I didn’t originally want to write this review – as I wanted to keep this secret place to myself and my wife, after visiting a couple of years ago.
My wife has just given birth to our first child, and this meant we didn’t get to return to our favourite destination last year, so I thought I’d write some thoughts anyway.
We will return though – and very soon I hope.
Almost exactly two years ago, after a particularly nasty, emotionally-draining twelve or so months, my wife and I decided we needed a fortnight away - away from everything – phones, television, computers, radios – everything. We needed to step off the merry-go-round for a little bit; take time out to stop, gather our thoughts and look after each other.
My wife being a biologist (a teacher by trade) and me a zoologist (by qualification at least) wanted to find a coastal, rural retreat in the hot sun somewhere – surrounded by wildlife and little else.
I spent several weeks researching such places on the internet. I looked at places in South America, Africa and Europe – but finally decided to book a fortnight’s break with Responsible Travel in the quiet Turkish coastal village of Çıralı, nestled between the feet of two pine-clad rocky spurs which tumble steeply down into the Mediterranean from the high mountains of the Lycian peninsula behind.
It sounded like heaven – and I couldn’t find one bad review (or even remotely negative review) about the small, peaceful Çıralı beach resort name of Arcadia, that I booked a chalet at for the full two weeks.
On 14th August 2011, my wife and I put the cats in a kennel, left chicken-sitting instructions with our kind neighbours and flew to one of Turkey’s very busy airports – at the sprawling resort of Antalya. We knew we’d be picked up at the airport and driven an hour and a half south – away from the tourist shops and swimming pools, away from the loud bars and loud tourists - and indeed that happened on arrival. With each mile we were driven along the coast, the scenery became more spectacular and less populated – white rocky cliffs and racing green pines met a royal blue sky and a silver Mediterranean – we were entering heaven it seemed – and heaven just went on and on.
Eventually, we turned off the main drag and headed through a pine-covered, steep gorge towards the sea – down into Çıralı. This dusty road is actually a dead end, so traffic was minimal into or out from the village.
Upon arrival at Arcadia (II) – we were shown into our Polynesian-style, thatched, wooden chalet, which went by the name of “Gül”, which means ‘rose’ in Turkish.
The air-conditioned chalet was superb – and I really mean that.
Beautiful wood, clean as a whistle, a lovely big bed with clean white linen (which would be replaced regularly throughout our stay), a huge bathroom with a large, spotless power shower, a spare bed, ample storage, a lockable safe and even a spare bed. There were solid mosquito blinds over the door and windows also – although we didn’t realise at that time – we wouldn’t need them as there were no mosquitoes at this lovely resort! There was even a hammock outside the chalet and a coffee table with two comfortable chairs on the sun-balcony. Heaven!
My wife and I ensured we were unpacked, then walked around our piece of the tiny resort, to get our bearings. We literally gasped at the beautiful surroundings – the resort is set between orange groves and a farm, between Çıralı beach itself and the foothills of the Taurus Mountains behind. Little orange trees and pomegranate bushes were everywhere, thick-scented jasmine clambered up the chalets, whilst hens and tortoises (yes…. tortoises) wandered around the gardens. Best of all though – even though our chalet was at the edge of five others – we couldn’t hear anyone else at all – no screaming kids, no blaring radio – nothing but a gentle breeze rustling through some miniature palms.
The rest of the resort beckoned, as did the beach a few hundred metres away, although “resort” is probably the wrong word to use here – Arcadia (I and II) consists of some superbly-appointed chalets, and a quite beautifully-laid out al-fresco eating area really - and that’s all.
We wandered along the beach and it became obvious that Arcadia was at the quiet, northern end of Çıralı beach. A mile further south along the beach and the sun-loungers and parasols were set out in banks of a hundred but here at our end of the sand (and shingle) beach, there were more wire cages protecting buried loggerhead turtle eggs than sun loungers. Wonderful.
My wife and I had carefully chosen a fortnight at Arcadia when we would have a very good chance of seeing the hatchling loggerhead turtles make their way to the sea – after their mother had hauled herself ashore (with dozens of other huge female turtles) several months earlier, to lay her buried treasure. This was a real treat to watch each morning – although one had to be patient with the crowds of (mostly German) tourists at dawn, who were running around recklessly, nearly squashing unseen turtles in their unbridled enthusiasm to find another baby turtle.
As soon as the sun came up well over the horizon after dawn; and the tiny turtles had been helped into the warm sea, the northern end of the beach became deserted again – bliss!
You’ll see plenty of reviews of Arcadia (I and II) on such websites as “Trip-advisor”. You’ll read about the huge breakfasts with cheeses, olives, bread and fruit (not to mention scrambled egg and never-ending coffee!)
