29 September – 8 October 2010, Turkey
We hadn’t spent much time on the beach since leaving the Philippines in April and both of us were looking forward to a little rest and relaxation on Turkey’s beautiful Mediterranean coast. Peak season on the coast had supposedly passed but after dodging crowds in Istanbul and struggling to find a hotel room in Cappadocia, we weren’t willing to take any chances. When deciding which part of the coast to visit, we focused on spots that are a bit off the beaten path. In Cappadocia we boarded an overnight bus for Fethiye and then hopped on a minibus to Faralya. As we drove through Fethiye’s tourist area, we looked out at the nightmare that could have been: t-shirt shops, tour operators, and all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants lined the streets. We were only a few water parks away from 1980s era Wisconsin Dells. Fortunately we soon left the crowds behind and a perilous stretch of mountain road brought us to tiny Faralya, untouched by development and contrasting starkly with Fethiye.
In Faralya we stayed at George House, a hidden little gem with some of Turkey’s best hiking at its doorstep. Its close proximity to the Lycian Way means that it’s more likely to be frequented by nature lovers and hikers than people looking to party. The rooms and amenities at George’s are nice but its real appeal is its location on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Our stay here marked the beginning of one of the most relaxing weeks of our entire trip. During the day we hiked, swam and finally had a chance to read some of the books we had been lugging around for months. Each night we ate a home cooked Turkish meal prepared by George’s daughters, drank tall cans of Efes beer dispensed on the honor system and swapped stories with other travelers. The tranquility of our stay was interrupted only by a death defying hike to the beach in nearby Butterfly Valley. The trail was so steep that several stretches are outfitted with ropes to aid in the descent. After a little more than an hour the trail leveled out and the valley opened up before us. During our descent we’d watched a small armada of tour boats ominously approach, but fortunately they soon departed and we had the beach to ourselves.
We enjoyed our stay at George’s so much that it was tempting to hang around for a few more days. However, other travelers encouraged us to make our way to remote Kabak with promises that we wouldn’t be disappointed. Rather than waiting for an infrequent minibus, we packed the essentials and set off on foot. An initial ascent brought spectacular views of brilliant blue water and Butterfly Valley below. Further along the coast we came upon hundreds of beehives and a beekeeper offering tea, cookies and a chance to try on his bee suit. As he dusted off an old crate for use as a table we thumbed through the language section of our guidebook looking for conversation starters in Turkish. We quickly exhausted the few appropriate options and once we were left with phrases like “I am allergic to…” we passed the time with smiles and nods. After finishing our two cups of tea we were surprised that he neither asked for nor would he accept any compensation, and he even sent us on our way with a frame full of honey.
Two hours of hiking and a few wrong turns later, we stopped for lunch at a picture perfect spot along the coast. After a swim in the clear Mediterranean water we hiked the final stretch to Kabak, where we stayed at the Olive Garden for three tranquil nights. Each night we looked out at the Mediterranean and dined on a delicious multicourse meal prepared by the owner, a former chef. Breakfast was typical Turkish fare but perfectly presented and with extras like yogurt and fresh fruit. Our stay in Kabak passed too quickly as we enjoyed challenging hikes and a nearly empty beach. It was so pleasant that reality may have completely slipped away from us if I hadn’t spent several hours crouched over the laptop, interviewing for jobs via Skype.
With our time in Turkey waning we left the coast and traveled inland to Köycegiz, a small lakeside farming town. Apart from the bed bug infested hotel in Cappadocia, our accommodation in Turkey had been top notch and Köycegiz was no exception. Busy season in this lazy little town had ended which meant that we literally had the hotel to ourselves. For $40 per night, we stayed in an apartment style room with views of the lake. Our first night we had salad and Turkish pizza delivered for $4 and another night the friendly family who owns the hotel invited us to join them for dinner. There’s not a whole lot to do in Köycegiz but we managed to entertain ourselves for a few days. Our favorite activity was exploring the surrounding area by bike. As we followed the road out of town, we whizzed past orchards filled with citrus fruit and waved to groups of children shouting “hello.”
When it finally came time to fly to Egypt, we weren’t ready to leave. Having heard so many wonderful things about Turkey, we thought we’d enjoy our stay but the country more than exceeded our expectations. Friendly locals, stunning natural beauty, delicious cuisine and a fascinating history make Turkey one of our favorite countries and, without a doubt, one that we will visit again.