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Travel

Discovering Datça: Turkey's Secret Spot

The 50-mile-long Datça peninsula has one of the most captivating and unspoilt landscapes in Turkey, peppered with deserted beaches, ancient sites, olive groves, and rocky outcrops that plunge into twinkling turquoise waters. 

Legend has it that Zeus created Datça himself, so majestic are its pine-crested hills and crystal-clear seas. With particularly high oxygen levels, it’s also one of the healthiest places to live. The Greek philosopher Strabo once said: ‘God sent his beloved creatures to Datça for them to live longer.’

The peninsula has long been a go-to spot for well-heeled Istanbulites, but its distance from airports and pockets of undulating national parkland have left it largely undeveloped and much less touristy than the rest of south-west Turkey. 

While the weather stays warm into late autumn, Datça and its splendid environs are best enjoyed over the summer months when the waters sparkle and aromas of almond, thyme, and pine fill the air. In winter many of the most popular spots close due to lack of demand.

The finest hotels tend to book up early, sometimes even a year in advance, so we recommend planning ahead. Whether you want a romantic getaway à deux or a memorable family adventure, these are the best places to see, visit and stay along the Datça peninsula.



STAY

D Maris Bay

For a luxurious and restorative break, it doesn’t get better than the D Maris Bay, a secluded five-star resort at the meeting point of the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas. Perched on top of a rocky cliffside amidst fulsome flora and fauna, the 196-room property offers splendid views across unblemished pine-clad hills and shimmering turquoise waters as well as an excellent range of facilities and activities to suit couples and families alike. The result is a tranquil oasis with a focus on rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. 

D-Hotel Maris

There are five private beaches, extensive sporting facilities including a sailing, surfing, and diving school, a large infinity pool, a kids club, and a luxurious spa with 12 treatment rooms, sauna, and an indoor pool. Yoga, spinning, and exercise classes are held daily in high season. Guests zip about the beautifully pruned grounds by buggy or sea taxi, which both run all-day services).

Rooms fuse contemporary minimalism with Eastern influences to pleasing effect. Think clean lines, dark wood furniture, and travertine-tiled bathrooms with heavenly rainfall showers and Hermès amenities. Plump for one of the sea view suites to enjoy a sundowner on your balcony — or in the bath — with panoramic vistas to write home about. 

D-Hotel Maris

When it comes to food and drink, you’re spoilt for choice. Breakfast is served in the Terrace restaurant until 11am and offers everything you could possibly want, from eggs-any-style to French patisseries, exotic fruits, and local Turkish sweets. Flit between five further restaurants and eight bars for cocktails, lunch, and dinner. Enjoy modern Japanese sharing plates at Zuma or Salt Bae’s Insta-famous steak at Nusr-Et. Those looking to dance the day (and night) away should hail the sea taxi to La Guérite, serving zingy cocktails, Mediterranean tapas, and a good dose of Provencal hedonism.

There’s plenty to keep you busy here, but no trip to the Datça peninsula is complete without a nosy around its forests, bays, coves, and beaches. The concierge can help arrange everything from guided biking and hiking tours to bay-hopping boat trips. Seafarers among you may want to venture further afield to the Greek islands of Symi or Rhodes. 


DO, EAT, DRINK AND SEE

Stroll through Datça

A day trip to the coastal town of Datça is a must. The waterfront has a similar vibe to that of Bodrum but is more rustic and less touristy. Head to the harbour where you’ll see locals swimming amid run-down fishing boats or playing backgammon in sun-dappled bars. Refuel at Sail Coffee, Roastery and Bar, a stone’s throw from the harbour front, before wandering along the pedestrianised path to the main square lined with lively bars and restaurants. Look out for the series of large marble sculptures by popular Turkish artists en route.

Continue along the path and you’ll find a string of affordable beachfront restaurants, serving traditional local fare and delicious fresh fish. Our favourites include Maradona and Kumluk. Nab a table on the beach to watch the waves lap gently onto the shore as you dine. Elsewhere, Culinarium and Eski Meyhane come highly recommended. Those with a penchant for pastries should beeline to Mia Coffee & Bistro on the pedestrian-only Rauf Balik, which is set back a few streets inland.

