Tag Archives: Southern Turkey


Yesterday afternoon we were invited into the boat of a Bodrum local. We spent 45 minutes paddling around the Gundogan shore, discussing politics, the US mission to Mars, and Gundogan as we sipped beer in the warm sun, surrounded by sparkling blue water. All around us people were laughing, swimming and lounging.

Gundogan is a small town in the Bodrum Peninsula, which for me has come to epitomize Turkish summers, family gatherings and the very best life has to offer. Since I first moved to Istanbul, we have escaped to Gundogan for Seker Bayram each year. On Seker Bayram, the entire country comes together to be with family. Many families celebrate the end of Ramadan. My family celebrates summer and uses it as an excuse to be together, lounge in the sun, swim in the sea and indulge in the most amazing of meals, together. Read the rest of this entry

Gundogan: My Bodrum Paradise


After the wedding, we ran away to Bodrum, which is quite possibly one of my favorite places in the world. White houses line the hillsides. Vibrant purple and pink bourgainvillea flow with the wind. Restaurants unfold on to the beach. The tangerine orange moon lights up the  night sky. Sailboats and yachts cover the water  and music fills the air. Each morning we awake to a huge Turkish Breakfast, full of lively chatter and numerous rounds of tea. By 1 pm, we were in a car off to a new seaside village to explore and beach to indulge upon. Our days were full of swimming, ice cream, reading, kayaking and relaxation. It was perfect.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have simply seek with our eyes open.”–Jawaharial Nehru

Bodrum State-of-Mind

Lycia Tour: Day 3 and 4


While it has been over a week since we returned from our trip, it has taken me this long to sit down and conclude my efforts to document our trip. Back in the fast paced world of Istanbul, with the daily dramas and intensity of work, traffic and the early darkness that descends upon the city, I have found it difficult to sit down and reclaim the joy and excitement of each experience. After a big breakfast and two cups of strong coffee, I have finally found the energy to do so.

Our third day of the tour was spent in Fethiye. In the morning we drove to the elaborate tombs that sit above the city. Fethiye was established on top of the ancient city of Telemessos. Telemessos was the son of Apollo. Much of the ancient city is underground, below the modern city that now stands. At different times in history, it was a Greek, Lycian and Byzantine city. The ancient temples and theater that once stood have been significantly damaged by the numerous earthquakes that have plagued this region throughout history. The tombs were strategically placed on the eastern side of the ancient city’s acropolis. We hiked up a steep set of stairs that criss-cross through the steep hillside above modern Fethiye to see the tomb of Amyntas up close. It is modelled after a temple of the Ionic order as a means of paying respect and showcasing the prominence of the King that once ruled over the city. It was pretty spectacular to see up close, but sad to see the damages to each and every tomb and sarcophagi throughout the city. As civilization upon civilization conquered these lands, every tomb was raided in efforts to find the wealth and treasures buried with the dead.

After hiking up and exploring the tomb, we hiked down again and headed towards the waterfront to board the boat for our tour of the surrounding islands off the coast of Fethiye. Memories of the untouched islands and caves, and the turquoise waters of Croatia rushed into my mind.  The vivid blues and greens of the water, and the warm sunshine bewitched me and gave me a taste of summer (that many do not have the opportunity to experience in November). We spent the day laying on the top of the boat, reading and chatting. Every 45 minutes we would dock in a new abandoned harbour and dive into the cool water (yes! We swam in November!). We saw wild rabbits and chickens, we feasted on fish and we sipped beer, as the day passed in perfect harmony and ease. The beauty of these islands linger with me, and the tranquility of their inviting bays and beaches stay in my mind. We left at 10 am and did not return until 5 pm. It was an extraordinary day.

Day 4 exceeded all expectations. We started in Oludeniz,  a beautiful beach and national park along the coast.  Afterwards, we drove through windy roads that maneuver through farmland and greenhouses, small villages and mountains, we stumbled upon the ancient city of Tlos, that sits neat the top of a rocky hillside, seemingly hidden from the rest of the world. There is record of this city as early as 1200 BC, and it was still inhabited throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman period. The ancient city consists of an arena, a theater, numerous tombs, ancient Roman streets, the foundation of Roman baths and an old aqueduct. There is a Byzantine fortress and church built on top of the ancient Lycian city. Farmers led their goats through the ruins. It was amazing to see how the ancient city sat frozen in time as village life moved slowly around it.

After wandering through Tlos, we went to an amazing restaurant situated in the hillside, surrounded by trees. It is called Yaka Park. It has water flowing all around you. There are tree houses situated above everyone and everything. There is a large trout pond, and ducks wandering around. The leaves were green, red, orange, brown and yellow. There was a buffet of salads and other treats awaiting us. We sat on a small elevated deck covered with pillows and ate our lunch. It was absolutely beautiful.

