A suave yet subtle Bodrum resort, Maçakizi is Turkish for Queen of Spades, which here on the Aegean coast is a symbol of intelligence and beauty – two things this stylish resort has in, well, spades. And it's a very strong hand played by original owner, Bodrum native Ayla Emiroglu. As the resident chef spends his morning diving for dinner (literally), the gentle chatter of pottering guests flows through stone-studded gardens and the aroma of freshly-baked Baklava wafts from the hotel’s restaurant. Slumber beside the shimmering Aegean, or – if you’re feeling a little tense – visit Maçakizi’s masseurs up on the pine-lined deck.
Noon, but flexible subject to availability (there’s no extra charge). Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £419.10 (€475), including tax at 8 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 5% per room per night on check-out.
Rates usually include buffet breakfast and a three-course dinner.
Have a treatment in the open-plan Nuxe spa treatment rooms with bamboo-lined walls, or heat up in the glass-fronted hammam. Decadent facials, massages, body scrubs and wraps, manicures and pedicures, treatments for men, bespoke treatments and personal-fitness sessions will leave you flower-scented and utterly relaxed. You can also unwind with a Pilates class overlooking the bay. A hairdressing and beauty salon is in the works, too. Lovers seeking romance and seclusion should come outside of high season (July and August), when the hotel turns into a magnet for the monied of Istanbul, and the Euro yacht set.
Usually, from November until late April.
At the hotel
Spa with treatment rooms, boutique selling cushions, kaftans and other knick-knacks; gardens, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen Bose TV, minibar, bathrooms with rain fall showers and Aqua di Parma bath products.
Our favourite rooms
We like Villa Suite (room 971) for its sculpted wooden furniture, white-and-black textured canvases, fat white sofa, and deck that spans the width of the room. Sprays of fresh flowers add shots of pink to the cool-coloured interior, and the views outside are dazzling. The Villa Suites are closest to the waterfront, so you’ll get a head start in the race to the tanning decks. For the utmost privacy, request an Upper Deck Room – these are set high on the hillside, away from the buzz. All rooms have French king-size beds as well as an additional single sofa bed, and remote-controlled black-out blinds.
There’s a small pool to one side of the breakfast terrace, surrounded by blossoms and shrubs.
Your very best swimwear, and designer shades to match. Remember wedges or deck shoes, to reduce the risk of sprains on the stone steps or by the waterfront.
Pets aren’t welcome, but animal-lovers can console themselves by seeking out the resident porcupines and kittens in the hotel’s hillside gardens.
This isn't the most toddler-suited hotel: lots of stone steps, and decks on the water. That said, extra beds are free for under-6s, €130 a night for older kids. Hotel staff will babysit for €25 an hour, or €20 an hour for three or more hours.
Little Smiths aged 11 and above – the plethora of decks and the stony staircases mean tiny tots aren’t well catered for.
Go for rooms closest to the pool and the breakfast lounge.
The best of the Aegean outdoors: they can dive off the decks and into the sea, or paddle in the pool.
The pool doesn’t have a life-guard, so parents should keep a watchful eye on hesitant water babies.
Children are welcome in the hotel restaurant at any time but bear in mind it’s an adult affair: glamorous, glittering and gorgeous, so squawks and squeals might not be appreciated by all guests.
Hotel staff will babysit for €25 an hour (or €20 an hour, for three or more hours). Remember to give a day’s notice.
The higher the deck, the better the views. If you’re lingering over cocktails at the bar, take a perch along the sunken deck, overlooking the fire-pit and the under-lit water.
Boat-club billionaire – or your best imitation.
Great food is at the heart of this hotel – though rooms close in winter, the restaurant stays open all year, and is seen as a culinary heavyweight. (The owner, a restaurateur by trade, has worked with the same chef for 25 years.) Elegant but comfy white chairs are set out on the decking, overlooking the Aegean; at night, glamorous diners and ankle-high lanterns light up the space. The seafood-celebrating menu includes octopus with black risotto, and grilled grouper with red pepper coulis.
Set on the lowest level of decking, and covered by white-sail awnings, the drinking area is a fluid extension of the restaurant. Sip champagne, or tots of sweet almond liqueur.
