Places to Stay: Bijal, Turkey


Art, Food and wine, Travel, Turkey / Monday, June 3rd, 2024

This newly opened five-star resort is a game-changer for the Antalya region.

Bijal is a newly opened resort by Turkish hotel company Gürok Group, who also own Joali in the Maldives. With only 19 villas, ranging from one-bed to four-bed, it feels very exclusive. Each villa has its own private pool and walled garden, and in the case of the one-bed villas, an outdoor bath too. Not only that, but you have your own butler (mine was called Bunny), who is your port of call for all things, ranging from booking your massage and dinner reservation to fishing out rogue spiders from your plug hole to shuttling you around the resort in a golf buggy.

The Bijal aesthetic is very tasteful and pleasing on the eye. Think understated luxury with a distinct retro angle, plus a hint of Los Angeles or Palm Springs in parts. The palette of bright, sunflower yellow and soft, seagrass green offset the natural fabrics and earthy colour scheme. I particularly loved how the pine trees were given reverence in the design by building around them rather than just bulldozing over them. Everything is beautifully presented and well thought-out, right down to the yoga and prayer mats and his-and-hers kimonos in the rooms.

One-bed villa. Credit: Katie Monk ©

There are two restaurants – ClubHouse and BeachHouse – plus a seasonal teppanyaki bistro in summer. When I visited, this wasn’t yet open, so we dined in the ClubHouse and BeachHouse instead. Italian Michelin-starred chef Theodor Falser created the fine dining menu at ClubHouse, and we sampled his a la carte offering on one of the evenings, which was superb. This was paired with some delicious Italian wines, too. Although, I have to say, the Turkish wines we tried were excellent, such as the Urla 2022 chardonnay and 2021 Kavaklıdere Miskit, and we even booked a special wine-tasting session before our art class.

Another night, I tried the Japanese-themed set menu from the visiting guest chef Nina Tarasova, who was originally a pastry chef, but is a wizard in the kitchen and really excelled with this delicate kind of cuisine.

I enjoyed lunch down at BeachClub, which is a short cycle ride away overlooking the sea. There’s an outdoor pool and resident DJ here some of the time, and I can imagine in summer is the place to be. BeachClub is a great place to try some of the local fish and seafood, and I can personally recommend the salmon salad bowl, which was like a poke but with grilled salmon instead of raw. The grilled sea bass was also superb, and both paired really nicely with the Turkish sauvignon blanc on ice. Lunch can also be served inside your beach cabana, should you want something more informal.

Breakfast is a veritable feast, with one whole room dedicated to fruits, cold cuts, numerous kinds of honey and yogurt, salad items and cheeses. Then there’s an a la carte menu as well, which includes traditional Turkish breakfast staples such as menemen (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and green peppers) and çılbır (poached eggs in garlic yoghurt). That said, my personal favourite to order each morning was the poached eggs and smoked salmon, eaten with Turkish simit (similar to a bagel).

Each villa has its own bright yellow bikes to nip around on, and as a fan of cycling, this pleased me no end (except when the heavens opened and I got drenched!). Bijal runs with the theme of play throughout the resort, so as well as the bikes, they have old-school Polaroid cameras in the villas (so much fun snapping away at random moments), as well as cookery classes, ceramics and painting sessions overlooking the beach. I hadn’t done any painting in years, but I was reminded how relaxing it is, and especially fun after a wine-tasting session! You can check out a video of our wine and painting afternoon here.

Just up the road is the ancient town of Side, with its impressive Greek and Roman antiquities. We took a tour with a local guide around the main sites and saw the agora, amphitheatre and Temple of Apollo, said to be where Anthony met Cleopatra. I’d love to go back to Side another time and really soak it all up, plus try out some of those lovely bars and restaurants we walked past.

Back at Bijal, you have a range of health and wellness facilities to choose from – we had a private yoga class and massage treatments, but there’s also a swanky fitness suite with all-new equipment, including a Pilates bench. Personal trainers can be booked for an extra fee.

This really was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable places I’ve stayed in a while, and definitely somewhere to head if you just want total privacy, amazing food and a proper reset. Everything is taken care of, the staff are incredible, and if you have good weather, you’d be in a real bubble of bliss.

Details: Rates start at €900 for a 1-bedroom villa for two adults on a B&B basis. For more
information, visit https://www.bijal.com.tr/.

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