World travel: Turkey’s Antalya Province, surrounded by history, nature and the deep blue Mediterranean Sea, is a one-of-a-kind destination in the Turkish Riviera. And a stay at Calista Luxury Resort is the icing on any luxurious holiday cake, finds Liz Newmark.
Former United States President Barack Obama beams out at you over Calista Luxury Resort’s spacious reception desk. “Thanks for a wonderful visit,” the caption says, as proudly displayed photos also show the US’s first black leader posing with Calista general manager Ali Kizildag.
From the moment it opened on May 19, 2007, Calista Luxury Resort, designed by illustrious interior architect Frank Solano (also famous for creating beautiful hotels in Dubai), has given its guests the ultimate in luxury holidays. The incredible 120,000 m² piece of paradise boasts endless pools, a pine and walnut tree park and a professional sports club.
Open all year round, the 5-star luxury resort hotel was the first to bring the luxury hotel concept to Belek, followed by six other similar establishments. In all, some 50 4 and 5-star hotels profit from the 30km stretch of Belek’s golden sands. But Calista, in a class of its own, is quite simply a revelation. From the moment you enter its huge revolving doors and walk into the giant atrium, to the time you switch off the incredible smart home system – even controllable from the beach – at night, it is luxury incarnate.
All Calista’s main buildings and accommodation units are 360-degree and circular, with wall-to-wall windows. This gives a true sense of luxury opening out into nature – the complex’s surrounding woods and pine forests. Inside, the wealth of marble floors, Versace-designed carpets and Swarovski chandelier amaze the eye in this paradise just 27 km from Antalya airport and 35 km from Antalya city centre.
Personal service is taken to the highest level in this All-Inclusive Plus experience: “No one ever says no,” Calista’s Sales and Marketing Manager Murat Süslü explains, while the Calista promotional video proclaims, “our passion is your happiness”.
Indeed, you do not check in at the desk, the staff comes to you, taking your details at a table with drinks and refreshments provided. For someone new to luxury breaks, this was the first happy surprise. All food and drink, apart from ‘premium’ brands of whisky for example or special steaks, are free. The plentiful minibars in every room are restocked every day. Would you like an ice-cream sundae at 6am? Or to sip champagne at sunset? With Calista, anything is possible.
But it is not just the amazing amenities that make Calista a perfect choice for a luxury break. “Calista staff remember our clients’ wishes, for example they know what drink you like,” Süslü told us. “So we will bring them a Diet Coke, or a glass of their favourite Pinot Grigio wine without them asking.” Staff loyalty is also incredible, he said. Around 400 of the resort’s 600 employees in winter – the number increases to 1,000 in summer – have remained since the hotel opened.
Visitors are delighted too – with 45% choosing to treat themselves again at this epitome of gastronomy, relaxation and sport. Not forgetting the luxury of being able to enjoy a beautiful private sandy beach stretching out to the incredibly warm and inviting sea. Longer-stay guests of seven nights or more enjoy special privileges – from free reservations at the à la carte restaurants to special sunbeds on the pier.
Where to sleep
“There are no standard rooms in our hotel,” Süslü said proudly, smiling at the ever-widening eyes of my daughter. “We only have superior rooms.” And as we were taken by a porter to our own special 52 m² haven of luxury complete with complimentary wine, fruit, tea, coffee, refillable minibar and Thierry Mugler shower and skincare products, we saw what he meant. The calming brown interior has its own terrace, sofa, shower, bath and a 55” Ultra HD LG Smart TV. And most importantly, the beds are supremely comfortable.
For special occasions, why not sleep like a king? Calista’s King Suite’s incredible 240 m² space features two bedrooms, a living room, two bathrooms with en-suite shower and jacuzzi, and no fewer than three Smart TVs. You really can work, rest and play here – or just gaze at the beautiful sea view.
Calista also offers a range of villas which – for an extra charge – can be enhanced by their own private heated pool. You can take your pick from an 150 m² two-bed home, complete with jacuzzi and three TVs, to the incredible ‘Villa Leo’.
Accommodating 18 adults and one child, Villa Leo will “make your holiday dream come true to enjoy the richness of nature with pine trees and bird sounds,” Calista says. This nine-bedroom quasi palace with its own helipad boasts a games room, movie theatre, Play Station, fitness room, 11 bathrooms and no fewer than ten Ultra HD Smart TVs. Villa Leo even comes with its own SPA and massage parlour.
What to eat
Everything is catered for and everyone is catered to at Calista. The main Bellum restaurant, open three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, has a wonderful spread of hot and cold food including a huge variety of Turkish and European delights. Highlights were the special Turkish bread and sweets, fascinating milk puddings, barbecued succulent meat, fresh roast fish and vegetables. And if you miss the main event, one highlight of our stay was midnight snacking on wondrous Turkish cakes and desserts – and Baklava is just the start… with Bellum opening until 2 am.
