The joys of setting sail on a gulet holiday off Turkey's amazing coast

Cheaper than a villa – and with a much bigger pool! That was the promise made to MARY LUSSIANA before she set sail on a gulet holiday off Turkey’s spectacular coast. So did it live up to the billing?

  • Mary’s journey starts in Bodrum where she boards the ‘cosy’ Ya Selam gulet
  • She says the boat, which sleeps 12, is ideal for bringing extended family together
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Gulet holidays seemed like the height of fashion in the 1980s and 1990s – then they dropped off the aspirational radar. But in 2003, Peter and Jenny Cooke (he’s a sailing man; she’s a fan of holidays where neither shopping nor cooking are involved) bought their own, the Salamander. Now it’s part of their fleet of classic, wooden sailing gulets which they charter for tours of the unspoilt Turkish coast.

‘At one point,’ says Peter, ‘I felt that gulets had lost their way, with many aimed at the gold-tap end of the market. But we offer something authentic, a holiday which is more affordable than a family villa, with a much bigger pool.’

We are on board the Ya Selam, which would be ideal for bringing an extended family together in style – sleeping 12 in six cabins, with each boasting private showers and loos.

Motoring out of Bodrum into blue horizons, us guests, along with the crew of a chef and two deck-hands, listen to the captain’s briefing, and he emphasises that if we have a particular interest, in archaeology for example, he can alter the itinerary to accommodate.

As I settle down in my cosy little cabin, I have no premonition of what is in store in the morning – or how the wind would get up.

Mary Lussiana boards the Ya Selam gulet (pictured) for a boat trip around the unspoilt Turkish coast

Drifting along: The vessel sets sail from Bodrum, pictured, and takes passengers into ‘blue horizons’ 

That becomes abundantly clear when we pile into the dingy and bob to a tiny bay.

I’ve obviously chosen the wrong seat, as each wave gives me a proper drenching, before we reach the shore, dry off and head inland to a village to watch a weaver at work on a rug.

Back on board, our captain, Gurol, explains: ‘The weather is preventing our visit to Knidos, where a guide was going to show you the remains of this impressive 4th Century city.’ Then he unrolls a map and outlines the new itinerary. It’s going to be a good mix of playing in the clear waters with the boat’s toys and onshore visits for Turkish culture.

Mary (not pictured) says that Ya Selam is ideal for ‘bringing an extended family together in style’

Turkish delight: Above is a meal made by the on board chef on Ya Selam 

The weather prevents Mary’s visit to Knidos (pictured), where a guide was supposed to show her the remains of an impressive 4th Century city

The boat’s captain, Gurol, produces a map and shows Mary his favourite places, which includes Cleopatra Island (pictured) 


Seven nights from £16,950 (£1,412 per person, based on a full 12 guests, with discounts for smaller groups). Includes meals, house drinks, four sailing lessons, full use of non-motorised equipment (paddleboards, snorkelling and canoes), transfers and harbour dues (

Next morning, I awake with the clanging of the anchor and push open the little window above my bed to see blue sky. I head for coffee on deck before a breakfast of deliciously warm cigar bureks – flaky filo pastry wrapped around feta cheese. Fellow passengers Adam and Kate are discussing their sailing lessons, and before long we are laughing at another of our number who seems to have the paddleboard upside down. I then slip into the sea and kick towards the shore.

I revel in the rhythm of these days – swimming, long lunches, a shore visit and drinks under the stars.

At one point we get the map down again and Gurol shows me his favourite places. There’s Cleopatra Island and English Harbour, where British naval vessels sheltered in secret during the Second World War.

Both were on our itinerary before the wind got up. They will have to wait until next time. And there will be a next time. A gulet holiday is wonderfully seductive.

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