Cruising the Turkish coastline is a 'must-do' for those who embark on cruising the Mediterranean, and there can be no more alluring destination than the coastal town of Fethiye.
Fethiye Bay and surrounds provides some fantastic cruising
One of the best things about Fethiye is the superb anchoring - the anchorage just outside the marina is so protected and so muddy and so secure that the worst problem passing cruisers have may be not being able to get their anchor out of the mud when they want to leave - surely the dream of all cruising sailors.
...and the town of Fethiye, while suffering from some over-growth is a diner's and shoppers delight. The supermarkets are excellent too. Then, once you have had your fill of Fethiye you can visit the superb Twelve Islands area of the vast bay, where there are excellent med-mooring style anchorages and wharves where you can pull up for free as long as you eat at the restaurant owned by the wharf owners. Here weeks could be wiled away moving from bay to bay. Then there is Göcek, in the same bay, but to the north of Fethiye. This is a more expensive area than Fethiye. It is popular with a well-heeled yachting fraternity and has the shops and restaurants to suit. It makes a pleasant enough alternative if you’ve tired of Fethiye’s dining options, although it is a small town. (See map at the end of this article)
However, back to Fethiye and it's time to explore outside the town, venturing into the soaring mountains. Here you can clamber about in ancient ruins and explore the attractions of the inland - and there are many
Dolmuses run to and from most of the more interesting sites, although hiring a car will inevitably enable you to squeeze more of the attractions and give greater flexibility - but don't discount the dolmus out of hand - they are casual, friendly and go almost everywhere, very cheaply.
Here are the highlights of the country within a day's journey of Fethiye:
The anchoring is very uncertain in this marvellous coastal destination, so it might be best visited overland. And if there’s one place that almost every visitor to Fethiye heads for it has to be Ölüdeniz (Dead Sea), the beautiful lagoon that lies just a little way to the southeast. Ölüdeniz is almost too lovely for its own good. The lagoon itself together with its soft sandy beaches has been protected from development behind a paywall, but there were soon so many hotels sprawling inland from nearby Belcekiz beach that a decision was made to ban any more building and force all new development uphill to the Hisarönü-Ovacik area. There unplanned, haphazard building work has created a settlement so ugly you’ll need to close your eyes as the dolmus whizzes past on its way down to Belcekiz, but all that will soon be forgotten as you stretch out on the sand or swim in the pristine water.
If Cappadocia is synonymous with hot air ballooning, Belcekiz has become just as intimately associated with paragliding, it being many visitors’ idea of a great adventure to launch themselves off the top of Baba Dagi (Mount Baba, 1,976 meters) before coming to rest on the beach. If that sounds like what you’re after, just remember that accidents have happened and make sure you choose a reputable operator.
At Hisarönü/Ovacik the road from Fethiye forks, with the left forking running down to Belcekiz/Ölüdeniz and the right to Kayaköy, a once lovely settlement of stone houses and churches that was abandoned in 1923 when its Greek residents were forced to leave Turkey for Greece in the population exchange that followed the Turkish War of Independence (1919-22). Always a popular destination for day trippers, it became even more so after Louis de Bernieres published 'Birds Without Wings,' his mesmerizing novel inspired by the village’s sad history. Today a handful of pensions and hotels straggle around the edges, and there’s a lovely restaurant where you can sip a wine with your dinner while watching the sun go down.
These days word is well and truly out about Butterfly Valley, but not so long ago this was one of those almost mythical places about which travelers whispered amongst themselves. Here a strip of beach comes hemmed in on either side by soaring mountain walls -- the only way to get here is by boat from Belcekiz in summer or via a treacherous path at the rear of the valley which runs down from Faralya and the almost equally legendary George House. As for the butterflies, chances are you won’t see any of them, although there are supposed to be masses at certain times of the year.
Faralya and Kabak:
A few timetabled dolmuses make the run from Fethiye up to Faralya, high in the hills above Ölüdeniz, but unless you plan to stay the night and admire the glorious sunset there’s not a lot to do up here. The run ends above Kabak, once a barely known hippy hangout popular for its yoga retreats and vegetarian cuisine but now a growing community of hotels and pensions overlooking a beach that features on the Lycian Way hiking trail. The views and scenery along this part of the coast are quite simply spectacular.
In theory you can take a dolmus to and from the Saklikent (Hidden City) Gorge under your own steam, although you may find it very hard to persuade the local drivers to let you do that. Whatever, don’t let them divert you into eating in their particular favored restaurant on the outskirts since the real pleasure of a visit here has to be to wander into a gorge so steep-sided that the sun never reaches the water at the bottom, ensuring that it’s icy cold even in high summer. Once inside this haven you can tuck into a lunch of freshly cooked trout on one of any number of platforms angled over the water, an unforgettable treat.
If you visit Saklikent on a tour or with your own car you may get to combine the trip with a run around the remains of Tlos, an extraordinary Lycian city created around a huge rock, its summit topped by the ruins of an Ottoman fort that once belonged to Kanli (Bloody) Ali Aga who, in an early example of an honor killing, is rumored to have murdered his own daughter to protect his family’s reputation in the 19th century. The most obvious relics of the Lycian city are a collection of rock-cut tombs of a type also to be seen in Fethiye itself.
Tlos is reasonably accessible but Pinara, a Lycian city possibly founded as a satellite to accommodate some of the growing population of Xanthos, takes a bit more effort to explore. The ruins are dotted about a wooded area so glorious in spring and autumn that you’ll probably remember the foliage quite as much as the historic structures. As at Tlos, the most striking structures are the rock-cut tombs, some with elaborate carvings on their facades.