Written by: Erin Budmayr
Founder & Luxury Travel Advisor of Life of Travel Company, an Affiliate of Jetset World Travel
I’ve seen pictures showcasing silhouettes of mosques, monuments, and grand palaces splashed along the skyline of Turkey, but there isn’t a single picture I’ve seen that fully encompasses the beauty this country exudes. I was able to visit the varied landscapes of three cities in Turkey, and each was as magnificent and unique from the others.
First up: Istanbul, the city of 2 continents. This bustling metropolis manages to meld the old with the new. Luxurious, diverse, hospitable, eclectic – this city radiates life like no other.
After exiting customs of the newly built Istanbul airport, our private guide was waiting to take us on our way to the stunning Four Seasons Bosphorus. The phenomenally restored 19th-century Ottoman palace is nothing short of luxury. The hotel is located on the European side of the Bosphorus but still offers an impeccable view of the Asian side of the city. Immediately upon stepping into the exquisite lobby, we were greeted with exceptional hospitality that continued throughout our entire stay. True to the high-end brand’s reputation for luxury status, the hotel featured high ceilings in the guest suites, fine furnishings, local treats each night with turn down service, and lavish toiletries. The location is just a few minutes from bustling neighborhoods and just a short 15-minute taxi drive to most of Istanbul’s other major sights, including the Hagia Sofia, Taksim Square, and the Grand Bazaar.
Our experience sitting on the buzzing hotel terrace overlooking the Bosphorus, while sipping a crafted cocktail was truly breathtaking. Though we arrived before the summer season, it was clear the amazing outdoor pool is a crowd pleaser as well. Istanbul has no shortage of beautiful hotels, but the Four Seasons Bosphorus is truly something special.
After Istanbul, we boarded a plane to Cappadocia. Upon arriving in this historic region, I instantly felt like I had escaped the modern world and gone back in time. Everything seemed to move slower and more peacefully.
After an hour’s drive, we made it to Argos in Cappadocia. This once monastery turned boutique hotel sits amidst the fairy tale village of Uchisar, the highest point in Cappadocia. All 51 deluxe rooms and suites are housed in 5-stone mansions and vary in style, but you can expect each of them to have aesthetically pleasing stone walls and furnished with a mixture of Turkish goods and modern amenities. Spacious living areas, an on-site vineyard, and unbeatable sunsets are a few reasons why Argos in Cappadocia quickly became one of the most unique hotels I’ve visited. Every angle of the property offers a wonderful view of the landscape, however I don’t feel as though words or pictures are able to do it justice. The award-winning on-site restaurant, Seki, offers a wide array of traditional Turkish flavors using their own gardens for fruits and vegetables. The Seki Cellar offers outstanding wines that pair exceptionally with their flavorful dishes, and the staff are incredibly knowledgeable about the food and wine options.
We spent our time visiting castles, exploring the underground cities, and hiking our way through spectacular scenery. To this day, residents still own and inhabit the enchanted cave homes that were carved into the rocks generations ago. Getting invited into a local cave home for tea was a definite trip highlight.
I left Cappadocia slightly heartbroken without having checked off a personal bucket list item. Although we planned to take a ride in a hot air balloon, the trip was canceled due to windy weather. However, I just see it as one more reason I need to go back.
The last part of the trip was spent in Bodrum. Located on the southwest coast of the Aegean Sea, this city has become a vacation hotspot known for its opulent resorts and vibrant cultural scene. This twin bay city on the Turkish Riviera offers dramatic coastlines filled with sandy beaches, manicured greenery, and an impressive entertainment scene.
Looking for a little R&R for the last few days, I chose to stay at the Mandarin Oriental Bodrum. The chic and modern design of this hotel is a perfect contrast to its secluded location, and the natural landscape that was intertwined throughout the property. Upon entering the lobby, you’re met with the smiling faces of the accommodating staff offering refreshing drinks adorned with seasonal fruit. But your attention is immediately drawn past the refreshments, and toward the outdoor panoramic views of the Aegean Sea. Once we finished marveling at the flawlessness of the surroundings, our helpful butler escorted us to our spacious suite that offered plenty of impressive amenities, including a large soaking tub and walk out balcony overlooking the sea. Service here is like other Mandarin Oriental properties around the world: perfection. The staff is incredibly friendly and attentive, and always willing to be sure the guests don’t need to lift a finger during their stay.
After settling in, we walked down to Kurochan by IOKI; a seaside restaurant that offers a modern twist to traditional Japanese cuisine. This is just one of the eight restaurants and three bars at this hotel and definitely a must! The real highlight, though, was the breakfast bar. The options were endless and each item was truly mouthwatering. You’ll also find a three-story spa known as one of the best on the Turkish Med with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, private curtained beach cabanas, a pilates and yoga studio, and multiple designer shops right on property. There truly is no reason to leave the resort.
Every day was spent under a cabana by the sea, an ideal resting place for an afternoon nap while watching the yachts and gulets bob from a distance. The beauty of the calm waters, winding roads, limestone cliffs, and sleepy fishing villages allow for an elite holiday destination that’s just as beautiful as anywhere on the Med. There may be a variety of lodging options sprinkled along the peninsula, but there is no other sanctuary quite like the Mandarin Oriental Bodrum.
Turkey exceeded my expectations in every way and I’m already dreaming of the next time I visit again. The people, the food, the culture, and the hospitality were remarkable; there’s not a thing I would have changed.