Bodrum is hot, and not just literally. International investors are increasingly catching on to what Turks have known for years: that the natural beauty of this peninsula makes it an exceptional holiday destination, worth visiting time and time again. Bodrum has been the preferred holiday destination for Turks (particularly those from Istanbul and Ankara) for decades. Yet, internationally, the area was mostly known for attracting package holiday makers from Europe, with relatively few in-the-know international travelers choosing it as a high-end holiday destination.
The flow of such travelers has been gradually increasing over the past decade or so, and there are many signs that Bodrum’s international reputation is rapidly changing. It has now been recognized as a global luxury destination. Internationally, the area is now known as the Turkish Riviera. In recent years, many (including The New York Times) have started to refer to Bodrum, and elegant Türkbükü in particular, as the next St. Tropez. Indeed, Bodrum can offer not only azure Mediterranean waters and an abundance of historical ruins, but also many fabulous dining and accommodation options, whatever your mood, proclivity, or definition of luxury.
A telling sign of this change in perception was the late-2011 opening of the Amanrüya, part of the global Aman Resorts chain, which is known for its hotels’ beautiful natural locations, exceptional service, and understated elegance and luxury. This all-season resort offers luxury accommodations on the northern coast of the Bodrum Peninsula, in the secluded Mandalay Bay in Torba, surrounded by ancient olive groves and pine trees. Aman is the Sanskrit word for peace, while rüya is the Turkish word for dream. Amanrüya does indeed live up to its name, for staying here is truly like a dream. Entering the grounds of the hotel almost feels like entering another world, akin to a monastery or a zen retreat. Thanks to the secluded location in the private bay and the lack of labels or visible electronics (the TV and other appliances are tastefully hidden), one immediately feels cut off from the rest of the world.
There is no noise, save for the sounds of the birds chirping and the wind whistling through the trees, which helps visitors achieve a sense of total relaxation and mental calm. The resort consists of the main buildings and 36 private cottages, laid out in such a way that you rarely see other guests, which further contributes to the feeling of exclusivity and privacy. The cottages all have a private pool (many of which are heated), a private lounge area, and an open-air shower. The resort’s décor takes its inspiration from the region’s traditional architecture, combining Mediterranean and Ottoman design elements, using local stones, dark wood furniture, and white Turkish marble floors. Being an all-seasons resort, the rooms are also equipped with traditional Turkish charcoal fireplaces for keeping cozy during the winter months. They also feature living and dining spaces, and very spacious bathrooms, which include bathtubs for two.
The hotel itself offers a 50-meter infinity pool overlooking the bay, as well as a tennis court and a small pebble beach that can be reached via a winding pathway. There is also a very tasteful gift shop, an art gallery, two spa suites, and a three-story library tower with a selection of 800 titles and plenty of peaceful reading areas to choose from. There are four different dining pavilions, each with a sea view, which are all equally quiet, with just candle lighting in the evenings. The restaurant offers three different menus with excellent Turkish, international, and Asian cuisine, all prepared with locally-sourced and seasonal ingredients. The Amanrüya has already been receiving a lot of press, and made it onto Condé Nast Traveller’s The Hot List for 2012 – no surprises there. Indeed, the Aman resorts are known to have something of a cult following around the globe. If you build one, the travelers will come.
This opening will certainly increase Bodrum’s global profile. Of course, there have been many other luxury accommodations on the peninsula for some time. For five-star luxury and indulgence with just the right amount of flash, the Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay is an excellent choice. Located in the private Barbaros Bay, between the Bodrum town center and the airport, this hotel is just secluded enough that you feel you are in your own private and luxurious world.When you enter the grand lobby, you’re greeted with expanses of marble and a stunning aqua sea view, while the hotel has all the amenities and services you would expect from the Kempinski chain.
The rooms and suites are decorated in neutral sandy tones, giving them a warm beachy feel, and all have private balconies with sea views. With several top-notch gourmet restaurants, a world class spa, a beautiful beach, and gorgeous architecture, all the ingredients for a dream vacation are here.When it comes to dining options, you’ll find yourself spoilt for choice, for Kempinski’s team of internationally trained chefs offer a range of both Turkish and international dishes prepared with ingredients sourced from the surrounding farms. The Barbarossa Beach and Grill restaurant offers seafood with a focus on succulent lobster, shrimp, squid, octopus, and fish, all straight from the local fishermen.
For exotic Asian flavors, Saigon Club serves perfectly prepared fusion dishes from the Pacific Rim, including sushi, and desserts that win rave reviews. And for al fresco dining in a warm Mediterranean setting, there is La Luce, which serves Italian cuisine with a focus on the tastes of southern Italy. As well as the beautiful private sandy beach, the hotel offers a number of pools, including a striking infinity pool with unusual architectural domes and chimneys (actually the top section of the hamam), whose whimsical design is positively Gaudi-esque. The 5,500-square-meter Six Senses Spa boasts a watsu pool, whirlpool, Turkish bath, sauna, and steam rooms, as well as a range of massage and beauty care treatments that are all designed to enhance your well-being. For those who are really serious about detox and cleansing, the Kempinski also offers special programs that combine detoxifying treatments and programs with wellness and fitness activities, including yoga.
