Every year I find myself going to the same holiday destination – Icmeler in Turkey. I’ve travelled to other countries, either in company or alone, but I keep coming back to Icmeler. I first visited in 1986 and fell in love with the town. It was much quieter then – a few hotels and the old village but it still retains most of that charm and is worth a look.
Icmeler is a 90 minute drive from Dalaman airport. It can take another hour by the time you stop at various hotels, passing through the bigger town of Marmaris first, so it’s worth booking a taxi transfer, especially if you’re in a group.
The town is quite small and most things are in walking distance if you’re relatively fit. It is fairly flat and has some ramps for wheelchairs. These were put in some time ago and the slopes can be fairly steep. There’s one older hotel on the main road with a ramp that I swear has a 45 degree slant to it! They haven’t quite got the hang of accessibility! That said, almost everyone you meet is helpful so don’t necessarily let that put you off.
The town sits in a quiet bay in the Datca peninsula – just along from it’s better known neighbour, Marmaris. Don’t let that sway you – Marmaris does have a bit of a reputation for nightlife but Icmeler is much quieter. And if you want the nightlife it’s only a short dolmus or taxi ride to get there.
Icmeler is in two parts – the old village and the area next to the beach. You’ll find the bigger hotels nearer the beach and more apartments in the old village. But as long as you take your time, the newer part is walkable. Just take it slowly. There are regular minibuses (known as a dolmus – Turkish for “stuffed”!) going into the old village so you can always jump on one of these. It’s a fixed price – 2 or 3 Turkish Lira the last time I checked. The current rate of exchange, as at Feb 2018 is 5.00 TL to the Pound.
There are many shops in Icmeler, selling everything you could need, plus a lot that you don’t. You may have heard the infamous phrase “Genuine Turkish Fakes”? While a lot of the clothing is decent quality, the perfume is generally akin to surgical spirit in strength and scent, so please be careful.
It is possible to buy non branded, Turkish, clothing but be aware – the sizing is nothing like that in the UK. If you’re a Medium at home, be prepared to try on a Large or even XL over here.
One thing you will find in quantity is leather goods. Turkish made leather bags and shoes are well worth a look. But, again, just be careful about where you buy from. The lighter test is sometimes offered but there’s a trick to it and it’s still possible to end up with fake leather if you buy from the local markets. So – keep your wits about you and check the texture, stitching and most importantly – smell – of the items. Do they smell like leather? If not, chances are you’ve got imitation. That said, you could still end up with a nice looking, inexpensive product, so just take it under advisement!
Haggling is quite common in Turkey. If you’d like a little more advice on how to go about it, then just look here.
Tours and trips
There are many bus and boat trips available from Icmeler with pickup from your hotel or apartment being the norm. A popular one is the Lazy Days tour (almost every operator sells tickets) which involves mostly lying on the boat sunning yourself, swimming, eating and drinking. As a fair-skinned, freckled Scotswoman who can’t swim, I tend to avoid this one but you definitely get your money’s worth!
If you haven’t been to Turkey before, the Village Tour may be for you. You get a trip to an old village, lunch made for you, a short boat trip and the chance to sample (and buy) locally produced honey. Which is amazingly tasty, especially as the local hives are kept in pine forests and the honey has a hint of pine in it.
I usually book my trips in the resort through Icmeler Travel. It’s owned by Carol, an Edinburgh woman, and she has a UK base if you feel more comfortable booking before you leave. She also books flight and accommodation but I can’t comment on those as I haven’t used them. One of the best tours is to the mud baths – just ask when you get there/
You’ve probably heard of Turkish hospitality. When you’re out and about shopping you’re likely to be offered a glass of apple tea or chai (like strong Indian tea served black, with sugar on the side). I’m not overly fond of the apple tea as I like a stronger brew but either is refreshing after walking around in the heat for a while.
Accepting hospitality does not mean that you have to buy something so go ahead and enjoy a refreshing drink without worryiing about committing yourself to anything.
I can honestly say that I feel safer in Icmeler than I do in my nearest city here at home. I wouldn’t advocate taking unnecessary risks but I’ve walked round Icmeler at midnight, on my own, and never felt unsafe. The town is well-lit and busy until well into the small hours. While there’s the possibility of crime anywhere in the world, I truly didn’t feel at risk in Icmeler.
A lone female traveller is probably most at risk of a broken heart (or bank balance!) An easygoing, friendly approach may be misinterpreted by some of the younger men working locally. You will be approached and chatted up by many men – think Mateo in “Benidorm” – and it pays to be careful. There are kind and honest men here, as everywhere in the world, but there are sharks too and if someone 40 years your junior tries to flatter you just think – would you believe him at home? Does he seem genuine? And if he starts asking to borrow money, run for the hills!
Similarly, be aware that you are in a Muslim country and wearing bikini tops outside the hotel or beach area may garner unwanted attention. The best advice I can give you is to dress appropriately for the area you’re in and watch out for excessive flattery!
Icmeler is a wonderful little place. Big enough to offer many attractions but small enough to stroll through, enjoying the sights. It is great for families, older people and solo travellers. Why not give it a try?
So – do you have a favourite destination? Where is it and why does it draw you back time and again?