Gareth Huw Davies


A hideaway in village Turkey

Yesil Ev, Airbnb property in Sogut, SW Turkey. Photo Jan Wright

The stone table outside our little rented house in a remote coastal village in Turkey’s far south-west corner is set for breakfast.

The coffee is poured, the bread fresh this morning from the local baker torn into hunks, and the bounty of the village – figs, yoghurt, honey, almonds and water melon – spread out.

But we can’t start until the daily sensation, that fabulous moment of renewal. Fortunately we can predict it to the second.

Just before seven the sun creeps up behind the ring of mountains that circles the village. For the merest moment the great glowing orb balances on a pinnacle, then surges up in a burst of gold. It is the perfect start to the morning.

Then it is time for the sea. There is no road to our favourite beach, only a path worn smooth by centuries of human feet and donkeys’ hooves down a tight, green ravine. It is cool even in high summer, refreshed by a spring-fed stream that never seems to dry up.

We reach a perfect, enclosed bay flanked by high mountains. There’s no sign of this, or any other century, until you get back to the Ancient Greeks. Bits of their columns and temples are liberally scattered all along this coast.

This is the Loryma Peninsula, one of the many blissful outposts of untouched Turkey. Our bay is just another perfect representative from an almost infinite list of little deserted coves you would struggle to find on a map, let alone in a guide book.

I won’t gloss over the trouble this country has seen recently. And  people must put their own and their family’s safety at the centre of their holiday planning. I would only ask them to join me on a journey to little Sogut, our little spread-out village folded into a valley. They will receive a welcome as wide and warm and open as ever from ordinary but extraordinary Turkish people.

This is alternative Turkey, days without pressure, well away from the big resorts. In recent years Airbnb and other sites have transformed our access to remote and peaceful places like this we never knew existed, making it so much easier to book somewhere quiet, and secluded, for as short or long as we like.

Sogut is an authentic, working village, where everyday rural life goes on all about us. The lady opposite leading her few cows to pasture.The braying donkeys, where one starts and all the others take up an aural Mexican wave down the valley. The sound of our neighbours thwacking the almond trees to bring down the nuts.

And who needs bottled water? All ours, pure and sweet, comes from an eternal spring just above our house. In this village the definition of a crowd is three people waiting here. I go there in the cool of the night and fill our plastic bottles, lit by the torch on my smartphone.

This is independent travel at its easiest. We always hire a car at the airport. Planning is simple now, with Google Maps and other apps giving precise route and time of arrival. We have travelled to distant Troy, to the wonderfully preserved Roman cities of Ephesus and Aphrodisias, and the super-abundance of Greek and Roman remains all across the South and west coast. Anywhere is possible, on good roads. But why go so far?

There are random wonders in the nearby hills, such as ancient walls made up of massive cut stones, bearing mysterious inscriptions. They are not in any guidebook I know, and I have never seen a tourist near them.

The weekly market provides all the fresh vegetables and fruit we could ask for. At the local fishmonger’s we simply point to something that takes our fancy on his comprehensive chart. He invariably has some in his freezer, caught out of the bay.

We have a few favourite restaurants along the coast, where they are happy for you to linger all day at a shady table. The Mermaid at Saranda is one. It’s a simple routine. A dip in the sea, dry off, back to the table, read a book, eat, another dip, more reading, another drink and then a leisurely walk back around the coast on a path the Ancient Greeks probably used.

I add to my list of priceless delights every time. Last visit it was the asphodel, tall and thin, like a flexible wand, with pretty miniature blue florets. They stand in their hundreds, sentinels in flower form, alongside the new Carian Trail, an epic 500 mile coastal route which passes close to where we stay.

But no day would be complete without a return to our favourite beach, down the polished footpath. As usual, not a soul around. Then an eagle ventures forth from the crags above and begins describing elegant and ever widening circles, higher and higher until it is a mere dot above the bay.

We stand on the beach to savour this coast’s eternal simplicity. We set out our garden-grown almonds and olives, pour a drink, and, for the umpteenth time, wonder at that perfect, timeless view, as the sun sets over the bay.

Gareth and his wife stayed at Yesil Ev in Söğütköy, near Marmaris, booked through