Turkish delight: For millennia, Bodrum has been a wellness-enhancing stop on the Aegean
On the sparkling Aegean in Turkey’s southwestern province of Mugla, Bodrum is a wellness traveller’s paradise that combines natural beauty with Riviera-like amenities (sans any Cote d’Azur attitude). The restorative reputation of the area dates back centuries and is best experienced through visits to a traditional hammam, a brisk splash in the sea or simply taking in the sunset.
A spirit of wellness is deeply ingrained in local culture. The legendary Turkish bath is not only a marble shrine to relaxation and self-care, but also a place where families and friends have long gathered to connect. In Bodrum, just a 75-minute flight from Istanbul, this unique heritage meets striking vistas in a climate of laid-back elegance, ideal for resting, resetting and reinvigorating.
Taking a catamaran cruise booked via Aren Yachting through nearby islands including Orak and Kos of Greece is the best way to experience the region’s storied history, all while basking in the blazing sun and fresh sea air. The Black Island – or Kara Ada in Turkish – is home to a hot spring that’s said to have been enjoyed by Cleopatra when she spent three years on the island hiding from Roman general Antonius. One of the earliest examples of wellness tourism, the Black Island’s reputation as a source for healing saw ships ferrying lumber and grapes to Egypt making a stop to drop off passengers suffering from eye problems, rheumatism and skin diseases. Today, you can’t find much of its legendary healing mud inside its caves, so make sure to pick up a small jar of the stuff on your way in to experience the full Cleopatra treatment.
A gem on the coast, Susona Bodrum is part of Hilton’s LXR hotels and resorts, a group of properties that combine a local feel with an emphasis on luxury. Rooms boast sea-facing balconies with views of a lush landscape that’s perfumed with jasmine. Susona has two swimming pools overlooking the ocean from breathtaking vantage points. Plunging into the Aegean is made even more invigorating when it’s followed by a midday nap in one of the hotel’s private seaside cabanas. Restaurants Frankie Beach Club, Malva and Ezi all specialize in light dishes made with local ingredients. At the subterranean spa, the traditional Turkish hammam treatment is complemented by a menu of Western massages and facials.
Sunsets are a nightly event on the west facing Bodrum peninsula and timing your dinner reservations with their appearance makes for some spectacular tableside entertainment. In a small cove on Bodrum’s coast, Melengec restaurant has an atmosphere that’s nothing short of magic. This open-air space is accessed by a short walk along an unpaved road, where you’ll pass by quaint villas and impromptu live music before dining surrounded by white ahlat trees twinkling with mosaic lanterns and bright pink blooms. A table placed daringly next to the water rewards you with views of a sunset that only gets more stunning as the light dims. Alternatively, Memedof Balik in Yalikavak offers seaside dining on a patio suspended over the water with an equally impressive vantage point and a mouth-watering selection of fresh shrimp and octopus.
Whether you’re arriving in Bodrum by water or still finding your sea legs, docking at the Yalikavak Marina or strolling down its sun trap boardwalk gives you easy access to the city (the site is also equipped with a helipad, concierge services and facilities for superyachts). The extensive open-air shopping destination is filled with a who’s-who of luxury European designer labels, including Loro Piana, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Dior (the latter boasts its own rooftop Champagne bar). For a more local take on Aegean resort style, Turkish fashion retailers Vakko and Beymen are both present here, as is the budget friendlier Yargici, which specializes in eclectic women’s wear and housewares. For an amuse-bouche, the marina recently welcomed the French restaurant Bagatelle, which brings a more Mediterranean vibe to the area.
Bodrum’s ancient elements still weave themselves into daily life in the contemporary city. Dominating the landscape is the famous Bodrum Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 15th-century that’s now home to peafowl, historic artifacts and some of the most photogenic views in town. A visit is best followed by a stroll through the town, a maze of narrow pedestrian streets filled with shops carrying regional specialties such as colourful kaftans, silver jewellery and souvenirs including vibrant blue evil eye charms and backgammon boards. The Bodrum Antique Amphitheatre is a classical Greek theatre that dates to the 4th century BC. Originally used for gladiator battles, today it regularly hosts live performances, including concerts by Turkish musicians such as Sıla, Karsu and Kenan Dogulu, many of whom vacation in the area.
– Caitlin Agnew
Susona Bodrum stays from €600/night through hilton.com. Aren Yachting catamaran day trips from €800 through arenyachting.com. Turkish Airlines operates direct flights to Istanbul from Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, as well as connections to Bodrum. For more information, visit turkishairlines.com.
Just off Antigua: A quick jaunt to Jumby Bay highlights the luxury of feeling close to nature
There’s something about arriving by water. Whether it’s a mahogany water taxi pulling up to a historic palazzo on Venice’s Grand Canal or a car-ferry ride to a far-offshore cabin in the woods, the time spent cruising toward your destination has a way of easing you into the getaway mindset like no airplane, train or tour bus can.
