Where serenity meets turquoise in a unique harmony
A geological marvel of colliding mountain ranges and sharp descents into idyllic seas, Marmaris is the gateway to one of the most dramatic corners of the Turkish Riviera.
Drawn to the sheltered bays and secluded coves created by a jagged landmass that splits the Aegean and Mediterranean seas in two, conquerors and sun seekers alike have been attracted to the waters around Marmaris for millennia. One can easily imagine Alexander the Great or Sultan Süleyman standing victoriously on the ramparts of Marmaris Castle, surveying the strategic and stunning harbor encircled by an emerald necklace of forested peaks.
Today, while we are drawn to the western Mediterranean for much of the same reasons as the ancients, the seduction of the land teases us with the possibility of a variety of leisure activities. Today, visitors flock to the coast for the vibrant flavors of the Mediterranean, for the adrenaline rush of active pursuits such as sea kayaking, wreck diving or mountain biking, and for a tasting, amidst layers of ancient civilizations, of classic Turkish cuisine.
The ecological jewel of the Dalyan Delta contains an irresistible collection of attractions, from Iztuzu Beach, with its Loggerhead sea turtle breeding grounds, the wondrous cliffside Tombs of the Kings, soaring high above the river town of Dalyan in the Carian city of Kaunos, and the restorative mud baths - perhaps the secret to Cleopatra’s everlasting beauty.
Eastward, into territory claimed long ago by Lycia, from the antique ruins of Telmessos in Fethiye to the Demre on the border of ancient Pamphylia, lie a string of seaside enclaves, fishing villages, storied bays and historical ruins so dense that one could take a lifetime exploring, eating, learning and wading through the surf.
In the region of Greater Fethiye, one of the jewels of Lycia is the captivating harbor of Göcek, a port of call for the Blue Voyage and a base for many of Turkey’s boating hobbyists. A stunning Blue Lagoon, fed by a fresh cold spring flowing down from the Taurus range, is enclosed within a pristine sandbar that extends to the base of Babadag. The conditions are ideal for adventurous leaps from the mountaintop, allowing paragliders to float unhurriedly until they alight upon the golden sands of Ölüdeniz. Turkey’s rural character comes alive in the hillside village of Kayaköy, settled around the ghost city of Karmylassos in 1923. Crumbled stone homes rebuilt as luxurious cottages or wine houses set the stage for a charming retreat, and children will be particularly enchanted when dining adjacent to grazing sheep as they grill their own meals over an outdoor barbeque.
As in the days of yore, much of the region extending west to the Aegean is inaccessible by land, making the nooks and crannies around Datça and along the Bozburun Peninsula seem like your own personal frontier. If you’re looking for traditional Turkish fishing villages, where elegantly domed mosques and crowned minarets form the only adornment to a village’s silhouette, this is the place to be.
You will want to experience the ancient and overgrown settlements around Hisarönü, Türünç and Sogüt, each with a character of ancient civilizations juxtaposed against simple Turkish living, or swim in the scenic harbor of Knidos on your way into the grand remains of the ancient city. The constant gusts of the Karayel winds keep these unofficial ports of call cool even in the heat of summer, while the remoteness of the peninsulas ensure swimmers access to the purest waters on the Mediterranean. And you will also want to venture inland, to sample the memorable flavors of raw almonds harvested in Yakiköy, of pine flower honey in Bozburun, or of fresh sea bream caught earlier the same day in nets off the beaches of Selimiye.
Yet if Turkey’s Western Mediterranean can be characterized by any one thing, it’s romance. From the epic love story between Cleopatra and Mark Antony, who is said to have deposited ship-loads of Egyptian sand on Sedir Island as a gift to his Queen, to the lore of an ill-fated love at Orhaniye, Marmaris will make you fall in love all over again.