Enjoy Alacati an Aegean town close to perfection
At first glance, sun-drenched, breezy Alacati, under an hour from the cosmopolitan city of Izmir and some three hours to the north of Turkey's well known Bodrum Peninsula, looks a little too good to be true. The achingly pretty Aegean town, with its cobbled streets and whitewashed, blue-and-green-shuttered village houses that glow richly under the Aegean sun feels like a prototype of what a Turkish seaside town should look like, and not quite real.
Once you start to wander, however, you notice the idiosyncrasies that make this small town unique. In the same way that a small imperfection can make a flawless face even more beautiful, so Alacati’s rustic features improve this picture-perfect town. Sunlight flowing through a broken wall, an olive oil can filled with flowers, weathered men hawking seafood down at the wharf - these are the unpolished quirks that transform Alacati from a postcard-perfect spot into a place you can lose your heart to.
Alacati was settled by Greek workers in the nineteenth century, who came to the area to establish vineyards. When the Greeks left the area in the 1920s Alacati fell into a quiet slumber, its fine Greek houses slowly beginning to crumble into the earth. While the nearby coastline began to win international fame for its sea breezes, attracting wind surfers from all over the globe, Alacati remained silent. Shepherds herded their goats slowly through the old town, watching the olive trees sprouting through the foundations. It looked like Alacati would go the way of many old Turkish villages, slipping quietly into obscurity. But that was not to be Alacati’s fate.
In the late 90s, an enterprising woman with a vision stepped in. Zeynep Ozis saw the town’s great potential. Ozis, one of the founders of the Alacati Preservation Society, began an ambitious renovation of a 120-year-old Greek mansion, transforming the old stone building into a beautifully renovated hotel. The Tas Otel’s opening in 2001 sparked major interest in the town, and many other entrepreneurs and pleasure-seekers followed suit, lovingly restoring the town back to its former glory and more.
Today Alacati is a hub of tourism and culture. The village, restored to its authentic best, attracts visitors from all over the world. Its cobbled streets come alive in the summer months with festivals and music events, and its shops sell art, boutique goods and local crafts. Its boutique hotels are some of the best in the country and its restaurants among the finest.
Summers are hot in Alacati, but the famously brisk breeze keeps things cool. The beach is just four kilometres from town - far enough to keep the crowds away, but close enough for a refreshing dip on a hot day. A long sandbar extends from the shoreline, creating a 700 metre-long shallow shoreline, ideal for small children and those hoping to try their hand at windsurfing.
As with most of the country the food in Alacati is to die for. But as is fitting for a town that does everything slightly better, Alacati treats food differently: slowly. The slow food movement hit Alacati a few years ago and since then, the town has embraced the “slow” philosophy: taking eating back to traditional ways, utilising local products and just taking things down a notch - an antidote to our fast-food, need-it-now times. Locally-grown produce paired with freshly caught seafood makes for some mouth-watering dishes. Enjoy flavoursome dishes made with sea bass, sea bream, shrimp, octopus and anchovies, sardines wrapped in vine leaves, accompanied by stuffed squash flowers, steamed samphire and pinto beans in olive oil, as well as the rich olives for which the region is famed.
Alacati’s quality shops and establishments command higher prices, which means that it doesn’t attract package holiday tourists, but those who are looking for quality and are willing to pay for it. While visitors tend to come from other parts of the country - like Izmir and Istanbul - international tourists are starting to arrive. And with the tourists, of course, come the property buyers.
A number of new developments have sprung up around the town, all tastefully built to retain the “village” feel of the area. There are also a number of beautifully renovated stone houses in Alacati village itself, a perfect way to holiday or live in an authentically Aegean way. Luxury holiday homes for sale in Alacati are also in demand, creating a healthy rental market for those who wish to earn income from their Alacati property.
Visitors say that life in Alacati moves slowly, and that it’s so laid back that time slows down, with indolent summer days stretching on forever. Some might say that this makes for the perfect holiday destination. Others might argue that perfection doesn’t exist. And that might be true, but surely Alacati is as close as you can get.