That’s the question most people ask me after “Where is Alaçatı?” when they learn of my seaside holiday. They list a number of other popular and beautiful destinations in Turkey — Antalya, Konya, Bodrum, and so on — that would have “offered more”.
But that’s exactly why Alaçatı (pronounced ah-lah-chah-tuh) appealed to me; it’s a place where you don’t have to think too much about what to do and where to go.
The whole feel of the resort town is relaxed, almost lazy, and no one seems to be in a rush — neither the residents nor the visitors.
I met my friend who flew in from Doha at the Izmir Airport, from where we took a car to our hotel in Alaçatı.
Two flights and an hour’s drive later, we arrived at the 1882 Butik Otel, our home for the next three days.
Some of the hotels in Alaçatı are named after the year the structure was built; the stone house where we stayed dates back to 1882 but was renovated recently and launched as a boutique hotel in 2010.
We set out to discover the town centre, which could only be explored on foot or on a scooter as no cars are allowed.
The pink and purple bougainvillea, stone houses painted in pastel hues, and sidewalk cafes drew us in further into this picturesque town.
Alaçatı’s history is reflected through the Grecian-influenced architecture and the Santorini blue that’s painted over doors and furniture.
Greek immigrants from nearby islands founded the village, located on the Çesme Peninsula near the Aegean Sea, in the mid-17th century. These Greeks settlers called the town Agrilia, and established vineyards and grape processing factories there.
During the population exchange in the 1920s, Turkish Muslims from the Balkan countries moved to the village whereas the Orthodox Greeks in Turkey moved to Greece.
Most of the old stone buildings were abandoned and for years, Alaçatı remained unnoticed.
In early 2000, renovation of the old houses began, alongside construction of new houses, modelled after the classic architectural characteristics of Çeşme-Alaçatı.
The weather in September suited us perfectly, as a light breeze was signalling winter’s arrival with the summer coming to an end.
Strolling through the town, it was refreshing not to bump into throngs of tourists at every shop and gallery.
Still a low-key destination, Alaçatı is the new, chic summer getaway for affluent Turks, mostly from Izmir and Istanbul, as well as a favourite spot for windsurfing due to its year-round winds.
The town wakes up late and slowly comes to life as most people head to the nearby beaches in the daytime.
Around lunchtime, more people can be seen visiting the shops and restaurants and by evening, the town centre comes alive with music, lights, and chatter.
We came across chic boutiques, designer jewellery, and modern art galleries, which were part of the upscale lifestyle local visitors enjoy.
If you’re looking to buy a few tokens to take back home, head to the shops near the windmills for variety and good rates.
For fresh local produce, spend some time at the Saturday market or stop at the homemade jams and pickled vegetables stalls set up around town.
For your culture fix, admire the art at the many galleries that dot the small alleys; our favourite was the colourful Kirli Çıkı Sanat Galerisi, where artwork of local artists adorned the furniture, entrance door, and courtyard.
In contrast to the rushed Istanbul life, where there are street food vendors at every corner, food in Alaçatı is a leisurely experience that is not to be rushed.
You can spend hours sitting at a streetside café sipping on Turkish tea, enjoy an assortment of mezze over lunch that extends into the evening, or have dinner in one of the hidden courtyard gardens.
The breakfast at our hotel was a delicious spread of white and yellow soft cheese, eggs, tomato and cucumber salad, a variety of jams (plus Nutella!), biber salçası (red pepper paste), black and green olives, and toasted pita with oozing cheese.
Greedy to try as many gastronomic delights as we could, we moved from one eatery to another for lunch, tea and coffee, dinner, and dessert over three days.
You can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants as long as you are willing to try something new and outside the box, but here are my top picks: Asma Yaprağı, where you’ll be taken inside a homey kitchen to choose from a number of traditional mezze (definitely try the special pumpkin) and meaty main courses, which are served in a stylish garden outside; Café Agrilia for inventive dishes (the lamb with red bean salsa and chocolate comes highly recommended) that can be savoured in a beautifully lit courtyard; and Furun Cafe & Patisserie for, of course, desserts, which are as pretty to look at as they are delicious to eat.
Three days later, it was time to say hoşçakal (goodbye) to the sleeping cats and dogs of Alaçatı, who seemed to appreciate the town’s gift of time more than anyone else.
All photos by the author.