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With a total coastline of 8333km this remarkable land boasts some of the most breathtaking beaches and landscapes in the Mediterranean and is home to a population whose reputation for friendliness and warm hospitality is the envy of many.
The Southern Aegean area of Turkey is one of the finest and most scenic regions in the entire Mediterranean. Noted for gorgeous beaches and breathtaking scenery this is a part of the world that has an inspiring view, an ancient wonder or unmissable sight virtually around every corner. Spending time amongst this abundance of natural beauty in one of our handpicked private villas, you are guaranteed a relaxing and extremely rewarding experience.
Deciding to base our programme in and around the charming town of Kalkan was an easy decision for us. Dominated by the imposing Taurus Mountains, Kalkan is a pretty port where a seamless blend of European and Asian cultures can be seen in every chic façade, ancient doorway and soaring minaret.
Meaning ‘quay’ in Turkish, Kalkan has retained much of its original Ottoman/Greek architecture and the inner part of the town in particular has a traditional atmosphere and authentic character that extends right down to the bustling harbour front. While this once tiny and sleepy seaport has grown over the years into a cosmopolitan enclave boasting a sophisticated mix of boutique-style shops and rooftop restaurants, it remains a place that has never lost touch with its historic origins. Wander around the narrow cobbled backstreets and the sense of an era long gone by is still very prevalent.
Bordering the town are the magnificent beaches of Kaputas and Patara (at 17km the longest beach on the Lycian coast) and travelling to them via one of the numerous water-taxis that leave from the town quayside is an enchanting, relaxing and scenic alternative. The region of Patara with its dunes and marshes as well as the ancient site of Patara itself is now a designated national park and a key biodiversity area, rich in birdlife, flora and fauna. As a recognised breeding ground for the endangered loggerhead turtle Patara beach has, commendably, been declared off-limits for any development in order to protect and encourage the turtles’ nesting activities.
Just a fifteen minute drive inland from Kalkan, sitting alongside the natural freshwater streams that cascade down the slopes of the Taurus Mountains, Islamlar is celebrated for its peace, tranquillity, wonderful views and excellent selection of waterside family-run restaurants (specialising in trout dishes).
This is an immensely restful and laid back place where countless cups of Turkish or apple tea are sipped under shady trees and locally grown fruit and vegetables are offered for sale both in the local markets and at impromptu roadside stalls (shopping options in Islamlar may not be extensive but they are certainly friendly and colourful). However it is the restaurants that deserve special mention; it is no exaggeration to say that diners travel here from far and wide to enjoy the freshest of food served in these convivial, cooling and appealingly verdant surrounds.
Head eastwards along the scenic coast road from Kalkan and the picturesque harbour town of Kas comes into view, its narrow jasmine scented cobbled lanes lined with Bohemian boutiques and a variety of Turkish and international restaurants. It is a popular, unspoiled place with interesting sights such as the various Lycian sarcophagi scattered around the village and many traditional Ottoman houses with their characteristic overhanging balconies.
Towards the end of the Lycian coastline is Kale where attractions include a well preserved castle built by the Knights of Rhodes and the half submerged ruins of ancient Simena, an astonishing sight directly opposite the sheltered bay. Usually reached by boat from Kas or Kalkan, this particular part of the coast is full of surprises and history. The island of Kekova, for example, is a great example of the fortifications that were needed to survive the constant onslaught of marauding pirates besieging the trade convoys that sailed between Lycia and Greece centuries ago.
Spreading out above the coastline there are beautiful gorges, valleys and mountains peppered with delightful villages and hamlets where the somnolent pace of life has remained virtually unchanged for centuries.
A river flows through the hugely scenic Xanthos Valley and it is easy to see why ancient civilisations settled on the slopes of the mountain ranges flanking either side; apart from the obvious convenience of having a never-ending water supply, the fertile soil and far-reaching views gave a distinct advantage over the seashore villages. The Valley is also home to some of the most celebrated ancient Lycian towns including Xanthos, Latoon, and Pinara.
One of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Turkey, the amphitheatre and Acropolis at Xanthos-Letoon are globally recognised and protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pinara with its untouched mountain setting of fragrant pines, ancient olive trees, thyme-scented breezes and stunning views remains largely undiscovered and so retains its tranquil and somewhat mystical atmosphere.
Spectacular Saklikent Gorge, which cuts deep into the imposing Gombe Akdagi Mountains, produces a gushing cascade of limestone filtered water throughout the year. Exhilarating walks along manmade catwalks and in the shallower parts of the water itself allow visitors to marvel at the untamed power and beauty of nature. Bordering the gorge are various restaurants with wooden verandas jutting out over the river and furnished with cushions on which one can relax in true Ottoman style.
The principal centre of the Turquoise Coast is Fethiye, a lively port and market town. The fish market here is great fun! Choose your preferred seafood from one of the traders and you can take it straight into any of the surrounding restaurants where they will cook it to your exact requirements for lunch or dinner.
Just outside the town is the ‘must-see’ abandoned village of Kayaköy. Deserted since 1923 as a result of the compulsory population exchange (so vividly written about by Louis de Berniéres in his celebrated book “Birds without wings”), this eerie, fascinating and immensely picturesque hillside settlement is now a tranquil place of wild flowers, fragrant herbs and birds (with wings!).