Antalya, Turkey

Our final stop on our tour of the Turquoise Coast of Turkey was the city of Antalya. It is a large city, with a population of over a million people, so it was quite a different feeling than our visits to Patara and Kas! The biggest tourist draw is the large old city called Kaleiçi, which dates from the city’s heyday as a port during the Roman Empire.

Where We Stayed

We decided to stay in Kaleiçi itself in order to be close to all the sites. On booking.com we found a nice small place called the Marina Hostel that, as its name suggests, is near the harbor. We took a chance and booked beds in a 6-person dorm room… and lucked out and had the place to ourselves all four nights! The hostel also came with a nice Turkish breakfast every morning.

Our bunk beds in the dorm room we had to ourselves

Our bunk beds in the dorm room we had to ourselves

What We Did

Explore Kaleiçi – We wandered around the streets of the Old town on a few different occasions to take in all of the sites. As we wandered the narrow, winding streets past old Ottoman-era houses, we found a few of the older relics, including:

  • Yivli Minare (the “Fluted” Minaret): this tall distinctively-shaped minaret, built in the 13th century, dominates the “skyline” of Kaleiçi
  • Clock Tower: the clock has been modernized, but the tower itself is old. It stands on the square which marks the entrance to Kaleiçi
  • Hadrian’s Gate: the ancient gate which was built for the Roman emperor Hadrian’s visit in 130 AD
  • Kesik Minare (the “Broken” Minaret): In the middle of Kaleiçi you find half of a minaret standing over ancient ruins which have been the sight of a Roman temple, a Byzantine church and then a mosque
  • Hıdırlık Tower: we sat near this Roman -era tower and enjoyed views of both the water and of two different couples having wedding portaits done
  • The Harbor: The weather in Antalya was generally overcast, but one afternoon it cleared off, so we headed down to the harbor area, which dates to the 2nd century BC, and enjoyed an Efes beer while watching the tourist boats come and go

One thing we did notice when wandering around the district was that shopkeepers were pretty aggressive with trying to get you to come into their store. We thought they were more persistent than those in the famed Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, maybe because they were getting less business in the low season. We ran into one man in particular who was pretty interesting. He knew of a few towns in Colorado so he was able to get our attention. Of course he then invited us into his carpet shop but we had to decline as we quickly walked away. We ended up running into him the next two days as well, and of course he remembered us each time! The last day in town we purposefully avoided the area where his shop was so we wouldn’t have to again explain to him that we weren’t going to buy a carpet.

Antalya Museum – We took the Antalya’s “nostalgic tram” out to this large archaeological museum. By this point, we had seen a few similar museums, but we still enjoyed seeing the different exhibits that included the Stone Age in the Antalya area, ceramics, Roman-era sculptures and sarcophogi, and finally a small exhibit on life during the Ottoman era. Our favorite exhibit was a room with different sculptures of Greek/Roman gods found at the nearby site of Perge, mainly because each statue included a sign with extensive text describing the myths around the god.

Kaleiçi Museum – This small museum had a few different exhibits that we spent a couple of hours touring. In an old Greek Orthodox church, there was an exhibit of 18th century pottery from the Çanakkale region. Also, in the upstairs area there was a fascinating exhibit with pictures of old street vendors from Istanbul in the late 19th century. We really enjoyed just seeing all of the different types of vendors there were! Back in a restored Ottoman-era house, the main exhibit showcased life in Antalya during that time, with mannequins set up in different rooms showing scenes from preparations for a wedding: serving coffee to guests, a henna ceremony for the bride and a shaving ceremony for the groom.

Some Random Ethnographic Museum – When we were looking for the Kaleiçi Museum, we stumbled across a place that we thought was it. It was a restored Ottoman-era house, and the ground floor had mannequin displays of cultural artifacts from Antalya and its sister cities. The upstairs area also had a few rooms set up as displays. We were confused that there was no admission though, and there was only one person in the building, and she seemed to be doing something else. Since we found the actual Kaleiçi Museum, we aren’t really sure what this was, but it was a nice, free way to spend a little time!

Where We Ate

Kaleiçi had a good number of restaurants along its cobblestone streets, but some of them seemed to be shutting down for the offseason. One night we ate at a place near our hostel that the Lonely Planet had recommended called Yemenli. Eric enjoyed an appetizer of a local white bean salad where the beans had been mixed with tahini.

