Let’s get away from it all with a visit to Nif village in the highlands close to Fethiye…
The Muğla Province, of which Fethiye is a part, is more famously known internationally for being at the heart of Turkeys Turquoise Coast.
It is, however, a spectacular coastline that is flanked by rugged mountains and lush highland pastures; the yayla in Turkish.
Many local families here in Fethiye also own land and property in the not-so-far-away villages of the yayla.
This is the place where they go to escape the intense summer heat down here at sea level.
It’s where you exchange the turquoise waters, and bars and restaurants of the coast for the countryside colours and birdsong of the yayla!
And these villages are also places where others are moving to in order to make a new rural life away from the hubbub of the towns and cities.
With the pandemic acting as a catalyst in the decision to move away from the restaurant and hotel world along Çalış Beach, our friends, Nichola and Doğan, took the plunge and headed to a new life in one of the villages of the yayla.
Highland Retreat, Nif
That yayla village is Nifköy (also known as Arpacık).
Those of you who visit Fethiye in June and July will know Nif is most famous for its cherries! A huge, juicy Nif Napolyon cherry is difficult to beat.
And the reason we’re telling you all about this is that our friends’ move to the mountains, a 45 minute drive north of Fethiye, also benefits the rest of us.
As well as all the other home projects Nichola and Doğan are involved with in building their new life, they have also created two cottages where guests can stay and experience a bit of Turkish rural life in truly beautiful scenery.
If you think a relaxing night – or few – out in the countryside is just what you need, this article is for you!
We spent two nights there. And we could’ve spent a good few nights more, there.
We’d love to go up there again to explore further. Tracks galore to wander.
First, a little tour of the cottage we stayed in (Saklı Bahçe Cottage – Hidden Garden Cottage).
And then how we spent our short time there.
Our Accommodation – Saklı Bahçe Cottage
Obviously, we follow Highland Retreat updates online (we’ve linked to their various profiles in the info section at the bottom of the article) so we had a bit of an idea of what the cottage – and Doğan and Nichola’s yayla life – looks like.
A converted outbuilding on Doğan and Nichola’s land, Saklı Bahçe cottage is now a homely Mediterranean-style single-storey detached cottage.
A quintessential countryside retreat that feels relaxed and homely.
The Views, The Views
First things first, just look at this view that greets you from the cottage.
Watched over by the magnificent Çal Dağı (the mountain in the distance) we could recline in deck chairs whilst taking in the views.
There are also sun loungers and umbrella for the hotter summer days.
Lounging & Sleeping
Saklı Bahçe Cottage sleeps three people – ideally two – in one room; the lounge bedroom.
A double bed. And a large comfortable sofa.
Vibrantly-coloured Ottoman-style glass mosaic wall lights and freestanding lamps light the room in the evening.
But in the daytime, the many windows on both sides of the building allow the natural sunlight to stream through.
There’s a good-sized flat screen tv in the lounge area, too, with some satellite channels.
But we can’t tell you anything about that. It remained unused while we were there.
We were here to read outside on the terrace, to wander the grounds and (try to) introduce ourselves to the sheep and goats.
To eat from the garden. To explore.
And, after all that, in the fresh, clean mountain air, we were shattered!
It’s a cosy comfortable night’s sleep at Highland Retreat.
And, in the mornings, after a night of slumber, a lovely hot, powerful shower.
It’s a roomy bathroom in the cottage. Complete with loo and wash basin, of course, as well as the shower.
Cooking & Dining
We arrived to a well-equipped dining kitchen, which we made good use of on our second night there.
When we arrived, Nichola showed us where everything is.
There’s tea and coffee – including herbal teas and filter coffee. Essentials and practicals like salt and pepper, washing up liquid, tea towels.
There’s also a separate bin for recycling.
Recycling that hosts, Nichola and Doğan take down to Fethiye every so often because there are currently no recycling facilities in Nif.
And there’s a separate pot where you can place your discarded odds and ends of vegetables.
Nichola and Doğan are making every effort to live a sustainable life at Highland Retreat.
And one of the ways they do this is by producing their own compost for the garden.
You can play your part as a guest by contributing your odds and ends, placing them in the pot.
The cottage is self-catering, so we’d brought a few supplies for the weekend.
But there are a few Highland Retreat goodies you can indulge in, too.
Salad & Vegetable Garden
Highland Retreat guests are welcome to help themselves to fresh herbs, salad stuffs and vegetables that are being grown.
They’re pesticide free, of course.
Whatever time of year you stay at Highland Retreat, the vegetable garden will have produce in tune with the season.
