Turquoise Coast attractions

Turquoise Coast attractions

The best attractions and places to visit on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast.

On the southern shore of its eponymous peninsula, Datça is ranged attractively around the old harbour and comprises İskele, the harbour-front area; Reşadiye, the original settlement, behind, and nearby Eski (old) Datça. The latter two are charming and rustic, with cobbled streets and family-run guesthouses.

Datça’s real draw, however, is the peninsula itself. The best ways to make the most of its 235 miles of intricate coastline and extensive pine forests, are to hire a car or to take a boat-trip from the west harbour.

Don’t miss the fascinating ruins of Knidos (daily April-Oct 8am-7pm; Nov-March 8am-5pm £2.20), an ancient cliff-top city at the tip of this rocky finger of land, once famed for its cult of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. Founded in 360BC, the city of 70,000 inhabitants, which lay where the Mediterranean meets the Aegean, was an important trading port.

Dalyan

Conveniently close to Dalaman airport, this low-key resort hugs the south bank of a reed-fringed river that flows from Köyceğiz lake, through Dalyan, and into the Mediterranean at magnificent İztuzu beach.

There are numerous hotels and pensions, many on the river bank, as well as bars, cafés and restaurants. There are eerily silent birdwatching trips upriver on a solar-powered boat, or head to the two-mile stretch of sand, famous for the nesting turtles that lay eggs here every summer.

People have enjoyed the thermal springs at Ilıca, accessible by boat from Dalyan, since Hellenistic times, though most visitors today are drawn to the associated mud-baths. On the cliffs the opposite side of the river, a series of Lycian rock tombs faces the town: reach them by rowing boat from Dalyan. From the tombs a path leads to the ancient city of Kaunos (daily April-October 9am-8pm, November-March 9am-5pm; £2.20).

Dalyan hugs the south bank of a reed-fringed river that flows from Köyceğiz lake Credit: Credit: Adrian Muttitt / Alamy Stock Photo/Adrian Muttitt / Alamy Stock Photo

Kaya Köyü

On a rocky promontory south of Fethiye an idyllic valley is overlooked by the ruins of a once-sizable Greek village, Kaya Köyü. Its inhabitants, who knew the place as Levissi, were forced out by the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923.

Today the empty “ghost” village, with its 600-plus roofless houses, attractive churches and cobbled lanes, is a protected site (daily 8.30am-5pm; £1.10). It was immortalised in Birds Without Wings, the epic novel by Louis Des Bernieres about the First World War, and provides a beautiful backdrop to the pastoral hamlets of Keçiler and Kınalı spread at its feet.

On a rocky promontory south of Fethiye an idyllic valley is overlooked by the ruins of a once-sizable Greek village, Kaya Köyü Credit: Credit: Alex Bramwell / Alamy Stock Photo/Alex Bramwell / Alamy Stock Photo

There’s little to do in the valley except explore the ruins, stroll along lanes between remarkably English-looking fields or relax on the balcony of your guesthouse and admire the distant peaks.

Around Kaya Köyü

The major resort of Fethiye (below), with shops, restaurants, bars, a lively weekly market (every Tuesday) and pretty harbour-front, is a short drive or dolmuş (minibus) ride away. Even closer is Ölüdeniz, a much-photographed lagoon that is part of a nature park (daily dawn-dusk; £1.20), though you can swim from the beach in front of the adjacent resort of Belceğiz for free.

The more energetic can walk from Kaya Köyü to Ölüdeniz in less than three hours, admiring en-route some of the most dramatic coastline in the Mediterranean.

There are also walks to other beaches nearby, including Gemiler, from where there are boat trips to the abandoned Byzantine Greek church of Aya Nikola. There’s also sea kayaking (sevencapes.com), riding and tandem paraglide from a 6,000ft-plus peak to the beach at Ölüdeniz (skysports-turkey.com).

Fethiye

Despite the inroads of tourism, this bustling town has retained much of its Turkish character as the market centre for truckloads of citrus fruit and vegetables from the fertile hinterland. Although it has plenty of decent accommodation, most visitors come from out-of-town resorts to shop at the wonderful market, or join a cruise to see the green and mountainous coastline.

Even in high season it’s possible to find deserted stretches of fine, white sand

Above Fethiye, curiously straddling a mountain pass en route to one of Turkey’s most photographed beaches, the striking lagoon of Ölüdeniz, the adjoining resorts of Ovacık and Hisarönü are packed with hotels, bars, cafés and restaurants orientated to British visitors.

Ölüdeniz itself, in a narrow valley behind an attractive beach near the lagoon, is within walking distance of the seafront. Faralya, built on an olive and pine-clad mountainside above plunging, beach-fronted Butterfly Valley, is more remote.

Gelemiş (also known as Patara)  

This traditional Turkish village is best known to visitors and locals alike, rather confusingly, as Patara, which is more properly the name of the Greek-Roman ancient site and famous beach which lie just beyond it.

