Nestled close to the Aegean cost in western Turkey is the small town of Alacati. Just 20 minutes east of Cesme and about an hour west of Izmir, it is perfectly positioned for beach and sunshine, as well as boundless in rich culture, endless shopping options and exquisite cuisine.
There’s only one problem. Most people outside Turkey don’t know about it.
We enjoy unearthing holiday gems in each country we visit. There are always hidden places that locals know about, that the rest of the world just doesn’t seem to have caught on. And Alacati is one of those places. Even though it’s a tourist town, it caters mostly to visitors from Istanbul. So outsiders may have never heard about it. In fact, we never heard about it before we got here, so it’s been just as much a surprise to us as well.
The old city of Alacati features narrow, winding cobblestone roads, rustic stone buildings and a relaxed, fun vibe. The place really comes to life at night, when the temperature cools down and visitors of all ages come out to make the most of a gorgeous region. The centre of town runs along two perpendicular streets forming a “T” shape, lined with cute cafes, intriguing antique stores, chic clothing boutiques, tempting waffle shops and mouth-watering restaurants serving the finest local cuisine. Keep an eye out for shiny Italian Vespas zipping down the narrow laneways – road rules seem to be somewhat optional.
Conveniently located at the southern end of the old city is the Kurabiye Otel (yes, that isn’t a typo). We spent 3 nights here which was an ideal base for exploring the region. They typically don’t take guests under 10 years old, but graciously allowed us to stay. It’s a small boutique hotel run by a husband-and-wife team who take great care in looking after each guest.
Our room was beautifully decorated and upheld the laid back, friendly atmosphere of the town. The striking exposed beam roof was a little hazardous for my head (being 205cm tall). The kids slept on the fold-out sofa, and were worn out each night when we got back so they didn’t put up a fuss going to sleep. Mia’s favourite part of the hotel was “cookie time” each evening at 6pm. The hotel provided complimentary cookies and Turkish tea to guests, which matched the hotel name perfectly – Kurabiye means “cookie” in Turkish.
Breakfast included toast, jams, salad, cold meats, olives, tea and juice. All of the produce was sourced from local farmers so it’s super fresh and tasty. In fact, the jam in Turkey has been the best I’ve ever had anywhere we’ve visited so far. That’s a big call.
The owners were helpful in recommending local restaurants to try and beaches to visit in the area, and also helped us organise a car for 3 days through a local rental company. Car hire isn’t particularly cheap in Turkey but it is necessary to explore an area like Alacati/Cesme. Since we were running low on clean clothes we had to do laundry which the hotel organised for 65TL ($32) – definitely the most expensive laundry we had ever done. We reminisced fondly about the $4 laundry service in Ubud, Bali. In fact they say in Istanbul it's cheaper to buy new clothes then pay for laundry.
Alacati has a surprisingly large variety of restaurants. Asma Yapragi came highly recommended but typically has to be reserved 10 days in advance to guarantee a table. Fortunately, since our kids eat relatively early they could fit us at short notice. We were able to meet the owner of the restaurant who explained more about the background of the food, with unique family recipes and traditional cuisine found in this part of Turkey. One of the interesting features of the restaurant is the way we chose our food. We were invited into the kitchen, and all the entrees were laid out on a large table, and each dish was explained. There were 2 choices for the main course. The outdoor garden dining area was really beautiful and the food was fresh and delicious.
The next night we tried Pla’Ce since it was rated #1 on TripAdvisor. It definitely lived up to its reputation and delivered some exquisite food. We also met the owner, a young lady who had left a career in engineering to start up this restaurant with her husband. Considering their background and the relatively short time the restaurant had been opened, we were impressed with the what they had created. The garden setting was also simply stunning. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
On our last night we tried a Mexican restaurant. We hadn’t enjoyed any really good Mexican food for almost 6 months and while the food quality didn’t quite live up to the sky-high standards we experienced in Mexico, it was still surprisingly good considering we were in the middle of Turkey.
We also had to try the waffle shop that taunted us as we walked past each day with its oversized Nutella jar. And the nearby dessert bakery served up snazzy little white chocolate mousse. Yum! There were so many food choices in Alacati, and so little time.
The owner of Kurabiye Otel introduced us to a friend of hers who manages 2 hotels in Alacati. She was an avid windsurfer and competed in the Sydney Olympic games in 2000. We checked out Zeytin Konak Hotel and spent a morning there enjoying a tasty breakfast and giving the kids some much-needed time to play in the swimming pool. Mia met 2 girls who were staying in the hotel and they played for several hours before a tearful farewell. Zeytin Konak Hotel is family friendly and a good choice if you have young children, where as Kuraibye is a great spot for the romantic couple wanting to get away.
Located north and south of Cesme are beautiful beaches. There are 2 options: private beach clubs or public beaches. The private clubs usually provide lounge chairs and umbrellas – sometimes at an extra charge. In some cases, food can be purchased from a nearby restaurant in return for free beach access.
We found a nice small beach north of Cesme which cost 20TL ($11) for 2 lounge chairs and an umbrella. The kids splashed in the water, built sandcastles and soaked up the sunshine.
The next day we explored the area south of Alacati which is famous for it’s windsurfing.
After driving around for an hour or so, we set our sights south of Cesme and found a rather popular beach. Parking was 5TL ($2.50), entry to the beach was 10TL per person ($5.50) which included lounge and umbrella. The beach was packed and it took a while before we could find an available spot. In the meantime, we grabbed some lunch at the café. The Gozleme is a Turkish dish made of a super-thin pancake and filled with cheese, meat or other fresh veggies. As usual, our kids found other kids to play with and almost entirely forgot about their parents!
The car rental company also organised a transfer for us to our next location at Oludeniz, located just over 5 hours southeast of Alacati. The price turned out about the same to have a driver or driving ourselves and paying the 1-way fee. So we just sat back and relaxed on the trip and also caught up on emails.
As it happens so often on short trips for us, we wish we had more time in Alacati. It really has a beautiful vibe and there was still so much to do. You could comfortably spend a week or two here and have a perfectly relaxing break. Turkey has some hidden gems that are worth exploring, and Alacati is a great place to start.