Whenever you find yourself wanting to be whisked from daily life, taken away from everyday worries, on an enchanting journey where all good things that life has to offer are right at your fingertips, visions of azure seas and clear blue skies often instantly come to mind. Meandering through such seductive daydreams, one is easily persuaded by thoughts of rich ancient cultures, enticing and imaginative histories, a wealth of lavish gastronomic delights and awe-inspiring landscapes as far as the eyes can see... to name but a few. Surprisingly, such exquisite fantasies do become a reality, as we would find out after being invited on a trip that would take us on an unforgettable journey from Turkish mainland to Greek islands, and the enticing waters in between. After boarding two lush and impressively large Turkish gulets, to spend five days sailing the eastern Aegean in utter comfort and luxury, we learned that a little bit of heaven can be found on earth. In this case, two generous slices of heaven, named the Ceramic Gulf and the Gulf of Hisarönü.
Pinched neatly between the Bodrum and Datça peninsulas, reaching eastwards as far as Akyaka along the southern coasts of the Milas and Mugla districts, before stretching westwards along the northern coast of Marmaris distric and ending at the gorgeous ancient Greek settlement of Knidos, the Ceramic Gulf goes by several names. Also known as the Gulf of Gökova and Gulf of Kerme, the area is a narrow strip of sea, approximately 100 km in length leading eastwards, with the island of Kos at its westernmost entry. With its long, pristine and diverse coastline, which has, to date, been relatively devoid of mass tourism, the gulf is an exquisite region to visit and one of many flawless pearls on the eastern Aegean's crown. With Bodrum as the only large city on the coastline, the region has remained impressively untouched, especcialy considering the ruins of the ancient city of Keramos, the gulf's namesake, date back as far as the 6th century BC and civilisation has been thriving here for several thousand years. We start our journey in the marina of ancient Bodrum, anchored right at the base of the grand Petronium, or Castle of Saint Peter, which was built by the Knight Hospitaller from the early 15th century onwards.
An impressive, bold and humbling structure, the Bodrum Castle welcomes us into the city's bubbly and invigorating centre, as we arrive early morning of our first day onboard. Flying on Milas-Bodrum Airport, the historical city centre of Bodrum, which is where the two main marinas are located, can be conveniently reached by car in just over half an hour. This short journey, which consists of equal parts inland and panoramic coastal highway, is perfectly comfortable and gives a great introduction to western Turkey's rich, diverse landscape and the region's splendid mediterranean climate. Although traveling off-season, we are presented with perfectly clear blue skies, ample sunshine and a sturdy wind, all welcome ingredients for a five-day sailing trip.
This trip is centered around not one, but two superyachts of a traditional Turkish type, the gulet, which is a charming and instantly recognizable type of sailing vessel that seems to be ubiquitous in the southwestern coastal regions of Turkey. With their distinct elegance and poise, they give a sense of romance to the Turkish waters, adding a personality that blends classical nobility with oriental fantasy.
Generally, a gulet is a two- or three-masted wooden vessel, usually varying in size anywhere from 15 to 35 metres. Although a sailing vessel, diesel power is used to minimize crew size, and many modern gulets are not properly rigged for sailing purposes. As we would discover during this journey, our homes for the week would be perfectly capable of sailing, which is absolutely great when traveling in these regions. As building boats and sailing has been an integral of this region for many centuries, with Bodrum being an important centre for boat construction since antiquity, there simply isn't a more applicable manner to discover the area's many attractive features.
The gulets that would be our elegant homes for the week are appropriately named Carpe Diem IV and Carpe Diem V. These twin sister vessels take all that is elegant and attractive about the delightful gulet and raise it to a whole new level. At 47 metres, both are true superyachts and boast impressive amounts of space and luxury, with similar layouts and design styles to be enjoyed on each. Instantly after stepping onboard, our sister hostesses invite us to, quite literally, seize the day, sit back, relax and take in every lush, refined luxury there is to enjoy.
And there are many luxuries to discover, starting with the ambiance of airy, panoramic elegance and a rich sense of freedom. Gulets being well-known for their stability, comfort and generous amounts of deck space, Carpe Diem IV and V seem to incorporate a league of their own, with instant elegance, smooth finesse and rich excellent craftsmanship defining the onboard ambiance everywhere you go.
Although we travel with a considerable number of guests, our entire company is offered lavish accommodations, all impressively spacious, warmly welcoming and luxurious. With one full beam master suite plus large double and twin suites aft, and an impressively spacious VIP suite, a double and a twin suite fore, each vessel can effortlessly host a company of up to 12 guests within luxurious and refined guest quarters, all with big luxury en suites.
