Along the Aegean coast around Izmir, there are many towns that have become holiday destinations of Turkey. In addition to the busy summer season, the area is also ideal to travel all year-round for the beautiful nature and its growing gastronomy scene.
On the westernmost tip of the Izmir district, Çeşme peninsula used to be the weekend destination for people from Izmir. The situation was like this until a few years ago, when Istanbulites discovered the town’s potential of its culinary scene and natural beauty. In the summer, the roads to Çeşme see traffic they never see throughout the year.
You can go to Çeşme for the summer to enjoy the sea, beach clubs, and sports during the day and night clubs after dark. And during the off-season months, you can get the essence of the town by discovering the neighborhoods, tastes, and surroundings.
Since going from one edge to the other in Çeşme takes almost no time, cycling is a great way to explore, and the nine neighborhoods of Çeşme are all gems waiting to be discovered.
Of all the neighborhoods around Çeşme, Alaçatı is probably the most vibrant. Along with the perfect wind for surfers, Alaçatı’s cobblestoned streets, centuries-old stone houses with wide gardens, its vibrant shopping scene, chic restaurants and bars, all attract people to the area.
As you go down to the seaside, the area called Port Alaçatı, you will discover the enormous surfing potential. Windsurfers from all over the world flock to this area and international competitions are held in the area because of the perfect wind and water conditions.
For lifestyle experience, head to Hacımemiş, the charming neighborhood where designer boutiques, vintage shops, and artisanal product retailers reside side by side. The vivid nightlife scene of Çeşme has moved to Alaçatı in recent years. Summer nights are filled with pre-drinks in Hacımemiş neighborhood and parties until dawn in Port Alaçatı.
Overflowing with people during summer, Köşe Kahve is the places to go for a morning Turkish coffee. Köşe Kahve, 1005 Sokak No.4; T: 0232 716 04 13
From ice cream to traditional dessert, you can taste mastic in many ways around the Çeşme peninsula. Try them at Veli Usta ice cream shop in Ilıca, or buy mastic-flavored goods to take home at Alaçatı Imren shop and bakery. Veli Usta, Uğur Mumcu Caddesi No.1. Alaçatı Imren, Kemalpaşa Caddesi No.65
Book a dinner table at Sota Alaçatı, Viento Hotel’s contemporary restaurant. Its excellent understanding of seafood and sophisticated approach to ingredients result in an exciting combination of colors and flavours. 11039 Sokak No.18; T: 0232 716 95 85
Another good place for dinner, Ferdi Baba restaurant is one of the most famous fish restaurants in the area with branches in Çeşme, Port Alaçatı, and Çeşme Marina.
At Asma Yaprağı, you are welcome to step in the kitchen where all the delicious mezze are displayed and choose what you want. 1005 Sokak No. 50, Alaçatı, Çeşme; T: 0232 716 01 78
Arven wine boutique offers a wide range of local varieties under one roof. Kemalpaşa Caddesi No.106;T: 0232 716 6446
A breath of wind comes from the glistening waters of Aegean and lingers in the vineyards, wafting odors of wine and swaying the leaves of olive trees. This is the wind of Urla, a land to be discovered with biking, hiking, wine tasting, and enthralling local tastes.
Olives and grapes galore
The area’s gastronomy is derived from the abundant fresh fish, wild greens, and locally produced olive oil. The heritage of olive oil making in Urla dates back to the sixth century. A Helenistic-period city of Ionia, Klozemenai’s sole standing remain is an olive oil extraction installation, used to produce oil from olives en mass. There is no other installation preceding this installation and it was restored in the last decade. Still functioning, it’s quite intriguing to inspect the ancient and intricate machinery and watch it in action.
Wine production also has a long history in Urla. Cultivation of grapes dates back to the Ionian times. Today, there are many vineyards and operating wineries in the region. All these wineries are connected to each other with Bağ Yolu (Vineyard Path), and ultimately to the town center. There are signs in the town center to show the biking paths that lead to the wineries. Upon leaving the town, you are left with short, evergreen Aegean trees and the silence of the nature only. You can drop by at each winery and taste the wines.
