NOMADasaurus featured my article titled Beginner’s Guide To Backpacking In Cyprus. The article covers the highlights of our time in Cyprus and what cities and sites you should see. The article covers sites in and near Paphos and the navigating the divided capital of Nicosia. There is an in-depth guide for the country info and all the where to stay, eat, and when to go!
NOMADasaurus is Australia’s biggest adventure travel blog. Travel writers and photographers Alesha Bradford and Jarryd Salem aim “to inspire people to seek out new adventures and meaningful travel experiences.”
Cyprus wins major historical points. By legend, this 9,250 km island is the birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. However, the modern enmity between its Greek and Turkish inhabitants rivals ancient Greek mythology with its continued reconciliation efforts today.
In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus twice and after the 2nd invasion, both parties established the ceasefire which is known as the Green Line.
Both sides effectively partitioned the United Nations troops patrolled this “Green Line” dividing the two parts: the northern third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots.
Both Turkish and Greek people were moved hastily to their matching nationality’s side and until 2008, the border remained closed due to the Turkish occupation of the north side of the island.
Neither the United States nor any country, other than Turkey, recognizes the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.
Sprinkled with castles, churches, monasteries, mosaics, white-sand beaches along the blue seas, Cyprus is also a land for romantics.
Mondays can be busy and overwhelming to the senses. You want to start the week off right and avoid distractions… find some flow for your work. So in honor of busy Mondays everywhere, today I bring you a wordless lookbook reminiscing some warm summer days!
But before you start, just a quick explanation. Turkey has a huge coastline! The north, west, and south all border major seas. One of the best summer day trips is renting a boat with friends and taking a small tour (about 5 stops) along parts of the coast. This tour was with Teos Tur out of Sağıcık, a city on the southwest coast.
After meeting our captain about 9 am, we headed out for the day stopping along different coves and enjoying the landscapes. At each stop there is time to swim, explore, sunbath, and snorkel. Definitely bring your water games, snorkeling gear, and floaties!
The captain provides tea and coffee, but we bring any food we would like to eat throughout the day. Our group decided to only do lunch together (although the Turkish way would be to do breakfast and lunch). Our friends brought kofte(meatballs) and kebabs from the local butcher that the captain grilled for us when we were ready. Everyone brought a dish to share: bread, fruit, salad, etc. It also happened to be just before Jason’s birthday this year. We brought a cake to celebrate. Nothing fancy, but it is always fun to have a mid-day meal in your swimsuit between the dips in the sea!
The grounds of Ayasoluk Hotel look as if they have always been there. The wooden gate entrance built into the stone wall opens up to a small courtyard with old sewing desks transformed into a sitting area. The arching vines draped over the path as it curves around the first building, housing 8 rooms and the reception office, opens up to a large terrace complete with a pool, bar and restaurant, and an outdoor sitting area with a view overlooking the historic landmarks of Isabey Mosque, the Basilica of St. John, and the Temple of Artemis.
You would never guess that these homes weren’t here 100 years ago. The detail of design and choices of woodwork and masonry makes the home look extremely well renovated at best. But that is far from the truth. The owner started this mix of a modern and antique hotel from the foundation and worked slowly over four years to create his lifelong dream.
Since 5 years of age, the owner of Ayasoluk, Aydin Can, has been in the business of selling carpets through his father’s shop in eastern Turkey. After leaving to attend school in Istanbul, he later wanted to continue his father’s carpet business in Selçuk near the Aegean coast and in 1999 started Black Sheep Carpets selling quality rugs to people all over the world. His specialty is working with clients to find the right rugs for their space and home.
Our group, another couple and us, planned to attend the annual ballet at the 2,000-year-old antique theater in Ephesus. Having only made day trips to Ephesus, we decided to make a weekend of it and booked two rooms at the Ayasoluk hotel in the nearby city of Selçuk. After work on Friday, we drove an hour and a half hour down the hotel to drop off our belongings, enjoy dinner, and head to the ballet just five minutes away.
Before arriving at the hotel, Aydin’s wife, Sarah, who is also from the USA, was friendly and quick to respond to my emails. The staff is like their family and they consider any guests like family as well. I loved hearing Sarah’s story about how she met Aydin at his carpet shop on a field-study trip four years ago. She has been here through the last year of construction and first 3 years of the hotel. Now you can find her or one of the staff entertaining their newest family member, Aydin’s and Sarah’s joyful 6-month-old son. Their hard work and vision have paid off. The Ayasoluk family has a knack for making any guest feel at home in their well-loved and laid-back atmosphere.
