So, Ugur and I decided to make haste! and drive from Bodrum to Antalya. It’s the middle of summer, why not? What’s better than trying to camp in a makeshift van in the middle of Turkish summer where temperatures reach 40 celsius and the rocks are very hot! Of course. Lets go.
Day 1: So, it really begins (sort of)
We began late, after a morning of running errands to try and get our makeshift camper van (read: a VIP Mercedes people carrier borrowed from a friend for a smaller-than-rental-hire fee) to an actual “camper van”. Including a new £20 made-to-measure bed for the 6 backseats*, table, chairs and a broom. Ugur insisted we pack the broom.
*If there’s one thing I love about Turkey, it’s the fact they haven’t lost the ability to want to fix stuff or make do, so you can always find someone to make you a makeshift bed or fix your broken camping fridge within the hour.
Anyway, whatever we did turned out for the best because we passed by a house of a famous bloke from the 1900s who I still don’t understand what it was all about, except there were some very random pictures and the one at the end depicted someone dying.
Ugur also made sort of Gladiator gestures in front of this house, so I guess he was some sort of warrior for Turkey.
What I could understand though, was how pretty the cafe there was. With little balcony tables, comfy sit-on-the-floor cushions and tables, surrounded by trees, and serving a mean Turkish coffee.
We probably should’ve been getting some miles under our belt, as we really weren’t all that far away from Yalikavak in the scheme of our trip, but when you find little slices of heaven, what’s the hurry?
Eventually we actually made haste, and a snap decision to go to Akbük. It was sort of going back on ourselves (west again), but we were part way there and I’d visited this mysterious Akbuk before on the boat. I’d even tried to take Ugur there in winter, but we went to the wrong Akbuk which so happens to be in completely the opposite direction of the actual Akbuk I wanted to visit.
Thank goodness Ugur is so understanding of my ridiculous adventures, in particular my serious misdirection that leads to misadventures.
Somehow or another, we found ourselves lucky enough to do the mountain drive as the sunset was beginning to set. It was spectacular. Epic mountain scenery, glimpses of the ocean sprawling out in front of us, and a semi-reasonable road to boot.
We arrived as the light was fading, to the car park that wanted to charge us 30 lira to park, even though it was the end of the day. We decided to park all of 20 meters outside of the barrier and that’ll be perfect and free, thank you very much.
Akbuk is a strange place in many ways. It mostly caters to local tourism, and even then, rather badly. Which is a shame, as it is a bay (koy, as they say in Turkish) nestled beside two amazing and large mountains. The water is ludicrously clear and unpolluted (from my non-expert opinion). Like most bays in this area, however, it is stony. But, pretty stones at that.
There’s a handful of restaurants that we perused, setting on one of the more classier establishments which served us a semi-reasonable kebab. At least the beer was properly chilled, the glasses cold, and our table practically in the sea.
That night, we settled on a slightly off the road parking spot, which lent its self to a cool breeze and little traffic passing by.
Day 2: Onwards east (finally, the right direction)
The only thing to do, first thing the next morning, was to jump in the sea for a swim in the crystal clear water, before we said goodbye to Akbuk. We left at a semi-reasonable time but then made a long breakfast stop in a forest, just outside of town.
By mid-morning we made some good progress along the coastal road. In particular the small town of Akyaka looked like it might be worth a future visit, especially the small hamlet before the centre.
We wove our way away from the coast for a short time, passing through some mountains and skipping Dalyan and Marmaris.
I visited Dalyan and Marmaris last summer, and though Dalyan makes for a perfectly good day trip (a meander down the river, ruins, turtles!), I wouldn’t revisit it for a second time. I feel similar about Marmaris, but especially for this holiday. Marmaris’s castle and museum are noteworthy, but to me the town offers little else of interest, unless you want to party in the tacky bars. I decided it would be better to focus on exploring the surrounding area of Marmaris another time. So..
Gocek was the perfect lunch stop, small but sweetly picturesque. It mostly caters to boats and a variety of dodgy tourists. I got carried away in my favourite Turkish clothes shop and we enjoyed a semi reasonable lunch in Trip Advisor’s top restaurant spot, most importantly they carried my favourite Turkish beer (Gara Guzu).
We rejoined the coast again at Fethiye. I’d only seen Fethiye before from the porthole, so didn’t have many expectations. My first realisation was it is much bigger than I initially thought. Offering food, shopping, bars and swimming inside town, and more of the same in several pockets outside.
This time we sucked it up, paying a stinking 20 lira for parking, so we could visit the ‘Lagoon Beach’ (7 lira each on top of the parking). Several handfuls of parachutes circled overhead, Fethiye being the place to paraglide over. It was stupidly busy at the lagoon, despite just under 2 hours until their closing time of 20:00.
Regardless of my whinging, we enjoyed an idyllic swim in clean, calm waters, with yet more beautiful mountains surrounding us and the parachutes gliding overhead. It was worth the 34 lira we begrudgingly paid.
That night was spent in a stunning sunset spot, overlooking Ölüdinez beach, where we barbecued and then had a ridiculously warm nights sleep, as the breeze seemed to be non existent.
It was worth it though, as the view was superb, and we enjoyed our wine and barbecue immensely. We also befriended our camping neighbours, who we gave some of our barbecued chicken to, and Ugur got some raki in return (much to his delight).
Day 3: If the makeshift camper van will actually start?!
The morning started with some fun, in the form of us having a flat battery. After a joyous 20 minutes trying to get it going, with the help of 2 incredibly enthusiastic Swedish ladies who were on their mornings exercise routine and SnapChatted the whole thing, we made it down the hill. Not before we had to push the VIP transfer vehicle come camper van up a miniature hill.
What go up, must come down, finally bursting in to life once again.
Ugur and I clambered in, sweating, and me still needing the toilet – a dilemma we were trying to fix before we discovered the flat battery. We got to Kayakoy, en route to further adventures in an national park which I thought could prove picturesque. I dived in to the nearest toilet and we carried on through a beautiful mountain road.
The mountains here never fail to amaze me, especially with their haze and the endless ocean that stretches out.
We spotted a beach from our vantage point in the forest and did the only sensible thing to do; make haste for a swim. This turned out to be Gemiler beach, one of the most well put together and favourite spots of our trip. There was a family run beach cafe, the car park cost us 20 lira but you got a free shower and toilet, and most importantly there was shade! Basically, Ugur’s favourite thing.
Honestly, for someone whose Turkish and lives somewhere really hot, you’d think he’d complain about the sun less and how hot it is all the time! But no. Complaining about the heat is one of Ugur’s favourite pastimes. Probably why we get along so well.
We set up camp for a few hours, made a glorious breakfast and enjoyed the peace before the day tripper cars arrived. Why we didn’t camp here that night, I don’t know, I seemed very impatient to see the abandoned Greek Ghost town perhaps.
Named Kayakoy, it was previously a Greek settlement with only Greek style houses. All the Greeks have left and all that remains is a hillside full of abandoned houses. The site its self is rather old (originally Lycian), and to me the path to the top of the hill looks ancient, but the houses themselves were lived in as recently as the 1920s.
It was bloody hot (can you hear Ugur complaining again? I can), but we tromped up the hill none the less and were rewarded with good views.
We went shopping again because we found a swanky looking Fethiye shopping mall and I wanted ice cream from my favourite ice cream shop, which just so happened to be en route. After shopping, we decided to buy supplies to barbecue and looked for a new night time stop, in a park north Fethiye.
It could’ve been so pretty but unfortunately it was rather overran with rubbish in parts. Sadly the Turkish do seem to have a propensity for littering, and some councils are more vigilant on this than others. Safe to say, this area could use a few more rubbish bins, as you can see from the bottom right hand corner.
Regardless of the rubbish fiasco, our barbecue was stellar and though there were a few comings and goings in the night (which stirred me), we had a successful nights sleep that was significantly less hot than the previous night.
Day 4: Hot rocks, more hot rocks, and yay, rocks!
The following day we passed through an area that had an intense concentration of ruins. You can imagine Ugur’s excitement at standing in a stone covered field, looking at old rocks, in the baking sun. But he did a brilliant job as usual, maintaining suitable enthusiasm and dare I say, “enjoyed” looking at no less than 3 ancient sites!
We visited Latoon first, which wasn’t amazing but they seem to still be digging up half of what’s there, so I’ll forgive them.
Next we found something that wasn’t an ancient ruin, but in fact a man selling cactus fruit with a tiny kitten that had very blue eyes.
Of course I had to get out of the car to cuddle the kitty whilst I was fed fruit. It’s not a bad life, eh. We bought some beautiful figs, cactus fruit and the kitty man gifted us some local grapes.
I’d never eaten cactus fruit before, but I can tell you 2 things: 1) it’s really tasty, a bit like a cross between watermelon seeds inside with fruit the texture a plum and the taste of a fig. 2) it’s really easy to drop it all over yourself if you’re in a moving vehicle and it does a good job of making stains on your clothes.
Next ancient stop, Xanthos. It was only a small site (in the scheme of Turkish ancient sites), but had some groovy pillars and my favourite; a big ancient high street to stroll down and pretend I’m Roman.
After that, we went to Patara. Which couldn’t decide if it’s an ancient site or a beach. Turns out it’s both. Patara is pretty big and would’ve been a large city, in its hay day.
They weren’t daft, those ancient city builders. They chose one of the nicest beaches on the coast to build next to. Present day Patara beach is still a popular tourist spot, as one of the few beaches that actually has sand (not rocks).
The turtles love it too, and have a big nesting area here. It was very hot, but in the ultimate combo of keeping Phoebe and Ugur happy, Ugur got to swim at the ancient site.
There were quite a few waves, which was interesting, as a lot of Turkish people seem to be quite scared of the open sea and frequently cling to any flotation devices that they can lay their hands on.
Patara’s rocks turned out to be a bit of a gem. It didn’t look like much as we drove in, but on exploration there were goats in the old amphitheatre and next to the old one, was a very nicely restored new one.
I have to say, I was suitably skeptical about the new one from afar. It looked naff and shiny. I like old and rugged (just like Ugur), so I was pleasantly surprised when we went inside and found the new one afforded an amazing atmosphere. We managed to get 2 minutes of the amphitheatre to ourselves and Ugur even did a little dance on stage for me (see the video for actual footage).
We carried on our drive along the coast, which was rather lovely to look at..
But, got pretty excited when we found the beach near Kas that I had been dreaming about. I think I saw it on Pinterest somewhere, yonks ago, and that was part of the reason why I was inspired to visit Kas in the first place. I just knew the area offered some amazing blue swimming spots and who can resist that!
As we pulled up to Kaputas, we were blown away. The water was the most vivid colour of blue, of anywhere I’ve ever seen; forget the Caribbean, forget Greece, this was the badger. I put my bikini on faster than you can say “swimsies!”, and clambered in. It was another rocky, wavy beach. But, brilliant fun. Everyone was hanging around the break of the waves, because it was the perfect sort of bay to create an awesome fun break. Exactly like a wibbly-wobbly wave machine, but no waiting for 15 minutes for them to turn the machine on, like your usual water park.
This was also the beginning of us realising that Kas Council is pretty awesome, and one of several beaches that they run in the area. It was immaculate, practically rubbish free and had a really reasonably priced cafe, with free showers.
There’s no actual car park for the beach, so you have to wing it by squeezing in on the mountain road. Which is why every holiday needs an Ugur to professional park the big Mercedes van like it’s the size of an 1980s Mini.
With the promise of more exciting beaches ahead, we dragged ourselves away from wavy paradise, and continued to Kas. I don’t know why I had this fixation with Kas, other than my Pinterest photo obsession, but I just knew it was a great little place before I’d even got there.
Perhaps because it is shouldered far enough away from the airports that you need to make a real effort to get there, and it is along the main coast road but not on the main cross country road. Anyone that goes to Kas must make that little bit of extra effort to get there, and somehow it shows in the type of place it has grown up to become today.
There are an insane amount of tourist houses, though I guess honestly, why wouldn’t there be? The beaches in the area were of real quality and the town its self is beautiful. It almost reminds me a little bit of Rhodes Old Town; cobbled streets, hills, an amphitheatre and cute little shops.
The first thing we did when we got there was basically drive around the peninsular, which is almost like a very green, tourist-house-filled, island. We found our perfect campsite almost immediately; the car park of another council run beach, with another cafe and (you’ve guessed it!) toilets, yay! Real luxury, if ever I saw it.
Before we settled in for the night, we found a delicious restaurant for dinner that overlooked the port, though the port its self isn’t really anything to write home about (it has breakwater too). We’d had such a jam packed day we should’ve explored the town more, but were eager to sleep.
What we did see was gorgeous and enough to convince me I would love to visit again. I did find an excellent Turkish towel shop though and we got a good feel for the evening buzz that surrounds the town.
Just before bedtime, we had time to jog up a few steps to the amphitheatre. I can’t resist leaving an ancient site unvisited when it was right near where we were parked. There were some locals playing music inside too, as a local I can imagine it being a genteel spot to spend a Friday evening on the ancient ruins.
Day 5: Peninsula’s like fairy cakes and caves worthy of adventure
After a superb nights sleep, we woke up to another beautiful early morning swim. We were practically the only ones swimming and the light was beautiful as the sun was low in the sky.
Part of us wanted to whirl away a while longer in Kas, and perhaps in hindsight we should’ve had another evening there, leisurely exploring the surrounding area and more swims. But we didn’t really know what lay ahead of us after Kas and whether it would be good or bad.
We hit the road, heading towards Kaleüçağız (no, I don’t know how you’re meant to pronounce that either).
My next objective was to visit the underwater city of Kekova. As underwater cities go, I thought this was a bit of a con as I was eager to have a little snorkel over the ruins and go exploring. But, no such luck. They only allow you to look from a boat. I admitted defeat on this one, so we hired a man and his boat for 80 lira.
At the end of the day, it’s just a bunch of rocks in the water. But it was a bit different on the ruins front and I’m glad I saw it.
The real gem of our boat trip was gaining access to Simena. I had thought you could drive there, but it seems the road is too bad, so just as well our boat driver took us there anyway.
Simena is a gorgeous little village, perched on a peninsular, with a castle on top. Like an overly decorative fairy cake, it is absolutely lovely. I was not wearing my swimming gear, so I waded in the water, dress and all, clutching my handbag for dear life as it contained by iPhone and passport. Nothing like being unprepared.
Regardless, the water was shallow, warm and a lovely shade of blue. Plonked in the middle of the rocky outcrop, is an ancient tomb from a King (the triangle sort of looking thing), and there were hardly any other people there. What a gem!
Ugur and I enjoyed a beer with the view, and I definitely thought about how I could easily spend 3 days in Simena, enjoying this slice of paradise. Reading, swimming and relaxing.
However, onward we must go, determined I was to see Antalya before our time ran out.
We worked our way up further north, passing through a popular bird area with hospitable marsh land, as we hugged the coast for the majority of the way. We wound our way along side the sea, past the marsh area and then drove our way up through the mountains again, overlooking bays and scrubby forest.
Before too long, we returned to the road alongside the coast and hit another beach jackpot..
What a spot!! Directly beside the road was this stunner. A gorgeous beach, with a brilliant cave to explore. By this stage I was becoming quite swift at throwing my swimming costume on in the back of the van, so in sub-5 minutes I was about jogging down the path to this bad boy!
There were even some cool rocks to jump off, and I gave myself an obligatory cut on my foot from poor foothold choices.
We might’ve spent longer at the cave beach, but we were hungry and if there’s one thing Ugur and I have learnt about travelling together; bad things happen when we’re hungry.
Finike seemed like the obvious food stop and we had hoped it would be a bit more interesting, however we struggled to even find a nice place for lunch, though for 20 lira we got the most bargain lunch imaginable; shish, bread, mezze and a turkish coffee! Ugur seems to have a magical talent for picking the best place in town, even when you think options are poor.
Sadly, once we got to Finike we had left the paradise of Kas and Simena behind, we were presented with rather nondescript cities; more ancient rocks, trees, less beaches.
Since Finike didn’t deliver in any other aspect other than a good feed, we decided to head on: next stop, Phaselis. We didn’t know exactly what lay at Phaselis, we arrived a little later than we should’ve (blame the beach cave distraction!) and sadly it had a closing time of 19:00.
For some reason, we were exhausted when we arrived so we took a rather warm nap whilst parked in the forest.
Ugur then had a swim in the very small and peaceful beach, next to the ruins. By the time we’d faffed about it, it was all but 20 minutes before closing time so we did a speed tour of Phaselis, as klaxons sounded counting down the time that people needed to exit the grounds.
It was a relatively well preserved site overall; it had lots of baths (hamam) and actual signs as to what everything was (a rarity).
With 2 minutes to spare, klaxons sounding, we exited and drove on, the days journey ending with a night in the nearby town of Kemer.
Nice camping spots were thin on the ground and frankly we are were dying for a shower, so we opted for a reasonable hotel which (in hindsight) we probably paid a bit too much for. But, it was a relief to get a shower, so good value for money if you ask me.
Day 6: Posing in Perge, the Antalya antics saga
Frankly, we were spoilt for choice with rocks in this area but I didn’t want to spend every waking hour of our day looking at ancient cities, as this is a sure fire way to ensure rocks start to loose their charm.
Kemer was really close to Antalya, so we made a straight shot to the eastern side of the city, to visit the ancient city of Perge. This looked to be the largest and most impressive site in the area, and it didn’t disappoint.
Maybe because it was Sunday, or maybe because it was nearly 40c out, or maybe thanks to another event we didn’t know about; we arrived mid morning to find nobody there, literally. Except for one other family who were wandering around, we were the only people visiting this site.
It was a treat to have the place to ourselves, though stupidly hot with few trees and no shade in sight (see above for perfect example).
The original city extended across the east of Antalya for quite some miles, these days it is concentrated in to a handful of sites though Perge is the largest. It is unbelievably well preserved from different periods, my personal favourites included an ancient marble roman bath, remnants of a Christian church and artefacts dating back to early Bronze Age.
It’s an undeniably old site, older than they ever first thought when it was discovered. Rare is it to see such fabulous history blending such different eras in one area.
My other favourite notable thing at Perge was the impressive Roman stadium, a design that hasn’t aged at all despite being from the 1st century AD.
This 12,000 seater monster was breathtaking. Cleverly designed to house shops nestled under the tiered seating, spectators could easily duck in and out to purchase wares between events. It was epic to imagine the things that would’ve taken place on this very site, to think of the gladiators that would’ve fought in this very stadium, underneath my feet.
Not content with the stadium, there is also an amphitheatre that was built next to the stadium. This isn’t open right now as they are determined to continue piecing back as many rocks as possible to restore it to its former glory. Regardless, you could peek at some stunning nooks and crannies; towering archways, huge fountains and a steep seating tier.
The majority of the goodies that were recovered from Perge are housed in the Antalya Museum some 20 minutes away in western Antalya. Of course we just had to visit (but not before we got excited over an outlet store en route, which had a huge Mudo offering killer deals!).
The collection is vast and impressive. Home to intricate tombs, intimidating statues topping nearly 3 meters in height and breathtaking pieces like Artemis.
I’m so biased because I love Artemis, but the flow and beauty of the sculpture is unique. The workmanship is fine and captures her poise perfectly. Or so I imagine.
Aside from Artemis, I just really couldn’t get over the sheer size of some of the statues. Most of the larger pieces would’ve stood in the amphitheatre as decoration. To see it originally, I just can’t imagine how incredible it would’ve looked. Those Roman’s, they knew how to make shit look good.
Before we knew it, evening was moving on and we didn’t know where we were staying that night. I managed to find a suitably comfortable hotel for a pittance (80 lira!), so the only thing left to do before dinner was find the Duden waterfall.
I’ve visited plenty of waterfalls in my time, but this was the first that is made from industrial factory runoff – impressive.
Around the tourist attraction that is Duden Waterfall, there are a handful of nice sunset bars, kind of overlooking the water. It was all a bit ‘close but no cigar’ but we had a nice, chirpy waitress who served us a cold beer.
That night we treated ourselves to a dinner out, and it was probably one of the best restaurants we found all trip. Superb service, really good mezze and lovely fish. It was a shame to see it wasn’t very busy.
Round the country it is easy to see the effects that recent events have impacted on tourism. Though there are still plenty of people touring around, it is evident that there are more fellow Turkish people than the overseas tourism you usually see. It’s really sad when you find these amazing restaurants, friendly hotels and great facilities, just not being used.
It was interesting to note Antalya is still a hot spot for Ukrainian and Russian tourists. This was particularly noticeable when I was handed a Russian menu in the restaurant – Ugur and I did chuckle.
Day 7: Overheating & Snow
Our final day of heading east consisted of that visit to the Antalya museum and a look around the Old Town. Things didn’t quite go to plan in Old Town. It was hot and Trip Advisor kept directing us to restaurants that didn’t exist or weren’t where they said they were. It wasn’t fun in 30+ Celsius and neither Ugur or I enjoy being hungry.
After far too long in the sun, and several tantrums later, we finally ate a suitably awful meal at a suitably awful restaurant. The kofte we ate resembled something an owl had regurgitated but never mind, it was food and we stopped feeling murderous.
Ugur and I were both in agreement that the old town would’ve been much more atmospheric and picturesque at night, but as we were wandering around in the middle of the day, it was a little lacking. Oh well, at least we saw it and we did see Hadrian’s Gate too.
We hit the road and began our journey west. Our route this time would go through the mountains instead of along the coast, so we enjoyed some nice views and stopped for tea at the most spectacular spot.
Ugur suggested we try some ‘Snow Sherbert’, which is popular at the roadside tea cafes. It’s literally made from a block of snow, that’s shaved and then fruit syrup poured over the top. Fascinating and delicious.
To break up the journey, we thought we would spend one more night in Fethiye. Our previous stop in Fethiye was hot, thanks to a distinct lack of breeze, and this night was no different.
We found the perfect place near a water pump, but with water comes mosquitos. After a couple of hours of overheating and swatting mosquitos, we decided there was nothing else for it but moving somewhere else.
We settled on a random car park, which was less than ideal, but slightly breezier than our previous spot, and grabbed a few more hours sleep.
Day 8: Homeward bound (after a few more rocks and naps)
On our final official day of the road trip, we wanted to end with a nice beach for a swim.
We succeeded in finding a spot called Kidrak Beach, with nice facilities, good picnic benches and lovely swimming (albeit stony).
It was a great end to a fabulous trip and our drive back to Yalikavak went without any hitches, and was relative non-event apart from some dodgy singing along to the radio.
Before we set off though, Ugur did need a nap under a bush.
All in all..
We had a fabulous trip. So much so, I made a video to document the whole thing!
For more photographs see my Instagram Feed