When East Meets West

Turkey’s hotels and sights artfully blend contrasting cultures

By: Judy Koutsky

Straddling East and West, modern and traditional, Turkey is a country like no other. Istanbul is the only city in the world that sits on two continents, Asia and Europe. The mixture of these two cultures can be found in the mosques and minarets that dot the skyline, European shops and restaurants that line the streets and traditional Turkish cafes found in Old Town, where the coffee is strong and sweet.

The country has long since been a draw for travelers looking for the so-called exotic combined with the comforts of the West (English is spoken everywhere, food choices include many Western dishes and hotels offer amenities found in top resorts around the world).

For business travelers, Istanbul offers a variety of high-end hotels, including The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul, where the views of the Bosphorus Straight and the continent of Asia are seen from panoramic windows. While a modern-looking hotel from the outside, cherry-wood floors, miles of marble, silk bedcovers and Murano chandeliers evoke the grandeur of the Middle East from a bygone time.

Thirty minutes from the airport, the hotel is near a variety of top sights including the Blue Mosque, one of the architectural masterpieces of the city; the Grand Bazaar with over 4,000 shops; and the Topkapi Palace, which served as the seat of the Sultan into the 19th century.

While Istanbul has the hustle and bustle of a large urban city, Bodrum, a popular Turkish resort town located on the Aegean Sea, offers a more laidback experience. Until recently, this area was visited mainly by Turks the Bodrum Peninsula attracts over 60 percent of its tourism from within the country which is great because “follow the locals” is a motto I often find very useful when traveling.

The whitewashed town literally looks like a postcard, the buildings sprawling down a hillside and stretching toward the sea. Seaside cafes line the promenade with offers of freshly caught sea bass, a variety of mezes (Turkish appetizers consisting of yogurts, vegetables and meats) and raki, the local beverage (an alcoholic drink distilled from raisins and then redistilled with aniseed).

The Marmara Bodrum, a member of the Small Leading Hotels of the World, is a great bet for those looking for luxury. Perched on a hill overlooking the city and the sea, the beautifully decorated hotel boasts art objects from all over the world. The two large swimming pools, fantastic spa, outdoor terrace restaurant and chart-topping views make this hotel a real find.

Alternately, for an intimate experience, clients may wish to stay at the Ada Hotel, Turkey’s only Relais & Chateaux property. With only 14 rooms, the spacious presidential suite has a private deck pool, two bedrooms and a fireplace. The hotel also boasts its own wine cellar, two restaurants and a Turkish hammam (bath). Private meeting, seminar and conference facilities are available.

After Bodrum, many travelers head to the lively city of Antalya, known as the Turkish Riviera (aka the Turquoise Coast). Resting between the Mediterranean Sea and the Taurus Mountains, this region not only features spectacular scenery, but it offers the opportunity to visit some of Turkey’s most famous ruins. The Roman amphitheater of Aspendos, where concerts are still given (a few years ago, Shakira sang to a sold-out crowd there) and the ancient city of Side, whose ruins from the Hellenistic era are scattered amid miles of sandy beach, are two of the most visited sights in Turkey.

A short distance from Antalya is the town of Belek, home to the Kempinski Hotel The Dome Belek, which houses the Antalya Golf Club, one of the best golf courses in Turkey. (A fully equipped golf academy gives individual and group lessons.) Towering umbrella pines, crystal-clear lakes and snow-capped mountains provide the backdrop as the golf course winds through the forest of Belek.

Miles of clean, white beaches offer expansive views of the sea, while the enormous swimming pool, consisting of interconnecting lagoons, adds to the leisure opportunities. The three-bedroom villas offer views of the golf course and mountains beyond. The spacious rooms feature Fendi furniture, a separate kitchen, a private swimming pool and garden, butler service and buggies to be used throughout the stay. The resort also has one of the largest spas in Turkey. With several restaurants, cafes, conference rooms and wireless Internet, The Dome is great for business and leisure travelers.

Considering the depth and breadth of what Turkey has to offer, it’s ideal for those looking for a touch of the exotic with the creature comforts of home.


Turkish Culture and Tourism Office

Ada Hotel

Kempinski Hotel The Dome Belek

The Marmara Bodrum

The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul

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