Travel: why Turkey is the ideal choice for an autumn wellness break

Wisps of fragrant smoke rise from a handful of incense sticks on the wooden deck of a boat gently heading towards Kalemya Bay, as the sun begins to loom over the covered slopes in the distance of pines.

On deck, young women in sportswear sit cross-legged on lavender yoga mats, listening to the waves breaking on the horizon.

“May I?” asks Rida Kirasi, somatic experimentation practitioner and founder of Soundala Therapy (soundalatherapy.com), offering a small piece of smoking wood.

I nod and she smokes around me, her pine aroma filling the air. “It’s palo santo,” she explains. “It is a tree from Peru used in shamanic healing.”

Once everyone on board has been cleansed with the smoldering twig, we settle in and our breathing and sound healing session begins.

“It’s not a psychedelic experience; it’s about untangling the energy in the body,” says Kirasi, asking us to sit with our eyes closed and palms open (“the energy flows through the hands”) as we breathe in and out for up to four – in the stomach for a second, in the chest for another, then out for two seconds.

Against the backdrop of lively instrumental piano music, the breathing is much more energetic than I would have imagined. There is no chance of feeling sleepy while listening to the guided meditation and focusing on the breath in time.

When the 20 minutes are up, we lie down, cover with blankets and place masks over our eyes while Kirasi and her assistant take their instruments.

Gongs clang softly, Tibetan singing bowls hum, something called a Shruti box (a classic Indian instrument, much like an accordion) hums pleasantly.

With the boat dancing up and down, I feel myself falling into an intensely relaxed yet alert state. As Kirasi, who moves across the deck, runs her fingers over a set of delicate chimes near my ears, I feel a wave of euphoria wash over me, tingling from head to toe.

As someone who has long been skeptical of this kind of “woo woo stuff”, I am shocked at how captivated I become in just a few minutes. As the anchor lifts and we sail to shore, clutching cups of green tea, I consider myself a convert.

The Soundala session is part of Feel Good Week, held twice a year at the five-star Hillside Beach Club (hillsidebeachclub.com), where guests are invited (but not required) to participate in a variety of beach-themed activities. welfare.

The resort’s fall edition – located just outside the port city of Fethiye on Turkey’s southern coast – is perfectly timed to take advantage of the day’s mild temperatures once the summer heat has passed.

In addition to diving into the wellness offer, during my stay I schedule plenty of sunbathing at Serenity, one of the hotel’s two adult-only beaches, and book a traditional Turkish hammam at Sanda Day Spa.

Dating back to Byzantine times, a time when most Turks didn’t have their own bathroom and instead went to communal baths, the treatment is invigorating to say the least.

Lying like the Vitruvian man on a huge round heated marble slab, wearing nothing but disposable underwear, I am doused with hot water by my tellak (therapist), who rubs me from head to toe with a big kese glove, shedding what looks like years of accumulated dead skin.

The complete exfoliation is followed by a warm, foamy massage, a quick scrub with a handful of crushed ice (fortunately on my limbs only), then a final warm rinse, leaving my skin perfectly clean and soft as a baby.

Turkey is one of the few countries where the tired clichés about the history of the “melting pot” and “east meets west” really ring true.

“A wonderful mosaic of cultures” is how tour guide Atilla Yay describes the mix of European, Asian and Middle Eastern influences, as we begin a walk through the crumbling ruins of the ghost town of Kayakoy.

“There are no ghosts, don’t worry,” Yay says, describing how the 18th-century village was populated first by Greek settlers, then by Turks, before being abandoned in the 1940s.

The wooden roofs of houses, chapels and a school have long since decayed, but the stone walls have held firm for centuries because builders used egg white in the mortar, Yay says.

Descendants of former Kayakoy residents now run nearby restaurant Antik (facebook.com/kayaantikk), which specializes in Turkish breakfasts so hearty they make full English puny in comparison.

Served as a family on a large round table, the meal begins with dishes of sliced ​​cucumber and tomato, olives, a variety of local cheeses, runny honey, apricot and fig jams, and a basket of breads fluffy dishes fresh from the oven, accompanied by strong and sweet Turkish coffee or black tea.

Just when I think the waiters have finished, the hot dishes arrive: hash browns, fried pastries with cheese filling, slices of spicy sausage, scrambled eggs with tomato and peppers, and pancakes with an option lemon and sugar or hazelnut spread.

With fresh and delicious local produce, eating healthy isn’t a chore here.

At Hillside, there are plenty of opportunities to indulge in epic buffets at every meal, but in addition to pasta and paella stations and an extensive dessert selection, there’s also grilled fresh-caught seafood. made-to-order, tons of scrumptious salads and a wellness section outfitted with nutritious ingredients. nuts, chia seeds, kefir and other trendy superfoods.

Evenings at the resort are all about lounging, with live music on the beach and DJs at the pool bar, where the dance floor is always buzzing.

When the kids (and tired moms and dads) go to bed, those still up for a boogie (myself included) head to the after-party at Pacha, a neatly hidden little nightclub, for the music does not disturb guests who want their beauty sleep.

I might not have been able to go to yoga on the beach the next morning as planned, but that’s okay. Wellness isn’t about sticking to a strict schedule and banishing all guilty pleasures, it’s about finding your own way, especially when you’re on vacation.

From peaceful moments of morning bliss to lazy days and happy evenings, I think I’ve found the right balance.

HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP

British Airways Holidays is offering seven nights at the 5* Hillside Beach Club, from £1,149 pp, traveling on select dates between 1 and 30 April 2023 inclusive. Includes return economy class (Euro Traveller) flights from London Gatwick Airport, 23kg baggage allowance and full board accommodation. 10% hotel savings also included. Book by October 31, 2022 at www.britishairways.com/turkey.