Widely known as ‘The Turquoise Coast’ due to the intense colour of Turkey’s southwestern sea, boasts attractive beaches, secluded bays and an impressive backdrop of lush hills and snow-capped peaks. Unsurprisingly the region is a hot spot for watersports and outdoor activities, Baba Mountain is internationally noted as an outstanding location for paragliding, while the calm seas draw boating enthusiasts from across the globe and many yachting and gulet cruises are begin from towns along the coast.
Despite being Turkey’s top holiday destination, the Turquoise coast has remained reasonably unspoilt with protected archaeological sites which are accessible only on foot or by boat and wildlife habitats; including turtle nesting areas. The region was once home to Lycian people and the ruins of their 2000-year-old cities and burial sites are scattered across the hills and cut into the cliff face. Turkey’s first long-distance hiking trail can lead you through most of the sites.
Aside from international airports at Antalya and Dalaman, a superb highway runs the width of the Turquoise coast from Marmaris to Antalya making the region easy to reach. Most towns are well connected with frequent bus services to Fethiye or Antalya. The highlights of this region can mostly be visited independently or with a package tour.
Fethiye and Around
The bustling market town of Fethiye is one of the highlights of the region. Smaller than it’s neighbours Marmaris and Antalya, Fethiye is a comfortable balance between holiday resort, expat retirement village and working Turkish town. The town centre is based around the bay with a pretty boulevard which follows the curve of the harbour. It’s a scenic spot to enjoy dinner, taste fresh seafood and watch the sunset from elegant waterside tables. Fethiye’s Paspatur (Old Town) is a quirky area just behind the port, with narrow streets sheltered by grape-vine canopies and an array of boutique shops and street stalls selling anything from handmade jewellery to woven textiles to fresh spices. The neighbourhood is also a popular meeting point for local Turks. You’ll find many eateries, bars, nightclubs and cafes. Fethiye is both culturally diverse and historically rich. A short walk from the centre can take you to Lycian rock tombs, a Roman Amphitheatre and the ruins of a castle dating back to the 11th century.
Outside of Fethiye, recommended day trips include the stunning beach at Oludeniz. Hisaronu which is a hilltop resort with excellent nightlife, Saklikent Canyon, the second largest canyon in Europe with natural pools of cool water and mud baths. You can choose to walk 4 kilometres into the canyon over boardwalk and tube back downstream. Kayakoy, a ruined Greek settlement commonly referred to as the ‘Ghost Town’ where you can wander through its 3000 deserted buildings. Food and refreshments can be purchased at the entrance. Butterfly Valley where you can hike to the waterfall and search for the unique Jersey Tiger Butterfly. All these places can be visited with a tour package starting from Fethiye.
Oludeniz, meaning ‘Blue Lagoon’ with its strikingly blue hue and clear waters is a must-see when visiting the Turquoise Coast. The area hosts a variety of flora and is popular for extreme sports. Paragliding tours leave daily and can be organised with ease. Oludeniz is linked by road to Fethiye and only 14 kilometres away with a frequent bus service. From the beach, you can hop on a boat to the adjacent bay and hike into the Butterfly Valley.
Olympos and Cirali are linked by a 4-kilometre wide pebble and sand beach. A popular weekend getaway, both international and local tourists flock to Olympos for hiking, climbing and sea kayaking. Cafes and bars line up on one side of the river while ancient ruins take the opposite bank, you can walk through the site and onto the beach. Cirali is a slightly quieter option and highlights include a visit to the Chimaera, the ever-burning flames that naturally burst from the stone, and Caretta beach, a turtle nesting area.
The Turquoise coast has an extensive history, Ancient Greeks, Romans and Thracians are just a few to sign the guestbook. The Lycians were arguably the most poignant in the region’s history. With a strong desire for independence, they fought ferociously against invading armies to defend their cities and their freedom. The most impressive and well preserved of the Lycian ruins include Patara, Xanthos, Myra, Phellos and Termessos. While the sunken city of Kekova and hilltop Simena castle are set in picturesque locations affording stunning views over Gokkaya Bay, close to the quaint fishing town of Kas.
The Lycian Way
Turkey’s first long-distance hiking trail continues for over 500 kilometres over Roman roads, stony tracks and excellent footpaths through pine forests, dry scrub and farmland, passing rural villages, pristine beaches and archaeological sites. It is possible to walk the entire route from Fethiye to Antalya, staying in rustic houses in villages or camping. Those with less time may choose to begin their hike in Olympos and walk through the National Park over the slopes of Tahtali Mountain and back down to Goynuk Canyon. This is a spectacularly diverse section of the trail, ideal for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts, don’t forget to look out for turtles hiding in the undergrowth!
Fethiye to Olympos Gulet Cruise
Indisputably the best way to enjoy Turkey’s Turquoise coast is by sea. A huge number of routes are available between Kemer, resort town west of Antalya, and Marmaris making stops for swimming and snorkelling and to visit attractions along the way. From Bodrum, further west from Marmaris, gulets depart for Greece and circle the Northern or Southern Islands.
A highly recommended Gulet Cruise route is between Fethiye to Olympos. Lasting typically 3 to 4 days you can make stops at Oludeniz, Butterfly Valley, St Nicholas Island, Kas, Kekova and Simena. The route can also be made in either direction and itineraries can be flexible, so you’re sure to find your perfect Turkey tour with gulet boat.