Amen, we say emphatically to the Earth goddess as we check in to Gaia by the Sea, a stay in Turkey’s beach-embellished Izmir Province that takes you by the shoulders and tells you to ‘relax’. Something that’s not exactly hard to do here: suites all come with a thermal pool, and decor involves organic forms, hues to soothe, and natural materials (shaggy wicker lamps, rope cords, crisp linens, weathered woods). A landscaped wharf lets you dive into the sparkling mirror of the Aegean, and seafood-focussed dining gets the fine treatment here (with portions to make a Turkish mamma proud) – it’s hard to stay here and not feel blessed.
12 noon, but flexible one hour either side of the set time, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £508.44 (TRY18,535), including tax at 8 per cent.
Rates include breakfast, an array of savoury and sweet eats (Turkish cream with honey, fruit, doughnuts stuffed with Nutella, local sausage, French toast and pancakes, eggs many ways, bread and jams, salads, cheeses, olive plates, acuka spread).
Pick up beach-y wearables, bags and some local makes at the on-site boutique just by the restaurant.
At the hotel
Private wharf, free-to-borrow paddleboards, boutique, free WiFi. In rooms: Private garden and thermal pool, Bluetooth sound-system, Illy espresso machine, minibar with healthy snacks, beach bags and flip-flops, bath products from Atelier Rebul, bathrobes, air-conditioning, wooden toothbrushes and Marvis paste, free WiFi.
Our favourite rooms
Suites embody serenity: there are no startling hues (only heart-rate-lowering cream and latte), low-key tech, flowy organic shaping, and natural materials (shaggy wicker lampshades hung on thick ropes, tables made of chopped logs, cooling linens), and plenty of plants. They’re as relaxing as mainlining warm milk. And, each has a thermal pool large enough for couples to soak in. The only real difference is the view – and while the garden, lush with banana, olive and pine trees, is a soothing site, the sparkling blue of the Aegean is just a smidge more magical.
Each room has a private thermal pool – ranging from wallow to paddle in size – and then there’s the wharf, off which people dive into the Aegean, so you’re all set for being submerged.
Bring more swimwear than you think you’ll need, with the hotel’s wharf, your private pool and the many beaches surrounding you, you’ll spend a chunk of time paddling about.
Glamorous guru gets a tick here: flowy forms, natural fabrics, neutral hues…
Seafood crests into fine territory at Otaya restaurant, where you can sit by the very waters these quite-a-catches come from and get stuck into crustaceans tossed with fettuccine; hummus sprinkled with fish pastrami; tacos stuffed with fat sardines; cacik yoghurt with seaweed, cherry and mint oil; or perch wrapped in vine leaves. There’s a dining room of sorts, open on all sides and looking out to sea, and then more tables are laid out at the water’s edge.
There’s a sort of festival feel to eating and drinking here – the bar itself is a counter with a couple stools beside Otaya’s indoor-outdoor pavilion. The barkeeps stick to the classics – espresso martini, Aperol spritz – but you can have a piquant margarita with a dusting of chilli, or a signature Lamb’s Ear, with gin, apple juice and orange liqueur.
Breakfast runs from 8.30am to 11.30am, lunch from 12 noon to 5pm, and dinner from 7pm to 11pm.
Intimate dinners on your terrace? A snack in bed? The hotel has you covered.
Gaia by the Sea sits serenely by the Aegean in a sheltered part of Turkey’s Izmir Province, close to resort town Çeşme.
Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport is the closest to the hotel, an hour’s drive away, which has good direct links across Europe and the Middle East. The hotel’s transfer service (for up to four guests) runs between May and September and costs €75 one way. On request you can have a more luxurious ride in a Mercedes-Benz Vito.
You’re right on a private beach, so if you’re happy to drop and do nothing then no car is required. However, the beach over yonder might be more golden, and the only way to know for sure is to zoom over – plus there are historic sites and lively cities to explore. Pick up wheels at the airport, and the hotel has secure free parking and a valet service.
