As the late afternoon sun kisses the ancient stone windmills overlooking Alaçatı, the village on Turkey’s Aegean coast bustles alive. Locals and holidaymakers stroll its winding cobblestone streets, enjoying a glass of wine in Alaçatı’s bars and restaurants.
You can still feel the warmth of the day’s sun radiating from the old whitewashed stone houses with their blue and green shutters as you walk beneath bowers of flowering purple bougainvillea. Grape vines and pomegranate trees hang heavy with fruit, and neighbours sit chatting under the fig trees. It all feels decidedly Greek, which is unsurprising given Alaçatı’s history.
Not far from the ancient trading city of Izmir, Alaçatı once had a largely Greek population, sustained by fishing, olives and wine. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the Greco-Turkish war, a treaty led to the exchange of Orthodox Greeks in Alaçatı for Turkish Muslims in Greece. The old Greek history still whispers strongly and the region remains famous as one of Turkey’s eminent wine- and olive-growing areas.
Fashionable women and men from Istanbul and Izmir sip Turkish tea in the many cafes, and eat dainty cakes and pastries for which the village bakers are famous. Artisanal jewelers, local designers and antique stores cluster at the heart of the village, where the 200-year-old Memiş Aga Mosque (once a Greek church) stands. On weekends the streets are filled with market stalls brimming with the best local produce from land and sea. Alaçatı’s restaurants offer spanking fresh fish and meze platters bright with tomatoes, peppers, fresh green herbs and olives.
Alaçatı is also a renowned international windsurfing destination, thanks to the brisk Aegean breeze. But inside the village itself the wind drops to a cooling whisper between the beautiful old stone houses, many of which have now been converted to boutique hotels. Few outside Turkey know of Alaçatı’s existence, but it has become an Aegean summer hideaway for those who love salt air, good food and azure oceans.