You’ll read about the resort’s free range hens (which are everywhere), cats and tortoises
You’ll read about the superb evening meals at Arcadia, sat in opulent surroundings on the edge of Çıralı beach, watching the moon rise out of the sea.
You’ll read about the pensions on the road into Çıralı, and the quiet, family-orientated bars and cafes/bistros/restaurants which serve marvellous local produce and refreshing cocktails and beers.
You’ll read about how quiet and peaceful it is at Arcadia, and Çıralı in general. At Arcadia itself, music and bright electrical lights are banned near the beach at night, as both could disorientate the loggerhead turtles.
This makes for a magical atmosphere after dark – with only the sound of hushed conversations and a gentle see breeze rustling the thick evergreen foliage interrupting the calls of the local scops owls with cicadas providing the rhythm section backing.
This is what I wanted to quickly mention – the incredible wildlife around Arcadia.
My wife and I had been told there wouldn’t be much to do at Arcadia – at least not in terms of bustling noisy bars, discos, nightclubs, theme parks etc…
But that’s exactly what we wanted – “nothing (like that) to do”.
Now, you don’t have to be a biology teacher or a zoology graduate to see the wildlife around Arcadia – it’s everywhere!
If you don’t like your holidays quiet, you don’t like them peaceful, you can’t handle being away from your phone or the television, you don’t really “get” wildlife – then Arcadia and Çıralı are not for you. If you are the opposite of the person/people I’ve described above, then read on my friends….
Of course. There's PLENTY to do and see at Arcadia!
Yellow-vented bulbuls are ever present visitors to the thatched roofs at Arcadia II and they are joined by low-flying, chittering swallows which chase the awakening insects each morning.
Cicadas announce your walk down to the lark-filled beach after breakfast, and of course you’ve already seen dozens of baby turtles hatch and struggle into the Mediterranean before you ate.
You decide to take a dip in the bath-temperature gin-clear water and as you swim out to the buoy, you pass a small ray and a large turtle – these are the only other things in the water with you it seems – the beach and indeed water seem so quiet!
You reach the buoy and under its anchoring rope, you see through your goggles a beautiful iridescent, shimmering cuttlefish which you gawp at for a minute or ten (you lose track of time).
The morning passes in a haze of relaxation. You’re joined by a handful of other Arcadia residents on the resort’s sun loungers. You read your holiday novel, you flick through your Turkish phrasebook, you take a dip every thirty minutes or so…. Just to see if that beautiful rainbow-hued cuttlefish is still there…
There’s no noise other than the sound of the sea, gently moving the pea-shingle around.
Afternoons – maybe in the hammock back at the chalet, under the shade of an orange tree,
or maybe a doze in the air-conditioned chalet which has been cleaned thoroughly whilst you were taking breakfast or watching cuttlefish.
Perhaps you’d rather wander around the locality – there’ll always be something to see after a light snack at a local café.
I stumbled across beautiful multi-coloured dragonflies, large, green pamphylian lizards and birds such as wrynecks and all types of shrike – woodchat, great grey and even masked, on my afternoon ramblings.
The heat of the afternoon is slow to make way for night – but when the sun eventually drops behind the mountains and the swallowtail butterflies disappear, a different magic fills the jasmine and orange-scented air.
Wolves (or more likely feral dogs I suppose!) start to howl from the rocky foothills a few miles away, Moorish geckos start to appear from cracks in the chalet and chirrup to each other – watching wee flies with bigger and bigger reptilian eyes,
hedgehogs start to bumble across the just-watered lawns and best of all – the hummingbird and levant hawk moths start to feed on the jasmine – such a beautiful thing to see – and regular as clockwork at Arcadia.
Night comes as soon as the local bat colony empties from a school roof (a magnificent sight indeed) and its time for the night chorus to start again – with the scops owls and cicadas leading the way – magical.
Of course, you now have a choice – do you eat at Arcadia again, or cycle into town to try another meal somewhere else. We probably ate our evening meals at Arcadia for seven nights (you have to try the Gilt-head when it’s on – sublime!) and other establishments in the village for the other seven nights – everyone is so friendly and relaxed – it’s like stepping back in time.
You’ve eaten now, and its time to head back to the chalet for a good night’s sleep.
It’s now that you realise that because there are not many lights in the village or resort, the stars above are revealed in all their glory – and you marvel at the Milky Way arching across the jet black sky above, as a little owl calls to its mate on a telegraph pole by the dusty track.
That is Arcadia (all credit to Serkan) - and my wife and I have decided we need never look for another holiday destination again.
We have found heaven – and it is indeed a place on earth.