The climate is much cooler up here. So some herbs and vegetables could be slightly behind what you might have seen on Fethiye market or other coastal areas.
We were there in mid spring after a very cold – and long – winter.
Our favourite fresh herb is coriander.
So we were delighted to see a whole bed of the hardiest, bushiest, tallest coriander we have ever seen!
Chives were growing around the edge of the garden; their lilac flowers alive with morning honey bees that hovered between those and the delicate, vivid red poppies.
We haven’t seen chives since we used to grow our own in the UK in the early 2000s!
We didn’t pick any, however. They just looked too pretty.
Spring onions were also on the menu, as was asparagus, rocket and garlic. A variety of mustard leaves were also there to be picked.
Peas and beans had just been planted. As had carrots, parsnips and tomatoes.
When the fruit trees have produced their fruit, you will also be able to pick your own fruit.
Free Range Morning (Or Any Time Of Day) Eggs
And it’s not just fruits and vegetables that you can pick whilst chilling out at Highland Retreat.
The stuff of dreams (for us) to be able to wander down the garden amongst the wildflowers towards the chicken house and the pond.
The chickens might be in there when you get to their little abode. Or they could be out and about, wandering the land.
But you can go in there and help yourself to the freshly laid, free range eggs.
You know they’re genuinely free range when the chickens are wandering around, freely!
We love to cook with village eggs from the local markets. But it feels a bit extra special, just to go off and help yourself to some a short stroll from your front door!
And then this is your view as you walk back to the cottage with your bounty of eggs!
A Stroll To The Village Shops
Whilst you can see that the valley area of Nif/Arpacık (see map below) covers many acres when viewed from the mountain road above, the population living there and working the land is only small.
Fewer than 1,500 people living there in 2022. This will probably grow in the future.
But for now, all that is needed in the village centre is a village lokanta serving home cooked dishes like köfte and soups, a bakery, a manav (greengrocer) and a couple of markets (small grocery stores).
On our first morning there, we wanted some fresh bread to go with our breakfast.
So we decided to stroll to the bakery.
50 minutes of gently undulating, scenic bliss as we walked along the ‘main road.’
A main road that meant we were passed by three tractors and two cars throughout the whole walk.
Every driver of which took the opportunity to beep and wave.
It’s still like that in these parts. And it’s just one of those little things that brightens your day!
In the bakery, the girl serving us giggled as she bagged our bread. We were a novelty!
Nif is a village that is obviously still not frequented very often by foreigners and we clearly broke her typical routine of daily life, serving people in the bakery.
A visit to the market opposite for fruit juice and beers. And then a scenic stroll back to Highland Retreat that also took in a sighting of a fox!
Why would you not want to walk to the bakery? You could drive or cycle, too, of course.
And I did mention to Barry that it would be a good run workout for us. A few hills (it’s very flat where we run at sea level) and a bit of altitude!
A gentle Sunday stroll seemed more fitting on this occasion, however! At least on this visit, we weren’t here for any unnecessary exertion.
The main challenge on this little outing was walking back to the cottage without devouring the still warm, fresh bread we were carrying!
Things To Do At Highland Retreat, Nif
So, who are the people who would really relish a few days at Highland Retreat?
Well, if you’ve read this far, you’re probably one of those people.
Professional Relaxers – Come to Highland Retreat and feel absolutely no guilt in sitting/lying and reading a good book all day in tranquil highland surroundings!
Home Cooks / Foodies / Foragers – Experiment with different Turkish recipes using the seasonal produce in the garden to complement your dishes.
This is a retreat in the countryside. We recommend you do your shopping for staples before you arrive.
Aside from the well-equipped dining kitchen, there’s also a barbecue outside if you want to do al fresco cooking and dining.
Dine overlooking the mountains and flower garden. Or retreat to the rear of the cottage and sit on the covered terrace.
Okay, we’ll hold our hands up, here.
We did cook a meal on our second night at Highland Retreat. But the photo above is barbecue and meze plates made by Doğan and Nichola.
We were there visiting as friends. And we certainly weren’t going to say no when this feast was offered.
Doğan is from the Hatay region of Turkey – famous for its cuisine amongst other things.
The couple owned a restaurant along Çalış Beach that we loved (Motif Restaurant is now under new ownership but still serving up the same tasty dishes).
Before that they also established Mozaik Bahçe Restaurant in the centre of Fethiye.
The barbecue was going to be great!
Hummus, atom (yoghurt with hot chilli butter), a meze plate of local wild herbs, a mixed salad.
