Just another day at the beach on the Aegean Sea. (Photo: Maçakizi)
Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell were just checking out as I was checking in to the Maçakizi Hotel.
The gamine gal pals were trotting off to a nearby Greek island, and the beach club downstairs buzzed with whispered recollections of their visit. Kate was fun-loving and gregarious. She sidled right up to the bar to chat with the crowd. Naomi kept to herself, but she’s Naomi Campbell—what else would you expect? Everyone had a story to tell, but of course no one at Maçakizi was terribly impressed. The boutique hotel nestled onto the Northern side of the Bodrum Peninsula in Turkey hosts some of the most powerful men and women in American, European, and Arab media and business, plus the odd prince or princess.
“Major deals get made at this beach club,” one guest whispered to me without even being prompted as I ordered a drink at the bar. As I looked around at the well-appointed crowd in their Missoni, Prada, and Cavalli, I didn’t doubt it.
The bar can be a scene, but in the most delightful way. (Photo: Maçakizi)
Maçakizi means Queen of Spades. That was the nickname given to Ayla Emiroglu, the owner of the original Maçakizi and the mother of Sahir Erozan, the current owner of this hotel. Ayla, with her imposing crown of frizzy black hair and cheekbones that could cut glass, opened her first 16-room bed and breakfast in 1977, back when the entire Bodrum Peninsula just had one winding road through the fishing villages perched precariously on the edge of the crystal-blue Aegean Sea.
Watch: See Ayla Emiroglu Tell the Story of Maçakizi
“This was the bohemian capital of Turkey and all the cool people — the writers, the poets, the musicians like Mick Jagger — dropped by,” Erozan told me, dropping Mick’s name nonchalantly but glancing at me to make sure I took note of it, as we snacked on local olives and cheeses during breakfast, served buffet-style at tables overlooking the sea.
Communal breakfast consists of omelets, pastries, and local olives and cheeses. (Photo: Maçakizi)
Erozan is a social butterfly among social butterflies. He knows almost everyone at his hotel and greets them with open arms and kisses on each cheek. Most visitors are repeat guests who book at least a year in advance. The owner and host is hard to pin down for a chat, since he is constantly floating from one group to the next to check in on how they are getting along on their holiday.
In the ’80s Ayla opened up the first beach club in the next village over, Torba, a place with no road at all. Visitors could reach the club only by boat. In the meantime her son moved to the United States and began making a name for himself in the restaurant and club business in Washington, D.C. In 1999, hoping to get back to his roots, Erozan bought a new property in Türkbükü and built the Maçakizi from scratch.
“It was very authentic in the beginning. No televisions in the rooms, and all of the curtains were made from the local fabric,” Erozan said.
Just one of the typical views from the rooms. (Photo: Maçakizi)
But soon it expanded and the interiors became more polished and designed. Today the hotel has 53 rooms (35 of which have a view on the Aegean Sea) and 21 suites (12 Juniors, 3 Sea Views, and 6 Villa Suites), all draped in sweet-smelling bougainvillea and newly renovated with travertine floors and rain showers, locally designed textiles, and modern art.
The heart of the place is the restaurant.
"Some people say we are a restaurant with rooms," Erozan said of the open-air dining room nestled beneath 100-year-old olive trees, with a Mediterranean menu of small plates created by seasoned chef Aret Sahakyan.
Enjoy lunch or dinner overlooking the bay. (Photo: Maçakizi)
The Nuxe Spa at the Maçakizi is delightfully decadent, with three massage tents nestled within the cliffside forest facing the sea and a traditional Turkish hammam sculpted in white marble, where you can indulge in solo or duo Turkish bath sessions.
The marble-floored traditional Turkish hammam looks out onto the cliffside forest. (Photo: Maçakizi)
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It is the positioning of Maçakizi that sets it apart from other ritzy hotels lining this small bay, including a newly opened Mandarin Oriental, in the nearby Cennet Koyu, or “Paradise Bay,” and the Amanruya. The wind here side-sweeps the hotel, allowing for a light breeze. The sun moves parallel to the property, providing 12 hours of direct sunlight from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the peak season, from June to August.
Türkbükü itself is a charming escape from the tourist-infested Bodrum City, home to drunken hen parties and all-night discos filled with European backpackers looking for a foam party.
A view from the other side of Türkbükü. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
Türkbükü might be the chicest of the small towns dotting this peninsula, and the hotels there are some of the most exclusive in this part of the country, with the Maçakizi topping that list. During the summer months the hottest clubs in Istanbul bring pop-up locations to the town, billionaires dock their yachts here or in the nearby Yalikavak marina, and the lazy village becomes as exclusive as St. Tropez.
Shops lines the small streets, some of them carrying high-end caftans and bikinis from Europe, others featuring traditional handmade leather Bodrum sandals or Turkish towels at reasonable prices.
Traditional Turkish towels for sale in the center of Türkbükü. (Photo: Jo Piazza)
Water taxis are available to scoot you around the bay, or you can easily walk along the 1.5-mile curve of the water, joined by Turkish children who seem to have no bedtime and lazy dogs that wander the streets and find shade from the summer sun beneath sun chairs.
Whether you’re looking to relax, dance the night away, or indulge in Turkish delights, this is the place to stay. Say hi to Naomi and Kate for us.