Pay a little more and you can dine in style at one of the five a la carte restaurants. We were treated to gorgeous Italian specialities – including deep black seafood risotto and sea bass – at Timo and a real Turkish feast at Turca complete with fine Turkish wine, lamb stew, fish fresh from the sea, myriad mezzes and the wonderful Kunefe desert – pastry soaked in syrup and layered with soft cheese, pistachio nuts and cream.
The drinking is easy too – at innumerable bars poolside, inside or at the beach. Our favourite was Brezza, at the end of the pier – a perfect spot to sip a long drink, enjoy the sunset and, why not, a dip in the sea. And it’s not just soft drinks, wine and beer, you can indulge in a vast range of cocktails, vodkas (six types) or an incredible 12 brands of whisky.
What to do
Boredom is impossible at Calista Luxury Resort. The brand caters for every visitor, from the very young to the well, not so young, in this family friendly resort. Do you like sport or play football? Then look no further than the sports arena with its football pitches, basketball court, volley ball court and many tennis courts also available.
The resort is also a swimmer’s dream. The six heated pools include one indoor pool in the luxurious Callos Spa – where no fewer than 14 massage treatments are on offer. Or try out the semi-Olympic pool for lengths, which is open even at night. And down by the beach, the water sports centre offers a very reasonably priced range of exciting activities including parasailing, jet ski, windsurfing and wakeboarding.
If inside entertainment is more your style, you can rent a Play Station, enjoy video games in the Bonus Game Center or take in a movie at the Moviola cinema. And if you want ‘couple’ or ‘alone’ time, Calista will take care of your children at the Calhippo Kids Club and even take them pony riding or to the nearby farm. Activities for teenagers including dance and street art are also on tap – with a disco just one highlight.
More ‘traditional’ fun is available too, from very well-equipped playgrounds with slides and basketball nets to the fantastic Aquapark with five water slides for all ages – even mums and dads…
Calista offers organised activities all day long, from early morning yoga and Pilates to fantastic evening shows: think circus, acrobatics, dance and all kinds of music from traditional to modern. The main events are held in Calista’s own ‘amphitheatre’, while many bands play at smaller venues like the poolside Deep or Jazz Bars.
Calista is also linked to the stunning Montgomerie Maxx Royal golf club – one of no fewer than 11 in the region. Indeed, for golfers, Antalya is a perfect destination offering an impressive 14 courses linked to ten top-of-the-range golf clubs and luxury hotels.
Outside the Resort
If you can tear yourself away from Calista’s amazing amenities, a dizzying array of activities to enjoy in Antalya Province awaits. In the capable hands of the Kaden Group**, we enjoyed a wonderful tour of Side’s ancient city. Side, which means pomegranate, was a port in ancient times. Its amphitheatre, built on columns, is the largest in the region. The site also includes an agora, gymnasium, a Temple of Apollo by the sea, fountains and a necropolis.
After dining in style at one of Side’s many restaurants, we visited Kurşuniu Waterfall. This haven of nature connects seven ponds and falls from a height of 18 metres. With lush plants and picnic areas, it is not only one of Antalya’s most appealing sights, but also offering shops, cafes and playgrounds, it is perfect for a family day out.
Our fascinating historical experience was completed with a visit of the enchanting Aspendos ancient city – renowned as one of the world’s most remarkable and well-preserved Roman structures. Its amazing amphitheatre oozing all the atmosphere of Roman times hosts a wonderful opera festival every year. And our walk to the top of the agora, with incredible views over hillsides, mountains and surrounding villages, was magical.
Other must-sees are in Antalya itself. Take your pick from the old town of Kaleiçi with its authentic market, the incredibly rich Antalya Archeological Museum, and what is said to be the world’s largest tunnel aquarium. Nature lovers can marvel at the spectacular Termessos National Park, while thrill seekers, especially children, can go wild at The Land of Legends theme park.
Anyone looking to buy souvenirs should look no further than Belek. Only 4km away from the resort, and so a perfect cycling trip, this bustling little town comes complete with a beautiful mosque and cemetery, typical cafes and endless shopping streets. We were spoilt for choice looking for presents and came away happy with football shorts, olive oil soap, ‘evil eye’ jewellery, spices, and a pair of handmade, embroidered cushion covers.
Path to Paradise
With many flights from Europe – especially France, Belgium and Germany – to Antalya offered by Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines and Corendon Airlines, taking around four hours, reaching your holiday dream is easy. And from Antalya airport, Calista will pick you up to make the 40-minute journey in a standard black cab or a stunningly luxurious VIP affair with plush beige leather seats, home video and overflowing mini bar. An incredible start to a perfect holiday.
Liz Newmark was a guest of Calista Luxury Resort and The Kaden Group.