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Toasting the Turkish Riviera

Now there's another option: the 14-room Ada Hotel, one of the Aegean's most stylish and luxurious hotels. Hidden in the rocky hills behind the village, the Ada looks like a restored Ottoman palace, with massive stone walls, secret stairways, and exquisitely landscaped gardens, pools, and terraces. But it was built just two years ago by Turkish architect Ahmet Igdirligil, a specialist in classic Ottoman design. His pièce de résistance is the hotel's hammam, which would please the most demanding of sultans. The changing rooms—dark wood cabins and cubicles—lead to an even more elegant pre- and post-bath salon with a marble floor, fountain, and terry-covered mahogany chaises; the high, domed ceiling is dotted with stained-glass portholes that create magical lighting effects. But the real prize is the steam room itself: an exotic marbled space with an octagonal massage platform surrounded by gargoyle-adorned basins and lit by candles in chandeliers.

The Ada is owned by Turkish industrialist Vedet Semiz and his wife, Süreyya. "My husband has nine companies, but he likes this one best," Süreyya tells me over breakfast in the columned rotunda off the reception lounge. "Eventually we'd like to have a chain of small hotels in interesting places all over Turkey. We chose Türkbükü for the first one because it has the most beautiful bay in the area—still natural, without many buildings."

Sparing no expense, Süreyya and her husband engaged one of Istanbul's most famous decorators, Hakan Ezer. He combed the country, amassing Anatolian carved-marble fireplaces, Ottoman ceilings, inlaid chests, and priceless carpets. At the same time, Ezer boldly incorporated contemporary furniture to create a hotel that's right up there with Twin Farms in Vermont and the Point in the Adirondacks.

But the Ada is remarkably unpretentious. Its staff—54 people to take care of 14 rooms!—is friendly and proud. At breakfast, I compliment one of the waiters on his crisp beige linen shirt. "I am handsome," he answers playfully, "not the shirt."

Some quibble with the hotel's menu —too many trendy European and Asian entrées, aimed at the upper-class Turkish guests who stay here now. But as more Western Europeans and North Americans discover the Ada, the owners plan to add traditional Turkish dishes.

In any case, there's still much to enjoy—two outdoor swimming pools, a gleaming fitness room, an infinity whirlpool. Down by the sea, the hotel has, not surprisingly, Türkbükü's chicest beach club. And Ada's private pier beyond the patio is set with teak chaises and market umbrellas. If that's not enough, a 45-foot yacht takes guests on day trips and moonlight sails.

Some 128 miles south of Bodrum is the village of Kalkan, an overnight stop on most Turkish Riviera cruise itineraries. Lately, Kalkan has been gaining status as a destination in its own right, especially popular with get-there-first sunseekers from Germany, Italy, and Great Britain.

To reach it by car from Bodrum takes the better part of a day. The road is excellent, and the journey offers up views of pine forests, olive groves, and mountains. Roadside stands sell pine-blossom honey or homemade crêpes; some even provide free car washes using water diverted from melting mountain snow.


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