Turkish town of Alacati celebrates 7th Annual Herb Festival
By Ricky Ghosh Dastidar
Tucked away on the southern coast of Turkey’s Cesme Penisula, lies the picturesque town of Alacati. Famed for its architecture, vineyards and windmills, Alacati has a history that stretches all the way back to the 14th century; when it was an Ottoman town. Over the centuries, the town has undergone numerous changes; most notably in 1923 when the “Exchange Agreement” was signed as part of the Treaty of Lausanne. This resulted in the exchange of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Greece, with Orthodox Greeks in Turkey. Alacati lost its Greek inhabitants and subsequently, the productivity of the town suffered as the incoming Turks struggled with local wine-making traditions and unsuccessfully resorted to other methods of farming. In recent years, wine-making returned to the region and combined with the new influx of tourists, the town returned to its former glory.
Alacati Town Centre
The houses which were abandoned by the Greeks and taken over by the incoming Turkish Muslims still remain in the town today, and all new-buildings must match the architectural style of the old Greek houses. These are mainly single or double-storied ivory-coloured stone houses and since 2001, some have been converted into attractive boutique hotels and chic restaurants. Together with the famous narrow cobbled streets, Alacati has a distinctive and charming aesthetic, and was officially declared a Historical Site / Protected Area in 2006.
Alacati Herb Festival
One of the highlights of the town’s calendar is the Alacati Herb Festival. Now in its 7th year, the festival takes place each April with the aim of showcasing the numerous endemic herbs which grow in the region. The festival also celebrates the local cuisine and promotes environmentally-friendly agriculture. The 4-day event attracts visitors from all over Turkey and incorporates activities such as field visits, cooking classes, workshops, competitions and art exhibitions.
Alacati boasts a rich cuisine, and in addition to grapes, figs, olives, citrus fruits and seafood, it is home to the mastic tree. One of the excursions of the festival was a visit the town’s Mastic Tree Garden, where up to 125 trees can be found. The plant resin from these trees is used to flavour many types of food such as sweets, desserts and jam, and drinks such as coffee and raki. Additionally, its medicinal properties are utilised by pharmaceutical companies to treat conditions as varied as rabies, snake-bites and stomach, liver and intestinal disorders. Mastic plant resin is also used in the manufacture of perfumes, cosmetics, body lotion and body oil.
In recent years, Alacati has become a hot-spot for wind-surfing enthusiasts. Its location and endless supply of wind ensures surfers flock from all over the world to experience its waters. There are ten professional surf-centres dotted around the area and the strong-wind combined with shallow waters also makes the bay ideal for beginners. Alacati has previously hosted World, European and National Championships and is a very strong candidate to host the next World Windsurfing Championship.
Port of Alacati
Alacati’s waters are equally as appealing to fishermen as they are to wind-surfers.
In 2010, the town began hosting an International fishing tournament and since 2012 it has become Europe’s largest open-sea fishing tournament. Last year, it hosted a total of 350 amateur fishermen along with 70 boats; a record number in its history. The Alacati International Fishing Tournament is open to all amateur fishing enthusiasts.
More information can be found here: www.alacatifishing.com/en
Where to Stay
There are currently over 150 hotels in Alacati but it is essential to book ahead as they can become extremely busy during the summer months. One which comes highly recommended (and complete with a large outdoor swimming pool) is the Bey-Evi Hotel, situated in the heart of town. The friendly manager, Celal Bayraktaroglu will be sure to greet you like a long-lost family member and ensure a most pleasant stay. In addition, the in-house restaurant offers delicious Turkish pizza and pita dishes, along with tasty meatballs and French fries.
All of Alacati’s surrounding sandy beaches are located between one and ten miles from town and the most exceptional one is Ilica Beach.
More information can be found at: www.beyevi.com.tr/eng
How to Get There
Most major UK airports operate direct flights to Istanbul and Izmir. From Istanbul, a car journey to Alacati takes approximately 5 hours and from Izmir, it is just 45 minutes. Taxis from Izmir Airport cost about £55 and transfer companies such as My Garage can also be booked (£30 for a return journey). The best time to go is from the end of April through May, and from September through October. These months provide the best value for money and temperatures generally stay in the mid 20’s.
Excursions to the ancient city of Ephesus can be booked relatively easily from Alacati (approximately 1.5 hours by car).
For more information, visit: www.gototurkey.co.uk