Many of Turkey’s top destinations are located close to and within popular seaside resort towns on the southwestern Aegean and Mediterranean sea. However there are more than a few hidden gems for the travelers who choose to leave the coast and sail the Turquoise sea or for the those who venture inland to visit the country’s stunning interior.
Tours of Turkey can take you inland from coastal resorts to Denizli Province on a day to visit the stunningly unique Cotton Castle, Pamukkale. Here ice white thermal pools form natural terraces on a steep valley slope overlooking an Ancient Greek-Roman city that was constructed over 2,000 years ago as a military station. Realizing the potential of the natural resources, Romans converted the station to a city of luxury spa’s and today a good museum can be found inside of one of the original bathhouse and alongside the remains of the temple of Apollo you can bathe in sacred thermal waters with original marble pillars which have laid inside the pools since the last earthquake struck. After walking the columned entranceway and visiting the well preserved theatre you can climb to the top of Pamukkale Castle and watch the sunset reflect of the snow-like landscape.
Where tunnels and Hittite cities run deep underground and stone age caves have been converted into luxury hotels; where early Christians and hermit Monks built sanctuaries in rock-hewn churches and inside the conical tips of fairy chimneys; and where tradesman rested in Seljuk caravanserais on their journeys from Europe to Asia on the Silk Road. Cappadocia is a region of Turkey rich in both cultural heritage and natural beauty. With a spider’s web of trails for hiking, quad biking and horseriding through valleys of mushroom shaped fairy chimneys, troglodyte caves and hidden churches with original frescoes. In the early hours of each morning, as the sun is sneaking up from behind rocky peaks several brightly coloured hot air take to the sky to witness the surreal Lunar Landscape from a bird’s-eye-view.
The City of Safranbolu
One of the few original Ottoman cities remaining in Turkey, Safranbolu was once the country’s main producer of Saffron, which is where the name originates from. While the city is no longer a large scale spice producer it still withholds its Ottoman heritage and makes it onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With original wooden houses, and whitewashed stone facades topped with red tiled roofs, mosques from the 1600’s and bustling markets held on quaint squares between cobblestone streets, Safranbolu is a city that transports you back to the Ottoman era and lets you live a day in the life of 17th century Turkey.
At the point where hundred metre high rock walls meet the azure blue sea cracks and small caves appear. Some have previously been used by pirates to hide loot or ships in preparation for attacks on unsuspecting sailors while others have been natural habitats for sea life. One particular cave, makes it onto most Blue Cruise itineraries. The entrance to Demre’s Blue Cave can barely be seen from a distance, but when the tide is low and the sea is calm a dingy can pass through the low entranceway. Once inside a single ray of sunlight reflects off the water, turning the roof a beautiful shaded of dark blue and making the transparent water glow with a mysterious light.
One of the most famous locations on the turquoise coast, Butterfly Valley is a gorgeous gem hidden between gorge like cliffs with a small waterfall at the centre. A winding coastal road runs above the valley and a rural village overlooks the sea but access to this stunning location is exclusively by boat, unless you’re prepared to scale the precarious cliffside trail. At the base the valley opens to a narrow bay with calm transparent waters and a smooth pebble beach which fills up with with weekend campers and reggae music in the summer. Daily Boat trips visit Butterfly Valley from Oludeniz beach and private Blue Cruise gulets often make a stop here too.
The environmentally rich Kekova region is a government protected area which is definitely best explored by boat. Between the tree lined hills and jagged cliffs are jaw dropping bays, silent coves and lush islands floating like sugar lumps in the sea. In this region sunsets are simply phenomenal and without any cities nearby the night sky is undisturbed by light pollution and shooting stars shine brightly. The top attraction in this region lies below the surface in Gokkaya Bay. Visible from Simena Castle on a hilltop above Castle Village, is the Sunken City of Kekova. Once a strong trading city built by the Lycian people, many of the stone building are now swamped in seawater or completely submerged.
On Land AND By Sea
If you have a long enough time scale then you might consider a combination Cappadocia Tour with Gulet to enjoy both the unique wonders of the Turkey’s central Anatolia, as well as sailing on the spectacular Turquoise Sea. Start your trip hiking through the breathtaking valleys of pigeon homes and fairy chimney, visit Turkish towns, new and old, and end your vacation drifting between crystal clear bays and lush islands topped with Byzantine and Lycian ruins. If you still have some days to spare you could also start exploring the unique places and archeological sites around bustling seaside resorts.