With its jaw-dropping setting, scrumptious cuisine, decadent spa, and everattentive staff, the Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay is the place to live the dolce vita, indulging all of your senses in every earthly pleasure. Another favorite with both Istanbul and international high society is the Maçakızı boutique hotel located in Türkbükü, which is, without a doubt, Bodrum’s most trendy and stylish bay. This is where Turkish and international high society and glitterati come to holiday, to see and be seen. Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, for example, is known to anchor his mega yacht here. In contrast to the trendy and glitzy crowd, the hotel itself is rather simple and unpretentious, almost rustic in its charms. The white-washed stone buildings tumble down to the bay, blending well with the local landscape, and are lent splashes of color from the gorgeous fuchsia bougainvillea flowers covering the walls in classic Mediterranean chic style.
The rooms are beautiful in their simplicity and are decorated in white and cream, with bed coverings from Yastık by Rıfat Özbek and contemporary artwork on the walls. The bathrooms in the newly-renovated suites feature rain showers and travertine floors with underground heating. In the spa section, you’ll find what is likely the most modern and minimal hamam you’ve ever laid eyes on, with a glass wall facing a garden. The hotel also offers a number of high-end boutiques that include both Turkish and international brands. Maçakızı is equally famous for its modern Turkish cuisine, prepared by chef Aret Şahakyan and served in an open-air restaurant, in the shade of a 100-year-old olive tree. The lunchtime buffet is legendary (many are sure to come on Sundays just to eat their famously delicate Turkish-style dumpling mantı), as are the sunset happy hour drinks. The hotel’s waterfront consists of a number of decks extending out onto the water, perfect for sunbathing, dining, or dancing, depending on the time of day or night.
There are, of course, several other excellent hotel options available throughout the peninsula, and more are planned every year. Given that Türkbükü is such a trendy and popular bay, it’s hardly surprising that it is also home to other luxury accommodations, such as the Hilton Bodrum Türkbükü Resort and Spa. The Hilton is located on its own private peninsula and offers a range of luxury amenities, including six swimming pools as well as a private beach, a spa and health center, and a children’s aqua park. For those who want to be in the center of Türkbükü’s famous nightlife, the Divan Bodrum Palmira is a popular option. A part of the Turkish Divan chain, the hotel is located on the central waterfront strip, with a restaurant right on the water
However, when you walk through the seaside entrance you feel like you’ve entered another world, with the expansive pool and thatched roof dining area lending the grounds an exotic feel. Another luxury hotel from a Turkish brand is the Rixos Premium Bodrum, a super-flashy hotel located in Torba. The expansive grounds, rooms and private villas are all decked out in full Oriental splendor. Very popular with couples on their honeymoon, this hotel offers a number of restaurants, various spa treatments, and live entertainment. One of the newest additions is the Ramada Resort Bodrum located on a hilltop above Bitez bay with a 2,500m2 covered swimming pool and access to a private beach. For a top-notch city hotel, The Marmara Bodrum can’t be beat. Perched above the city center, it offers a bird’s eye view of Bodrum town and the castle.
The hotel’s lobby is decorated with an ideal blend of traditional Turkish motifs and modern Turkish artwork, while the newly-renovated Dolce Vita and Party Animal Suites offer amazing terraces. Complete with jacuzzis and bars, these suites are perfect for partying the night away over a view of the town below. Another noteworthy option is the Casa Dell’Arte design hotel in Torba. This funky boutique hotel was founded with the aim of promoting Turkish contemporary art, and runs artist residency programs. All of the twelve suites feature modern artwork and unique décor, each inspired by the signs of the zodiac. With Istanbul restaurants Mimolette and Antiochia both opening branches here this summer, Casa Dell’Arte is sure to be an increasingly popular destination, particularly with the yachting crowd. And it’s not just the hotel sector that is drawing major investments.
The Palmarina Yalıkavak marina was bought by Azeri billionaire Mübariz Mansimov in 2011 and given an extensive renovation. This state-of-the-art marina offers approximately 450 berths for yachts of up to 50 meters in length, as well as many other services, including a heliport, and is currently expanding to facilitate super yachts. The Palmarina complex also features a number of high-end shopping, entertainment and dining options. Legendary New York restaurant Cipriani, as well as the Billionaire Club and beach, have opened branches here this summer. In terms of shopping options, luxury jewelers Gilan and Arte Gioia have also opened shop here.
The opening of the Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay several years back and now the Amanrüya have been major coups for the Bodrum area. These openings can also be seen as harbingers of things to come: the secret is out, and Bodrum looks set to be a hotspot for even more luxury brand investments. It has already been confirmed that the Mandarin Oriental will be opening in Cennet Koyu in Türkbükü in 2014, with the Four Seasons opening down the road from the Kempinski, in the Yalıçiftlik area, soon after. Meanwhile, Swissôtel has confirmed plans for two new properties in Bodrum, with a beachfront resort in Turgutreis planned for 2013 and a city hotel planned for 2014. And with a new international terminal having recently opened at Bodrum Milas Airport, access for discerning international travelers has never been easier. Without a doubt, Bodrum’s star is rising.