After a last-minute trip to Ölüdeniz, followed by an even quicker one out, we learnt that travel can help you understand your preferences like nothing else.


There were lots of reasons why we wanted to go to Ölüdeniz.

We had been driving around western Turkey, collecting information for blog posts and so far, our Turkey road trip had defined itself effortlessly. Istanbul to Gallipoli for the war memorials; western coast for the ancient historical sites; Pamukkale for irresistibly photogenic terraces.

But at Pamukkale, we had a decision to make. Should we make the long drive through the Anatolian hinterland to Cappadocia? Or should we head south to Ölüdeniz and relax on the idyllic-looking, postcard-ready, Instagram friendly Turquoise coast?

We knew we would visit Cappadocia at some point, either on this trip or another, and collecting so many historical sites was starting to get a bit tiring. So, some relaxing beach time looked appealing. We suspected Ölüdeniz wouldn’t exactly be our cup of tea and knew it would be very different to the Turkey we had seen so far. But, it also had a lot going for it.

THE ALLURE OF ÖLÜDENIZ

For starters, Ölüdeniz has the Lycian Way. Often cited as one of the most beautiful long-distance walks anywhere. A day or so taking in the coast by foot is definitely something we could get into. It also boasts the famed lagoon beach – absolutely stunning by any definition – and the alluring visuals of dramatic mountains pouring into turquoise waters.

With both guidebook prose and TripAdvisor reviews gushing about these sites, the decision was made. We hastily booked our Ölüdeniz hotel for a relaxing beach sojourn on Turkey’s turquoise coast.

We even went out of our way to get into the full spirit of the occasion, booking a very expensive hotel, far more than we had spent anywhere on our first 2 weeks in Turkey.

We were going to live in luxury for the next few days – cocktails by the beach, 5-star service, beautiful surroundings, envy-inducing Instagram shots of our feet relaxing on high-quality loungers in front of the water.

ÖLÜDENIZ HOTEL: WHERE’S THE LOVE?

Our problems started when we stepped foot in the hotel. The usual friendly Turkish greeting we had become accustomed to receiving at check-in was replaced with reception staff who were busy bussing tables for a huge wedding taking place in the hotel. Unable to get their attention, it was clear check-in was going to have to wait until the wedding had met their minimum bar spend.

So, we decided to take a stroll through town while we waited. The hotel restaurant backed onto the beach, so this was our exit point. A nice walk along the beach into town is always a perfect way to acclimatise to a new seaside destination.

In what we would later understand to be the Ölüdeniz way, we couldn’t make it out of our hotel before the hard selling began. A boisterous Turkish woman adopting a threatening pose beside a huge billboard with photographic evidence of all their dinner offerings, was trying to provoke us into eating with them.

Sensing our disdain for the massive menu, she offered: “We have lots of options.”

“Yes, that’s the problem.”

Escaping the clutches of the crazy seller who looked totally baffled as to why a menu with a 12:1 dish to customer ratio would be a problem, we pressed on. Dodging equally aggressive restaurant touts, some physically grabbing us for extra physical impact, we made our way to the main drag of Ölüdeniz.

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THIS ISN’T TURKEY ANYMORE

It became pretty clear that while physically we were in Turkey, emotionally, spiritually, financially and gastronomically we were in another place. Ölüdeniz is soulless. Turkish food was obviously not something the restaurants had ever counted on selling. Everything was double the price of elsewhere in Turkey. Any local charm this place might have had before packaged holidays arrived had well and truly been replaced with tourists who wanted their Ölüdeniz to look and feel just like home.

The bars on the beach offered little respite from the claws of the main drag. Beside huge pirate ships – presumably designed to convince you of the coasts wicked past – sat a string of bars each competing to entice customers with muscle over atmosphere. But we gave them a go and received weird service, awful cocktails and a hefty bill.

The things we loved about Turkey were the friendliness of the local people and the welcoming vibe that oozes from every dishevelled street corner. Sitting on wooden crates sipping sweet tea. Eating in restaurants with no English. Locals boasting about their hometown. The regular chorus of “where are you from?” Restaurants that just bring you something to eat because they know you don’t understand a thing on the menu.

All of this was missing in Ölüdeniz.

Images of the stunning lagoon beach, turquoise water, sumptuous mountains and exciting walking paths were not enough to overcome our lack of love for Ölüdeniz. The next morning, we sacrificed the 3 nights’ accommodation we had paid for and took off for Cappadocia.

Easily the most recognised tourist attraction and possibly the most visited destination in Turkey, Cappadocia fails to reach the standards of mass-tourism that Ölüdeniz delivers so effortlessly.

