Along the Lycian Coast

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April 8th 2012
Published: April 18th 2012
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The Road to Kalkan

We stopped at quite a few places driving from the Dalaman airport to Kalkan, and even more on the way back. It's a beautiful part of the Mediterranean coast.

Turkish PoppiesTurkish PoppiesTurkish Poppies

April is wildflower season along the Mediterranean coast, so Mom and I took lots of pictures of flowers to compare with similar ones from home.
The second half of my parents’ trip in Turkey started in Fethiye, which is a port on the Mediterranean. It’s a beautiful bit of the coast and in the hills just south of town is the start of the Lycian Way. We flew into the Dalaman airport, then rented a car and drove to Fethiye.

Our first morning we drove up a steep and winding road to Kayaköy, in the hills above Fethiye. It’s an interesting abandoned town that was inhabited by Greeks for hundreds of years, until the “population exchange” in 1923. Some of the houses were so old it was hard to imagine them being inhabited even ninety years ago. The construction was clearly hundreds of years old, although I suppose with a lot of upkeep it was probably fairly nice until they were all sent to Greece. The roofs are gone, but the cisterns and fireplaces remain.

From Kayaköy we drove on down to Kalkan and spent a relaxing evening in town. Kalkan is cute and very quiet, although they are experiencing construction season like Göreme. Boats were up on the docks out of the water and hotels were getting fresh coats of paint. It was

The houses in the hills on the right are now a UNESCO World Heritage site and inspired the book "Birds Without Wings." On the left you can see where a new town has moved into the valley.
a very wet winter, so a lot of painting was put off until now and they are hurrying to get it all taken care of before the real flood of tourists starts. They also have to clean up the park and beach area, since a few weeks ago an especially heavy rain saturated the hillside above and the whole thing came crashing down. Luckily, it was at night so nobody was walking in the park. One boulder, which was almost the size of my last house, was sitting squarely in the middle of the beach. I’m curious if they will break it up to haul off, or if they’ll make some sort of sculpture out of it and leave it there.

The next day we visited Patara, intent on going for a walk and picnic on the beach. It was a beautiful, sunny day, with a cool breeze. Perfect for being outside and not getting too hot. Patara has amazing ruins of the ancient Lycian city, which we decided to save for after lunch. The beach is 12 kilometers long and famous for being one of the best beaches on the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, it’s so long that the breeze
Kayaköy residentsKayaköy residentsKayaköy residents

Walking through the town was almost spooky, even if the whole place was covered with wildflowers. We could hear sheep's bells echoing among the houses, but when I finally spotted them they were so still I thought they might be ghosts too.
we felt back in the trees was a very strong wind when we got out on the beach. The sand flying across the ground stung the backs of my legs as we raced for higher ground. We climbed up the headland on the east side of the beach and found a niche in the cliff where we could eat our picnic protected from the wind and sand.

After lunch we went to see the ruins of Patara. The city was a major port and naval base for the Lycians, but has since silted up, so the ruins are far inland from what the architects intended. The few buildings that are left are hardly recognizable, although there is obviously a lot of restorative work going on. Everywhere we went were piles of spare parts, each carefully labeled, and all the structures had newly cut stones and mortar helping to hold the ruins together. Historically, it’s incredible and you can read more at or go to your public library and get a real book.

Patara was where we saw the best wildlife of this whole trip. Dad found a tortoise by the car and carried it farther off into
Above Patara BeachAbove Patara BeachAbove Patara Beach

The wind was so strong on the beach we headed for high ground to escape the sand storm. Fortunately, the Turkish coast has lots of beautiful places to hike away from the sand.
the brush, away from the parking lot. During our picnic on the cliff we watched several birds that I am fairly sure were Squacco herons. When we got back to Kalkan I borrowed a bird book from our hotel and identified several birds that we had seen, but have since lost the list. From Patara we went back to Kalkan to recover from the sun and wind.

The next day was a trip to Letoon and Xanthos and a drive back up to the town of Göcek, which is as close as you can get to the airport and still be in a cute coastal town. Letoon is a small site, although it too had piles of carefully labeled spare parts that were obviously part of some sort of restoration. As with Patara, the geology has changed since it was first built and much of it is now underwater, which creates wildlife habitat. Every half-submerged column and ancient wall was covered with turtles sunning themselves. When we walked by most would plop into the water and swim down into the murky depths, only to cautiously stick their noses back up to see if we were still there. Letoon had
Climbing in the RuinsClimbing in the RuinsClimbing in the Ruins

After our escapade on the beach we went to explore the ruins of the biggest port of ancient Lycia. Mom and Dad are climbing through what once was a basilica.
one small mosaic on the floor of the temple of Apollo, although the temples of Artemis and Leto didn’t have much left. The theater and all the other buildings were in much better shape than Patara, but it wasn’t as visually impressive since it was a smaller area.

Xanthos was out next stop. Perched high on a hill overlooking endless fields of greenhouses, Xanthos was the capital of the Lycian League cities. It had much more extensive and better preserved ruins than either Patara or Letoon, although the afternoon heat, distance from the water and view of the greenhouses took away from the appeal. At least I know where Istanbul gets its fresh tomatoes all winter.

As with many of the places we saw along the coast, there were signs noting which amazing artifacts had been found there and subsequently taken to museums elsewhere. From what I saw, the British Museum in London must have a beautiful exhibit on the Lycian cities. I’ll just have to go back to London.

We had to leave Xanthos, not only because it was hot and dusty, but also because we had to drive back up towards Fethiye so we could
Spare PartsSpare PartsSpare Parts

Mom and I marveled at the amount of spare parts that the archeologists had piled up, each one with an identification number.
fly out of the Dalaman airport to get back to Istanbul. Not having had any time in Fethiye on the way to Kalkan, we stopped back through there and had a Turkish coffee on the docks and strolled along looking at the boats for a bit before piling back in the car, headed for Göcek.

Göcek is the closest town to the airport that is still small and cute and has a nice harbor. We had a quiet evening, admired the boats in the harbor and enjoyed one more dinner sitting outside by the water.

The next morning we flew back to Istanbul so I could go back to work. Fortunately, my friends Agathe and Loïc, from France, were also in Istanbul, so while I went back to work my parents got to do some sight seeing in the city with them. It’s never easy to go back to work after spring break, but at least we made the most of our vacation and got to spend some time together.

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


Patara WildlifePatara Wildlife
Patara Wildlife

We saw lots of birds around Patara, but they don't stay still for photos as well as this baby tortoise. The lira coin is about the size of a dollar coin.
Missing ArtifactsMissing Artifacts
Missing Artifacts

Many of the ancient Lycian cities have lost their major artifacts to museums, often in other countries.

The village of Göcek is famous as a major yachting center for the rich and famous, although in early April we had it almost to ourselves. Their little island chain looks beautiful enough to come back for in summer, despite it being tourist season.

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