Deliciously relaxed: you can breakfast until 11am, ‘lunch’ until 4pm, and dine until midnight.
Have salads, sandwiches and other snacks brought to your room between 8am and 11pm.
Bodrum airport (www.bodrum-airport.com) is 45 minutes away by car.
It’s a 30-minute drive from Bodrum city centre, and the hotel has plenty of free guest parking.
Make an entrance on the hotel's seaplane. The Seabird flies from Haliç station, on Ayvansaray Street, in Istanbul to Maçakizi Beach; flights leave at 10am and 4.30pm on Fridays, 5.15pm on Sundays and 8.30am on Mondays. A one-way journey is €325 (plus 18 per cent tax).
Worth getting out of bed for
Having had a massage or facial in the spa, or a cut and colour in the hotel’s hairdressing salon (set to open soon), explore your surroundings. Wander the length of the Göltürkbükü waterfront in the early evening, pausing only for a round or two of drinks and a bout of celebrity spotting. Embark on a day trip with Blue Cruise (www.bluecruise.org) from Neyzen Tevfik Caddesi: choose from private or cabin charter gulets. Ask the hotel to help put together a historical tour for you: take in Bodrum Castle, the mausoleum and the ancient amphitheatre.
Mimoza (+90 (0)212 394 3139; www.mimozagumusluk.com) in Gumusluk, 30 minutes from the hotel by car, is perfect for special occasion dinners: you’ll eat on a terrace right by the sea, with little lanterns swinging from the trees. It’s more expensive than the competition, but the seafood is worth it. Enjoy traditional Turkish kebabs at Denizhan at Et Lokantası, Konacik. You can sit inside the saffron-yellow dining room, but we prefer to eat outside on the patio. Orfoz (+90 (0)252 316 4285; www.orfoz.com) is a popular fish restaurant on the Bodrum peninsula, with two outposts both run by one family. Mum and dad look after the Bozburun branch, their two sons look after an equally good sister eatery at Kumbahçe Mah, Cumhuriyet Cad. Fidele (+90 (0)252 377 5081; www.fidelotel.com) at Yalý Mekvýý, Goltürkbükü, has a deck that rivals Maçakizi’s: sit on the furthest corner, right by the sea, and spy on the darting iridescent fish.
Sit on one of the big straw rugs at Limon Café (+90 (0)252 394 4044; www.limongumusluk.com), half an hour away by car in Gumusluk, and lap up the sunset views. There’s a hangover-inducing range of home-made liqueurs, syrups and cocktails, and it’s cultural too, at a pinch – the ancient ruins of Myndos city can be spied in the distance. (It’s also worth coming here for a light lunch or dinner, post-swim.)
Follow the path from Maçakizi’s deck that leads to a green gate, and wander along the waterfront to Maki Hotel (+90 (0)252 377 6105 ) at Keleşharımı Mevkii Mimoza Sokak, Göltürkbükü. Here you’ll discover a deck that makes for idyllic cocktails.
It is a travel truth universally acknowledged that ouzo tastes better in Greece and raki tastes better in Turkey; that execrable movies are more palatable at 38,000 feet, and that even Norah Jones and Julio Iglesias sound coolly seductive when played against the backdrop of a gently lapping, lapis-blue Aegean. These thoughts drift lazily through my mind while beside me, on Macakizi’s famed pontoon deck, Mr Smith snores gently in the mid-morning heat.
‘Matcha-kuzza, Matcha-kuzza’ intoned the taxi drivers at Bodrum airport the previous evening, when Mr Smith and I flew in from Paris. Turkish words, apparently, are rarely pronounced as they appear. Just a little weary from our flight across Europe, we saw a balmy, fiery dusk turn to starry night as we cut north across the peninsula to the village of Turkbuku and tanned, bikini-clad Macakizi, whose name translates as Queen of Spades. Deposited at the unceremonious entrance, with only cicadas, ink-black night and our luggage for company, Mr Smith and I wondered momentarily if we had arrived at the right place. Was this really the self-proclaimed jewel in Bodrum’s crown? Then from the shadows, Ninja-like, sprang a pair of lithe, handsome, T-shirted young Turks who grabbed our bags and, wordlessly, propelled us towards reception. The Smiths had arrived.
