IT was a holiday of firsts - my first visit to Turkey and my first time trying an all inclusive hotel break.

If I am absolutely honest, I have never been a fan of the concept of all inclusive holiday so I was a tad nervous how this would work out.

But I am pleased to say I was proved very wrong during my fabulous week with my son, Finlay, at the very luxurious Paloma Foresta hotel nestled on Turkey’s stunning Meditteranean coastline.

My other concern that the food would be mediocre was immediately set aside as we arrived late evening and the cooks quickly served us a meal of our choice - my sea bass was fresh and beautifully cooked.

We travelled there just before the season officially starts in April to May but the hotel was buzzing with holidaymakers from across Europe.

The weather was mixed but rain on our first day gave us the opportunity to explore the hotel and beautifully manicured grounds which lead to a private beach.

I completed my day with an anti-stress massage by a professional Balinese masseur. The near hour massage was well worth the £50 fee.

The hotel is one of nine belonging to the Tonbul family. It was opened in 1988 and the 345 rooms really are gorgeous. We each had a junior suite with our own private spacious terraces and they were lovely. But a standard double also has plenty of room.

The interior design of the hotel and rooms is worthy of its five star grading and the staff are incredibly friendly.

Because the hotel is set in the Bey Mountains National Park, animals and vegetation are protected so it is a lush looking area sandwiched between the beach and the striking Taurus Mountain range behind.

It is one of a small strip of hotels, none above three storeys high. Neither does the area have loud bars or tacky tourism shops - this is truly a hidden tasteful gem.

Founder Hasan Tonbul, a former travel agent, opened his chain 47 years and as a group it is committed to sustainable tourism. The food served all week was top notch.

From steaks and salads to pizza and pasta, it was all freshly cooked and served steaming hot. Meat and fish are sourced locally while over 15% of the food served to the guests is grown organically on the family’s farm.

They also produce their own red and rose wine - I can confirm the latter is delicious!

Large buffets served breakfast, lunch and dinner with plenty of choice. Two restaurants, the Lotus and Seasons offered waiter service with a choice of meals from a set menu or themed evenings. The standard of food overall was excellent.

I had heard talk of all inclusives offering watered down drinks or not a wide choice but again we had everything on offer - wines, beers, names branded spirits and cocktails. Having developed a cold midway through my holiday, I can highly recommend the Caspar mocktail - a mix of honey, lemon, ginger and soda water.

We enjoyed a fantastic day out to the surrounding area - taking in sun, sea and even snow high up in the mountains which neighboured our hotel. We booked via TUI and enjoyed a private guide for the day - well worth doing so.

Our first stop was to see the ruins of the ancient Greek and Roman coastal city of Phaselis, now being beautifully preserved. A 24-metre-wide ancient street runs through the middle of the 2,600 year old city, with small shops leading off it. Ruins of Roman baths, an amphitheatre and a brothel can be made out - some dating back to 200 BC!

The once major sea port is home to three natural harbours, beautiful to enjoy lunch at or a swim. The ground is stony so wear flat suitable footwear.

Leaving there, we swapped cobbles for a cable car as we drove to Mount Tahtali and embarked on the world’s second longest cable car rides.

I actually felt as if I was walking through the clouds as we slowly climbed to the crisp-aired, snow-laden summit - 2,365m above sea level - where we had fabulous 360 degrees views of the Mediteranean coast line.

Apparently, some folk walk the increasingly popular Lycian Way, mountain bike and trek along the stunning pine tree-clad mountain trails.

Take warm clothes and suitable footwear if you want to take photos stood in the snow. There is a cafe at the summit but we opted to eat away from there.

Our guide took us to a gorgeous family-run restaurant in the village of Ulupinar (meaning mighty waterfall). Set in a tree-filled valley, Selale Restaurant ( is home to lemon, orange and avocado trees, along with rivers filled with trout which are caught and served as fresh as fresh can be.

Tables are set among the cascading waterfalls running alongside the family’s 120-year-old working mill and kitchens. It really is a beautiful setting to enjoy a meal at.

Our traditional fish and fresh vegetable lunch was served in earthenware pots they had been cooked in. I also enjoyed the family’s classic mushrooms with cheese sauce side dish.

It was a lovely end to our tour.

Another day, we ventured in to the nearby town of Kemer. There was a bus service outside the hotel but we opted to take a taxi and the driver waited for us for up to two hours until we were ready to return.

Until the 1980s, it was a fishing village but again it has been developed in a tasteful way, no high rise buildings. The main shopping street has water features running through it and heads to the small marina. Most took Turkish Lira, Euros, Sterling or US dollars.

There are weekly markets and plenty of clothes, luggage and shoe shops, along with bakeries for those who enjoy a Turkish pastry or sweet treat. We enjoyed a beachside coffee, taking in the vistas of the sweeping bay.

As the sun came out, we spent a couple of days enjoying sitting on the beach listening to the waves gently lapping the shore. I’m not a sun worshipper but after out long, cold grey winter, it was good to lay out on the beds and feel the heat on my bones.

Evenings were spent in the spacious bar area enjoying a drink as a pianist tinkled the ivories. Live entertainment, including singers and dance acts were also available to watch.

The hotels has its own indoor heated pool, a sauna and hammam, a Turkish steam bath, outdoor tennis courts and two outdoor polls - one with slides for younger guests.

Those late night owls were also offered suppers of burgers and chips - much to Finlay’s pleasure!

Two minor bugbears - the staff at the hotel’s Ocean Club spa were just a little bit pushy. When I booked my massage, they suggested I book a course of five, then whittled it down to three. I highly recommend the body massage - I just didn’t want five! But once I said no, they did not bother me again.

And stray cats. If you’re not a lover of moggies, then they might get on your nerves. It seems Turkish people love their cats so they are allowed to wander at will around the hotel’s ground floor and gardens.

I’m not a fan and generally they did not bother us though but staff shooed them away if they loitered too close to me. But Turkey is not unique among predominantly Muslim countries for honouring its cats, which are considered ritually clean animals in Islam. And many guests did enjoy feeding and stroking their feline friends.

As we flew home, I reflected on my impressions of Turkey. Finlay said he was impressed by the cleanliness of everywhere and the friendliness and courtesy of the locals. As we sauntered pass shops we were never badgered to go in or buy, not a moment of hassle.

Once in the shops, there’s plenty to choose from and my other son Joseph was treated to two very nice shirts for a fraction of the price they’d be at home.

Eateries, shops and hotels definitely give Spain and Portugal some competition in terms of value for money. Increasing numbers of UK and Irish tourists are now realising their hard-earned currency goes further in Turkey than the more traditional European resorts at peak times.

The quality of our hotel for the price was excellent - one of the best I have stayed in. For that alone, it was worth the visit.

It might have been our first visit to Turkey - but it won’t be our last.

TUI offers seven-night package holidays to Kemer in Antalya, Turkey, staying at the 5T Paloma Foresta on an all-inclusive basis. Prices start from £934pp based on two adults sharing a double room with balcony or terrace, with flights departing from Manchester on 24th June. Includes 20kg luggage per person and transfers.

TUI also offers a Phaselis & Tahtali Mountain Day Tour as part of their excursions offer. The tour includes a trip to the ancient city of Phaselis, as well the cable car journey to the summit of Mount Tahtali where guests can enjoy lunch with panoramic views, and free time to relax and swim on the three secluded beaches of Phaselis. The tour also includes an expert local guide.

Prices start from £77pp and can be booked at or with the TUI rep at your hotel.

Prices correct at the time of publishing