This is a picture of the entrees. The one in the foreground is a vegetarian stuffed eggplant served with rice

This is a picture of the entrees. The one in the foreground is a vegetarian stuffed eggplant served with rice

The best place for cheap eats near Kaleiçi is a string of fast food-esque restaurants near the main entrance to the district. Every time we walked by this area the waiters would try and entice us to come in. We enjoyed one of the streets of this restaurant area which was covered with umbrellas. It was a little bit of a walk from the hostel, so we only ate in one of these restaurants. We chose one that had a good soup collection since the night was chilly.

The restaurant row under the colorful umbrellas

The restaurant row under the colorful umbrellas

Final Thoughts

Antalya was a nice place to visit, especially with all of the dining and activity options offered compared to previous stops along the Turquoise Coast. However, even this large city felt a little bit of a low season slowness, so if we came back we’d aim for warmer weather.

Kaş, Turkey

After our time in Patara, we headed farther down the coast to the town of Kaş.

Where We Stayed

Santosa Pension – We had found this pension on booking.com. It was sort of amazing because as soon as we got off the bus, the first person who approached us happened to be the owner of the Santosa. He took us there and we had a nice large room which had a balcony that overlooked the town. The pension also served a delicious Turkish breakfast every morning included in the price. Again, we were the only tourists there!

 

What We Did

We experienced a bit more of Walking Dead tourism in Kaş, but it wasn’t as lonely as it had been in Patara since the town was bigger and had a good number of locals around. We didn’t do a whole lot while we there, but we did explore a few things.

Climb Up to the Doric Tomb – We saw a sign on the side of the road that talked about a Doric Tomb. We didn’t know anything about it, but we decided to check it out. We walked up the path and were a little concerned because it really felt like we were just walking into someone’s back\ yard. But we pressed on and did find the tomb, which looked like a big cube. We explored it and enjoyed the beautiful view over town. We hung out and decided to read our books for awhile.

Visit the Friday Market – No shortage of people here! The market was full of colors and smells and great hustle and bustle!

Go to the Beach – We decided to wander out on to the peninsula and followed a road that we thought would take us out there. Along the way, we stopped at the old theater and enjoyed it with some goats. Then we kept walking and found some exercise equipment, so we played on that for awhile, and finally, we found a nice, small pebble beach. We ended up not being the only ones there! In fact, several people came by and did some swimming! We didn’t think it was warm enough for that, plus we hadn’t expected to find a beach, so we didn’t have our swim suits. But we did spend some time wading, enjoying the views, and reading our books.

Visit the King’s Tomb – While exploring old town, you will probably come upon the King’s Tomb. We saw it at a lovely time of day, with the sun starting to set, glinting off the yellow leaves of the tree above it.

Explore Old Town – The old town was very cute, with lovely steep marbled roads. We felt like we were back in Croatia a little bit. There were lots of cute alleys and nice shops to explore. Because it was low season, we felt like we got a good deal on some scarves!

Watch the Sunset (preferably surrounded by fighting cats) – While we were out exploring town, the sun began to set. We headed out onto towards the docks where we found a lovely place to watch a gorgeous sunset. As soon as we had relaxed we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a clowder of cats (yes, that is the correct word for a group of cats!) Normally we might think this was cute, but this time, they were not friendly. They were attacking each other and no matter where we moved, they decided to make sure that we were always in the middle of their fight. That was a little annoying… but the sunset was grand!

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Where We Ate

Nothing that we ate here really stood out to us. The one exception was that we celebrated Thanksgiving on our first night in Kaş. We found one of the cafeteria style restaurants that we had tried several times in Turkey. There was no turkey to be found, but they did have a good looking chicken stew.

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The other thing that was fun at this restaurant was that they were playing a Turkish TV show. We spent almost all of dinner trying to figure it out. It appeared to be a dating show of sorts… but everyone was far too serious. It was strange. A man and woman would come in and sit down with a screen between them. They would seemingly answer questions from the very serious looking audience and the host. Then they would be revealed to each other. There might have also been people coming back from a date and talking about how it went?  We figured out it was called Esra Erol. But, we never could figure out what was really happening. Oh yeah… and there was a band too!

Final Thoughts

Kaş was a lovely town! We were happy to visit! There might have been some better day trip tour options if we had gone during high season. We had hoped to some of those, but didn’t find the tours we had hoped to see. So, perhaps, another place where, if we visit again, we will go a little closer to high season.

Walking Dead Tourism

OK, so, despite the title, this post has nothing to do with the show or comic The Walking Dead… (We aren’t leaking any show secrets like we accidentally did in Dubrovnik, either!)

