The rustic and lovely far southwest
The least experience of the booming Bodrum Peninsula, its sea-facing hills covered with boxy white villa developments and its shores lined with beach-club jetties and oligarchs’ mega-marinas, may well shape expectations when it comes to the next peninsula to the south. But Datça could not be more different from its self-regarding neighbour.
This long mountainous spine, extending well west of such Greek islands as Rhodes and Symi, was all but inaccessible except by sea until the access road was dramatically improved some eight years ago; a long tradition of arrivals by boat, mostly by private yacht or by the tiny car ferry from Bodrum, has helped fix the region’s distinctive insular character. The people of the peninsula have a pronounced maverick streak that extends to an inventive cuisine, with dishes you’re unlikely to see elsewhere; try the oddball Fevzi’nin Yeri (Fevzi’s Place) just off the Datça waterfront for pickled caper sprigs, cuttlefish salads, carob puddings and the like. The locals are also nationally famed for their drinking.
While Datça, the 40-mile peninsula’s main town, has seen recent development, the area’s overall feel remains decidedly bucolic. And there’s a strong hint of counter-culture. The stone Greek houses and shaded gardens of Eski Datça, the old town, have been restored with exceptional sensitivity and are now home to Turkish artists and poets, and to increasing numbers of northern European holidaymakers. At sleepy Reşadiye there’s the enchanting Mehmet Ali Ağa Hotel while in a hidden forested cove at the peninsula’s eastern end the Bördubet Hotel is a remote and wonderful Shangri-La which caters brilliantly for families and love-struck couples alike.
The waymarked Carian Trail follows the peninsula’s pristine, often wild shores while the south coast is especially noted for small swimming coves like Aqvaryum, as free of visitors as they are of facilities. There are almond groves and hillsides covered in box beehives the colour of faded denim. Carob trees overhang the dipping road which leads to the end of the peninsula where classical Knydos, a site rich in structural wonders and thickly scattered with ancient pottery shards, rises beside a pair of ancient harbours. The beach at nearby Palamutbükü, true to the peninsula, is the last word in low-key.