Case in point: the catamaran that shuttles guests between the Antigua mainland and Jumby Bay Island, a private retreat two miles off the Caribbean destination’s northern coast. Even though you know you’re headed to one of the world’s most buzzed about beach resorts (part of the Oetker collection of hotels that includes the legendary Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the south of France and the opulent Bristol in Paris), a quick few minutes at sea crossfades your stress level and sense of anticipation so you disembark more than ready to relax.
True to its recent history as a car-free enclave of oceanfront villas that evolved into the resort it is today, Jumby Bay Island has the feeling of a private estate. Despite ample rolling green lawns, there’s no golf course. Instead, a cruiser bike loop of the 300-acre property reveals tennis courts, an organic farm and secluded beaches.
Oetker took on managing the property in 2017 and its most recent addition are its ocean view suites with their contemporary take on Caribbean architecture, aqua hues and expansive windows that bring the sea into your living space. For larger groups, Oetker also manages a pool of 21 of the island’s private residences. With between four and nine bedrooms and names such as Lazy Lizard and Turtle Crossing, they can be booked and staffed for group getaways.
Hotel guests, however, get to take full advantage of Jumby Bay’s decadent all-inclusive format. Whether at the bar or the main beach, Drappier Brut champagne flows freely. Dining options include the Estate House, a refined spot with curved banquettes, palm murals and a crowd of hotel guests and villa residents that dress up for dinner. Other perks include rum tastings at the beach bar and island circumnavigating tours when you can ogle the local real estate.
All spa visits, gratis wine and other vacation treats aside, what makes Jumby Bay feel special is its ever-present flora and fauna. In the morning, don’t be surprised if the island’s flock of black headed Persian sheep are grazing on the lawn in front of your suite. Cruising back from a snorkelling trip often includes a stop to spot Hawksbill turtles bobbing in the sea (since 1987, the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Turtle Project has ensured its beaches remain a viable nesting ground for the endangered species). While you reluctantly board the catamaran home, it’s these encounters that will be playing in your mind as you plan your return.
– Andrew Sardone
Ocean view suite stays from US$2,295/night all-inclusive through oetkercollection.com.
Mykonos reimagined: Kalesma’s villas are a low-key oasis of Greek hospitality
If you’re looking for a reason to return to the whitewashed brilliance of Mykonos in 2024, consider the spa and cryotherapy plunge pools opening soon at Kalesma. The 27-villa resort is a hidden gem of traditional Cycladic architecture in a quiet corner of the Greek island. The new spa menu is a collaboration with celebrity-approved skincare line Dr. Barbara Sturm and marries the brand’s signature facials with locally inspired ingredients. Its line of serums and creams will be used in the spa’s two treatment rooms and hammam.
Perched over Ornos Bay, each of Kalesma’s marshmallow-like suites are fronted by a showstopping and secluded saltwater plunge pool. The resort was created by fourth-generation Mykonians and each hillside suite has commanding views of the bay and ocean framed by vivid bougainvillea, succulents and herb gardens. Each villa includes an outdoor shower, an ensuite that feels like a private apartment and layouts that invite you to move seamlessly between indoors and out.
The resort attracts many bona fide celebrities whom you might spot at the bar enjoying a quiet drink but every guest is treated like an A-lister and a member of the family. Co-owner Aby Saltiel often makes a point of spending time with guests during dinner, asking about plans for the day and suggesting something better. He also makes sure you try the grilled saganaki, drizzled with local honey and thyme from the garden.
This kind of insider knowledge is essential for navigating often overrun Mykonos and its cruise ship crowds. Hotel staff craft guided tours of Delos, where ruins and the ongoing restoration of the temples of Apollo and Artemis await, create chef’s table cooking classes or book yacht charters to lesser-known beaches including one on the uninhabited island, Rhenia.
Kalesma opened just as the pandemic began. It was unfortunate timing but allowed the resort to fine tune its attention to detail as the world slowly reopened. Built on family land (a stone ring once used as a horse-driven mill is now a fire pit and the chapel is named Saint Dimitrios in a grandfather’s honour), Kalesma is a vision of what its owners always wanted to find in a holiday home. “We will always be independent because that means we don’t have to follow another company’s rules about luxury,” Saltiel says about the hotel operating outside of the corporate parameters of a luxury management group.
Instead, Kalesma embodies the warmth and hospitality that has been Mykonos’ calling card since it was discovered by international vacationers in the 1960s. If you happen to take a hotel shuttle the 10-minute drive to Chora or Mykonos Town and their legendary party scenes, you’ll be guaranteed a soft landing spot when you return to the resort. Sleep off the night on wide lounge beds soothed by the gentle patter of your infinity pool. Breakfast is oh-so-considerately served until 1 p.m.
– Catherine Dawson March
Villas from $1,600/night in low season through kalesmamykonos.com.
Style Advisor travelled to Bodrum as a guest of Turkish Airlines. Style Advisor travelled to Antigua as a guest of Jumby Bay Island. Style Advisor visited Kalesma as a guest of the hotel. The companies did not review or approve this article prior to publication.
Keep up to date with the weekly Sightseer newsletter. Sign up today.