During our one evening in Ölüdeniz, as we were feasting on soggy chips and penne pasta, we debriefed on this experience. What did it tell us about ourselves and our travelling style?

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1/ WHEN WE TRAVEL WE LIKE TO FEEL LIKE WE’RE TRAVELLING.

We don’t like feeling at home while we’re on holidays, instead, we like to embrace the good, the bad and the ugly of a new destination. This means food we’ve never heard of, even if it’s not to our taste. Chatty locals who you can’t get away from. Art we don’t understand, yet find ourselves engrossed in. A different way of life we can’t contemplate. Politics we don’t relate to but can still empathise with. Ölüdeniz has created a home away from home for tourists and reminded us why we love travelling so much: to encounter new experiences.

2/ WE LIKE GETTING VALUE FOR MONEY.

We’re not backpackers anymore, but we still like feeling like we’re getting good value. This might mean spending $300 on a helicopter ride spotting whales if we think it’s going to be a great experience; or, buying a packet of cheese to make our own sandwiches if all other lunch options are ridiculously overpriced. Ölüdeniz was like a bubble in a very cheap Turkish holiday, a microeconomy where everything was considerably more expensive than everywhere else. But the real clincher for us: we felt we were getting a worse experience but paying more for it.

3/ WE DON’T LIKE ORDERING OUR FOOD OFF LAMINATED MENUS WITH 100’S OF OPTIONS.

This is an important one. Eating local is a big part of getting under the skin of a place. It’s one of the most social aspects of any culture and one we always try and partake in. Laminated menus with a plethora of photos of western dishes is a clear indication that it’s not going to be very local. The tourist snaring menus in Ölüdeniz not only lacked Turkish dishes, they also significantly overcharged to give tourists their favourite pizza and pasta offerings. Give us small handwritten menus any day. Or better yet, no menu at all.

4/ BIG TOURIST BEACH TOWNS OFTEN DON’T WORK FOR US.

We love beaches but sometimes popular beach towns can be a bit too manufactured. Ölüdeniz had touts offering guided tours to every conceivable nook, tacky bars competing with each other for bad music and pirate ships covering the best views of the bay. All this seemed to drain all the atmosphere out of what should have been a beautiful location. We learnt in Ölüdeniz that popular beach resorts are not really our thing. Give us an out of the way secluded beach with a few basic facilities – a deck chair, local beers and whatever the locals are eating – and we’re happy.

5/ WE TREAT BIG TOURIST CENTRES WITH HEALTHY SCEPTICISM

Being a tourist can be a fantastic experience – think art in Florence, the Taj Majal, Machu Picchu. Sometimes being in the heart of a tourist centre is an amazing experience because you’re seeing the worlds top-class sights. But Ölüdeniz taught us that not all tourists centres are created equal. There’s no point being in a popular tourist centre if it fails to showcase why it became famous in the first place. Ölüdeniz reminded us that getting off the beaten track is a much more successful way to embrace how we love to travel.

6/ WE LIKE TO ENGAGE WITH LOCALS.

In a small roadside café in Nevşehir we sat down to order a Turkish tea. The owner who was there by himself, told us it would be about 15 minutes because he hadn’t had any customers yet and it takes a while to brew. As we sat down to wait a family of Turks arrived to take up all the remaining tables at the café. They had just driven from their small hometown near the Syrian border for a family holiday. The father introduced himself and proceeded to tell us all about his town. How it has a famous cathedral to “our” God (whose name he couldn’t remember in English), it’s many tourist attractions and why we should go. While we probably won’t be able to take him up on his offer to come and visit, this local interaction was never going to happen in Ölüdeniz.

SO WHY ARE WE TELLING YOU THIS?

The purpose of this post isn’t to shame people who love Ölüdeniz. In fact, quite the opposite. The final thing visiting Ölüdeniz taught us was that you should understand how you like to travel, what you want to get out of the experience, so you can do whatever you can to make sure you achieve it. If Ölüdeniz delivers what you want from a travel experience, then that’s what you should do.

But it doesn’t deliver what we want. And the best way we can provide value to our readers is by making it clear what type of travellers we are, how we like to see the world, and what ticks our boxes. If you agree with some of the sentiments in this article, then you like to travel the way we do.

In that case, our articles might just help you experience the world.



MORE READING | To read more about how we like to travel, see our about page. For other travel, mishaps have a look at our ROAM page here. To read all the things we LOVED about Turkey (and there were many) go here


MORE READING

To read more about how we like to travel, see our about page. For other travel, mishaps have a look at our ROAM page here. To read all the things we LOVED about Turkey (and there were many) go here.


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