Oh and well done Barry for rustling up a quick guacamole, using freshly picked coriander.
A small contribution. But a contribution nonetheless.
On the barbecue; kanat (chicken wings) and homemade köfte wrapped in aubergine slices.
Definitely going to have a go at making that one day.
Artists, Photographers & Writers – Painters and sketchers will find no shortage of inspiration at Highland Retreat.
Whether you’re an amateur or pro taker of photos, there is so much to photograph at Highland Retreat.
I’m no expert. I just love to take landscape shots. And after three days, I came home with hundreds of photos on both phone and camera.
Walkers, Hikers and Trail Runners – So many trails and paths to explore right from the boundary fence of Highland Retreat. Explore more of the Nif valley and beyond.
Nature Lovers – Of course. Goes without saying! An abundance of flora and fauna and wildlife to explore within the boundaries of Highland Retreat. And beyond.
And if you like to feel at one with nature for yoga and meditation, Highland Retreat is perfect.
Road Trippers – Use Highland Retreat as your beautiful get-away-from-it-all base to go out for a drive and explore this little corner of southwest Turkey.
- There are so many things to do in Fethiye and surroundings, all just a short drive away.
- From one extreme to the other: Leave the tranquility of the highlands behind and hit the lively beach resort of Ölüdeniz.
- Head a little further up the mountain road to Kırkpınar Restaurant – the çoban kavurma is great! In winter, this is an area where Fethiye locals come to play in the snow!
- Head a little further down the mountain to wander around the village of Yeşil Üzümlü. Unlike Nif, Üzümlü is more touched by the building boom of the earlier 2000s, tourism and expat life. But this means you will find a few local places to eat and drink, here. The village centre is historic and pretty. And you can shop for locally-weaved dastar. Don’t miss the ancient ruins of Cadianda if you come here.
- From Highland Retreat, you can also continue up the main mountain road and head over the border into Denizli Province. We were introduced to two new (for us) villages in Kirazlıyaylı and Elmalı Mahallesi where we enjoyed a tasty Turkish village breakfast. We’ll tell you about those in the next article!
Highland Retreat and the whole Nif village surroundings are truly a place where you come to get away from it all.
We had a really relaxing three days there.
It was only a short time. But long enough for Fethiye to feel like a huge city when we got back home!
Back up there in the mountains, Highland Retreat is a place that will continually evolve.
Doğan and Nichola are embracing the principles of permaculture with their land and lifestyle.
Along with the garden and the chickens, they’ve also recently added four new members to the family – two sheep, a nanny goat and a kid.
As part of a more sustainable way of life, Nichola and Doğan are hoping to be able to milk them. And also make other dairy products.
For us, we just enjoyed watching them play and run around. The goats are definitely more mischievous than the sheep. We loved the kid!
Fences and walls have been built with wood and rocks collected from the grounds and roadside.
Water lilies have been planted in the pond to keep it healthy. And, of course, look pretty once they grow and bloom.
The growth of wildflowers is encouraged – a crucial habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.
They encourage support for the local village shops, help – and receive help from – neighbours – and are already planning local initiatives.
A lot of learning, work, dedication and love is being immersed into Highland Retreat.
Your stay in Saklı Bahçe cottage will leave you feeling relaxed, recharged and ready to take on the world, again!
Thanks a lot to Nichola and Doğan for their hospitality! They’re great hosts!
Highland Retreat, Nif – Useful Information
- We stayed in Saklı Bahçe Cottage which is perfect for couples. From 2022, there is a second cottage that sleeps more people.
- There is a dongle in the cottage that gives Wi-Fi access. There is not much mobile coverage in the area. If you need to use your internet data, you can access it a few metres along the road towards the village centre.
- If you want to explore fully, your own transport is better for getting the most out of your stay at Highland Retreat. If you don’t have your own transport, there is a limited dolmuş service from Fethiye or you can take a taxi. From Denizli, you can take the Denizli to Fethiye bus that goes via Çameli.
- The local shops in Nif sell food basics. We also took some food with us that we knew we wanted to cook while we were there.
- If you want to stay at Highland Retreat, Nif, you can book direct with Nichola and Döğan. Contact them on Facebook or Instagram. You can also follow their daily life up there via those pages.
- Alternatively, if you don’t just want to take our word for it with regards the beauty of this place, check out more photos and reviews for, and book, Tranquil Highland Retreat on airbnb.
- The map below shows the village centre of Nif/Arpacık. The Highland Retreat is a 10 minute drive (or 50 minute walk) from the centre of Nif village.