An Alternative Mediterranean Vacation

For those whose idea of a Mediterranean holiday is restricted to crowded travel destinations where the shoreline is packed with hotels, here is an adventure with “the other Mediterranean”...

The Mediterranean is generous, not hesitating to share its riches with the visitors as well as locals. Descending to the shores of this salty sea by the foothills of the Taurus Mountains, the traveler may or may not be aware of it, but the Mediterranean is much more than it seems, provided only that the vacationer looks around, asks questions, and uses his or her imagination. The result will be discoveries that leave nothing wanting, with once again a holiday full of sea, sun, sand and inconceivably more...

Those who wish to spend the summer season in the south should know that there are still undiscovered corners not yet exploited as they deserve to be and hence “far from the madding crowd,” spots which offer a wide range of holiday choices. Yes, the Mediterranean promises a great deal, and it keeps those promises with numerous alternatives, from days spent on an ecological farm or vacationing at art camps to nature sports and a stroll through history. Hard by Fethiye lies Kayaköy, “discovered” in the early 1990s, a deserted village which with those storied 3,500 stone houses still preserves its spirit. Those who abandoned it were Greeks who left in the mid-1920s with the exchange of populations. Formerly known as Levissi, this stone world rises where the ancient city of Karmilassos once stood. Surrounded by pine forests, it boasts 14 chapels including the churches of Taksiyarhis and Katopanayi. These chapels are protected by aware travelers and by students at the art workshop in the locality. The camp is home to numerous foreign and Turkish “students”, who receive instruction in photography, ceramics, painting, ebru (the Turkish art of paper-marbling), wood-painting, drama and kilim weaving, while they find inner peace through yoga and meditation. Accommodations are in the form of tents and stone pensione rooms. Classes begin in the morning, but in the afternoon yield to the pleasures of the sea, as a narrow stone-paved road leads through the village to Soğuksu Koyu (Coldwater Cove) while the Dead Sea is only a half-hour's hike away. There is another art camp like the one at Kayaköy, this one near Kaş in the village of Çukurbağ.

Indeed, if you want to choose a central location from which to branch out for different activities, you should head for Kaş. But heed this warning; Kaş is seductive. The roots of Kaş are Lycian, its ancient name was Antiphellos, and its neighbor is the Greek island of Meis, a day trip to the latter being a good holiday alternative.

The beaches of Kaş need no introduction, but we simply must point out that from the standpoint of diving, with or without a tank, this region is one of the major spots in Turkey. 

The variety of its submarine biology has in recent years  made Kaş a diver's paradise; there are 11 diving centers, most at international standards, and more than 70 points from which to dive. Along the Mediterranean, other locations for diving include Kalkan Heybeli and Öksüz Islands, Antalya; Sıçan Island, Kemer Beldibi, Kocaburun Point, Küçük Island, Fethiye Kızıl Island, Balaban Island, Sarıyarlar, İblis Burnu Point, Mersin Dana Island and Points (Burun) Sıncak, Kurt and Fok. 

Those who prefer to spend their vacation not in the depths but in the sky can also find what they want in Kaş. For here it is possible to make 25-minute paragliding jumps of both the tandem and plain beginner variety. Of course Turkey's paragliding center is Babadağ in Fethiye, although in recent years gliding has begun to catch on in Alanya and Antalya's Elmalı.

Babadağ offers an elevation of some two thousand meters as well as good thermals and wind currents, and the pleasure of those who jump from here is doubled by a stunning view. Gazing down, the paraglider takes in Ölüdeniz (The Dead Sea), Belcekız, Kelebekler Vadisi (Butterfly Valley), Patara, Kayaköy, Kabak Cove, Saklıkent (Hidden City) and Göcek in all their dazzle, and by the time he or she lands will have seen marks left by many civilizations: Persia, Caria, Rome and above all Lycia.

Perhaps best of all is walking along the Lycian Road, which gives one a chance to see all these treasures in one go. This road is a path that extends for roughly 500 kilometers, from Fethiye to Antalya. Offered to the trekking enthusiasts in 1999 by English nature lover Kate Clow, it is considered one of the ten best long-distance trails in the world. Marked every 100 meters, the trail boasts accommodation facilities, but it is also possible to leave the path and make your way to nearby inlets and settlements. The route consists of 23 stages, and although the number of kilometers between them may at times not seem like much, certain points along the way pose considerable difficulties.

But the reward for setting out on such a journey under the broiling Mediterranean sun is to see with your own eyes ancient Lycian cities like Sdyma, Pınara, Letoon, Xanthos, Patara, Apollonia, Simena, Aperlai, Myra, Limyra, Olympos and Phaselis. The route includes 19 of the 52 Lycian cities, while the list of natural beauties to see and visit is headed by Mts. Musa and Tahtalı, the Kabak and Ceneviz (Genoese) Coves, Cape Gelidonya and its Lighthouse, Butterfly Valley, the Eşen Çayı (River) and Kekova. The sun, heat and the thirst they bring in no way spoil this journey.

Those who prefer to pass through nature not on foot but on a river can also find alternative enjoyment by the Mediterranean. With its headwaters in the Taurus Mountains, the Köprüçay (Bridge River) runs from Serik to the sea and along the way offers the chance for rafting from the second to the fifth degree of difficulty while treating the sportsperson to a lusty flow of water. Among the other enjoyable details are the ancient city of Selge and  Köprülü (Bridge) Canyon National Park, both of which are to be seen along the way.

Another possibility is the Dragon (Anamur) Çayı, born as a subterranean river from the hills of Çatalyatak, Yellice and Kızcağız in Anamur. Those who want a sterner test will find it in the Manavgat Çayı, a river arising from the eastern slopes of the Western Taurus. The 19 kilometers between Şahap Bridge and the village of Sevinç present the challenge of steep canyons coupled to waterfalls, difficult hurdles indeed. Those who wish to holiday in the lap of nature and surrounded by a farm environment can also choose to set up in the region. With its “TaTuTa” (Agricultural Tourism plus Voluntary Exchange of Knowledge and Experience, All on Ecological Farms) Project, the Buğday Derneği (Wheat Society) opens a window for those who wish to flee from the chaos of city life. In the Mediterranean region, TaTuTa farms are to be found at Elmalı, Çıralı, Kemer and Geyikbatırı, all in the vicinity of Antalya, as well as near Burdur.

Given the wealth and generosity of nature, those who turn their backs on the starred hotels offered in the way of holidays are not the citizens of some totally different world but people like you and me. All they do is listen to the voice of nature in order to have a happy, peaceful vaaction, rejecting a whole batch of clichés in the bargain...