Hotel Review: Cumbali Konak, Alacati
Where can one spend a few relaxed days on the Turkish Coast? The Cumbali Konak Alacati has the answer.
Why I’m publishing this now – a bit of current affairs
I’ve been to Turkey three times now, and while I am no expert, I loved every visit. Tourist hotspots aside, most Turkish people are extremely welcoming. No matter whether you speak the language or not, regardless on how much you plan to spend. Also, Turkey is the third most popular country that Germans spend their holiday, after Spain and Italy. But it looks like no easy Turkey holiday for us this summer.
On 15th June this year, our Foreign Office lifted its global travel warning for most EU countries. It also included Schengen countries and the United Kingdom. Turkey welcomes tourists from the EU again from 11 June. Two days later, the Robert-Koch Institute issued a new list of risk areas. And this changes on an almost daily basis. I try to follow that list and look at countries infections statistics. Spain travel warning will be lifted as soon as Spain allows tourists in. This may happen on 1 July, with the Balearic Islands running a pilot tourism project right now. Not only has the travel warning remained in place for Turkey, but our Foreign Office has declared Turkey a Risk Area. This means it is unlikely they lift the travel warning for Turkey before 31 August.
The travel advisory list of the German Robert-Koch-Institute
Even though Turkey has far fewer than 50 new infections per 100000 people per day. There’s been an outcry in the German media. Not only is Turkey a popular holiday destination, but many Turks and Turkish-Germans live in Germany. Traditionally they spend the summer with their families in Turkey. There is a lot of speculation that the motive is a political one. German-Turkish relationships at high level haven’t been the best since the German government recognized the Armenian genocide in 2016, with the ongoing European refugee crisis where thousands of refugees get stranded at the outer EU borders in Turkey, and Turkeys ongoing support of Russia – and many other issues where the respective governments don’t agree with each other.
Turkey is still considered a risk area by the German government
With a similar but much younger population than Germany, Turkey fared better than Germany in the handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Their infections numbers are lower at currently 185000, with a death rate of 2.6%. Germany’s mortality is also low at 4.7% with 190000 cases – according to data published by Johns Hopkins University. Or let’s say the outcome is better, while some measures were doubtful. They did well in terms that they set up a national taskforce at the end of January and introduced thermal screening in airports, imposed a curfew and set up hand sanitizers, and closed their borders in mid-March. Subsequently they closed schools, restaurants and non-essential shops and places of worship and imposed a contact ban yet no full lockdown.
The German Foreign Office has not officially commented on why Turkey is a risk area. Their blurb on why some countries are considered risky suggests “lack of appropriate testing and reporting” and “lack of medical facilities”. While reporting from Turkey (like form many other countries including my very own) has to be taken with a grain of salt, Turkeys medical facilities are very good. The untrialled treatment of COVID-19 cases with hydroxychloroquine (similar to the USA) is also somewhat doubtful, and testing is about half of what is run in Germany, but still… their infections appear under control, and still Turkey is a risk country?
Is Turkey “risky”?
Unless you stay on some sardine-can beach resort or ride the full public transport in the cities, I cannot see how you should be at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than in Germany right now! The standards of hygiene are really high, life in the warm months is pretty much outside, and the country is huge.
I’m really disappointed Turkey has been declared a risk country, and while I will need to counsel anyone who’s asking me about the risks involved, I would personally still travel to Turkey, even if that would potentially mean being quarantined after my return. Not even that is clear, as quarantine rules are set at state level. You know, three days ago they found 650 workers to be positive in a meat processing factory in Germany where people are employed under the worst conditions and exploited because most of them are migrants not knowing much Germans and not aware of their rights, people who went on a spontaneous rave with no distance in Berlin a fortnight ago get away unscathed, distance and mask rules are regularly flaunted – but travel advice seems very very arbitrary.
This is why, should Japan not allow foreign tourists this year, it might be “Go Turkey” for me again in autumn. Alacati would be a good candidate, too.
Alacati? Never heard of it
Alacati is a former fishing village on the Cesme peninsula, less than an hour from Izmir. The excellent road connections and proximity to a well-connected yet fuss-free airport make this one a favourite with well-heeled city dwellers from Turkey, but increasingly, there has been a buzz about Alacati as a “Boutique Destination” internationally. Add to that decent beaches to the North and some excellent windsurfing conditions in the bay to the south, and you got a perfect destination.
