although i am a frequent traveler with a passport full of stamps i haven’t left the UK since March 2020, just before the UK’s first lockdown. The process of vacationing abroad seemed too arduous, plus there were plenty of corners of Britain to explore.
Fast forward 18 odd months, and with most travel restrictions dropped or simplified to fill out a form or two, the call to visit a warm and exotic place becomes too tempting to ignore.
Turkey is a great choice for a quick getaway, even in late fall. Temperatures are in the early 1920s with lots of sunshine and water warm enough to swim. And it’s only a four hour flight from London.
Although I have visited Istanbul and Cappadocia, I had never set foot in southern Turkey. Here, near the town of Fethiye, is the Hillside Beach Club, a resort so popular with its guests that its rebooking rate has been analyzed by Harvard University. It is still high, around 85 percent. Why?
Is it due to the three restaurants or the same number of beaches (two for adults only)? Perhaps the wide choice of activities, designed for young and old alike? Maybe it had something to do with her clear view of the cosmos, the stars blooming in the night sky under the sheltered cove she calls home.
The only way to find out was to visit.
Hugging the southern coast of Turkey, Fethiye is the apex of a triangle if you draw a line between it, Cyprus and Alexandria in Egypt.
The resort is an hour’s drive from Dalaman Airport, along a rugged mountain and the town’s harbor teeming with superyachts. It sits in a sheltered cove with lots of spectacular boulders and greenery to look at when you’re not mesmerized by the Mediterranean view.
Crisp and clean; lots of blue, white and honey decking. The reception, main restaurant and swimming pool are in the epicenter of Hillside, with rooms arranged in an amphitheater all around. best sea views.
Paved walkways connect the main hub to other beaches and restaurants. The main restaurant is light and airy, with the kind of heavy white tablecloths that feel like sitting down to dinner or going to bed.
Meanwhile, Pasha has an Ibiza super-club vibe with an open-air bar and all-white interiors. A family-style Italian restaurant sits next to the main beach with tables laid out in the open air.
The resort is flanked by two adults-only beaches: Serenity, accessible by a quick walk through a pine forest or a boat ride, and Silent Beach, great for the late afternoon sun. This is where the spa, in the canopy of trees, is also located.
No need to worry about the type of room – there’s only one style at Hillside. The only thing that differs slightly is your angle to the Med. Go through the front door into an open-air living room with a missing fourth wall overlooking the bay. With palm trees and pink begonias, it’s designed for privacy, so feel free to leave it all lying around – your neighbors won’t be able to see a thing.
The bathroom is also semi-open. Extras like kirby handles and an exfoliating scrub are smart additions to the usual line of toiletries.
The only completely closed part is the bedroom which has a generous walk-in closet. As for the bed, well, it can just as easily be measured by area. Don’t miss the pillow menu – with 13 options, a good night’s sleep is virtually guaranteed.
There are options with an extra room if you are visiting with children.
The resort offers three options and all meals are offered on a full board basis. The main restaurant offers rich buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Order the hot skewers and meatballs on the spit before browsing the different salads, sauces and hot baked breads, each more appealing than the next; this is the best guilt-free kebabery you will visit. Dessert counters are full of all kinds of sweets; resist them all in favor of baklava. There are about eight varieties to choose from, wonderfully light despite being sprinkled with syrup.
The main beach Italian restaurant serves burgers and snacks for lunch, followed by a tasting menu in the evening. Meanwhile, more Turkish fare can be found at Pasha, which also offers a late breakfast for those sleeping during the big morning buffet. A two-course barbecue menu at Serenity Beach is available for lunch.
Taxis are waiting for you at the front desk to take you into town, but with so many offers in Hillside, there’s no reason to leave.
Sign up for the sailing school’s catamaran lessons or go to the water sports office to sign up for thrills like water skiing and hydroboard. Various inflatable games float on the lapping of the waves; they’re meant to be dragged behind a speedboat, but be warned, they’ll eventually wheel you over the waves before the inevitable water landing.
The Hillside Kids’ Club has a daily program filled with activities such as mud-making and sheep-shearing, and there are tennis and volleyball courts, as well as dedicated hangouts for teens with darts and pool tables. In Hillside, the kids will be doing very well.
Most nights the resort offers family activities; on my first night there was a Frozen themed production by the pool with fireworks, costumed dancers and the kind of trippy visuals that left little kids gleefully giddy for a while. that adults thought about the contents of their cocktails.
E-bikes are for rent and take the burden of cycling uphill, while running groups and rides can also be arranged for those determined to be active. Movie night takes place on the beach with friendly staff handing out fresh popcorn, and there are also yoga sessions, held in the mornings to clear and calm the mind.
This being Turkey, a traditional hammam is part of the course. In the past, matriarchs would select their future daughters-in-law in the hammam, because it was the only place they could see their beauty, posture, hair and teeth without a veil.
Fortunately, there were no potential in-laws hidden in the shadow of the Hillside steam room, located under the main restaurant. It’s a serene space with lighting as dim and calming as the voices of therapists. Getting cleansed and covered in tiny silky bubbles before being splashed with buckets of lukewarm water is a certain sort of cleansing joy that everyone has to experience at least once.
If it’s a massage you’re after, head to Silent Beach and climb the wooden steps to the spa. Here, various treatments promise to pull tension out of your body like water from a damp towel. After more than a year leaning over a WFH desk, I opted for the “Nirvana” deep tissue massage, from which no tired muscle was immune. After an hour under the masterful hands of the therapist, and I almost floated out of bed.
The resort is a short drive from Fethiye, a 5,000 year old town that is a blend of cultures. Here you can peruse the markets, sample local bites, and admire the huge glittering yachts in the marina.
Those looking for culture should hike up to Kayaköy, 5 miles south of Fethiye, a long-abandoned ghost town that has resisted developers’ advances to preserve its history. A cobbled path winds past rudimentary stone houses to a small church on a hill, from where you can admire spectacular views of the town and valley on one side and the Mediterranean on the other. A guide is needed, but let Hillside know and they will arrange a private trip in an air-conditioned coach.
A full-day boat trip departs from Hillside every Wednesday, offering opportunities for swimming and snorkeling in clear, warm waters.
With loads for kids (including multilingual overnight nannies) as well as adult-only areas, this charming resort has something to appeal to all ages. What is that not is a party destination or for someone with a sightseeing checklist to go through. But, if you’re looking to relax with a cocktail in the sun, Hillside ticks those boxes.
The season opens from April to early November. Nightly rates based on two people sharing a standard room with full board plus * from £ 260. hillsidebeachclub.com