After lunch, we boarded our bus to see Sakli Kent. This was one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. It is the second largest canyon in Europe and has been shaped by the rapids and streams that pass through it. There is a pedestrian foot bridge that hangs along the opening of the canyon. The canyon is 18 kilometers long and 600 meters high. It contains 16 caves. Several old tools have been discovered  which suggest that man took refuge in Sakli Kent in prehistoric times. While the rapids were to strong, and the water was too cold to go very far, I am determined to go back. In the summer people can hike into the canyon as far as they have the courage to go. I have been told that at times the water reaches your neck, at other times you must swim under or over certain rock barriers. It sounds exciting, and it is now on my list of things I must attempt before I die….

Our trip ended with the ancient city of Xantos. It was the capital of the Lycian League, and known for its noble battle against the Persians. There is a black layer in the foundation of the city which proves that the entire city was burned down sometime between 475 and 450 BC, only to be rebuilt again. The city was rich in history. Brutus, Alexander the Great and Mark Anthony all had ties to Xantos. The city was built and rebuilt after various wars and battles. In 1838, the city was discovered by an Englishman named Sir Charles Fellow. The rich historic treasures of the ancient city of Xantos were sent to London on a war ship, and many important structures from the city are showcased in the Lycian room of the British Museum. This is obviously a point of great tension with the Turks, and the Turkish government is currently in negotiations with archaeology museums around the world in efforts to bring everything back to the historical sites in the country. I will leave that for another post…

Lycia means ‘Illuminated Nation’. While the civilization thrived over 2000 years ago, its tenets of democracy, order and honor still shape nations and societies today. We wandered through the ancient ruins of 3 major Lycian cities, in a region that once contained around 40 cities that came together to form a republic. The natural beauty of the coast, the mountains, and the small towns captivated me, and will certainly lure me back in the future. I hope everyone seizes the opportunity to explore Southwestern Turkey, and the ancient land of the Lycians.

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Lycia Tour: Day 2


After 10 hours of sleep and a big breakfast, we felt rested and ready to explore. We boarded our bus at 8 AM, and began the day. We past small villages, and numerous farms and a series of greenhouses with ripe tomatoes ready to fall of the vine. We stopped briefly above Kalkan to take in the view and catch a glimpse of this popular vacation town. This town was transformed after the majority of its population left and returned to Greece following the formal population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1925. The relocated population moved to Greece and founded a town with a similar name, ‘Kalamaki’. It is a popular stop for yachts and sail boats, and due to its location, it is also a good base for those interested in exploring the ancient cities of Patoon, Xantos and Letoon. It also had one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen: Kaputas Beach. With steep stairs hanging off the cliff, you are led to a small cove covered in smooth, white stones to catch a glimpse of the turquoise and blue water.

After this brief stop, we continued our trip to Kekova, where we boarded a boat to tour the surrounding islands. There are Lycian tombs scattered on the hillsides. We looked at the popular vacation town of Kalekoy, which is situated on the ancient city of Simena. At the top of the hill, beyond the village is a castle which was built in the Middle Ages. In the same area is a theater, a Roman wall, and the ruins of the public baths. After passing Kalekoy, we travelled close to the shore of Kekova Island, which is protected island which is 4 miles long and contains the historical ruins of a Lycian city. Below the water, you can see the foundations of old shops, the ruins of sunken houses and various stairways the descend into the water. The ruins of an old Byzantine church can also be spotted from the water.

After the boat tour, we ate lunch at a restaraunt near the harbor and wandered through some of the stands selling tea leaves, handmade clothing and jewlery. We boarded the bus once again and headed towards Kas, a waterfront vacation town everyone predicted we would love. It is a beautiful town, full of vibrant colors, cobblestone streets, lively cafes and bars, and eclectic shops and boutiques. The town was established over the Lycian city of Habesos (in the Lycian Language) or Antiphellos (in Greek). A theater from the Hellenistic period remains on the western side of the modern town. It has 26 rows, and once held 4,000 people. With a beautiful harbor, cute cafes and seaside bars, and nice boutique hotels, I am determined to return to Kas to explore more of the surrounding region.

Patara was our last destination of the day. It is the famed birthplace of Apollo, as well as Saint Nicholas. The ancient city of Patara was one of the most significant cities in the Lycian Leaugue. It was one of four cities to hold three votes in the legislative body, and served as a port city.  The city opened its doors to Alexander the Great, and it was the capital of Lycia (and home to the Roman Provincal Governor) during the Roman period. Unfortunately, the sun began to set shortly after our arrival, so we did not spend as much time as we would have liked wandering through the ruins of this significant city. However, we walked all around the enormous theater, which once sat 5,000 people. Excavations of Patara began relatively recently. Much of the city remains underground. It will take at least 20-30 years to understand and see the true significance of Patara. It is expected to hold the same importance of Epheseus and Pergamon.

As the sun began to set, we ended our day wandering to the beach that is a part of this national park and historic site. There is a boardwalk that leads to a beautiful sandy beach. On this beach we witnessed one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen in my life. It was the perfect end to day two of our Lycia tour….