The two sets of guest suites are situated around corridors that lead into the big, open plan main saloon, which remarkably light and spacious, especially since most time onboard is spent outside. These deck spaces wonderfully intimate as well as impressively panoramic, with a selection of seats, lounge spaces, sofas, sun pads and one lush al fresco dining area offering something for everyone. Life onboard Carpe Diem IV and V is good, extremely comfortable and, above all, soothingly relaxing.
Upon stepping onboard, we are welcomed by our vessel's captain and crew, who will spend the next five days trying to make our company feel right at home. In our case, Carpe Diem IV will truly be a home, with her warm, welcoming personality, elegant style based on rich, high gloss woodwork and and overall sense of space that is simply outstanding. We are the last of our company to arrive, with most guests having boarded the night before, and are welcomed with a large breakfast. This is just the first of many extensive meals onboard, that will not only elaborately showcase the chefs' exquisite skills but reflect the region's magnificent culinary tradition. For this trip, meals will be predominantly served in Turkish tradition, meaning an impressive and varied selection of different dishes for every course, offering a lush taste of all the good things that the region's cuisine has to offer.
From fresh fish to wonderful meats and lovely vegetable dishes, local cheese and fruit, all is perfectly prepared and exquisitely presented. If the quality of food is the key to success onboard a superyacht, the culinary offerings onboard the Carpe Diem twin superyachts will make our stay onboard extraordinary. With presentation equally impressive as taste, every course during our trip would commence with all guests documenting the dishes with their cameras, before actually consuming them.
Being a large company, divided over two vessels, comes with certain challenges, not in the least when it comes to preparing and serving meals onboard. Suffice to say, that the Carpe Diem-sisters offer their guests a culinary experience that's is undeniably one of the many highlights during their time spent onboard.
After our initial breakfast onboard, we spend time moving into our suites, exploring the gulets, talking to our fellow guests and enjoying the great scenery of the old marina, with everyday life buzzing by as we acclimate on the aft deck. With 500 berths available, Bodrum's marina is a great location to be anchored, with the historical city centre right at your feet, as well as the city's large shopping areas and vibrant night life just a stone's throw away. Because of its convenient and sheltered and central location, the city is perfect as a journey's starting point. Bodrum, which was called Caria and Halicarnassus in ancient times, has a population of appropriately 140,000 and is located in the southwestern Turkish Aegean region. With various interesting historical sites, such as the aforementioned Saint Peter Castle, which also hosts a Museum of Underwater Archeology, and the Mausoleum of Mausolus, the city hosts ample options for cultural site-seeing as well as an extensive nightlife and more than enough possibilities for shopping. All from shoes, bags, scarfs and clothing to food, technology and a host of souvenirs and knick-knacks, Bodrum really offers something for everyone. And even if shopping is not for you, it's an experience to give in to some wanderlust and explore the many narrow streets, busy with tourists and locals alike, lively buzzing with lights, sounds and the rich scents of foods and spices. Spending the morning onboard in the port, we enjoy Carpe Diem IV's airy sense of openness while lounging on her spacious aft deck. Playing some games, reading a book, walking around and taking in the environment, hours are spent relaxing as we prepare to undergo the common administrative proceedings at customs. Our sister vessel is anchored just outside the marina and in the course of the afternoon, after passports are checked and all is arranged, we set out to meet our fellow companions for the first leg of our journey.
Custom is necessary, as our first stop will be the Greek island of Kos, which is about 2.5 – 3 hours of sailing away. The weather is sunny, with a firm breeze and pleasant temperatures. With a population of just over 33,000, Kos is a relatively large island, the 16thlargest of all Greek island, roughly measuring 40 by 8 kilometers, and is located about 4 kilometers off the coast of Bodrum. As one of the more important islands of the Dodecanese islands, of which Rhodes was the most prominent in ancient times, Kos famously served as the location for the school of medicine founded by Hippocrates. This historical significance combined with it's mixed cultural heritage (as part of the Dodecanese, the island has been subject to some historical turbulence that, aside from the Classical period, include periods of Ottoman and Italian rule), makes the island a rich and versatile location to visit. With one of the biggest market places of the ancient world, there has been a long tradition of commerce on Kos, which left it's mark on the versatile heritage to be discovered here. Ample sites can be seen, and the main town feels like a pleasant mix between the old and the new.
We spent our first night onboard Carpe Diem IV at anchor in Kos' old port, which is located adjacent to the old town. The next day, after breakfast, we spend some time exploring the town and taking in the pleasantly cozy atmosphere. Sauntering through the old town's small streets and across charming squares, there are various interesting sites to see here. The modern market, the cathedral and various churches are among them, and various ancient sites, such as the 14th century Knights Hospitaller fortress and the ancient agora, are located at just a short walk's distance.
