The Turkish Mediterranean drifts from Antalya to Bodrum. Scenic roads splash inward from the coast to reveal interesting villages and magical ruins. The sea here serves as a Riviera of antiquity and inspires travelers with its beauty. It was here that Mark Antony courted Cleopatra.
Turkey is a treasure of coves, inlets, bays, beaches and history. The best part of Turkey and the Aegean sea for Gulet cruising is the South-West region of this beautiful country, and the most Greek Islands.
Scenically beautiful, the Turkish coast offers an astonishingly rich legacy of archaeological ruins and historic sites. In addition the weather is usually perfect for leisurely cruising, with a reliable regime of mainly gentle breezes which temper the high summer heat without shivering any timbers. Deep gulfs, tiny offshore islands and sinuous pine-forested peninsulas lend the coast as much variety and interest as an archipelago. The ports of call and anchorages vary from bustling harbours to sleepy villages, from tiny deserted coves to broad bays with theatrical backdrops. Whilst most of the cruising is in sheltered calm waters, for about and hour a day this cruise also puts up the sails and head into open waters. The gulet is available for you to make up your own party.
Over the years, Marmaris has developed from a small fishing village to a lively respite area for the yachting set, and the result is that it caters to the rich and famous, and boasts first class marina (Netsel Marina) facilities in a spetacular natural harbor, where Lord Nelson and his fleet once hid from the searching eyes of Napoleon’s admirals.
Marmaris is perhaps the best place to book a sea cruise aboard traditional Turkish wooden sail boat, called a “Gulet“. These cruises, called a Blue Voyage, offer passengers chartered trips to explore and relive the luxurious ease of life on the sea. Gulets come with captains, first mates and cooks. English-speaking crews are readily available, and they’re very helpful in arranging sightseeing excursions.
From Bodrum to Marmaris is about a seven day’s voyage; add another seven days for those who want to sail as far as Antalya. For travelers who prefer to wanter along the coast, it’s possible (if luggage is kept to a minimum) to book short voyages eastward of fishing craft.
As voyagers head east out of Marmaris, the coast falls away to the south. This land mass, not quite a peninsula, is accurately dubbed the “Lycian Bulge”. The Bulge buckles southward far enough to put the seaside resort villages of Finike, Kas, Kekova and Fethiye to the same sunny latitude and in the same waters as nearby Rhodes (Greek Island).
The Mediterranean sun in the region is extremely bright and hot allowing even the least hearth swimmers to plunge into the turquoise waters from late March well into November. The small kingdom that existed on these waters during the age of empires was called Lycia.
While the ruins along this coast lack the majesty of the great Aegean coastal sites such as Ephesus, they’re still extensive; and the waters here are considered more inviting than those of the Aegean.
Most notable are the Lycian cliff-face tombs, which have columns and pediments incorporated into their facades. There are hundreds of these tombs all along the coast.
Heading west, the first Lycian town along the coast is Fethiye, which sits atop the ancient city of Termessos. The tombs in the nearby mountains date from the seventh century B.C. At Fethiye visitors can see Lycia’s other famous ancient architectural form-the huge sarcophagi that are found all over the area.
North of Fethiye is is the ancient Lycian capital of Xanthus. Herodotus recounted that when the Persian general Cyrus attacked Xanthus in the eighth century B.C., and the Lycian warriors saw that all was lost, every woman and child in the town was compelled to commit suicide. The Lycian warriors then went out and fought until every last soul had perished.
The only survivors were those who were away from Xanthus on business. Most of the antiquities remaining today date from Xanthus’s Roman period; many of the most notable remains are actually in nearby Letoon, including an agora, a theater and the Temples of Apollo and Artemis.
Frequent bus service connects the towns to the beaches and visitors can choose just about any kind of beach-from isolated streches to popular resort areas-all along the coast from Marmaris to Side.
Two areas especially popular with tourists are Kas and Kalkan where the local coastline gives way to literally hundreds of coves and inlets. Kekova Island lies about two hours from Kas and features the remains of a sub-merged Byzantine town. The 12 islands of Kekova Bay can be reached from Kas on small craft that are hired out for that purpose.
About 20 miles inland lies the town of Demre. Once the Roman town known as Myra, Demre was home to an unlikely native son, Saint Nicholas. By doing good deeds with money, other acts of kindness and miracles, he eventually became the Bishop of Myra. Today there still is a church in the town named after him. Some of his relics can be viewed in the Antalya Museum.
The Eastern jewel of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, and the best headquarters for an extended stay, is Antalya, a charming town of narrow, winding cobblestone streets.
A visit to Antalya can begin at the waterfront, with the cafes that surround the town’s little semicircle of a bay, and then wind up a steep hill, past more cafes and carpet and leather shops, to the top of the town that then spreads inland. The restaurants in the in the main town make the area worth exploring., as does the Triumphal Arch erected to commemorate Emperor Hadrian’s visit in 130 A.D. Antalya’s semi-tropical combination of palm trees, Roman ruins and minarets at times give it the look of an old etching of the romantic, exotic East.
From Antalya, clients with a car can easily explore the antiquities at Termessos, Perge, Aspendos and the old pirate city of Side. The people of ancient Termessos managed to turn back a siege by Alexander, a feat not often accomplished. The architectural remains include a theater, an odeon, an agora and colonnaded streets. The remains at Aspendos and Perge are Roman in origin. Perge’s stadium and the great Theater of Aspendos are the main attractions. Side was a rouge town of pirates and slave traders during Roman times. And crime paid-the Romans left a rich archaeological legacy at Side that has been extensively excavated.
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