Within about one hour of landing on SunExpress’s Izmir flight, you can arrive at the famous town of Alaçatı in Çesme, where the historical meets the contemporary. This Aegean village was settled 3 km from the shore and at an altitude of 16 m. It is 70 km from Izmir city centre and 90 km from Adnan Menderes Airport. Alaçatı has had a very eventful history. Its fame continues to grow as new frequenters become addicted to the town. The more you know about local history the more you can enjoy taking a look around. Let us take you down history lane, from Agrilia to Alaçatı.
AGRILIA, ALACAAT, ALATZATA and ALAÇATI!
In ancient times, the town was named ‘Agrilia’ and it was a centre for the guild of Ionia, a guild that shaped the history of western Anatolia. Agrilia has survived to this day as Ildırı, and two of the known nearby Ionian districts are Erythrai and Klazomenai in Urla. The closest pronunciation to the town’s current name Alaçatı coincides with the Ottoman era. A variety of sources mention the existence of Alacaat Asireti (Alacaat Tribe) in those times. However, we can say the features that make Alaçatı so unique come from the 19th century.
The Rum (Roman/European) population from Chios Island arrived at the town in the 1830s, working in viticulture as well as growing and selling olives. They also added an Aegean village appearance to the town. The village’s fate, previously altered when a canal was opened from the marsh on the shore to the harbour, changed once again with this development. This borough, called ‘Alatzata’ by the Greeks at that time, became an important production and trade centre, especially with its vineyards and its stone houses, which went up one by one between 1850 and 1890.
Always having been a meeting point for immigrants, Alaçatı Village opened a new page in its history with the arrival in the 1990s of windsurfing enthusiasts, who found the conditions to be perfect.
Today, the town has become a haven for those escaping from the big cities. The first small hotel opened for business in the early 2000s and over the next 3 or 4 years the two-storey stone houses were rapidly refurbished as restaurants, boutique hotels, cafés, art galleries and boutiques.
A MODERN AND SOPHISTICATED OLD VILLAGE
It is not hard to see how Alaçatı gathered its own following in differentiating itself from Turkey’s most popular holiday centres such as Antalya, Çeþme and Bodrum. A short walk around the town suffices. You will not see entertainment overflowing onto the streets from the discotheques, local coffee houses filled with plastic chairs, or the eyesores of multi-story unplanned housing. Instead, you may get to enjoy such activities as: spending the night in houses more than 100 years old; waking up to a delicious village-style breakfast; benefiting from nature’s blessings between old windmills and wind turbines; sipping tea under a mulberry tree with gum (sakız) flavoured Turkish shortbread; giving yourself over to the wind and light green waters of Alaçatı even if you have never tried windsurfing before; adding the most fascinating objects to your collection from the antique shops in the bazaar; running into friends of an evening while enjoying a drink al fresco; chatting with the locals of Alaçatı and shopping in the boutiques or the authentic village market. As Alaçatı has been declared an urban protected area, the history, housing and social environment are always kept under control and shaped by those who have visited and fallen in love with this town.
WHAT DO THE PEOPLE OF ALAÇATI SAY?
While cruising down the narrow streets of the village, we got lost trying to find the way to the sea. That is when we met Yusuf. He is a taxi driver and a local of Alaçatı. We started chatting and he began his story. “Five years ago, this was a placid town. It all started when the surfers found out about the place. Nowadays, national and international championships take place annually. All of a sudden, land and house values started to increase. Then the villagers sold their lands and moved to those building complexes we call ‘Petek Evler’. Of course, some of them remained. Some turned their homes into boutique hotels. At first, they didn’t want to sell their homes because of all the memories they had attached to them, but as property values started to rise, they started selling off. Today, the population of Alaçatı in winter is about 8,000, only 6,000 of whom are locals. But in the summertime, I guess the population goes up to as much as 50,000.”
We also asked Oksan and Lemi Resimcioglu, a couple who emigrated from Izmir three years ago to open up a hotel, about the last five years in Alaçatı. Mr Resimcioglu says, “Alaçatı is rapidly developing and changing. Five years ago, this was an ordinary town. Today, there are almost 100 hotels. The most significant difference with Alaçatı when compared to other towns is its conservationist tourism, socially, culturally and architecturally. This helps to ensure that the town remains a place of relaxation, far removed from the noise. Until two years ago, all of our tourists were from within the country. Nowadays many tourists from abroad also choose Alaçatı.” Mr Resimcioglu is also one of the founders of the Alaçatı Tourism Association and he mentions some of the association’s projects. “Our association was founded in 2006. We have 65 business firm members varying as follows: 46 hotels, 14 restaurants, and 5 surf schools. As an association, our activities are focused on extending the tourism season in Alaçatı. Some examples of our projects include organising festivals, bringing in art and setting out bicycle routes. Our current agenda includes a bicycle route project in collaboration with Izmir Development Agency, in which we have marked approximately 200 km, and mapped out difficulty and gradient levels.”
THE ‘MUST’ LIST FOR ALAÇATI
- Enjoy your coffee/tea in Dutlu Kahve (Dutlu Coffee House). The coffee house is approximately 50 years old and is a gathering place for the elders of Alaçatı.
- Wander around the narrow streets.
- View the town from the windmills.
- There are almost 100 gum (sakız) trees under protection in Alaçatı. It is an old tradition that made it all the way from the island of Chios. You can sample many of the products in which gum is used. Gum flavoured biscuits, home-made jams, Turkish coffee, ice creams, custards, even soaps.
- Try Kumrucu Kale (Fortress of Kumru - a type of Turkish sandwich) for home made pastry buns, sandwiches, biscuits and lemonades.
- In the Saturday bazaar, you can find many local herbs or sample other delicacies from the neighbouring villages.
- Hang out at the coffee house in the square.
- Go surfing. The shallow and calm lagoon of Alaçatı provides ideal conditions, in which everyone can learn windsurfing.