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Spring Getaways

Checking In: Maçakizi, Bodrum, Turkey

Maçakizi put Bodrum on the map. When Ayla Emiroglu first moved to the area in the 1970s there was little more than a few simple houses, cafés, and stray cats. But its rustic charm and turquoise waters soon captivated her imagination. In 1977 she opened a small guesthouse in downtown Bodrum that boasted her sophisticated interiors and distinctive take on laid-back luxury. Maçakizi, meaning Queen of Spades, soon became one of the hottest destinations in the Mediterranean, attracting intellectuals, artists, and glitterati alike.

The hotel is now run by Ayla’s son, Sahir Erozan, who relocated Maçakizi to its current Türkbükü location in 2000. Harnessing his mother’s vision, he renovated the hotel with the demands of a new generation of luxury traveller in mind. The result is a chic home-from-home with a focus on top-notch food, delicious cocktails, and a bohemian brand of Turkish hedonism.

Surrounded by pine-clad hills, Maçakizi is spread haphazardly across four levels, each boasting gorgeous views of the shimmering sea below. For maximum wow-factor, descend the meandering stone stairs to the shoreline with fabled pontoon decking and uninterrupted vista across the bay.

The hotel has 73 rooms, of which 21 are suites and villas, a decent-sized pool framed by pretty blossoms and shrubs, a freshly opened screening room, two restaurants, as well as open-air treatment rooms, and countless secluded spots to eat, drink, and while away a sun-drenched afternoon.

For a super-luxe experience, check-in to Villa Maçakizi, a private hire just 10 minutes away from the hotel by boat. It has 10 elegantly designed rooms, ample entertaining space, a pool, cellar, and delicious food courtesy of Chef Carlo Bernardini. Oh, and did we mention the 24/7 butler service?

While the summer months are the best time to visit Maçakizi, the hotel is now open all year round. In the winter, you’ll find guests cocooned in cosy blankets or huddled around the fire pit, sipping raki while stroking the hotel’s motley crew of cats and dogs. Not surprisingly, it’s quieter outside of high season, which makes it the perfect winter escape for couples seeking romance and seclusion.

The Vibe

Happily, Maçakizi has retained the boho-chic spirit that made its name all those years ago. It feels more like a friendly members’ club than a hotel, where well-heeled Istanbulites rub shoulders with models, A-listers, and Euro yachters. Rumour has it that Kate Moss checked in after a stint at nearby LifeCo (the famed detox retreat), leaving days later in Sahir’s boat with Naomi in tow. They were late for their flight, or so the story goes, so Sahir stepped in.

It’s this can-do attitude that keeps loyal guests coming back for more. During the day, you’ll find Sahir chatting to guests, cigar in hand, and well-dressed waiters refilling glasses long before being asked. Bronzed bodies recline poolside or chatter on padded lounges by the sea, cocktail in tow. The pace is slow here, so lazy, long lunches often morph into drinks, even dinner. But that’s the Maçakizi way.

Come evening, the vibe shifts up a gear: while the DJ spins Euro beats, Caroline Herrera sandals are swopped for Louboutin wedges. (With the hilly terrain, it’s best to avoid heels at all cost.) Hotel guests mingle with glamorous locals who waft in for a pre-dinner tipple or a night of cocktails, good food, and dancing. The DJ calls it a night when the last guests have gone to bed…

The Rooms

Rooms are decorated in powder white with light wooden furniture, but the vibrant wall art and patterned Rifat Özbek cushions add a warmth that makes them feel homey rather than stark. The French, king-size beds, sumptuous linens, duck-down pillows, and remote-controlled black-out blinds make for a heavenly night’s sleep. For added privacy, request an Upper Deck Room, as they are located furthest from the buzz below.

All rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and a private balcony or terrace, 27 of which have views of the Aegean, where you can sit back and soak up the Maçakizi magic. We particularly loved the travertine-tiled bathroom, complete with fluffy white robes and Acqua di Parma toiletries. There are no baths here, but the powerful rainfall showers more than make up for it. We promise.

The Little Extras 

Waltz around the magnolia and oleander planted gardens before treating yourself to an energising facial or relaxing massage in the Nuxe spa. Hammams, bespoke treatments, and personal training sessions in the small but well-equipped fitness centre can all be booked upon request, as can the hotel’s private yacht. Paddle boards and other water-sporting equipment are available to book during the summer months.

Left your sunglasses behind? Don’t panic. The on-site boutique (only open during the summer) sells everything from designer kaftans to ceramics and suitcases. Even the Rifat Özbek cushions are up for grabs.

What really sets this hotel apart, though, is its above-and-beyond staff who always remember your name and stop to say hello. Some have been there since the beginning; others come from afar to see what the hype’s about; but all will ensure your stay is as comfortable as it is enjoyable.

The Food + Drink

Behind the menu is Turkey’s star chef, Aret Sahakyan, who came to Maçakizi with Sahir in 2000. Expect flavours from around the world blended in innovative and creative ways.

For breakfast, which is served until 11AM, tuck into Turkish pastries, homemade granola, and dried fruits before ordering eggs cooked the way you like and a Turkish coffee, if you’re feeling brave.

Long lunches by the pool are a Maçakizi must as are sundowner margaritas by the sea. For dinner, opt for seafood: the octopus comes highly recommended. Need a late-night snack? Look to Maçakizi’s signature dishes, notably manti (egg pasta dumplings with ground beef) and lahmacun (a thin pizza topped with tomato and spiced lamb).

Guest chefs and pop-ups are popular here, so check in advance if you’re keen to try something new. When we went, the hotel was hosting a gastronomy weekend celebrating women chefs from across Turkey. Each of the five courses were prepared by a different chef and paired with a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne. The star of the show was, without a doubt, Müge Ergül Karaca’s starter of succulent shrimp with mandarin and fennel. But we’re glad we saved room for dessert: the cardamon-avocado mousse with chocolate brownie and pomegranate sauce was quite delicious.

The To-Do List

In addition to guest DJ sets, movie nights, spa treatments, and themed dinners, Maçakizi hosts a curated programme of exhibitions and events.

There’s very little reason to leave Maçakizi but nearby Türkbükü offers plenty of good local fare if you’re after a change of scene. (The staff are more than happy to give recommendations.) Boat excursions can be booked on request – the Greek islands of Patmos, Leros, and Kos are all within sailing distance – and the centre of lively Bodrum is only a 45-minute drive south. Cars, tours, and transfers (including the hotel’s private seaplane) can also be organised on request.

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