Our deluxe queen rooms were a mix of modern with details of an older Greek style. The owner used stone throughout the hotel design including the outer wall of our room. Inset to the wall is a small arch design with custom painting, but it feels like it could have been used for candles to light the room in the evenings long ago. Even the self-regulated air-conditioner/heater is indiscrete and flows with the room design so you never even notice it.
The tinted windows and doors to our room opened up straight to the pool and outdoor sitting area allowing us to enjoy the serene waters and views without losing any privacy. Not normally said about a hotel, the best part about the room was our bed. Each room has a custom-made mattress, and we slept through the night like we were at home. Even though we didn’t use them, the flat screen TV, a desk, and safe are available for those who want to relax or work in their rooms.
The hotel is larger than it seems with 17 rooms total, each created with its own flare and individual design. Some rooms are customized for families with children. The Cumbali, or Bay Window, Room has a perfect reading nook that also doubles as a child’s bed. Perhaps you don’t have children, but just want a little extra room, this would be your choice to book as it has more living area.
The mini fridge comes with 2 complimentary bottles of water and the bathrooms are stocked with toiletries. Free Wi-Fi access and parking are available for all guests. Additional services can be found throughout the hotel such as a private guided tours of Ephesus and a private airport shuttle. If you are looking for a weekend retreat, the hotel provides a complimentary breakfast from 7:30 am to 10:30 am in their Ayasoluk Restaurant which also is available for dinner from 5 pm to 11:30 pm.
Due to limited time, we were so thankful to have a restaurant at the hotel. With the sunset view and the cozy atmosphere, it was an easy choice to make. Our group decided to order family style and share from the traditionally styled Turkish menu. The mixed meze, or appetizer, a plate with bread and french fries was followed by a grilled chicken kebab and grilled lamb kebab plate, each served with grilled veggies and Turkish rice. The restaurant prides themselves on using only fresh and local produce. Local wines and other alcoholic beverages are available to accompany the meal as well. After enjoying our delicious meal, the customary offering of Turkish tea, or herbal tea for those who don’t drink caffeine at night, was enjoyed by all.
Our late night out at the ballet was rewarded with the soft, comfortable bed in a quiet neighborhood. We fell straight to sleep and enjoyed sleeping in the next morning thanks to the blackout curtains. The only downside was a lack of blankets for the size of the bed, but this was the first cool night of the season where one would have actually needed a blanket. Had we not been so tired, we may have called for more blankets, and they would have happily provided them.
The next morning, our group enjoyed a buffet of Turkish style breakfast. Boiled eggs, borek (a savory pastry), tomatoes, cucumber, an arrangement of cheese and olives, bread and jams, all greeted us ready to be self-served. I was delighted to find my favorite, sigora boreği, a fried savory pastry stuffed with cheese. While Turkish çay is the choice of drink for breakfast, our American choice of coffee was happily satisfied with fresh filtered coffee.
After breakfast, we toured the rug company, Black Sheep Carpet. The marble stairs led us down to the well-lit, high ceilings, and beautifully designed basement room displaying the diverse assortment of colors and types of rugs. Even now, after having graduated with two degrees in engineering, he continues his beloved rug business in his family operated hotel and restaurant. While we didn’t buy any rugs, I saw first hand how Aydin’s two businesses “combine his great taste in carpets with a great heart for hospitality.”
We were sad to see our morning come to an end when we said farewell to the staff. The hotel is a perfect location for exploring the town and we did just that. The rest of the day was spent exploring the open air museum of Ephesus by day, Mary’s house, Grotto and the Seven Sleepers, and St. John’s Church… which was much more work than any of our time at the hotel!
To make a reservation, book via their website, email for questions about the rooms, or call the numbers below.
[DISCLAIMER: I was not paid for this post. However, I did receive a media rate from the hotel as a travel writer. After our stay, I trust the owners, Aydin and Sarah, and am happy to recommend this hotel. One of the purposes of our website is to highlight Turkey, the local people, and try to help their businesses. At the same time we take the trust we have with our readers very seriously and will not recommend businesses/activities we do not think our readers will enjoy regardless of the friendship we create along the way.]
If you listened in to our recent podcast episode033 about our top 10 favorite Turkish foods, then you know that food has been and always will be a big deal in Turkey. As new trends are opening up in Turkey, we are seeing more and more festivals dedicated to learning about specialty gourmet foods (example: Izmir Chocolate Festival and Organic Bazaar at MaviBahçe). The recent new GastronomIzmir Festival at MaviBahçe is not going to be left behind!