We spend some soothing time in the old part of Kos town, before continuing our journey to a bay on the southern coast of Kos, where some of our fellow guests opt for a refreshing swim. Spending time on deck, soaking up some sun, enjoying the magnificent views and simply relaxing, it all seems to come naturally onboard either of the Carpe Diem-twins.
We enjoy an exemplary lunch onboard while sailing towards the magical island of Symi, which will be the longest leg of our journey. With ample sunshine, sturdy winds and dramatic vista views, we travel along the length of the Datça peninsula, a region which can be described as one of the hidden gems of western Turkey. Mass tourism surely hasn't reached these areas, and the intriguing, rocky coastline looks unspoilt and mountainous. Right at the centre of the peninsula, which has a coastline traced by many small bays and coves, the town of Datça is the largest in the area. As part of the famed Blue Cruise, a term used for traveling along the Turkish Riviera, the Datça coast is famous for it's beauty and versatility.
After traveling approximately halfway across the southern Datça coastline, we arrive at the exquisite island of Symi late in the day. With a berth right in the middle of the magnificent old town, we enjoy a late dinner on the aft deck and spend the next morning walking through the amphitheater-shaped town centre's web of beautiful small streets, paths and steep stairs, up to one of the many viewpoints. Arriving at one of town's highest points, Symi arguably is at it's most magical during a sunrise.
One of the old town's striking features is the consistency in which architecture and colour have been implemented throughout. Looking up from the old harbour, and even when walking through the old, narrow streets, Symi seems to have been built with one connecting style of architecture in mind. A logical result of Greek policy, as all houses on the island, many of which were destroyed or heavily damaged during WWII, need to be restored following guidelines set by the Greek national Archaeological Service. For Symi, this resulted in a gorgeous and fairytale-like backdrop, a town that instantly charms you with its elegance and easy-going attitude.
Dinner and drinks on the aft deck with Symi as charming company was one of many peaks of our journey. While there are other villages on the island, with the Panormitis Monastery, the remains of a Byzantine castle and dozens of churches and chapels as some of the island's most prominent features, we opt to remain in the main town for the remaining time we spend here. We explore some more of the old main town and decide to do some shopping, before saying goodbye to Symi, and Greece, and heading back to Turkish mainland.
The town of Datça is where we arrange for customs and have lunch onboard, before continuing our journey to a small, secluded bay just an hour's sail from Datça. This bay will be the setting for a magnificent dinner, with guests from both vessels combined for one big, splendidly prepared feast. The next day, we set off for our final stop in Bodrum, with one final stop at the impressive historical site of Knidos. The location of an important classical city, Knidos offers gorgeous excavations to be visited, with an agora, odeum and a variety of temples, such as the Dionysos, Muses and Aphrodite temples, to be explored. Additionally, as the site is located on the westernmost part of the Datça peninsula, some extraordinary views are to be enjoyed after taking walking uphill. From here, the Mediterranean and Aegean seas are, literally, right at your feet. Suffice to say, Knidos truly is an extraordinary location to see, and well worth a visit when you're in the area.
Upon leaving Knidos, we set sail for the final leg of our journey, back to Bodrum. With ample sun and strong winds, conditions are perfect for sailing and we enjoy a long, relaxing journey back across the Ceramic Gulf. Conditions are great, especially considering the period in which we travel, and the last leg of our journey is outstanding. Upon reaching our final destination, we drop anchor and spend our last night onboard IV right outside the Bodrum port, where we started this fantastic trip a few days before. In the evening, we enjoy a long walk through Bodrum's vibrant shopping areas, taking in the vivid and colourful ambiance before returning to Carpe Diem IV for our last night. Early the next morning, we are taken ashore by our crew's remarkably capable and friendly deckhand, who arranges a taxi and assure we are all set for our journey back home.
Our stay onboard the exquisite Carpe Diem sisters has truly been an extraordinary one, with a great company of guests, the capable crews, wonderful itinerary, remarkable food and our refined hostesses Carpe Diem IV and V as the main ingredients.
This trip was an extremely successful one, not just because of the great food, the magnificent surroundings and a warm, friendly group of guests, but because the great hospitality and wonderful versatility of this region, something that never ceases to impress. Between Turkish mainland and the nearby Greek islands, there is a wealth of exquisite possibilities to be discovered, truly a slice of heaven that will leave you breathless no matter where your journey will take you.