We mentioned in our previous posts about Fethiye and Patara that we could tell that it was definitely Turkey’s low season. We wandered around, often all alone. Sometimes it felt a bit… odd. Almost… apocalyptic.

As we wandered around places that would be bustling with activity during the summer, we started to feel like we were in our very own post-apocalyptic experience. We began to call it Walking Dead tourism.

Sound about right??

Patara, Turkey

After Fethiye, we were interested in continuing to explore the Turquoise Coast of Turkey. We hopped on a bus heading to Antalya and asked to be dropped off at the turn off to the ruin/beach of Patara. We understand that during high season there are dolmuşes that run from the intersection in to the town of Gelemiş, as well as the ruins and beach at Patara. But, knowing that it was off season, we contacted our pension, the Eucalyptus Hotel, and organized for them to come pick us up at the intersection.

We really enjoyed the Eucalyptus Hotel, though we were the only guests there. We had a comfortable, pretty large room. The hotel provided breakfast every morning as part of the price. They also cooked dinner to order. The town of Gelemiş would be quite a tourist town during the summer, but in November, it was completely dead. We really felt as if we were the only tourists in the entire town. So we spent most of our time just hanging out by ourselves. The couple that ran the Hotel was very kind and we did get a chance to chat with them a few times when they served us our meals.

We did make good friends with the cat at the hostel. We think they called her “Kedi,” which means kitten in Turkish. She would always join us for meals and follow us back to our room when we headed up.

The main reason for staying in Gelemiş is to visit Patara. Our first full day in town it seemed a little chilly and windy but we decided to head out anyway. Kedi followed along with us. At first we thought it was cute but as we got further and further away we started to get more worried about her ability to find her way back to the Eucalyptus. The wind seemed to get worse as well. After walking for a kilometer, we looked at each other and made the decision that it just wasn’t the right decision to continue on. So we turned around, making sure Kedi followed us back. We spent the rest of the day sheltering from the wind in our room.

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The next day was still windy, although maybe a little less than the previous day. Given how dead the area was, we decided to just push through and visit Patara anyway. We snuck out to make sure that Kedi did not follow us this time!

We explored the ruins of ancient Patara. It was said to be founded by Pataras, the son of Apollo. It was a thriving port town, though the ocean was now quite a distance from the ruins. The city was known in antiquity for its oracle, similar to the one at Delphi in Greece. During its heyday, it was the the leading city of the Lycian League. Apparently, it was also the birthplace of St. Nicholas (of Christmas fame).

We explored the distinctive Lycian sarcophagus tombs, the still standing gate into the city, ruins of baths, theaters, the agora, and even a lighthouse. We also saw the Grove of Leto. Legend states that the god Apollo was born of Leto. Apparently when the pain of birth hit her, she threw her arms around a palm tree and then had Apollo. Some people believe that this palm grove was the very spot where that happened!

 

As we mentioned earlier, it is low season in Turkey so we felt like we were almost the only tourists in the whole site. However, there were several animals running around. We were joined by goats, sheep, and three dogs. Della made the mistake of being friendly with the dogs, and one of them decided to adopt her. We spent the rest of the day in the company of this adorable dog. We felt terrible knowing that maybe he thought he was coming home with us. Long after his dog friends left him, he continued hanging out with us. We didn’t lose him until the end of the day when we headed back to our hotel.

After the ruins, we continued on to probably the biggest pull of the area: the beach. We understand that in the summer, the beach would be packed. But, again, we were almost the only people there. We enjoyed hanging out and reading our books. It was a bit windy and far too cold to want to swim so we just hung out on the sand.

As the afternoon wore on and the wind increased a bit, we headed back towards town with our dog friend trailing behind. We were both sad and relieved when he left us in town.

We ended up staying in Patara for 3 nights. We really enjoyed our hotel and the ruins and beach, but again, we wish we had come when there was a bit more going on!

Fun with Family in Fethiye, Turkey

The last part of our Greece and Turkey trip with Della’s family was spent in the Turkish town of Fethiye, located on the beautiful “Turquoise Coast.” We gave ourselves multiple days in Fethiye to see the city and take some day trips to interesting nearby sites. The list of “Fethiye Must Sees & Dos” from Turkey’s for Life was instrumental in planning our time.

