Katherine MacAlister discovers ultimate understated luxury in Turkey’s Barbaros Bay

So busy we kept muttering to ourselves throughout our stay at the five-star Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay. So busy we hardly stopped for breath.

Busy deciding which sun-lounger to choose, whether to have the Turkish or continental breakfast, whether to eat at the beach bar or poolside restaurant, whether to have an Ayurvedic massage or a hot oil treatment, whether to potter into Bodrum sightseeing or read on our terrace, whether to have a drink in our room before dinner or go downstairs for cocktails, whether to eat Thai or Mediterranean cuisine for supper. Whether to swim inside or out.

So busy, talking, relaxing, laughing, enjoying ourselves. So busy.

So busy we needed to frequently lie down, but where to lie? By the enormous infinity pool? In the indoor chill-out room, the outdoor chill-out room, the loungers on the beach, in the hot steam room, the sauna, the massage tables, or in our sea view room? So many decisions. So busy.

I had been to Turkey many times, even to Bodrum itself. I had been to the beach, grasped the fun sun-loving culture, danced until dawn, been there and bought the T-shirt.

And yet this was a new adventure that began as soon as we arrived in Turkey, flying into Bodrum Airport via EasyJet from Gatwick, having stayed at the Travelodge the night before to combat our early flights, a very convenient and reasonable option which took the sting out of our early departure with its shuttle buses every 15 minutes to the North and South terminals.

Once in Bodrum we were swept off in an immaculate taxi to a hotel like no other.

A standalone, isolated, cliff-hugging, beach-importing, sea-viewed masterpiece of style, comfort and understated elegance, almost Germanic in its coolness (a nod to its Kempinski title then).

There is no bling here, everything is quietly efficient, nothing is too much trouble and the staff are utterly charming.

The scale of the place is easy to underestimate when you arrive at the hotel reception. Yes it’s impressively vast, breathtakingly decorated and sleekly run, but it works on so many different levels, with beach clubs, jetties, pools, spas, restaurants, function rooms and space galore, that you soon realise how vast the Bodrum Kempinski actually is.

So busy!

We ran around like squealing pigs on arrival, gasping at every new development. The attention to detail really is like nowhere else.

Arrive at the beach, by steps or driven by golf buggy, and loungers are immediately produced, towels and pillows follow, the best sun spot found, a table, a menu. It’s impossible to do anything for yourself but enjoy it and relax.

Wander up to the pool for a different view and marvel at the sheer expanse of water facing you, glinting in the Mediterranean sun.

We wallowed for two days, sleeping, resting, chatting, eating in the basement Thai restaurant and one night by candlelight on our balcony.

The breakfasts, which they call feasts, were just that, and taken on a vast terrace overlooking the sea. We spent hours slowly nibbling away at the amazing pastries and breads, the cheese and hams, the Turkish salads, the cereals and yoghurts, the honeycomb taken straight from the hive.

There was a waffle, pancake and omelette chef, someone to make smoothies and squeeze juices, as well as the full English should you require it. Utter heaven, made doubly sublime because there was no rush. So busy.

Feeling adequately refreshed, we then marched out bravely to catch the local bus to Bodrum where we spent the day wandering the local markets, haggling with the shopkeepers, viewing the castle and soaking up the atmosphere at the various cafes.

Oxford Mail:

  • The immaculate private beach

There were endless bargains to be had, the shops and markets stuffed with ‘labelled’ merchandise, perfect for presents, but you have to stand firm, barter, stick to you price. It’s a very un-English way of doing things, but it got easier as the day went on.

There was a different type of market down by the harbour, where local people brought their wares, and there was a wonderful array of beautiful jewellery, clothes, creams and food to choose from.

But despite the charm of Bodrum itself, it was as if the spell had been broken once we were outside the hotel. We instinctively missed its calm and beauty, giving us an inkling of how difficult it would be to leave, so it was a relief to return and languor once more.

A trip to the spa followed. Corridor after marbled corridor enticed its guests with a mind-boggling array of treatments, the steam room, sauna, and huge icy swimming pool on hand to reinvigorate you, which we did daily, to steam out the toxins of our excessive G&T drinking sessions. So busy.

The days drifted by, our time merged into one blissful cloud of luxury. And then the telephone went. Our transfer taxi had been booked. We needed to leave the room, pay the bill, check out and say goodbye to the holiday of a lifetime – to leave the sanctity of the Bodrum Kempinski. It was a sad departure, a wrench. Our journey home was the quietest of the week despite the urban chic of Bodrum Airport and the surprising efficiency of the Easyjet flight home.

Mentally I’m still there wandering down to the bathing platform, drinking freshly squeezed orange juice on the sun terrace, laughing at the creative genius of the Berlin mixologist in the cocktail bar, or just taking in the wonderful blue sea. So busy.

Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay www.kempinski.com/en/bodrum/hotel-barbaros-bay

ITC Luxury Travel (01244 355 527; www.itcluxurytravel.co.uk) has prices from £839 per person based on 2 adults sharing a Standard Room for 7 nights including daily breakfast, return flights and private car transfers.