Turkey’s coastline is a traveler’s dream. Whether you want to sip cocktails poolside or hike historic hillsides, when you visit Turkey and its coast there really is something for everyone. My own summer trip to the coast covered Fethiye to Antalya and some of the most popular backpacking towns in-between.
I began my trip in Fethiye, which is one of the largest towns on the coast. I’d flown from Istanbul to Dalaman on a budget airline at the recommendation of a local, who said flying was preferable to an overnight bus trip. Stepping outside the airport in Dalaman there were a number of comfortable buses waiting for arriving passengers, all with destinations clearly marked. Bus transportation all along the coast was very clear, affordable and punctual, which was great.
Fethiye is a great jumping point to other spots along the coast. I’m an avid swimmer so I decided to spend one day aboard a “blue cruise”. While many people prefer to spend a few days aboard a boat I just sailed out for one, stopping at a few different islands (including one that was completely overrun with rabbits!) and some different sheltered bays with beautiful fish. Fethiye is also close to one of Turkey’s most picturesque beaches- Oludeniz– which is great for swimming and snorkeling. I was disappointed, though, to see that the sand at beautiful Oludeniz was covered in cigarette butts. Wear flip-flops to and from the water!
Another amazing day trip from Fethiye is Kayakoy. Eight kilometers from Fethiye, high in the hills where Carmylessus once stood, visitors can explore this ghostly abandoned town.
While it initially seems just as old as the ruins at Patara or Xanthos, this village was in fact occupied by Greek-speaking Christians until a “population exchange” between Greece and Turkey in 1923. The site includes more than 500 abandoned houses and two Orthodox Greek churches. During my visit I encountered only a few other people, which made the site seem all the more ghastly. Note that there is very little shade here, and the sun beats down on this little town like nothing else, so make sure to bring lots of water, wear a hat and layer on the sunscreen. Try to avoid visiting between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, if possible.
From Fethiye I made my way further down the coast to Patara. Most of Turkey’s beaches are made from rocky pebbles, making Patara’s soft white sand stand out. Sand lovers (is that a thing?) will have a field day here, while those looking for great swimming should consider Oludeniz, or Kaputas, instead. Between the village (technically called Gelemis, but everyone just calls it Patara) and the beach you can see the ruins of the ancient town of Patara, some of which have been restored.
My next stop on the coast was Kas. As I checked into my wonderful hostel here I met two other girls who turned out to be great travel buddies. We signed up for a couple of different tours through Xanthos Travel, starting the next morning (after our amazing breakfast courtesy the family who operate Ates Pension).
I’d already done a one-day “blue cruise” in Fethiye, but in Kas your cruise offers something amazingly different: the chance to cruise over a sunken city. The boat will slowly sail over the sunken ruins of Kekova, allowing you to view building foundations and relics below.
Our boat also had a few stops for swimming, a brief foray into a “pirate cave” and at the end of the day we docked in a small seaside village to explore a now-sunken cemetery… and buy ice cream.
That night we returned to town and had a beautiful dinner at Bi Lokma Restaurant, then sat in the town square alongside all the beer-drinking men, just watching the world pass by.
On our second full day in Kas we did our second tour with Xanthos, this time to the Saklikent Gorge. The day started with a crazy “Jeep Safari” through winding mountainous roads. We were warned to pack our stuff in waterproof plastic bags for the ride, which seemed rather odd. After a quick tea stop in a mountainous village (which was accompanied by the best cheese I’ve ever eaten in my life) the reason for the plastic bags became clear- the latter half of the drive involves a Jeep-on-Jeep high-speed water balloon fight on single-lane mountain roads, while the local children join in by spraying your vehicle with full-blast hoses.
At the gorge we changed into special shoes and began the wet and watery hike through the canyon, followed by lunch at a “floating” restaurant where dragonflies buzzed past and butterflies hovered over our shoulders.
After lunch we stopped at a river for a quick mud bath followed by a brief stop at the actual ruins of Xanthos (for which the tour company is named).
Our busy Saklikent Gorge day trip ended with a stop at a beach I’d seen- and lusted after- out a bus window on my way to Kas. Kaputas is a tiny slice of heaven between the towns of Kalkan and Kas. The sand here is clean and the swimming is just the right amount of dangerous- the beautiful sand suddenly drops off beneath your feet and you find yourself being rocked by stronger currents than you’d expect, very close to the shore. Swimmers lacking confidence will probably just want to wade here.
As my time in Kas came to an end I parted ways with my new travel buddies, though two years later we still keep in touch on Facebook. My last stop was Antalya, which for me was nothing more than an airport on my way to Eastern Europe. I enjoyed exploring the Ottoman architecture in the old town (which, even after two days, remained a complete geographical mystery to me… I could never find my way back to my hotel), got in a good scrub at the hammam, and even developed a sudden, last-minute love of Turkish Delight.
All in all I spent about ten days along the Turkish Coast. It was enough time to rest and relax before I began the more strenuous part of my trip, but certainly not long enough to call myself an expert, or even to say that I’d seen everything I wanted to see. If you are heading to the Turkish Coast… have fun!