Worth getting out of bed for
Gaia sits on a raised pinky of leafy-beachy land stretching out into the Aegean from the Izmir Province. Set by the glossy blue sea and a short drive from the lively resort town of Çeşme, it’s in prime swimwear and sun-cream territory. The hotel has its own private wharf secluded behind banks of rushes, just across the road from the entrance. It was once a rocky cove, but the owners have landscaped it elegantly, creating sunlounging decks and safe swimming areas. But if you want some sand underfoot, the region is lousy with beaches (there are 279 throughout). Just along the road is the slightly busier Nayman Beach, Quente Beach with its cellophane-clear waters, Şifne with its Maldivian air, and lemon-tree-studded Aya Yorgi. The hotel has a stash of paddleboards that are free to borrow too. The closest town is Alaçati, which charms with its cobbled streets, painted shutters and clouds of bougainvillaea. Gaia has a sister hotel here, but it’s best known for its historic windmills and wine-making tradition – Urla Winery has been lauded for their bottles, and you can tour and taste their modern vineyard and picturesque grounds. Further west is resort town Çeşme, where you can climb to the crenellated turrets of a 16th-century Ottoman castle and dive into the area’s history in a Genoese fort turned museum. And for a day trip, go even further back in time, wandering the Grecian ruins of Ephesus, around a 90-minute drive away, but worth the stretch for remarkably well-preserved façades and colonnaded walkways.
Turkish tradition of dangerously overloading tabletops with brimming dishes, stuffing tasty things with more tasty things, and making salads as colourful as they are flavourful holds fast across the region. In Alaçati, Asma Yaprağı has an immensely pretty courtyard by a greenhouse where guests will be presented with mountains of mezze; veggies and grains; stuffed tomatoes, courgette flowers and vine leaves; flatbread pizzas; and tartlets with fruit and yoghurt – all on darling vintage crockery. Roka Bahçe has the same idea but with more experimental execution; say, goat with chard and thistles, stuffed cherry leaves, saganaki cheese baked with cinnamon, and tomato ice-cream for dessert. Over in Çeşme find a just-like-home meal at Çeşka Anne Mutfağı, which is run by a women’s cooperative. Food (green beans with almond and fennel, purslane salad, meatballs of various regional styles and syrup-drenched cakes) is served in huge tin serving trays with little ceremony but plenty of warming comfort.
Kebabs are kind of a big deal here, especially at Çeşme’s Tokmak Hasan'ın Yeri, whose döner comes in generous proportions. And for coffee that’ll wake you up like a punch in the face, try Alaçati’s Köşe Kahve, which looks like something out of a children’s story book with its greenery, flowers, pastel hues and decorative flourishes.
Zoho Cocktail Bar in Alaçati has a laidback feel and lively terrace – meet here for whiskey and coffee sours and other tempting concoctions till late.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this soothing stay in the bountifully beach-y Izmir Province and unpacked their jar of kopanisti cheese and wines from Turkey’s Tuscany, a full account of their mellow and mindful break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Gaia by the Sea…
Seems like the Earth goddess answered our prayers when we asked for some serious downtime. Gaia by the Sea cradles guests in beach-y minimalist suites engineered for relaxation – and inspired by natural textures and the shifting light of the sun – with soft hues, curvaceous organic shaping, natural materials and a shielded private terrace with a thermal pool. Slip into smooth cool linens, soak in bath tub-warm water, and let the clock tick away as you settle on a cushioned banquette in the sun. After all, all there is to trouble yourself with are dips in the Aegean from the hotel’s landscaped wharf, classic cocktails to nurse, and the Izmir Province’s embarrassment of beaches to bask on. And, Gaia herself feels very present in the 500-year-old olive tree that holds a steadfast peacefulness at the centre of the stay, the rushes that keep the waterfront private, and the banana, olive and pine trees that grow lushly all about. Here, simple pleasures abound as Mother Nature shushes the wider world away.