Our absolute ‘must see’ when we visited the Çeşme Peninsula during the summer months? The small town of Alaçatı!
The Aegean coast of Turkey – the stunning Izmir Province in particular – has been very much on our radar of late.
A completely different feel and vibe to the Mediterranean coast that we’re more accustomed to, living in Fethiye.
For years, we’ve seen photos and videos of the pretty, bougainvillea framed cobblestone streets of the old town of Alaçatı.
For years, we’ve read media articles and admired the photos of the herb-packed stalls of the Alaçatı Herb Festival that takes place each April.
A festival that is now one of the most famous of the annual Turkish festivals.
No herb festival when we were there.
It was August – the height of summer season – and when we visited the pretty streets of traditional Greek stone houses, we were loving the cool breezes famous to the area.
The Famous Alaçatı Windmills
And, because of those cooling winds, this area of western Turkey is famous for its historic windmills.
Back in the day – from the mid 1800s – the Alaçatı windmills, and others around the Aegean coast, were used to grind wheat.
Today, at least in Alaçatı, the windmills are one of the area’s tourist attractions with tour groups trooping up the slope towards them, dutifully following their umbrella-waving guide.
We arrived at the old town by public transport (dolmuş) from where we were staying in Çeşme.
When you get off the domuş, the restored windmills are right there, on the roof of the town, overlooking the Çeşme Peninsula.
We were lucky to time our little trot up the hill so that we were there in a gap between group visits.
This little area, including the eateries in the square below – the Alaçatı Windmills Park and Entrance Square and Promenade Project – was only restored and developed between 2007 and 2009.
It was 2015 before all the soft landscaping was completed. And now, visitors can enjoy the seating under the shade of olive trees.
A good place to sit and catch the sunset!
In the square below, if you’re someone who has heard the tales of how expensive Alaçatı is, you’re going to be as pleasantly surprised as we were.
This is the place where you can grab a beer, a döner kebab, a kumru, some turşu or a sweet treat from Alaçatı’s famous Imren Tatlıcısı at prices you’d expect to see elsewhere around the country’s coastal areas.
Into The Old Town
Because it was the pedestrianised cobbled streets of old stone houses, shops, restaurants and boutique hotels we had come to see.
We wanted to wander and to sit and people watch.
And to see if Alaçatı really is as pretty as all those photos suggest.
Yes! Alaçatı is as pretty in real life as all those photos portrayed.
It was Sunday morning when we were there.
The streets were filling up quickly with Turkish day trippers looking to drink a Turkish coffee or other coffee concoctions at the various speciality shops and cafes.
A place where people were coming to nibble on a cake or a croissant rather than a larger Turkish village breakfast.
Souvenir shops, art galleries and fashion boutiques are side by side with smaller cafes, fine dining restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
All of them housed in the beautiful architecture of the Ottoman-era stone houses with pastel coloured doors and windows.
And, yes, more bougainvillea.
Sunday morning – the morning after the Saturday night before.
Two older residents of town sat drinking their morning çay – directly underneath a huge speaker that was belting out a Mor ve Ötesi remix.
The young guy cleaning up danced around the old chaps as he wiped the tables.
He was ignored. They’ve clearly seen it all before.
From the morning-after evidence we saw, summer season Alaçatı nightlife – at least at the weekend – is a lively affair.
If you can’t beat them, join them.
As well as wandering the pretty cobbled streets, one of the best things you can do in Alaçatı old town is to sit and people watch for a while.
There’s a lot of promenading taking place – and a lot of taking of selfies!
We sipped an iced latte and decided we could easily spend a couple of nights here.
In the old town at least, Alaçatı hotels are small B n Bs and luxury boutique hotels.
Nothing grandiose or soulless.
All look homely and inviting.
To The Beach
The Çeşme Peninsula is awash with glorious beaches and the beaches south of Alaçatı are home to beach clubs featuring bars and DJs.
This area is also for those who love water sports.
If the Muğla Province’s Akyaka is the kitesurfing capital, the beaches and waters south of Alaçatı are the windsurfing capital.
The shallow waters and breezes make it one of the best places to perfect windsurfing techniques.
And world competitions are held here.
However, we wanted a more chilled out beach afternoon so we headed to the beach north of Alaçatı; Ilıca Beach.
If you’re using public transport, the dolmuş does a route between Çeşme centre, Ilıca Beach and Alaçatı.
So it’s really easy to jump on and off between the three.
Ilıca Beach is famous for its thermal springs making the sea pleasantly warm.
It also happens to be a beautiful azure blue, giving it a real tropical feel.
We spent a couple of hours at a bar along the promenade watching the kids jump and somersault into the sea before climbing back out again via the steps that are situated at intervals along the pathway.
And then it was time to jump on the dolmuş back to our base in Çeşme centre.
Our introduction to Alaçatı had been more than pleasing!
Visiting Alaçatı – Useful Information
- Alaçatı is on the Aegean coast of Turkey on the Çeşme Peninsula (see map below).
- If you are arriving by air, the nearest airport is Adnan Menderes Airport near Izmir.
- If you are arriving by intercity bus, regular local services will take you to Alaçatı from the otogar (main bus station) in Izmir.
- If you are driving, Alaçatı is served by a faster toll road as well as main roads, making it easy to explore the surrounding area. The magnificent ruins of Ephesus are just a 90 minute drive away.
- The Alaçatı Herb Festival takes place in April each year. It’s very popular so book accommodation in advance if you want to go along.