We hadn’t really planned much beach time on our Turkey round trip, but a stomach bug and less enthusiasm about Pamukkale gave us three extra days before flying back to Istanbul. We also wanted to visit Izmir but didn’t fancy negotiating traffic and staying in a city before three days in an even bigger city… so… bit of internet research, hotel research, and a long motorway journey from Pamukkale later, mostly done by my husband while I slept in the back seat, we pulled into the small sleepy ex-fishing town of Alacati.
Alacati is just the place where you roam the little shaded streets a bit then stretch out on some colourful cushions and chill.
Alacati has so far managed to stay small, with no mega resorts anywhere near the pretty cobblestone streets. Many of the old Ottoman-era residences at the edge of the Old Town have been converted into smart little hotels. Cumbali Konak is no exception.
The hotel is boutique hotel in the truest sense. Its two main buildings have been harmoniously combined into a small hotel. Each room is different in size and decorated individually in bright whimsical style. Most of the time, you can park easily just outside the building. In summer, there is a bustling market right outside the hotel once a week, meaning noise for a day and no parking.
To one side, there are lots of hotels in similar style whereas across the market square, you’ll doive into the narrow lanes of the Old Town Centre with its pretty and colourful cafes and restaurants. It came as no surprise that, when we went for a quick bite after arriving, we observed a small crowd filming outside a bar and were educated by the cafe staff that here was a famous Turkish Youtuber (or Instagrammer?) filming for his channel. Probably would get that in Antalya, darling.
In general, Alacati is a small resort for the well-heeled young-to middle aged demographic and those who love watersports. The Cumbali Konak Alacati only welcomes adults, possibly teenagers, and pretty much every guest there, us included, was part of a couple. Honestly, I would have felt happy there as a solo traveller, too.
Location of the Cumbali Konak
The hotel is 1 minute from the main road, but you barely hear traffic. It is in a former residential area where most of the larger residences appear to have been converted into small hotels. However, wander the pretty streets and you will find plenty of private residences too. The whole place definitely has a holiday place feel about it, at least close to the centre of town, which can be reached on foot in less than 5 minutes.
We arrived early enough, in November, to experience the end-of-season party in some of the outdoor bars somewhere in the quarter, which kept us well awake until 4am, but after that night (when we nearly checked out) it was heavenly quiet the entire time we spent there. In the main season, it has to be expected that there will be some noisy nights, especially on weekends, when well-to-do people from Istanbul and Izmir descend on the town.
Our Room at the Cumbali Konak
We booked a Superior Double Room on the first floor. All rooms are individually decorated, so it can be a bit of pot luck which room you’ll be getting. We were very happy with this one. Calm decor, the biggest, comfiest hotel bed (until we arrived at the Pera Palace, that is). Not huge, but certainly big enough.
The bathroom was fine of not exactly huge, with a walk-in shower and really nice-smelling natural toiletries – ironically, made in Germany.
All in all, a really pretty and extremely comfortable individually decorated hotel room. One morning, the cleaner amusingly looked on as I took pictures of our bedroom, and let me look in other bedrooms as well. So, here’s another first-floor room, this time with exposed stone walls and fireplace.
This style of house is an Ottoman-era historic house called “Konak”. It means “mansion” but can also mean “lodging”. in Turkish. The house often has an enclosed courtyard or garden. And at Cumbali Konak they certainly made the most of it. There is a well-tended little garden with a small pool and lounging chairs, and some bar service during the day.
Some of the rooms have their own little courtyard gardens.
If you don’t want to sit in the garden, you can use the pretty salon in one of the buildings too.
While the whole hotel is a neat relaxing package, lets take a look at the breakfast. While the “Bali Floating Breakfast” is a bit of an institution in certain social media, the “Turkish Village Breakfast” is in close pursuit, although it rarely floats in a pool. But at least half the places we stayed in took great pride in filling the breakfast table with as many little dishes as they cold, confusing you more and more as they brought more local delicacies. At the Cumbali Konak, they really turned this into a fine art.
What isn’t shown is plates of eggs, fried bread and pancakes. A lot of their breakfast dishes are local and locally sourced, and with some, I really still don’t have any idea what they were except that they were vegetarian-suitable. While I really struggled to eat everything on the first day, I asked them to bring less the following days, and took some of the fruit and dried goods away to have as a snack later!
But if you like this type of huge breakfast, that is also of high quality, here is the place to sample it, and it is included in the room rate.
Why stay at the Cumbali Konak Alacati?