On May 13-17 Izmir held it’s first ever GastronomIzmir Festival at MaviBahçe Mall. No entrance fee was required to take part. The festival organized tents, stages, tables and chairs in the middle of the open air mall for guests to enjoy. Throughout the 5 day event, free workshops, presentations, awards, and music were scheduled for everyone to enjoy. Every few hours, sponsors passed out yummy mini size food to the attendees. If you wanted to explore further, participating restaurants within the MaviBahçe Mall contributed a special menu item you could enjoy that week.
Since we came to the start of the festival, most stations were still setting up, but we did enjoy a warm sandwich, music, part of the first workshop, and snapped some pictures. Hopefully next year will bring a 2nd annual GastronomIzmir Festival!
Enjoy a short video below!
Did you go to this festival?
Would you got to something like this in the future?
Our trip to the Urla was a perfect day outing. The summer season and crowds are starting to flow into the more coastal areas. So, knowing this, we headed to the Urla Artichoke Festival super early to beat the crowds. After a few hours of exploring all the festival had to offer and still time left in the day, we decided to pop over to popular, colorful little town of Alaçatı.
Funny enough, Alaçatı use to be just a passerby town for foreigners as they made their way to the more attractive Çesme beaches. Over time, this quiet little town with its’ crystal clear beaches has come to grow in popularity – with boths foreigners and Turks alike. Ironically enough, most people don’t come here for the beautiful beaches, but they spend most of their time getting lost in the town center a couple of kilometers inland. As well, every spring the town host the Alaçatı Herb Festival, and tour buses of people are brought in (even from Istanbul!) to experience this.
Once a Greek town, the Aegean city of Alaçatı is situated on the western coast of Turkey south of Izmir. Before the Balkan wars, vineyards use to be the popular income, but after the “Greece/Turkey exchange agreement” in 1923 when the Greeks and Turks move back to their ‘homelands’, tobacco and livestock took its turn. Over time the tobacco industry died out in the area just in time for windsurfing to start becoming popular in the 1990s.
The town is know as the ‘home of wind god’ and is a perfect location for windmills and its windsurfing. The town itself showcases unique architecture made of the local Alaçatı stone and colorfully painted, flowering shops and restaurants are the major appeal for tourist and photographers alike. The historic old town is full of narrow winding streets which are mostly pedestrians only, even though a few cars and mopeds tend make their way through.
Our experience of Alçatı was enchanting as well but the crowds made the city seem less magical (it always does that to a place, right?). After meandering the local handicraft shops and boutique, we found ourselves at a little shaded patio of the Julio’s cafe where we enjoy a basket of fries and 2 turkish coffee. In Turkey, there is no pressure to move on from a restaurant after you finish your order. So we enjoyed the time to just rest and chat about the area. Just across from the cafe is an old church converted into a mosque. While it doesn’t seem like much from the outside, behind the large curtained wall is a pristine, beautifully ornate Greek Orthodox altar complete with intact pictures of holy saints. It is VERY rare that mosque keep pieces of old churches like this! Definitely check it out if you go.
On our way out of town, we drove through the area of town near the water. Finding a quick, perfect parking spot, we hopped out to enjoy a peek of the sea at Küçük Plaj or small beach. We had heard the water was beautiful, but we truly could not get over how transparent the crystal blue waters were. Even though it the water was a little chilly, the hot day was a great balance for those enjoying an afternoon sunbathing by the sea. For us, it was a perfect sight to finish our outing for the day!
If you would like to travel here, I have a few tips for you:
Rent a car for a day or weekend: There are buses that go out to this area, but if you are like us and live on the north side of Izmir, it is worth your time to travel by car!
If you are living locally, come during the off-season: Izmir is such a sunny state. Even though the weather will be chilly, the sun still gives you the beauty of the city like it looks in the summer.
Stay a night or two in one of the many cozy hotels:You can only eat so much in a day. We didn’t even try any of the restaurants in our short time there. Come and enjoy a few local dining options.
During the summer, come during the week if possible: If you only come for the day, start early! Spending a couple of nights during the week will give you a more enjoyable time exploring everything this town has to offer.
Enjoy the beach: Our time was just too short, but if we had come earlier in the day, we would have enjoyed a quick dip in the sea like everyone else there!
Hope you also travel to Alaçatı in the future! Iyi yolculuklar! Good travels!
For Turkey readers:
Have you traveled to Alaçatı before? What did you enjoy about the area? What suggestions do you have for our next trip out there?
For non-Turkey readers:
What do you think of this cute little town? Is it what you thought Turkey to look like? Does it reminds you another place you have visited before?