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Lykia Tour: Day 1


Our day began in a panic. It was 4:05 AM. The airport shuttle was leaving in 10 minutes. We frantically got dressed, threw the last items in our bag, and ran down the stairs to the closest taxi station. Miraculously enough, we made it. The shuttle arrived and several other half awake individuals moved like ghosts on to the bus. We slept every change we could. Closing our eyes on the 45 minute drive to the airport, in the airport waiting room, and immediately after we sat down on the plane.

We arrived at Dalaman airport around 7:30. It is a very small airport that serves the southwestern region of Turkey, and holiday travellers. We met our guide, and by 9:oo we arrived at our first location: Dalyan. This was once a small fishing village, that is now a famed tourist attraction and summer residence for many British families. The Dalyan river flows into the Mediterranean Sea near a long sand spit that separates the sea from the internal march. This sand spit is called ‘The Turtle’s Beach”, one of the last remaining locations in the Mediterranean area that has the right conditions for Giant Loggerhead Turtles to reproduce and lay their eggs.

Now, most fisherman make their living whisking tourists through the beautiful Dalyan marsh, past the famed Lycian tombs carved into the rocky hillsides, to the natural hot springs and mud baths, ending the trip at the famous ‘Turtles Beach’. Bare in mind, while the allure of the turtles brings numerous people to this beach throughout the year, June is usually the only month where any turtles are spotted. Some people wait hours to simply catch a glimpse of a turtle. We arrived to this famed beach on a cold November morning and found some crab fisherman playing with one of these turtles just off the shore. It was astounding to see a Loggerhead Turtle up close. It dived around the boat as the fisherman fed it crab meat. It was a beautiful creature that swam playfully through the marsh, inspiring ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the other boats that encountered it on their way to the beach. After ordering some crab from the ‘crab boat’, we were dropped off at this beautiful sandy beach for an hour. We wandered up and down the beach, sharing the shore  with only one other boat of Russian tourists. We searched for signs of a nest without luck, but enjoyed feeling the cold sand under our feet, and hearing the waves crash upon the shore. After stopping for some tea, and taking in the entire scene, we boarded our boat again (this special beach is only accessible by boat), and returned to the boat of the crab fisherman to pick-up our order. As we made our way back to Dalyan, we nibbled on the meat of the small blue-shelled freshwater crab. We returned to the port and indulged in a lunch of grilled fish and various Turkish salads. It was the perfect way to start our trip!

After our meal and a short trip to the hot springs, we boarded the bus to Gocek, a small vacation town that serves as a home base and docking point for many yacht owners. There are many private boat tour companies located in Gocek. It seems like it is the perfect place for anyone with fantasies of a boat trip around Southern Turkey to begin their search for a boat operator or rental company. It is a beautiful town, full of lovely cafes and even a wine bar. We walked along the waterfront, and watched as locals zoomed past us on their vespas, and children played near the water.

By 5 PM we were exhausted. It had been a full day of sightseeing. It was the perfect first day to a comprehensive tour of this historical and beautiful region. We were excited to see what would come next…

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I’m Back!


It was Kurban Bayram earlier this week. It is one of the most important Islamic holidays, and a national holiday in Turkey. We took full advantage of these 5 days of freedom, and booked a Lycia tour with Touristica Tours. It was a whirlwind tour. We spent 4 days on boats and busses seeing the unbelievably beautiful mountains, islands, and ancient ruins of Southwestern Turkey. Some highlights include:

1.) Seeing a giant sea turtle swim around our boat
2.) Walking through the amphitheater of Patara, the ancient capital of the provence when it was part of Rome and a major port city of the Lycian League
3.) A boat tour that took us in and around the 12 islands that surround the coast of Fethiye
4.) Wandering through Saklikent (Hidden City) Canyon

I look forward to discussing my favorite places and experiences in more detail. Until then, I will share a few pictures..

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Our Next Adventure


It is Kurban bayram in November. One of the holiest days in Islam, the holiday commemorates the Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice of Ishmael (or the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac). It is also a 4-5 day national holiday. Unfortunately, anything out of Turkey is over 700 lira, so we decided to explore Southern Turkey instead. We just booked a 4 day tour to explore the ancient ruins and beautiful beaches of Lycia. Lycia was a federation of 23 city-states, which eventually became a part of the Roman Empire. Lycia is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad as an ally of Troy, and in the Federalist Papers as the earliest example of a republic. The Lycian League was the first elected body of government on record. It is predicted that Patara (the major naval and port city of Lycia) will have the same significance as Ephesus and Pergamon in the future. However, Pergamon was first excavated 120 years ago. Patara was excavated for the first time 20 years ago. The world does not know what is hidden below the ground where this ancient civilization once stood. Archaeologists have barely touched the surface.  Situated along the Mediterranean, this area also has some of the most amazing beaches in the world, as well as beautiful national parks and seaside villages. Needless to say, I am excited.

For more information about Lycia, go to: http://www.lycianturkey.com/index.htm

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