Beyond the Blue Cruise: Exploring Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast

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An excellent way to explore the Mediterranean coast of Turkey is by sailing the sea on a classic wooden gulet boat, however if this is not your first visit the south of Turkey or you have a little extra time left of your vacation then there are also a lot of interesting sights to see on land via organized Turkey tours. From archaeological sites to natural wonders and quirky towns there’s plenty of exploring to be done along the Mediterranean coast and in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains.

 A Splash of History

The south of Turkey has a fairly long and complex history with the region being dominated by various ancient civilisations and subjected to multiple raids, invasions and natural disasters over the centuries. Ancient Greeks were among the first settlers to the region however little is left of their cities aside an amphitheatre in Kas and scattered Amphora’s laying on the seabed in Tarzan Bay. Romans and Byzantines have also ruled and their ruined castles can be found on isolated hilltops, meanwhile the cities and towns on the Mediterranean display mostly Seljuk-Ottoman architecture with pretty white facades and red tiles roof as well as mosques converted from Christian Churches. However the majority of the archaeological sites in the south of Turkey come from the Lycian era when fearsome Lycian warriors built strong fortresses and grand cities.

Lycian Ruins

Despite their best efforts the Lycian empire eventually came to an end and their cities and fortresses fell to ruin, although many of their elaborate burial sites are still more or less intact and hidden among the hills and between the rural villages of the Mediterranean coast. One of the best preserved sites in Patara, where you can walk between the stone pillars of the royal entrance way to a restored theatre and small museum, before exploring the larger theatre which often occupied by families of goats. Within a short distance are the remains of Letoon and Xanthos, both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites and accessible by bus from Fethiye. Or, take a small boat from Dalyan, a quaint tourist town, to pass below the city of Kaunos, where huge decorative tombs are carved into the cliff face while the city itself sits partially below emerald green waters and reed banks of the Dalyan Delta. This ancient site is unique as legends say that it was not destroyed by any raid or earthquake, but by the tears of King’s heartbroken lover.  

Hidden Canyon

Located between the seaside towns of Fethiye and Kalkan is a natural wonder, the Saklikent Canyon, or Hidden Gorge. Here a narrow river descends from the snow capped peaks of the Taurus mountains, carving a 300 metre deep stream of water through limestone walls for over 18 km. Entrance to the canyon is via a metal boardwalk suspended around 50 metres above fast flowing rapids. Once inside you can walk for 2 km in the icy water, under wedged boulders to a small waterfall, or join a canyoning tour to travel deeper into the canyon. You could also rent an inflatable tube and float downstream for about an hour, and when you’re ready to dry off grab a bite to eat in one of the riverside cafes.

Extreme Sports

The Mediterranean coastline is ideal for adventure sports and thrill seekers and not all activities are based on the sea. In fact along the coast is are some of the best locations in the world for Paragliding, head to Kas for more isolation or travel to the peak of Babadag to float above the stunning beach and famous Blue Lagoon at Oludeniz. Or, travel to Dalaman for grade 3/4 white water rafting. You could take jeep safari or quad biking excursion on your Mediterranean tour of Turkey, go horse riding on Patara beach, like you’re in an old romantic movie, or climb to caves in sheer cliff faces above Olympos and Geyikbayiri.

Long and Short Distance Hiking

The hills and valleys along the Mediterranean coast are littered with waymarked hiking trails which traverse thick forests and isolated beaches to reach rural villages and ancient ruins. The region is home to many day hikes as well as Turkey’s first long distance hiking trail, The Lycian Way, which continues for 540 km along original roman roads and forest trails to fantastic viewpoints and Lycian cities, through national parks and over nearly 2,000 metre high mountain passes. The entire trail should take around 30 days but hiking shorter sections for 2-5 days is also a fantastic experience and unique way to explore Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast.