We decided to head down to Fethiye from Istanbul as a slight (12hour night bus!) detour off our route though Eastern Europe. This is an area we are very much familiar with having spent many happy holidays as kids on the stunning beaches of Turkey’s south coast. Returning here we came for a holiday after 2.5 months of backpacking, but this time with a fresh pair of eyes and a new sense of adventure to see past the tourism and see the beauty and adventure that excises here.
More to this region than just tourism
Many people a year head to this region that is for sure, walking down the streets of the small villages it is clear to see how much this area depends on tourism and how much of an impact it has had on the place. Usually one the surface it would be a place we avoided like the plague. The scores of English people, culture and food in the Fethiye region would make us run for the hills. But we weren’t here because of them, we were here because of the family we have living here.
But coming to a place like this with the spirit of a backpacker means sitting by the pool and doing nothing, as much as our intention was to rest a little, just wasn’t an option. We headed out to explore and discover, and we did just that. Finding true adventure here, true beauty as well as a culture and history many who visit never discover.
Fethiye is the main city in this region and had managed to stay pretty much free of the influence of tourism. The city is small but welcoming and the culture here is Turkish through and through. The locals flock to the main mosque and the old town area of the city still retains a cobbled Ottoman charm. Each week there are bustling markets and crowds gather to haggle over a random collection of goods! Drinking çay, or Turkish tea, by the harbour and watching
This also happens to be the location in which Shorty’s Dad and Step mother have chosen to retire to, within a 10 minute bus ride to the villages they have holidayed in for years it gives them a chance to be close to the action whilst also embracing local life. Fethiye is the perfect place for them, and also for us to visit!
Translating into “Dead Sea” in Turkish due to the calm nature of the water all year around this is one of the main tourist villages of the region. Whilst it is true that the streets around this beachside town set in a valley are mostly made up of hotels, bars and shops there is still plenty of places to escape. It is also reachable from Fethiye on the Dolmus in 15 minutes!
If you wander far enough from here you can still find tiny farmers villages as well as the hippy retreats of Faralya and Cabak which sit near the stunning natural gorge of Butterfly valley, only accessibly via the turquoise sea. Here you really feel like you are out in the wilds of old Turkey and can only imagine how this whole region would have been before the influx of mass tourism. The tiny villages are a stark contrast to the bustle of Fethiye.
This was also the first place I ever visited in Turkey over 10 years earlier on a family holiday. It was where I met many of the long standing freinds I had heard Shorty talk of during the early years of our relationship. I received such a warm and freindly welcoming and it became a place close to my heart as it had been to Shorty’s for so many years.
Hisaronu is much like Oludeniz and yet it seems it it for the more seasoned visitors to this area. Most first timers will stay down on the crowded streets of the beach, but come back again and quieter and more authentic Hisaronu is the place to stay. Set in the mountains there is a much more local vibe to the brand of tourism offered up here and for us, pretty much all of the Turkish friends we know have also relocated up here.
First visiting here in 2006 and lastly in 2009 when we stayed up here despite its faults I saw a charm here that I knew we would always return to, maybe not so often, but it would alway be a second home.
Just a short ride through the mountain passes above Hisaronu is Kayakoy and its ghost village. This tiny village has retained its local charm despite playing host to such a historic spot. Known in ancient times as Lebessos and later Livissi it was a village of Anatolian greeks until 1922. Despite the Ottomans controlling the region the Greek Christians settled and stayed here for centuries. That was until the Greco-Turkish War in the early 20th century. During this time many of the residents were exiled and many even killed by the Turks. By the end of 1922 every resident had either been exiled, killed or fled on ships over to Greece. Today the ruins of this village are preserved as a museum in which you can explore on foot.
Not only does Kaya have a amazing history to discover but it also has an impressive range of hiking possibilities that all offer amazing views over the stunning turquoise bay below. We took an exhausting path towards the highest of the abandoned churches in over 40c heat. But the view over Cold Water Bay, the cove we would be swimming in a few days later, was one of the most breathtaking we have ever seen.
In Kaya there is also “Muzzy’s Place”, once again ran by a family friend. Here you can get some amazing food and take a refreshing dip in the pool. They even have room if you want to stay the night!
In this mountainous region it is easy to see the opportunities for adventure that await the brave and curious. If you can be pried from the sun bed or even if you glance up at any time of day you will likely see a stream of paragliders flying off the mountainside.
This area is world renowned as one of the best places in the world to paraglide, the unique nature of the mountain that rises directly from sea level and above the amazing Blue Lagoon, yet again, voted one of the world’s best beaches, makes it a thrill seekers paradise. Our jump was hands down one of the best experiences of our lives!
Not only is adventure available from the sky but there is much to be discovered in the areas surrounding these villages. One of the most enjoyable, beautiful and relaxing is to spend the day on a boat trip venturing out to the many secluded beaches, coves and bays of this coastal region. Here you can enjoy serenity like no other, swim with wild Turtles in the azure waters and eat fresh local food on the water.
Fancy exploring a little further afield, well there is the awe inspiring Saklikent Gorge, the second largest in Europe. With soring high walls where the snow melt from the Taurus mountains has carved its path through it is an spectacular place to visit. Hike along 4km trail in the summer when the snow gives way to allow access to this wonderful place. Escape the heat by exploring the icy waters and shaded walls in the heat of the Turkish summer.
Family and freinds
Of course, the main reason to come down here was to catch up with the family and freinds we have here. Some of them we have known for over 20 years and it adds to the feeling of this location being like a second home.
It has been 7 years since we last came down here, and yet we were welcomed yet again with literal open arms by the people that make this area so special.