Alaçati is a Turkish town with a Greek history that today blurs the boundaries of both. It’s a popular place for both tourists and locals to enjoy lazy days by the beach and busy nights in the bars and restaurants that line the cobbled streets. This way of life appeals to us…We loved Alaçati and will definitely return.
History explains the conflict…
In the 1830’s a well known Turkish family reached out to the Greek families on nearby Chios Island whose homes and livelihoods had been destroyed by earthquakes and offered them work in the vineyards and olive farms. Alaçati was built on a swamp and malaria was thriving in these conditions, so the Greeks also helped build a channel to drain the swamp.
The workers set up a town…Alaçati, and built the traditional Greek stone houses that still remain today. With its fertile soils producing excellent vineyards and great wines, the town became and important trading centre and flourished until after the Balkan War in 1914 when Bosnian and Albanian immigrants came to Alaçati. The Greeks started to leave. In 1923 a formal ‘exchange agreement’ was signed returning the Turkish Muslims in Greece to Turkey and the Orthodox Greeks in Turkey to Greece.
What to do in Alaçati
Explore the town
As you walk around the town, you really do feel as though you are in Greece. The old stone houses have been beautifully restored. Painted shutters and doors are covered in rambling bright coloured bougainvillea. Many of the homes have been converted to hotels whilst others are now trendy boutiques, bars and cafes.
Explore the side streets that run off Kemal Pasa Street, the main street of the town that is home to many of these bars and restaurants. Wander up to the 19th century windmills that overlook the town.
At the Town Square turn into the side street and head towards the mosque. Follow the winding street on the right hand side that will take you past two of Alacati’s best restaurants and into the Haci Memis Quarter. The old wooden homes and stone buildings have been restored and are now fabulous antique shops, interesting boutiques and busy cafes and bars.
At night, the streets that were quiet during the day are busy. There’s a party atmosphere in town as people head to the bars and restaurants that spill onto the street.
The Saturday Market
Every Saturday the farmers market comes to town. Vendors come from far and wide bringing their locally grown produce to town. It’s large market. It takes over several streets in the town. The produce is some of the freshest produce I have seen, with sellers spending time proudly displaying their wares. I watched one vendor as he hand polished each tomato and stacked it neatly on display. There’s also a textiles and clothing market at the back of the market but it is the fresh produce that most come for.
The fish market
The daily fish auction is fun to see. Fish caught overnight are bought to the market and expertly sorted into parcels of approximately one kilogram. These numbered lots are then auctioned off to the highest bidder. Go about 10.30 am to catch the action!
Alaçati has been the home of windsurfing since the nineties and is now one of the most important windsurfing centres in the world. The strong winds that prevail here have bought windsurfers of all abilities to its shores. Don’t worry about bringing your board to Alaçati, windsurfers can be hired and lessons taken.
Being in the centre of the Cesme Peninsula, Alaçati is surrounded by the water. Its beaches are all are within easy reach. To the north is the sandy, Ilica Beach whilst beach clubs are found along the southern shores. Our favourite was Klum Beach Club where clear waters and a beautiful sandy beach encourage you to lounge all day on bean bags or rent a shaded waterfront bed.
Wine tasting at Urla
The Cesme Peninsula has become an important wine producing area again returning to the days when the Greek workers were cultivating the land. One winery not far from Alaçati is Urla Sarapcilik Winery, a stunning modern winery that produces award winning bio dynamic wines.
The discovery of vineyards over 1000 years old on his property motivated owner Can Ortabas to establish his own vineyards. Today Urla Sarapcilik Winery is one of the leading vineyards in Turkey. The winery is a beautiful modern building with an ultra modern production plant. There is even a two room hotel in the building with stunning views over the vineyard.
You may be heading down the coast but if not, a visit to Ephesus is not out of the question….you could be there in just under two hours! If this is your only chance to see this UNESCO listed site, you may want to take it! It took us about two hours to see the sights without a guide. Don’t miss seeing the Terraced Houses which require a separate payment. For us, they were the highlight of Ephesus.
Where to Eat
Two restaurants stand out from the crowd, both showcasing the fabulous produce that we saw at the markets but in different ways.
The display of fresh produce sitting on a table outside the restaurant is more than enough to tempt you inside but the if you’ve done your research on eating in Alaçati you will also know that this is one of the best restaurants in town. We popped into make a booking and wanted to stay. Fresh local greens, peppers and eggplants were being chopped and diced….I couldn’t wait to try the dishes they were being cooked.
That night as we sat in the courtyard garden, the anticipation grew. I didn’t realise that we would be returning to the kitchen to choose our entree from the fabulous selection of meze dishes that now covered the table. Traditional cooking at its best.
Even though this was a meal in itself, once I had seen and smelt the slow cooked lamb, I knew I had to try it. I was not disappointed! A superb meal.
My only disappointment that was they were booked out for the following nights were were in Alacati. The restaurant is very popular, especially in summer so make sure you make a reservation well ahead of time.
Agrilia may be the historical name of Alaçati but the food here is both modern and inventive. There is a strong Italian influence in the dishes by chef Melih Teksen.
The courtyard setting is romantic, the food sensational. My pasta dish took me back to Italy but the fig dessert was pure Turkey. You can’t beat the taste of Turkish figs!
Since our visit to Alaçati, there is a third restaurant that I’d like to let you know about. Chef Olga Irez and her husband Özgür have opened a restaurant called Babushka. I met Olga and Özgür at Özgur’s family home in Sapanca where we spent a week with them and photographer David Hagerman visiting the local markets, cooking and experiencing her delicious food. Olga is an avid fan of using the fresh local ingredients and I’m sure the food at their restaurant is just as good.
Where to stay
The first of the boutique hotels, the Tas Otel opened its doors in 2001 and now there are over 100 hotels in the area.
The Tas Otel is still one of the best. Staying in this small boutique hotel is like staying in a private home. Infact this 120 year old stone building was once a private mansion. A peaceful garden surrounds the pool and the outdoor tables are the perfect place to sit and enjoy the afternoon tradition of tea and freshly made cake. The cakes are famous and all feature in the beautiful cook book that is waiting for you in your room. They were the reason I was back at the hotel by 5!
Do you have a special town you’d like to go back to? I’d love to hear where it is!
Other posts you may enjoy reading:
The Secret of finding the Best Turkish Small Hotels
Highlights of our Turkey Road Trip
Istanbul for the First Time Visitor
What to do in Istanbul