For a post-lunch dip, head to Hastanealti beach, one of the designated Blue Flag beaches within walking distance of Datça town centre. You’ll find sunbeds and parasols, as well as a beachfront café or two. The sea is extremely shallow here, so it’s perfect for little ones.


Eski Datça

Located less than 5 km north-west of Datça is Eski Datça, a quaint hilltop village best known for its old stone houses, cobbled streets, and craft shops. The pace of life is slow here, making it the ideal spot for morning mooches and lazy, alfresco lunches. Stop by the house of the famous Turkish poet Can Yücel, who spent almost 30 years in Datça, before stocking up on local honey, almonds and olives at Pehlivan. If you’re after a light bite and a glass of vino, look no further than the picturesque Agapi Cafe & Bistro.

Eski Datça is a wonderful place to stay a while and unwind. For laidback luxe, opt for Sur 7 Boutique Hotel, set off the beaten track amid olive trees and blooming bougainvillea. Although the hotel doesn’t have much of a view, the simple yet chic rooms and decent food more than make up for it. If a pool is a non-negotiable, Kocca Ev Hotel is a good choice.

Not surprisingly, Eski Datça draws large crowds in high season. Visit early morning or late afternoon (or in late September or October) to avoid the hordes of Instagrammers.


Knidos

The ancient Greek city of Knidos is one of the jewels of Datça. It straddles the mainland and the island of Triopion at the southern-most tip of the peninsula and was, in Hellenistic times, a shipping stronghold and an important centre of trade as well as arts and culture. According to Pliny the Elder, visitors flocked to the city as early as the fourth century BC to marvel at Praxiteles’ now-lost marble sculpture of Aphrodite.

Knidos fell into ruins through earthquakes, conquests, and looting, but there are notable remains to enjoy – among them floor mosaics, the Temple of Dionysus, and the exceptional sea-facing theatre. Knidos is still remarkably tourist-free and is best enjoyed at sunset. On the way back to your hotel, stop by the UKKSA sculpture garden and gallery, featuring arts and crafts by local and international artists.


Bay-hop along the coast

The best way to experience the peninsula’s dazzling coastal landscape is by car or by boat. In Datça town centre, you’ll find a wealth of local tour companies offering day trips to some of the region’s most spectacular spots, including Armutlu Su bay, Akvarym beach and Dilek Mağarası cave. Domuzbükü is another beautiful cove but it can only be accessed by boat and can get busy in high season. If you’re travelling by car, beeline for Palamutbükü, Kizilbük and Hayitbükü, which are all close to each other and renowned for their outstanding natural beauty. Mesudiye bay is another highlight, as is Ovabükü beach.


Sample local wines

Perched on a south facing, windy hill not far from the town centre is Datça Vineyard, Winery and Guest House, widely regarded as one of the best wineries in the region. Stroll around the vineyards and olive groves, before sampling a selection of their wines on the outdoor terrace. The wine tasting menu is excellent value and can be enjoyed all year round. The Silenus Chardonnay and Cnidus Öküzgözü-Boğazkere come highly recommended. Guest rooms are comfortable, and all have their own private garden and hot tub with sweeping views across the hills to the sea. As a jumping off point to explore the region, it’s ideal.


GETTING THERE

Our best advice is to fly to Bodrum or Dalaman and rent a car, especially if you’re staying outside of Datça town, as taxis are few and far between. A car will also give you more flexibility to pit-stop at the bay, beach, or cove that takes your fancy. As in most mountainous regions, the roads are winding, and often clog up with local farm vehicles or crossing livestock, so be sure to allow plenty of time when travelling from one place to another. (We promise the views are worth the snail-pace and at times hair-raising drives.) If you’d prefer to avoid the roads, you can also explore the coast by boat. In high season, gulet cruises and tourist yachts depart daily from Datça town. For more information about the region, check out the GoTürkiye website.

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