Fethiye, Oludeniz, Kaya & Faralya

Turkey

Fethiye is the most important town on the Turquoise Coast, and occupies a prime position on the western shores of the eponymous gulf, its almost perfect natural harbour protected by a rugged peninsula and by the picturesque little island of Sovalye. As this setting is as strategically advantageous as it is scenic, there have been major settlements here since time immemorial. Today, Fethiye is modern, vibrant and cosmopolitan, yet its historic monuments bear witness to the towns ancient origins. Most impressive are the Lycian rock tombs carved into the steep hillside just behind the town centre. Nearby, the medieval Knight's Castle boasts splendid views across the rooftops of the town to the bay, whilst close to the port, a Hellenistic theatre is still undergoing excavation.

Interesting as these historical sites are, what makes staying in Fethiye so much fun is immersing yourself in day-to-day life, as this is a place where tourism and local life blend well together. With a vast array of shops catering to both the essential needs of the local population and the whimsical desires of souvenir-hunters, Fethiye offers excellent shopping any day of the week, but never more so than on Tuesdays, the main market day, when farmers from the surrounding villages all descend on the town to peddle their wares. Eating out in Fethiye is similarly enjoyable, with options ranging from a simple pide for a couple of lira at the bus station (a local institution) to a sophisticated fish dinner on the water's edge by the marina.

Although Fethiye itself does not have a beach, the pleasant promenade running along the harbour and the rocky shoreline is perfect for a pre or post-dinner stroll and several decent beaches can easily be reached by bus, or you could join one of the many boat trips offered to the small coves of the Twelve Islands. The most popular beach in the region is undoubtedly Oludeniz, less than 8 miles away and served by a very frequent dolmus (minibus) service. Framed on three sides by rugged, pine-clad slopes and on the fourth by a bank of almost white sand and shingle, the azure lagoon is one of Turkey's most photographed images, and given the stunning natural beauty of the setting, it is no surprise that the long, adjoining beach has over the years grown into a popular resort. A paved, pedestrian promenade runs the length of the beach, lined with appealing bars and restaurants so there is no shortage of venues for dinner or an evening's entertainment. At the same time, Oludeniz has managed to avoid the high-rise developments that have spoilt Marmaris and some of the resorts on the coast east of Antalya, and whilst the resort can be lively in high season, the atmosphere remains appealingly laid back, largely due to the broad mix of nationalities attracted to this beautiful spot, where Turkish holidaymakers from the cities mingle with visitors from all over Europe and as far afield as the Antipodes.

Part of the appeal of Oludeniz lies in the unrivalled range of activities on offer here. The lagoon (which is now a protected area attracting a nominal entrance fee) is a wonderfully sheltered venue for kayaking, whilst a selection of watersports are available from the resort beach. The sea around Oludeniz offers superb possibilities for scuba diving, with Lykia World Diving Centre located a few kilometres to the east of Oludeniz, and mighty Mount Babadag overlooking the eastern end of the bay serves as a unique launch pad for paragliding. Even if launching yourself on the wind from a height of nearly 2,000 metres is not your own idea of fun, watching the procession of brightly coloured sails on their gradual descent towards the bay is an interesting diversion as you lie relaxing on the beach. Those who prefer somewhat more genteel activities will find a number of splendid walking trails in the forested hinterland, or may perhaps opt for a leisurely cruise along the coast.

Just a few kilometres inland, roughly halfway between Fethiye and Oludeniz, the Kaya Valley offers a remarkable contrast, for in spite of this proximity, it retains a delightfully rural feel, with the fertile red soil of this small plain yielding quality tobacco, almonds and black figs. In the spring, the area is sprinkled with wild flowers, whilst from midsummer the herbs take over, filling the air with the aromatic scent of oregano, sage and thyme. Scattered amidst the fields and orchards are small hamlets and clusters of old stone houses, as well as a handful of restaurants and little shops for your basic day-to-day needs.

The original village of Kayakoy sprawls up one of the hillsides, clearly visible from far afield. A city in Lycian times and a small but thriving town during the Byzantine era, the village has been all but deserted since the population exchange of the 1920s, which followed the Greco-Turkish war. Until then a successfully integrated community, where 'Turkish' Muslims and 'Greek' Christians lived peacefully side by side, Kaya was the last place from where the Greeks were expelled in 1926, sending the village into steep decline, as the Turks who had been sent here to occupy the abandoned houses opted instead to build new hamlets on the plains below. Many holidaymakers to Turkey visit the 'ghost town' of Kaya on a day trip, but only by staying in the valley can you fully appreciate the unique magic of this special place. Wandering through Kayakoy's steep, narrow lanes is a profoundly moving experience, especially early in the morning before the excursion coaches arrive, or late in the day when the evening sun paints the crumbling facades in a warm, mellow glow.

For an even more unspoilt setting still within easy reach of Fethiye, you only need to venture a few miles south from Oludeniz to discover some of the Turquoise Coast's most gloriously untouched coastal scenery. After passing the magnificent Butterfly Valley, you soon reach the sleepy hamlet of Faralya - the perfect retreat for walkers and nature-lovers and those simply seeking complete tranquillity and relaxation. Whilst remaining very much a rural hamlet, Faralya now boasts a small range of accommodation of an excellent standard, including a few private villas and a small exclusive hotel so nature lovers can enjoy the countryside and contemplate the views across the Mediterranean to Rhodes without sacrificing their comfort. The hamlet is also served by a dolmus to Fethiye via Oludeniz several times a day, so a car is not essential to enjoy this idyllic hideaway.

Oludeniz

Oludeniz

Oludeniz Faralya countryside The old deserted village of Kayakoy Fethiye waterfront Aerial view of the Kaya Valley Gemiler Beach Aerial view of Oludeniz beach and lagoon Fethiye Sunset over Oludeniz Paragliding from Mount Babadag Butterfly Valley Gemiler Bay and St Nicholas Island Countryside near Faralya Kabak beach Aerial view of Faralya and the Butterfly Valley

Accommodation in Fethiye, Oludeniz, Kaya & Faralya:

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