukkale and Dalyan, starts from £810 including flights, and culinary-focused A Taste of Turkey, which visits the olive groves, cedar forests and mountain villages of Antalya, starts from £895.
The world’s first intercontinental subway, the Marmaray Tunnel, linking the European and Asian sides of Istanbul opened in October 2013. Fares are 54p with the travel time from Sirkeci on the European side to Uskudar on the Asian side just four minutes.
Club Med Belek, which closed in February after its owner ran into financial problems, will reopen on June 21. The 431-room resort is run by the all-inclusive specialist under a management contract, and will offer a range of kids’ clubs, a spa, and sailing, tennis, golf and flying trapeze academies.
Belek’s SunConnect Paloma Grida Village emerged from a refurbishment on April 1 as a family-friendly five-star hotel with rooms sleeping up to five, water slides aplenty and a Thomas Cook kids’ club for three to 11-year-olds that runs from May 1 to September 30.
The 229-room Istanbul Marriott Hotel Sisli opened in March. Alongside more regular facilities such as a health club, spa and terrace restaurant, it also has a helipad on the roof.
A new Raffles hotel will open in the award-winning Zorlu Center in Istanbul. The hotel will have 180 rooms and suites, a ballroom, two restaurants and bars, indoor and outdoor pools and a heliport. It will also be home to a signature Raffles Spa, set to be one of the largest spas in Istanbul.
The Mandarin Oriental group is set to arrive in Turkey with the Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, opening this year in a beachfront location. Located on a 60-hectare site with panoramic views over the Aegean Sea, there will be 82 rooms and 20 suites providing the largest accommodation in the area, many with private gardens and infinity pools. Plans are also in place for a Mandarin Oriental Istanbul on the shores of the Bosphorus in Besiktas, set to open in 2016.
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