Izmir and Antalya

All great adventures begin at the crack of dawn, and what better reason to wake up early than a flight to explore a new destination? I went to the airport and finished my check in procedure to find myself in the comfy seat on board Wings of Lebanon with Nakhal. After my previous trips with this renowned travel agency to Antalya and Fethiye (click here to read), I was excited to see what would be in store. The destination was Turkey and the first stop was the Antalya airport to catch the connecting internal flight to Izmir. To my delight, the team had prepared for each of the travelers a kit with all the needs of the hotel, including room and towel keys, bracelet for the purchases if any, and the luggage tags all in one pouch.

Thus, I arrived to the marvelous Club Marvy, an all inclusive concept resort exclusive to Nakhal. An all inclusive resort means that wherever you are on the property, and whatever you may need from drinks to food, is already covered. The exceptions are certain alcoholic brands, the spa and other similar services, which one can enjoy at reasonable prices. However, since no cash is accepted on the premise, the aforementioned bracelet is needed to scan when making such purchases, and at check out the payment is made.

The resort is nestled in an isolated waterfront mountain in Ozdere, and is all about nature and relaxation, which is translated into the simplicity of the rooms, the perched balcony almost hugging the trees, and the color scheme of the interior and bath items.

Dining is available all day and night long, with options and cuisines to suit all tastes. Each evening and after the main buffet closes, a different theme night is presented, from a jazz band to Latin, there is literally no need to leave the resort to find hotspots and pubs to have a good time! A bonus for parents, there is a nightly kids show in the outdoor arena that is enjoyable for adults as well.

Exploring Club Marvy during the day, I stumbled upon the infinity pool of a blue that you see only in pictures of faraway destinations. The palm tree in the body of water made it even more exotic and the main attraction for me, as I gravitated to it daily. More than one pool and beach is available with towel stations, bars and the possibility of renting out equipment for water sports. The kids’ area is safe and suitable for toddlers and young children with a kids club open during the summer where parents can leave their kids in good care and enjoy their day at the resort. The adventure area is where you can find the adrenaline junkies and has all sorts of slides and activities suitable also for older children and teenagers.

Another all inclusive resort concept exclusive to Nakhal is the Paloma Pasha which rooms I visited along with enjoying a buffet lunch made of locally grown and organic ingredients, herbs and spices.

In Ozdere and about an hour’s drive, you can arrive to Kusadasi, a town located partly on the seafront, with boats and restaurants along the walkway. If you walk inside the “grand bazaar”, you will find hundreds of shops with leather goods and replica designer items if that floats your boat, and all at good prices if you negotiate. However it could be considered a tourist trap so make sure to haggle if you find something that you wish to purchase, because prices aren’t displayed clearly and therefore can be changed according to each customer. My kind of shopping was in the narrow streets, a very artistic quarter where walls are hand painted and the locals showcase and sell their crafts. You can get intricate jewelry pieces, souvenirs at good prices, and even leather shoes and bags.

Another drive from Ozdere in an opposite direction takes you to Meryemena, the last home of the Virgin Mary, with astounding facts written for visitors to read relating to the historic site and how it relates to findings in the Bible. It was a blessed moment when I entered and visited the chapel, and I also made sure to bring home with me a bottle of holy water from the spring (make sure to get an empty bottle with you to fill up). There is a wall where you can hang what you write, a prayer or a wish, and trust me it will give you goose bumps as you see your paper blend in the thousands of prayers of people from around the world. I left feeling at peace.

Further along the way you will find a large statue of Mary, that is where I took a few photos before proceeding to the historic site of Ephesus. To walk the ancient city you need 1.5 hours so make sure to dress comfortably and bring a hat and water. I was amazed at the ruins, from the old toilets to the medical symbol and engravings, to my favorite location, the library; it was truly a walk through history with our tour guide, the adorable and knowledgeable Phyllis.

Upon my arrival to Izmir, I stopped by Swissotel for lunch and checked the premises while at it. The décor is modern with a running theme of kinetic art hung on the walls, and architecturally inspired elements on each floor. The view from the rooms combines greenery and the sea, and one of their restaurants is underneath the pool and makes you feel like you are in a submarine! There is a lot to do in Izmir, the main thing being shopping. Unlike the bazaar at Kusadasi, the shops in Izmir are all brands known to us as Lebanese but even better because of the low prices. I underestimated how low the prices would be and failed to bring along luggage that would fit my purchases so I ended up limiting what I bought. I am definitely planning another trip exclusively for shopping, to haul cosmetics, clothing and otherwise. There is a mall that (other than the many shops calling out my name) has plenty of dining choices, I sat that night at a restaurant (my memory draws a blank surrounding the name) that had such a hip interior and urban vibes, and such quality food with big portions at low prices, it made me want to extend my stay in the city. At night, Izmir is alive, with an abundant choice of pubs, restaurants, clubs and live bands. Most of them charge an entrance fee which is truly inexpensive (around the $7 range) which you can be used for drinks or food inside the venue.

A flight later I landed in Antalya and went straight to Sentido Perissia, also an all inclusive concept resort. Here, I got the feeling that I was on a secluded island, the calm beach, the sun setting over the palm trees and the pool, then again rising at the terrace while I sipped my coffee. There was a band playing one night with couples dancing, and I felt disconnected from my body, as if I were floating around and watching everything happening yet at the same time thinking about life. Do you ever get that feeling when your vacation comes to an end and you will miss the time off? Or perhaps it was the feeling of missing home and wishing my family was with me. Either way, Sentido Perissia will have that effect on you, the beautiful landscapes, the calm nights, the heavenly mornings, it is a piece of paradise.

You might wonder what differs between one resort and the next, and how can one make the choice. From my perspective, I would recommend Club Marvy for groups and young couples, Paloma Grida (below are photos taken by the hotel posted by me with their consent) for families with children due to the amazing kids friendly spaces, and Sentido Perissia for middle aged and retired couples.

With a bittersweet goodbye, it was time to head back home aboard Wings of Lebanon. During the summer, the flight to Izmir will be direct with Nakhal instead of making a stop at Antalya, and after my experience with how well organized every single detail was and how high end the resorts are, it is the logical choice for a summer vacation. What I do like about Nakhal as an agency (I’m speaking freely and this is not an endorsement), is that they have a booklet of dozens of travel options in almost every city in Turkey, meaning short flights from Beirut, no visa for Lebanese citizens, and offers starting so low, it makes travel affordable to everyone!

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