Around 20 minutes from Bodrum on the quiet, northern coast of the peninsula down a dusty road lined with ancient, wizened pines, lies the Amanruya beach resort, an outpost of the Aman luxury hotel family.
Ancient olive groves full of twisted and gnarled trunks and heavy with fruit dot the grounds performing a perpetual, slow dance with the tall, waving feather-fronds of cypress trees. Being among nature plays a pivotal role in the serenity at the hotel and Amanruya frequently bridges gaps between internal and external spaces, creating a hybrid style of living, perfect for the balmy Turkish temperatures.
Upon arrival, the entrance sets the tone – a shrine, as it were, to hospitality. Cloud-grey stone stairs lead up to an atrium, trapezes of light slanting between the stone beams overhead sitting in it, I feel a little like I’m in ancient Rome; there’s no technology, no buzzing or beeping and few people apart from the staff – the hotel has only 37 suites. Check in is done in-room so does away with the need for a typical front desk.
Why stay here
Amanruya is all about understated opulence and relaxation. It’s restrained luxury, sensitively designed in an Ottoman style to create an intimate and yet grand village atmosphere with terracotta mortared walls lining the organic pathway of cracked slabs and flat stones, polished like metal, between the villas and the main areas of the hotel. This does make for a rather exciting ride in the buggies that whizz you around, but this is about as dramatic as the pace gets at this peaceful retreat. Obelisk-style stone lanterns dot the hotel, casting gentle spheres of soft light, attracting a few fluttering insects.
The central core of the hotel is where the restaurant is – its beautiful, hedged-in sundeck the ideal spot for a warm breakfast, overlooking the half-Olympic infinity pool with views out across the treetops to the sprawling sea below and smoke blue mountains in the distance. There’s a stunning library encased in a tower, the tallest building on the property – it’s worth ascending the stairs to get an unrivalled view of the valley. There are several other reading and relaxing spaces filled with huge sofas and dark wooden tables matching their beams and low-slung roofs – there’s no bar, per-se, but drinks can be taken in these almost Southeast Asian pavilions.
Amanruya is a hotel with standalone pavilions, each with its own striking pool. The difference between the accommodation comes down to the view – some have sea views, some garden and some up into the surrounding forested hills. The pavilions are generously sized and well-separated; each artery off the main hotel trail splits into two villas so it’s unlikely you’ll be bumping into your neighbours. In the continuing bid to be “switch free”, your doorbell has been swapped out for a cowbell; this continues in the room with a television hidden in the end of the four-poster bed, plug sockets secreted behind wooden slats, light switches as glass and white ceramic dials and the aircon unit concealed in the bedhead. The aforementioned obelisk lanterns are more candle than bulb and room keys are analogue.
The pavilions are minimalist extravagance – mahogany and marble throughout – even the bedside tables are trunks of solid marble. Concrete-grey embellishments frame the entrance to each room with slices of red-polished marble set right into their apices. Geometric patterns abound – from the imprint on your room key’s ring to the in-room trays and sofa cushions to cylinders punched into the bathroom roof, letting in sticks of chalky moonlight
The floor-to-ceiling doors leading out onto the private courtyard are shuttered at night – there’s barely any light pollution here anyway. The pavilions have ten-ish metre pools set, as is the main pool, with large tiles of sea green slate shot through with veins of black, white and jade creating a mesmerising rippling effect. The steps down are rectangular platforms, rounded off at each end, that should be more at home on a futuristic starship, but just work here. There are sun loungers and a vast, covered bed perfect for shaded afternoon snoozes.
Eating and drinking
The main restaurant does a great line in breakfasts – featuring the classics (pancakes, pastries) alongside local fare – cured meats and cheeses, herb salads, olives, poached eggs in yoghurt and burnt chilli butter. Coffee would seem easy to get right but, in my experience, it’s much easier to get it wrong. Not here – they do a damn fine cup of the black stuff. Service, across the entire experience, is incredible – other hotels of similar ilk could learn a thing or two, striking a measured balance of friendly and brilliantly efficient.
Dinner is served in the same space (across a terrace or in one of the inner rooms) and serves poshed up local dishes – set yoghurt with peppers and samphire salad, local wild mushrooms with herby ricotta, a “spring roll” of braised short rib with yoghurt, crispy potatoes and tomato – and some more close to home plates (pastas, steaks).
For my money (and bear in mind I’ve got simple tastes – or am I just easily pleased?), the beach bar is where it’s at. A proper mangal (a Turkish grill) serves up top notch versions of kebab favourites – adana, urfa, kofte, sis with great salads and puffed-up pillows of freshly made flatbreads – as well as pide (often cited as “Turkish pizza”) from a wood oven. There are plenty of seafood choices if that’s your bag.
I’d highly recommend heading into Bodrum town and eating at Marangozhane meyhane for the best local food around (reservations a must, the concierge can do this). It’s set a little back from the buzz of the seafront where restaurants and bars set tables on the sand, but down there, you’ll get run-of-the-mill mezze and higher prices. Head up the hill (a few minutes’ walk) and you’ll be rewarded. The view isn’t great – it’s across two sides of the road – but it’s a new place that’s a bit of a secret among locals.
Run by a friendly group of guys, you’ll pick your mezze and grills from the counter; these change daily and you’ll definitely want to go back more than once. The nice thing here is that they’ll do smaller portions if there are only a couple of you meaning you get to try lots. Don’t miss the marinated tomatoes with red onions and parsley, the potato salad with red and green peppers, kofte (grilled beef and lamb meatballs) and the quail – best had with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
What to do There’s not a lot to do at Amanruya – that’s the point, really – it’s a pure escape from it all. It’s a family-friendly hotel and that may suit some more than others, but the kids are generally well-behaved.
Take a buggy or stroll down the dusty track to the private beach; there are clusters of sun-loungers in secluded pockets among the trees or on decks out over the water. There are sprawling beds for two or three with snail shells of spiralled rush matting as arm rests. The shore is pebbly and rocky, but there are steps down into the drink. Canoes and paddle boards are free for guests.
A spa has various treatments and should you want a bit more buzz, the glitz and glam and knock-off handbags of Bodrum are a 15-minute cab ride away. There are some good spots to eat local food for those willing to look.