Whatever you call it, rustic Gelemiş makes a superb base from which to enjoy Turkey’s best and longest beach, accessible from the village through the ancient site using a smart “beach card”, which costs £1.65 for 10 entries.

The atmospheric, dune-engulfed ruins of ancient Patara (daily April-Oct 8am-7pm; Nov-March 8am-5pm; £3.30) are still under excavation and you could easily spend an entire day here, wandering beneath triumphal arches and among curiously shaped Lycian tombs, or admiring the plentiful bird life from the semi-circular tiers of stone seating in the 2,000-year-old theatre.

The village centre is home to a handful of more than adequate low-key restaurants, though visitors generally eat wholesome home-cooked food at their hotel or pension or, for something more sophisticated, drive to upmarket Kalkan, 20 minutes away.

Around Gelemiş

The waymarked Lycian Way long-distance trail (cultureroutesinturkey.com), pioneered by the British expat Kate Clow, passes through Gelemiş. It enables even average walkers to make a loop to the fascinating Roman aqueduct at Delikkemer or on to Kalkan; keener walkers can arrange longer hikes along the trail – though temperatures are fierce from mid-June to mid-September.

The Lycian Way passes through Çıralı giving walkers great scope, but anyone can hit the heights and admire the spectacular views by taking the cable-car to the top of Mount Olympos Credit: Credit: Dave Stevenson / Alamy Stock Photo/Dave Stevenson / Alamy Stock Photo

The Lycians, native Anatolians who embraced Greek and Roman culture, have bequeathed the area with a wealth of ancient sites. Around 12 miles to the north is atmospheric Pınara (daily April-October 9am-8pm, November-March 8am-5pm; £1.10), its ancient theatre framed by a tomb-riddled cliff face.

Even closer is Xanthos (daily April-Oct 8.30am-6.30pm, Nov-March 8.30am-5pm; £2.20) not quite so dramatic but much more extensive than Pınara. It was from here that the British archaeologist Sir Charles Fellows filched, in 1842, a number of beautifully carved Lycian tombs that now grace the British Museum in London. Then there’s the striking Saklıkent Gorge, a dramatic gash in the mountains that is most visited for the trout restaurants lining its mouth.

Kalkan

Today Kalkan is a small, sophisticated resort town, but until the 1923 exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, Kalkan, then known as Kalamaki, was a prosperous Greek fishing village. It has a pretty marina, numerous bars and restaurants, quaint and steep lanes lined with 19-century fishermen’s cottages – and a great location overlooking a beautiful bay, backed by towering peaks.

There is a passable beach, Kömürlük, near the town centre, with sunbeds for hire for £2.50 a day, and anyone who wants to see what lies beneath the coruscating, crystal clear waters offshore can sign up for a course at a local dive school (see dolphinscubateam.com and kalkandiving.com). Kalkan is also close to wonderful mountain scenery, idyllic villages and spectacular ancient Lycian sites.

Although visitors come from all over Europe and North America, the British predominate. Much of Kalkan’s popularity derives from its exclusivity – everything here is a shade pricier than local rivals such as Kaş and Gelemiş/Patara – as well as from its laid-back charm and quality eating establishments.

Around Kalkan

The Saklıkent Gorge and the Lycian sites of Xanthos and Pinara are little farther from Kalkan than Patara, though just as popular with visitors is Kalkan’s mountainous hinterland. Many visitors hire a car and head to the village of Islamlar, with its trout restaurants, or pretty Bezirgan, a highland village famed for its collection of “ambar”, little cedarwood huts used for storage.

Kalkan used to be a prosperous Greek fishing village Credit: stuny – Fotolia

It’s also possible to take a local minibus up to Bezirgan and walk down the Lycian Way back to Kalkan (three hours). Another major attraction is the spectacularly located beach at Kaputaş, four miles away on the coastal road to Kas, a small but beautiful strip of fine sand at the foot of a deep and narrow gorge.

Kaş

Clinging to the skirts of a mountain that plunges straight into an azure sea, Kaş was once a somnolent fishing port. Nowhere so beautiful could resist the tide of tourism, however, and villas, apartments and hotels are being built on slopes so steep that even the goats think twice before treading there. Yet it remains beautiful, its heart a cluster of old Greek fishermen’s cottages on narrow streets around the Lycian lion tomb.

The lack of large beaches means Kaş is not ideal for young children, but you can swim from platforms and small, shingle strips. The waters are among the clearest in the Mediterranean and scuba-diving is big business. Indeed the town is Turkey’s outdoor capital, offering paragliding, mountain-biking, canyoning and scuba diving. Kaş also stands astride the Lycian Way, a fabulous, marked long-distance footpath.

Kaş has small hotels and pensions aplenty, and enough low-key bars for all but the most committed of party animals.

Source:  t e l e g r a p h .c o. u k / travel / destinations / europe / turkey / turquoise-coast / articles / turquoise-coast-attractions/