We had a little bit of an interesting time trying to find a place to stay. There were plenty of places listed on a certain apartment rental site, but none of them really stood out. We finally chose one place, but then were confused when we got a message from the host telling us he wasn’t going to accept our request… but instead he wanted to meet us in person to work things out. It seemed pretty shady, but we decided to give it a try. We arranged a rendezvous at a gas station by the bus station… only to discover that there were about five gas stations in the area. Somehow the host was able to find our car just based on a vague description. He took us to a rental apartment in the Çalış Beach area. The apartment itself was very spacious, and felt quite new, so we accepted. It being the offseason, the neighborhood felt pretty dead: empty streets, very few neighbors, closed restaurants, empty swimming pool, etc – but we think that it would have been a pretty prime location in the summer when the beach would be packed.

Our first evening in town, we headed up to check out the Lycian rock tombs just above the city. The Lycians (the same civilization we saw at Tlos) were a civilization that existed concurrently with the ancient Greeks and Romans, and were involved in their affairs occasionally as well. One of the things they are well known for is the practice of burying their important dead in tombs carved out of rock near their cities. They even took the time to carve the rock to make the temple look exactly like it would have if it was made of wood, with “nails” and so on. We were able to drive right up to the base of the tombs above Fethiye. You were supposed to have to pay a small entrance fee, but no one was manning the booth. We then walked up the stairs to the base of the most impressive tomb, the Tomb of King Amyntas. Time and vandals have not been kind to the tomb, but it still was nice to see up close and provided an excellent vantage point over the city.

We spent two more full days in Fethiye with the Della’s family, taking day trips to Kayaköy and Tlos/Saklikent Gorge.

Our location near the beach did allow us to take a walk out to the coast every day near sunset, which was quite glorious to view over the water. Wayne was even brave enough to swim one day! He reported that the water was warm, but the cold wind deterred the rest of us.

Our first night in Çalış Beach we decided to go out to eat for dinner. Since it was the low season, half of the options were closed. We chose an open small cafe that did have a couple of musicians performing. The food was only so-so; Dana was especially disappointed by the overabundance of parsley in many of the dishes (she has the genes that make parsley taste like soap).

Too much parsley

Too much parsley

Therefore, the other two nights we bought groceries and cooked back at the apartment. And by “we,” we mean that Dana and Peggy cooked. They made two very tasty meals! The second one was especially enlivened by the addition of local mushrooms that we bought from a vendor on the side of the road (we think they were saffron milk cap mushrooms). One night we also had the pleasure of celebrating Della’s birthday. With the help of our apartment broker, Wayne and Peggy were able to find a cake and birthday candles!

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and Della’s family had to leave us. They drove the rental car back to Izmir, and we decided to stay in Fethiye and explore the town and the Turquoise Coast for a few more days.

Our Çalış Beach rental apartment dealer offered to find us a nice place for a good rate, but we decided we wanted to stay in the city of Fethiye itself and booked a double room at Yildirim Guest House. The room was nice and we enjoyed the included Turkish breakfast, but were a little bummed to discover that we were the only guest, meaning that we just kept to ourselves the whole time.

Our companion at breakfast was this friendly cat

Our companion at breakfast was this friendly cat

Without the benefits of a rental car, we had to find things in town to do. Our first stop was a quick visit to the Fethiye Archaeological Museum. And by quick, we mean that it only took us 45 minutes to get through. Considering that we have been known to spend four hours at many museums, it shows that there just isn’t that much to see at this small museum. We did enjoy seeing some of the statues recovered from Tlos though.

We also decided to splurge a visit a hamam, a.k.a. a Turkish bath. It was quite the experience. The first step was for the sales manager to convince us to upgrade to all sorts of deluxe treatments (although even he didn’t recommend the diamond package which included having honey and chocolate drizzled on you). Della agreed to get an extra oil massage but Eric stuck with the basic bath. Then the bath process began. We first changed into our bath clothes. Traditionally, one would remain naked under the provided peştamal (bath towel), but we chose to keep our swimsuits on. We then went into the sauna for ten minutes and worked up a nice sweat, then into the very humid steam room for two minutes (Eric could only last one). Then the bath attendants took over. We each got our own personal attendant (since this was a co-ed bath, both attendants were male). They rinsed us off, then laid us down on a marble slab. They used a rough glove called a kese to scrape all of the dead skin off of us; it was amazing (and gross) to see what they pulled off! They then put a huge amount of suds on us and gave us a quick soap massage. The massage was pretty aggressive, and also involved some pretty serious twisting of limbs to get joints to pop. (Although it paled in comparison to what was being done to another customer nearby. He was being bent violently into all sorts of pretzel shapes and screaming in what sounded like agony. The attendants asked us if we would like that treatment and we declined). The attendant then took us back over to a bench and rinsed off the soap, then gave us a nice shampoo and a final cold rinse. We then were wrapped into towels and headed back to the common area to relax. Della then went off and got her full-body massage, which she very much enjoyed.

