Bayou Villas, Turkey: An all-inclusive like you’ve never seen before


All-inclusive holidays: budget-friendly. Hen and stag parties revolving like poolside rotisserie chickens and draining the pre-paid bar. Hyperactive children running around with rubber rings around their waists – dads with pot bellies and sunburns running after them. Oh, and buffets. Buffets everywhere. Every day.

Turkey: also cheap and cheerful. The lira crashed in 2021 and tourists are taking advantage. Budget airlines are stuffed with Brits, themselves bruised from the cost of living crisis, hoping for some cut-price sunshine in Marmaris or Bodrum.

Bayou Villas, the new accommodation offering from Turkish hotel group Barut Collection: not cheap. Between around £1,200 and £5,500 per night, in fact. Uber-luxury, with many villas possessing their own gym and jacuzzi (for starters – more on that later). Yes, there’s a buffet, but there are also ten à la carte restaurants.

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This is a Turkish all-inclusive, but not as you know it. In your typical full-board scenario, do you have a choice of standalone villas spanning from a 245 square metre one-bed to a whopping 983 square metre four-bed? How about two personal pools or 24-hour room service? I think not.

The collection opened in November within Barut Collection’s Lara outpost; one of 13 hotels owned by Turkish magnate Ali Barut. He bought his first property back in 1971 in Manavgat, Side, and his two sons, Ahmet and Levent, have now stepped up to the top spots in the business.

Barut Lara is just outside Antalya, a south-westerly city of ruins and beaches on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. There’s a tempo – a vibrancy – to Antalya. A man with an enormous stack of simit (pretzel-y, bagel-y things) balancing on his head strides by. Others keep tiny, toy-like bunny rabbits and charge tourists for photos. Sit down with a Turkish coffee and some baklava and you can people-watch for hours.

You enter the bazaar-style Old Town through Hadrian’s Gate, a triumphal arch built for the eponymous Roman emperor in the year 130. It’s been standing for nearly 2,000 years, but there are no railings or barricades in sight – street dogs lounge on the ancient stones, smoothed by thousands of feet. Here, pretty courtyards are sequestered behind walls draped with colourful carpets and evil eye trinkets, which are flogged to tourists. The hazy outlines of snow-capped mountains rise from the sea like the distant dwellings of ancient Anatolian gods.

Barut Lara is a 20-minute drive from Antalya, and a world of its own. As I drive through the barrier arms, terracotta-scorched brush gives way to well-watered, manicured lawns. The hotel, where the regular guests stay, rises up in the distance like a big white spaceship.

Bayou Villas are separate, and something shifts when you move to this part of the complex. Although the villas are new, and super-modern, they successfully capture an old-world Mediterranean vibe, made with sandy, rough-hewn bricks and surrounded by an abundance of regional planting, including thin cypresses, heady lavender, and bleached olive trees. The sound of running water is never far away.

My one-bedroom villa is one of the most ‘modest’ of the collection. It’s cavernous, though, replicating the stone and taupe colourscape of the Mediterranean mise-en-scène outside. It’s stylish, with sculptural light fixtures and art – lots of art. This is a major part of the Bayou Villas proposition; the hotel has commissioned local artists to decorate the collection, from a giant, deconstructed face on the side of the reception building to dreamy, pastel scenes in living spaces. Expansive, sun-dappled terraces boast a heated salt-water pool, as well as access to a unique interconnected pool network that snakes between villas – the five-star answer to a stream at the end of the garden.

The larger villas, as mentioned, have all manner of mod-cons. A warmly-lit massage room, a subterranean sauna and hammam, a fitness suite. The four-bed option houses a white grand piano and is so large that it begins to feel like an upscale shopping mall, with its abundance of shiny marble and an elevator to all floors.

As a villa guest, you have exclusive privileges. Weik restaurant, a wood-clad space adorned with art, including Turkish ‘tufting’, is only for such patrons. I have a fantastic walnut, blue cheese, pear and radicchio salad here, followed by flaking seabass and a pumpkin cheesecake.

bayou villas turkey

Those staying at Bayou Villas are also privy to an enhanced beach experience – canopied in grass-roofed cabanas with sink-in seating. The staff bring you condensation-covered coolers of rosé and helpings of iskender – think a standard döner but way better, topped with tomato sauce, melted sheep’s milk butter and yoghurt, and enjoyed on a beautiful beachfront rather than a kebab joint on Kingsland Road at one in the morning.

If it’s traditional Turkish food you’re after, also head to Tirmis restaurant, named for the common Turkish snack of lupin beans. It’s here that we get our meze – a Jackson Pollock painting of colour and textures. There are the yellow beans, and creamy hibeş (an appetiser made of sesame paste, lemon, garlic, and spices) topped with jewel-like pomegranate seeds. Flame-coloured courgette flowers are stuffed with rice and served alongside cushiony pide (flatbread) and cake-like focaccia. Flavours of orange and olives and dill and toasted nuts dance on the tongue.

Walking around Barut Lara feels like being stuck between two worlds; the hotel is there and you do catch glimpses of what you’d more traditionally associate with a Turkish all-inclusive. The gigantic, plastic-fantastic waterslide, for one, is pretty hard to ignore. The communal central pool is family-friendly. And yes, there is a buffet: I broach it for breakfast one morning, discovering a cornucopia of delicacies from cheeses and stuffed vine leaves to sugar-dusted Turkish delight, a patisserie, and fry-up fare.

But this just throws into sharper relief the level of opulence provided by the villa collection, which wouldn’t be out of place in Bali or the Maldives. This is no rookie operation: the Turkish know how to do luxury, and the existence of initiatives like Bayou Villas proves that HNW travellers are cottoning onto this fact. It’s about time.


Read more: Where to holiday in Europe this summer

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