On Location: Turkey

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TurkeyA week reflected Turkey’s multi-layered identity: historic and modern, seaside and city; an ethnic and religious mélange unified by the warmth of the people. 

Here are some highlights from a recent visit to Turkey:


A holiday and yachting destination gaining recognition as a cruise stop, the peninsula of Bodrum on Turkey’s southwest coast is a perfect complement to the big-city attractions of Istanbul. The stunning coastline of low-rise buildings on terraced hillsides overlooking impossibly blue waters took my breath away during the short drive from the airport to my hotel. Entering the beautiful modern lobby of METT Hotel and Beach resort was another ahhh moment as my eyes were drawn to a huge wall of windows overlooking the Aegean coast. Americans will feel at home in this meandering, 72-room, 31-villa luxury resort, with a helpful and attentive English-speaking front desk staff, good restaurants, beautiful landscaping and many beach and pool lounging options with stunning sea views. The METT’s immaculate spa provided one of my Bodrum highlights: an authentic Turkish Bath treatment in the spa’s Hamman. Lying on a heated stone bench, I was gently rinsed with warm water, exfoliated with a slightly abrasive cloth, then washed with cloud-like layers of soap bubbles that left my skin feeling clean and soft. Even my hair was washed, for a feeling of complete cleanliness at the end of the treatment. A highly recommended new experience for clients! 

Bodrum is all about the sea and is home to 76 blue flag beaches that meet strict criteria for water quality. For a local activity and beautiful coastal views, clients can experience a modern version of a Turkish Gulet, a traditional two-masted wooden sailing vessel with a rounded stern and a broad beam, local to Turkey’s southwestern coast. Our sail took us to three different swimming spots in the crystal-clear sea and included a tasty lunch. 

A must-do cultural experience in the region is a visit to 15th century Bodrum Castle. Overlooking the sea, the castle was a city stronghold for more than six centuries and is now a fascinating museum with 14 exhibition rooms showcasing collections of ancient artifacts and relics from local shipwrecks. 

It’s always helpful to have a local guide. Ours took us to a small village outside of popular tourist spots, where we learned about village life, visited a cooperative rug enterprise where women weave the rugs in centuries-old traditions, and enjoyed a traditional Turkish lunch while sitting on pillows on the floor.  

The food in Bodrum was uniformly delicious. Restaurants here tend to be casual, many with seating on the sand or overlooking the sea. Seafood is a regional specialty, with diners choosing their dinner from a tank of fresh-caught fish. Dinners typically start with a selection of mezes, small appetizer dishes that range from pureed eggplant with tomato to marinated sea bass to dolma, hearty small rollups of stuffed grape leaves or cabbage. I also became a big fan of Turkish lemonade: tart, citrusy, and infused with local herbs.   


Just walking around the streets of Istanbul tells the story of the city’s historic, multi-ethnic vibe. And yet Istanbul also has a modern face. The first stop on my tour was the newly renovated and recently reopened Ataturk Cultural Center. Here, the design pays homage to the original building by leaving much of the existing architecture intact, while also making a striking modernist statement. The huge complex includes four concert halls, a library free to all local residents, a children’s art center, a recording studio and more, many located within what’s known as “culture street” inside the building. 

Another of the city’s new initiatives is a pristine harbor neighborhood and cruise dock called Galataport, with a waterfront promenade open to the public for the first time in nearly two centuries. Upscale shops and restaurants line the promenade, with several heritage buildings on the site being renovated to house the soon-to-be-open, 177-room Peninsula Istanbul hotel, perfect for ultra-luxury clients. The hotel lobby alone, located in the historic Karaköy Passenger Terminal building, is sure to be a showstopper. 

Of course, clients shouldn’t miss Istanbul’s historic sites. We enjoyed a long stroll on famous Istikial Street, teeming with tourists from all over the world tasting the rubbery Turkish ice cream, dining in restaurants located under the street’s neoclassical façades, and shopping for everything from vintage clothing to handmade ceramics. Another historic shopping area was the Spice Bazaar covered market, built in 1664. During our visit, it was densely packed with people stocking up on teas and sweets. We also visited the iconic 6th century Hagia Sophia mosque, one of the oldest holy shrines in the word, recognizable for its vast domes and marble columns. 

If clients have time for only one sightseeing experience in Istanbul, I recommend a Bosporus boat ride, which can also be done on a public ferry. 

My relaxing, 90-minute private sail on the Bosporus strait, with the European part of the city on one side and the Asian part of the city on the other side, was an unforgettable experience. Sailing the middle, we went past historic buildings and green parks, getting a sense of Istanbul’s vastness. Even on a rainy day, the scenery was stunning. As time went on, the huge double rainbow appeared overhead like a gift.  

Turkish Airlines

Flying Turkish Airlines business class Miami to Istanbul made the nearly 12-hour flight super comfy and enabled me to hit the ground running. While the seats on my plane were not in private pods, they fully reclined for a good night’s sleep. The service was friendly and helpful, with flight attendants setting up the beds if passengers wished. Another high point was the cuisine, overseen by a “flying chef” and starting with a plate of delicious mezes. Waiting for my return flight home, I was blown away by the gorgeous, enormous Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul—it was the icing on the cake of a wonderful trip. 

Turkish Airlines continues to grow, with 17 gateway cities in the US and more to come: Newark, Dallas and Vancouver were added in 2021, Seattle in 2022, and Detroit and Denver are expected to launch in 2023. Also new is the resumption of  Turkish Airlines Tour Istanbul program, treating passengers with long layovers in Istanbul to a city tour and meal at a local restaurant, with airport transportation included. In other news, Turkish Airlines has joined The Sunflower Lanyard Project, an initiative that assists 

travelers with hidden disabilities and limited mobility during the flying experience.Sunflower lanyards, which symbolize hidden disabilities around the globe, are given out to passengers who may require additional support from the airline staff. 

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