If you’re already feeling like you can’t go much longer without a dose of Vitamin D, now is the time to book your flight to Dalaman on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. In April you can come with confidence knowing that you’re going to get some sun (and the same is true in October).
It’s a perfect place for families, even when the sun is far from guaranteed in other relatively short haul destinations. At the D-Resort Grand Azur in Marmaris, there’s a big play area for children, kids’ activities, a child-friendly restaurant, and a beach right in front of the hotel with every kind of water sport available.
It works just as well as a quick break with friends in need of a few days R&R. It doesn’t offer much in the way of frills and meals in the main restaurant are all buffet style. There is, though, also the Steak & Bar restaurant on the top of the hotel with panoramic views across the bay. And this is a truly beautiful bay with steep-sided wooded hillsides dropping down into a deep blue sea. Islands and headlands, little bays and beaches, harbours and tiny fishing ports – this is one of the prettiest coastlines around. You can hire a boat all to yourself for around three hours to explore this gorgeous coastline for the princely sum of around £60.
Speaking of bargains, the exchange rate of the Turkish lira to the pound means that the spa is a steal. A Balinese massage comes in at £35 (at current exchange rates) for an hour. The whole hammam experience is £30. You could have a treatment every day over a three day long weekend and still get change out of £100.
The hammam experience is clearly a must in Turkey. For a true Turkish bath you go on a journey. Mine started in the steam room – so hot I found it hard to breathe – just to get my temperature up and start to sweat. Because the whole principle of Turkish baths is to get you both cleaner than you’ve ever been on the outside and sweat out all those nasty toxins on the inside at the same time.
So having got my internal heater going in the steam room, I go into the hammam wrapped in a thin towel and lie down on the raised marble dais in the centre, which is gently heated too. This is a big room and it could take a group with ease but it’s just me today so I have the undivided attention of Razir my therapist. She sluices me down with a few buckets of warm water from one of the many taps around the hammam and takes up her mitt. Now this is an abrasive kind of mitt and it scrapes off all that dirt and dead skin and those toxins that are being sweated out of my system. It is not a gentle process. I am slightly alarmed when she uses this on my face and various delicate areas – oh my god, including nipples. But something must be working because a lot really does come off and Razir sluices away throughout clearing away all the gubbins.
Having been thoroughly strigilled – and I’m sure this must be as close to the process favoured by the ever hygienic Romans – next up is cleansing. This is done with a thick covering of bubbles applied all over the body during a process that closely resembles swinging a pillowcase around my body. (Perhaps I was hallucinating in the heat.) My hair is washed too and a combination of the heat and the cleansing means I go running to my room as fast as possible after this is all over to try to sort out what looks like a haystack.
Finally I am rinsed off – at moments we do get close to water boarding – the last rinse being a pretty cool one. Then I’m wrapped up in towels and left to rest for ten minutes while Razir gets ready for the next stage – my massage. Now this includes scented oil and heat (this seems to come from smooth stones in a pouch but don’t ask me – I don’t know what’s going on by this stage.)
There is quite a bit of manipulation in the massage and Razir takes no prisoners when it comes to muscular knots. She also massages my face and scalp (helping along the haystack) and it’s somehow vigorous and relaxing at the same time. Result? Obviously, I’m the cleanest woman in Turkey. On top of that, my skin is like silk and my hair (eventually) feels pretty silky too.
If it’s more of a retox you’re after, there’s a certain street in the old town that is all bars, clubs and tattoo artists which, in the summer season, is jam packed, a bit less so earlier in the year. There are also some pleasant cafes and restaurants, a lovely marina full of super yachts and the old town itself is small but as pretty as a picture. In the centre of it is the castle that dates back to Greek and Roman times though what survives now is mostly Ottoman. Walking along the parapets there is a great view of the harbour, the marina and that lovely coastline stretched in front of you. With a bit of luck, you’ll find it all basking in that early spring sunshine, too.
Price and booking info: Standard Sea view rooms start from £135 per night incl half board. Book online at dresortgrandazur.com. Nearest Airport is Dalaman International Airport.