19 Dec Alaçati is a Turkish Paradise With a Uniquely Grecian Flavor
With its cobbled alleyways and pale stone houses overgrown with sprays of pink and red bougainvillea, the traditional town of Alaçati looks like a sleepy Greek fishing village. But its traditional stone villas conceal a wealth of amenities, from high-end restaurants and discreet boutique hotels, to hidden courtyard cafes, art galleries, antique shops and designer boutiques. The most exclusive destination on the famous Çeşme peninsula, the small town is Turkey’s answer to St. Tropez, combining historic ambience with modern luxury.
Founded by Greeks who came to work in the nearby vineyards and olive farms in the 17 century, Alaçati has slowly transformed into one of Turkey’s most elite destinations, boasting luxurious villas, excellent cuisine and access to some of the finest beaches in the Aegean.
“It’s an old Greek town but it’s been totally redone after the early 20 century. It became a property magnet for wealthy Turks who are into yachting and surfing—it’s become their favorite destination, pretty much,” said Tolga Ertukel, founder and director of Turkey Homes, a real estate company headquartered in London with offices across Turkey.
Alaçati is bounded on the north by the Aegean Sea, on the east by the forested Tanay Tibiat Park and the Izmir-Çeşme highway, on the south by the Port Alaçati Marina and on the south roughly by the Riza Ertan road.
Prices for stone villas with private gardens and swimming pools in Alaçati range from 2 million to 5 million Turkish lira (US$250,000 to US$600,000), Mr. Ertukel said. High-end luxury villas close to the coveted historic town center typically cost between TL3 million and TL5 million.
David Melisse, the founder and owner of Aegean Properties, a real estate company specializing in luxury properties in the Çeşme area, said the average price for a luxury villa in Alaçati is around 4.2 million lira (US$530,000), but that the highest-end properties in Alaçati, enormous newly built stone villas with sea views set between the historic center and the upmarket yachting marina, can reach TL12 million.
In keeping with Alaçati’s historic Greek-built stone houses, new construction uses local stone and most buildings are limited to two stories. Some buyers prefer renovated historic stone houses with traditional colorful wooden shutters and luxury contemporary interiors, Mr. Melisse said, while others gravitate toward newly built villas that emulate the traditional Alaçati architectural style.
The priorities of international buyers have shifted since the onset of the pandemic. “Before, we got a lot of requests from European buyers who in general want to have a luxurious apartment. They don’t want the hassle of maintaining huge properties with swimming pools and such,” Mr. Melisse said. “But lately this trend is changing because of the coronavirus. A lot of people tend to buy big properties with more privacy and a bit more detached.”
Mr. Ertukel said the most sought-after properties tend to be luxury villas with gardens and swimming pools located close to the historic heart of the town.
“People like to be close to Alaçati center because it’s such a unique quaint town,” he said. “Most of these houses were built 100 or more years ago but they’ve all been renovated and some of the interiors have been changed. Also you will see some new builds and they use exactly the same architecture used 100 or 200 years ago.”
What Makes It Unique
Alaçati combines small-town life with big-city amenities. Located a 45-minute drive from Izmir, with its luxury shopping malls, high-end hospitals and international airport, it is easily accessible but retains an exclusive atmosphere, attracting what Mr. Melisse called “the jet-set high-society crowd.” “It’s a really European vibe,” he said. “Alaçati is the most modern and the most exclusive area of Turkey.”
Mr. Ertukel said it stands out because of its historic houses and contemporary amenities. “It’s traditional but at the same time very modern, very clean, very upmarket… Alaçati’s unique architecture I think adds that additional edge when you compare it to other upmarket port towns on the coast of Turkey,” he said.
The town’s location on a peninsula keeps it temperate, even in the sweltering summer months. “What I think is a big plus is the climate. It’s definitely nice weather 300 days a year but it’s not uncomfortably hot… There is always a small breeze,” Mr. Melisse said.
Alaçati offers easy access to around 25 white sand beaches, according to Mr. Melisse, as well as a string of high-end beach clubs. The town has several windsurfing and kitesurfing schools and often hosts international windsurfing tournaments, including the world championship.
It’s also a popular destination for those who enjoy cruising the Greek islands and the Turkish Riviera, with its five yacht marinas located nearby, including Alaçati’s own Port Alaçati Marina, designed by French architect François Spoerry. Ferries to the Greek island of Chios depart from the nearby town of Çeşme, a 10-minute drive along the coast.
“The Greek islands are just across the water and you can reach them within half an hour,” Mr. Ertukel said. “There are hundreds of small islands between the two mainlands.”
Alaçati boasts some of the region’s best restaurants, including Alancha, where surfer-turned-chef Kemal Demirasal applies his knowledge of molecular science to the fruits of a 12,000-year history of Anatolian cuisine, and Fava, which offers up an abundance of local seafood served with vegetables grown in its private garden.
The area is also famous for its wine production, producing 20% of Turkey’s entire supply. The nearby Urla, Usca and Urlice vineyards serve up award-winning biodynamic wines amid stunning countryside.
There are several well-regarded international schools in nearby Izmir, including the American Collegiate Institute, MEF International School and Deutsche Schule Izmir.
Who Lives There
Alaçati has increasingly become a hotspot for Turkish celebrities and millionaires, who see it as “an alternative to the Bodrum scene,” Mr. Ertukel said. “Bodrum has been highly explored over the years and Alaçati is another small high-end getaway.” The town’s permanent residents number less than 10,000, he says, but in the peak of the summer months the population of Alaçati can swell to 10 times that.
“In general it’s 90% Turkish residents,” Mr. Melisse said. “There are not too many foreigners yet, but slowly they are starting to discover this area… It’s high society from Istanbul and also from Izmir.”
“Alaçati’s high-end scene attracts Turkish celebrities: the TV actors, the film stars, politicians, the football players and of course it attracts the yachties and the boaters. They like to travel between Bodrum and Alaçatı,” he said. German footballer Mesut Özil bought a villa in Alaçatı for 1 million euros in 2018, according to published reports. Turkish basketball player Hedo Türkoğlu, pop star and actor Niyazi Emre Altug, TV star Ece Erken, comedian Tolga Çevik and filmstar Demet Akbağ also have homes in the Port Alaçatı Marina area, according to published reports.
Mr. Melisse, who lives nearby, says it’s not uncommon to spot familiar faces around the town. “There are a lot of fancy restaurants and bars and it’s very popular among the high society of Istanbul and Izmir so when I walk there with my wife she recognises a lot of movie stars,” he said.
Nearby Izmir experienced the highest rate of annual growth worldwide in the year ending in June 2020, with property prices shooting up by 28.1%, according to Knight Frank’s Global Residential Cities Index. Mr. Ertukel said it’s similar in Alaçati. “I think a 20% to 25% rise on properties within the center of Alaçati is quite common because there isn’t a huge supply of properties, being a small town, and there’s always a demand on the resale property market,” he said.
Mr. Melisse said he’s experienced increased demand from both domestic and foreign buyers. “If we’re talking luxury, prices went up a lot lately because the interest rate dropped, so a lot of domestic buyers prefer to purchase properties instead of putting their money in the bank,” he said. In addition, the depreciation of the Turkish lira has led to “a huge demand from abroad because most of the developers and private house sellers quote their prices in Turkish lira.”
“In general we say there is an annual increase in the value of properties of around 5% in euros or dollars because it’s quite a unique area and properties are a bit rare,” he said, adding that he expected the upward trend in prices to continue in the coming years.