The Urlice Vineyard Café is where you sit down to enjoy pizza or cheese plates alongside a glass of local wine. İçmeler Mahallesi 1168 Sokak No.7; T: 0232 754 68 59. USCA winery offers a spacious garden and light snack menu that goes well with wine. 8033 Sokak No.1 Kuşçular köyü; T: 0232 759 00 99
Author of six novels, more than twenty plays, and countless poems, writer Necati Cumalı spent his childhood years in Urla and the house he grew up in was turned into Necati Cumalı Remembrance and Culture House (Necati Cumalı Anı ve Kültür Evi), showcasing his personal belongings, books, posters of the plays he wrote, and many more. Necati Cumalı Caddesi No.28, Urla
Urla-native Giorgos Seferis is a Nobel-prize winner poet who published 10 poetry books along with his works in prose and translations of Greek texts into English. The house where Seferis spent the early years of his life was restored and now operates as Yorgo Seferis Hotel and art gallery. İskele Caddesi, No. 49, Urla; T: 0232 752 04 14
In the convivial town of Urla, every street has something scenic and historic to offer. Yet, there is one street—Sanat Sokağı—in particular that offers arts, crafts, and antiques in an environment surrounded by olden, stone Greek houses.
Stop by Uzbaş Arboretum for ta stroll among their impressive cultivated trees for some landscape architecture inspiration.
Serving Turkish breakfast classics, Çınaraltı Cafe is a popular breakfast spot. An Izmir area specialty, boyoz, is the best way to start the day. Demirciler Koyu Yolu, Urla; T: 0232 764 81 90
Mostly eaten at breakfast, Katmer is a local specialty prepared with thin flake pastries that comes with cheese, minced meat, potatoes, and seasonal wild greens. Ege’nin Lale Katmercisi is conveniently located in the Malgaca Market. Malgaca Pazarı No.23, Urla; T: 0232 754 52 79
Perfect for a coffee break from your trip, Izmir-based third wave coffee shop Baristocrat has a roastery in Urla. Necati Cumalı Caddesi No.37, Urla; T: 0232 754 78 11
Beğendik Abi offers great examples of Turkish home cooking prepared with seasonal and local ingredients. Tatar Cami Sokak No.12, Urla; T: 0232 754 20 71
One of the newest destination chef restaurants in the area, Od:Urla checks all the boxes as far as culinary trends are concerned, including its use of local produce, a farm-to-table approach, as well as several seats at a chef’s table located in the middle of the kitchen. 2018/9 Sokak No.28, Urla; T: 0532 696 39 30
Ayerya Dükkan is an organic certificate shop in Urla featuring all natural olive oil, vegetables, and fruits as well as lavender and olive oil based soaps, all of which come from Ayerya Rüzgarlı Vadi Farm in Urla. Camiatik Mahallesi, Asmalı Çınar Sokak No. 5, Urla; T: 0232 754 45 26
Other vacation towns
As you go up to the north from Çeşme in the same peninsula, you’ll arrive at Karaburun. The town is home to a vast population of goats, and since the resources are plentiful, the milk of Karaburun’s goats is rich in taste. From this milk a local speciality, Karaburun Kopanisti goat cheese, is produced. The locals serve the cheese with olive oil, which the area is also known for.
South of Izmir, there is a slow city: Seferihisar. Adopting the “citta slow” movement–cities refusing globalization, improving the quality of life and protecting the environment – Seferihisar has become an environmentally friendly town, growing its own organic food and implementing solar-powered solutions. Pay a visit to the local markets for the region’s best products.
Moving on from Seferihisar to another city, Aydın, you can visit the ancient stone capital of Ephesus, and the house of Mother Mary. Because the house of the Virgin Mother is considered a place of pilgrimage by most Christians, the area can get crowded during the peak season. An off-season visit will be better for discovering this religiously important site.
The greek island nextdoor
A short distance across the water from Çeşme, and mastic trees, nature, and architecture, Chios Island (Sakız Adası in Turkish) is an island hop that you’ll want to take. The brief ferry ride to Chios is less than an hour long, making it possible to leave in the morning, enjoy some tasty freddo cappuccino and fresh Greek food, and return in the late afternoon.
Where to stay
While the homey ambiance will help you unwind, the location of Kapari Hotel within walking distance from the beaches and surf spots provides a solid base for an unforgettable vacation. Don’t miss a culinary treat that awaits you at the hotel’s sister restaurant, Kapari Bahçe, in the Hacımemiş neighborhood.
With all amenities designed with the guest’s pleasure in mind, Alaçatı Viento Hotel offers modern comfort in an authentic Aegean setting. Viento’s breakfast is already a minor legend in area, even among those who don’t stay at the hotel.
Tucked away between the vineyards, 2rooms Hotel offers, literally, two luxurious rooms to ensure the most amazing stay in Urla.
Radisson Blu Çeşme is where you might want to make your final stop. With access to thermal springs and an extensive spa menu, you will be hitting the road feeling like a newborn.