For our final evening in Fethiye, we decided to hike a small part of what the Turkey’s For Life blog calls the Fethiye Peninsula Trek. This took us by a shipyard where many boats were being worked on and then out onto a point which gave us excellent views over the harbor and water as the sun set. We wished we could have done more, but decided to head back before it got too dark.

This capped off a nice five days in Fethiye. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery and sites, but found ourselves wishing that we had visited when there were a few more people around and more things were open. This would become a common theme as we continued to the east along the Turquoise Coast.

Great Views in Tlos and Silly Signs at Saklikent Gorge, Turkey

One of the days we were staying in Fethiye, Turkey, we took advantage of the fact that we had a rental car and drove to both of the nearby sites of Tlos and Saklikent Gorge.

Tlos

Tlos is slightly off the beaten path, but we had seen that it was an excellent site due to a great site called Turkey’s For Life.

We were lucky enough to still have the rental car, so Tlos was an easy drive from where we were staying in Fethiye.

We had seen several ruins in Greece and Turkey in the last couple of weeks, but Tlos still ranked as one of our top experiences of the month!

Tlos was one of the most important cities in ancient Lycia. It is a fascinating site because it has been pretty much continually occupied from the time of Lycia all the way up to the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century! It has the distinctive rock tombs of Lycia, as well as an a Roman-era acropolis, theater, stadium, and baths. In addition there are Byzantine church ruins and an Ottoman-era fortress atop the peak.

The other reason we chose to visit Tlos was that it is in an absolutely awesome setting, situated in the foothills of the Akdağlar mountain range. The views over the Xanthos valley below were breathtaking! And, to make it even more impressive, we were the only visitors at the site that day, so we were able to take it all in without any distractions.

We highly recommend a visit to Tlos!

Saklikent Gorge

Saklikent Gorge was just a bit farther down the road than Tlos, so when we were done exploring the ruins we hopped back in the car and headed there. This site is definitely on the beaten path, but because it was off season, we had it mostly to ourselves.

We were excited to visit because we had heard that it was a slot canyon, similar to one in Zion National Park in the USA. You are supposed to be able to explore up the canyon, even wading through the stream at times.

This is what you do in high season

This is what you do in high season

However, because it was winter, that part of the canyon was closed. We were able to walk a little of the way in and enjoy the rushing water and the scenery.

We also enjoyed some of the signs warning us of the danger in the canyon. We feel a little bad giggling at bad English translations, but it brings some funny pictures to the mind!

There was one other group exploring the canyon. We were only able to communicate at a bare minimum, but we gathered they were from another town along the Turquoise Coast. They were interested in taking some photos with us.

While Saklikent was definitely a pretty place, we wish we could have visited during high season when we could have hiked the canyon, despite knowing that we would have had to fight the crowds.

Crazy Rain in Kayaköy, Turkey

Eric and Della hadn’t known much about Kayaköy, but Wayne had found it on trip advisor. Those of you who know us well know that we have a special place in our hearts for ghost towns, so we knew we had to give it a try!

Kayaköy is an abandoned village near Fethiye, Turkey. The village is actually the remains of a town called Levissi, where a Greek population lived until Greece and Turkey exchanged populations after the Turkish War for Independence. Greek Christians living in Turkey were sent to Greece, and Turkish Muslims living in Greece were sent to Turkey. The village of Levissi was never re-populated and fell into ruins, becoming even more damaged after an earthquake in 1957. Today it is a protected site, and you can walk through the ruins of the town for a small fee.

We chose to head to the ruins even though we knew that there was a chance of rain. This was both awesome and horrible.

Awesome: The rain clouds added a whole new level of creepiness to the abandoned town. As we arrived and headed into town , the rain clouds got bigger and darker. Lightning began to strike in the distance and somehow there was literally continuous thunder. It was actually a truly unique experience!

 

Horrible: After the really cool threatening period, it actually did start to rain. And, when we say rain, we really mean pour. We tried to wait it out, hiding under remnants of walls, and in old doorways. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop and we managed to get ourselves absolutely and completely soaked. This was kinda fun for awhile, until we started to get cold and realized we had to walk all the way back to the car in the downpour, and then drive about 30 to 40 min back to our airbnb.


Overall, we’re sort of glad that we got to visit Kayaköy in this weather because it did make it truly memorable. However, we were bummed that we didn’t get to explore the full extent of the site.