For me as a budget-conscious traveller who’s mostly outgrown the hostel beds and windowless double rooms, this small hotel has the whole package – small, independent, welcoming, high quality – with great value for money. I also like to add that if I were to travel solo, this would be slightly out of my price range, but the Cumbali Konak also has some budget rooms in its basement – they are more simple, but still lovingly decorated and they have daylight and windows you can open.
It’s important to know that most Alacati hotels are geared towards weekend travellers from the cities, so rates often go up from Friday to Sunday when availability will also be lower during the summer months.
Other recommended hotels
Imerek Stone House Hotel is a tiny guesthouse close to the picturesque town centre of old Alacati, and about 3km to the nearest beach. Housed in an old stone house, this comes with much character, yet at under 30 Euros per room, this is a true classy budget option.
Another incredibly stylish and good value option is Sandal Alacati. Housed in another traditional stone building, this has fresh rooms, some with exposed stone walls, and even has a pool – all at less than 30 Euros per room in shoulder season! For all the style and amenities you pay by being somewhat closer to the motorway and further from the centre – but still in walking distance.
The only reason to stay anywhere else than the Cumbali Konak would be if it were full. The Kose Konak Butik Hotel is opposite the Cumbali, and looks and feels very similar – beautiful traditional stone house, clean neutral-toned furnishings, garden, pool – even the prices are quite similar.
Money no object? I’ve been thinking hard what more you could want that the Cumbali Konak doesn’t offer. I came up with bigger rooms, refined cuisine, super-fancy style and a larger pool. A lot of places I have come across seem to be similar in style and character to Cumbali, with similar or higher prices. One that did stand out was the Pachamama Hotel on the outskirts of the Old Town. This is the place you go for super cool interior design inspiration and t be wowed. It’s all pared-down elegance in earthy tones, with some graceful design furniture here and there. They are so cool they don’t even bother trying to attract any international tourists – their website is in Turkish only, although they will certainly welcome any visitors and will speak English. Owned by its architect/designer, this place is truly special and got tons of excellent reviews.
Address: 13013 Sok. No:6 Yenimecidiye Mah, 35937, Turkey
Telephone: +90 232 716 64 64
Hotel Website: https://cumbalikonak.com/en
We about 50 Euros per room per night for a Superior Double Room including breakfast. I normally use Booking.com. You can use Booking. com to access and amend existing bookings inside Turkey, but you cannot make any new bookings. I had pre-booked about 50% of our Turkey accommodation with Booking.com from Germany and had no issues amending any existing bookings.
As I could not make new reservations on Booking.com from inside Turkey, I used Agoda. We also booked the last two nights directly with them. So I think they are quite happy to take reservations over the phone.
Nearest Airport: Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport, 84km. Its a really pleasant small airport with excellent connections to Istanbul. Flying is currently the easiest way to connect with Istanbul. Otherwise you are looking at a 6-9 hours coach ride or an even more convoluted train and ferry journey. This will hopefully improve then the railway line gets upgraded. Turkish Airlines and Pegasus have extremely low fares between Izmir and Istanbul.
Features: (mostly) quiet location, seclusion, individually styled rooms, great breakfast
Doesn’t have: nightclub, lots of public transport (although buses to Cesme and Izmir run frequently)
The Small Print
Disclosure: This trip was entirely self funded. I will only review and recommend places that I have stayed in myself or that I have at least visited. You can trust me for the whole, unbiased truth. However, in this case, I only stayed at the Cumbali Konak and recommend the others based on their location, a visit and favourable reviews. I have received no monetary or non-monetary rewards for linking aside from some affiliate links. In this case, this post contains some affiliate links to Booking.com. This means that I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you book through the affiliate links. More details on my affiliate link policy are here.
Because of the issue around the current Turkey Travel Warning by the German government, I will make a point of supporting travelling to Turkey and try to post more about Turkey in the coming weeks. This is my personal opinion and I may take a personal risk by travelling to Turkey. I advise you to seek travel advice from your country’s government before considering any international travel at any time.
We travelled to Turkey by air and went on a road trip from Izmir via Ephesus and Kusadasi, down the Aegean Coast, into ancient Lycia and back to Izmir via Pamukkale and Denizli Province. After that, we spent three days in Istanbul, finally staying at the Pera Palace Hotel and a more budget-friendly hotel.
More posts on Turkey coming soon. Despite the political situation, I am a big fan of Turkey and the Turkish people. I found that in the country many things were different than shown on Western media. I can only encourage you to visit this welcoming country to get your own picture.