I’m used to processing interiors in a split second and ‘beach house’ is the caption my mind selects on entering our suite. White-on-white-on-white. Cool white in places, shabby white in others. The whites are tonal, though something tells me they weren’t always. Pure white is a decor that requires regular, meticulous upkeep. The room is comfortable and functional, but it’s not glamorous. ‘Acqua de Parma toiletries in the bathroom!’ shouts Mr Smith in approval. Or is it relief at finding a hint of luxury in our ensuite? But a white room should never be judged by night. It’s not until the spectacular dawn that our room is revealed as a mere foil to the million-dollar, bougainvillea-framed view of the Aegean.
Travellers’ folklore surrounds Macakizi. Mention it at a cocktail party in Sydney, London or Paris and it elicits affection. Originally founded in the 1970s as a bohemian pensione by Ayla Emirolu (who still imperiously treads the Macakizi boardwalk), the present-day resort was established in 2000 by Ayla’s son, Sahir Erozan. Like a harbourside village, Macakizi creeps gently and haphazardly down the cliff-face to the shore, where the magnificent wooden decks stretch out into the Aegean. On the descent there’s a breakfast and lounge level with a shaded pool; a gym; tented Thai massage pavilions; restaurant level, bar level and then the decks. In summer, those fabled decks are a glamorous magnet for wealthy Istanbullus, global celebrities and middle-European aristocrats. The contessa baking herself on the deck is reputedly one of Germany’s richest women. The coach of the Turkish national soccer team (in Turkey, we’re told, there is God, and then there’s the national soccer coach) lives next door. Turkey’s most famous architect lives above. Movie stars, models, fashion designers and socialites tread these boards all summer long, many in heels. But in late September, with the crowds gone, Mr Smith and I can barely imagine the 320 lounge-beds that covered the decks just a few weeks earlier, the Villebrequin, Pucci and D&G. For just a few glorious days, this glamorous fiefdom feels almost like ours.
Mr Smith and I are foodies. We may not like the term but that’s we are. And whatever the wine version of that term is – Mr Smith baulks at ‘winies’ – we’re that too. And it’s fair to say the Macakizi day revolves around food. A generous breakfast buffet offers irresistible breads and Turkish pastries baked onsite, deep bowls of yoghurt, fresh walnuts, dried fruits, apples and plump peaches and figs. There’s fragrant olive oil and four types of crumbly, glistening feta with tomatoes and cucumbers that taste nostalgically of themselves. At midday, Macakizi tradition dictates that a ship’s bell and a burst of carnival-style samba summon torpid guests to a lunchtime spread of seared chicken, poached salmon, kofte, salads, marinated vegetables, tzatziki, tiramisu and baklava.
In the evening, chef Aret Sahakyan’s more formal dinner menu demands candlelight and table linen for a mix of Turkish and Mediterranean dishes. Daniel, the charming and informed sommelier, points Mr Smith and me in the direction of some fine Turkish chardonnays to match the octopus salad and saganaki prawns. And the heavenly bread from the wood-fired ovens that softly whispers ‘gym, cardio, treadmill…’
General manager and marvellous host Andrew Jacobs (serendipitously a fellow Australian and ex-pat Sydneysider) explains to Mr Smith and me how the resort’s music menu works too. Light classical in the morning to soothe hangovers (Mr Smith relates enthusiastically to this), moving to something laid-back and relaxing before segueing to the evening’s DJ-spun Euro beats. Norah Jones notwithstanding, the Macakizi soundtrack is chilled and gentle. My Shazam app is working hard and ‘Besame Mucho’ has never sounded so damn sexy.
In centuries past, scholars debated the existence of Utopia and Eldorado. Likewise, in recent years I have queried the existence of a Café del Mar world where Monocle Mediterraneo is read and warm, languid days spin glamorously and rhythmically towards an eternal cocktailhour. But since Macakizi, I’m a believer. I know where that world lies.