Mediterranean coast of Turkey

From Phaselis to Kaş, Turkey – Land of the Sun (and Santa Claus)

We drove westward along the southwestern coast of Turkey from Antalya to Kaş in one day, although it’s a pretty long day (187 km of winding and beautiful coastal road) including several stops. After our first stop at the great beach and ruins of Phaselis (click here), we continued westward stopping at Cirali and Myra before getting to Kaş for the night (for a general map of our stops click here). This stretch of southwestern Turkey is known as the Lycian Way, due to the ancient Lycian civilization which inhabited this area and left many traces behind.

Cirali

This is a laid-back backpacker’s beach hangout about 7 km from the main highway with cheap ‘treehouse’ accommodations (think sleeping bags on wooden floors above ground level in the open), very casual outdoor cafes and a good (although with very little shade) beach. No wonder this stretch of Turkey is known as the Land of the Sun.

Examples of the "tree house" accomodations in Cirali.

Examples of the “tree house” accomodations in Cirali.

The beautiful beach at Cirali.

The beautiful beach at Cirali.

Not far from here are the enduring flames (from escaping natural gas), known as Yanartaş (“burning stone”), but since we visited during the day, we did not take the 2 km hike to the flames.  If you try to blow them out, they immediately light again. In ancient times, these flames helped provide a beacon to ships. This beach is also close to the ruins of Olympos, which we unfortunately did not have time to visit.

Myra (near Kale, AKA Demre)

The history of Myra and Lycia - Land of the Sun.

The history of Myra and Lycia – Land of the Sun.

Myra - note the tombs in the hillside.

Myra – note the tombs in the hillside.

View of the rock carved tombs at Myra.

View of the rock carved tombs at Myra.

The ancient city of Myra is just 2 km inland from Kale (no problem locating it with the excellent road signs). Myra dates from 5th century BC and was a significant port city. It was one of the major cities of the Lycian League. Myra is mentioned as a stopping point in St. Paul’s journey to Rome in 60 AD (see the New Testament, Acts 27:5).

Stone carving of actors' masks at the theater in Myra.

Stone carving of actors’ masks at the theater in Myra.

The Roman theater at Myra.

The Roman theater at Myra.

It became part of the Roman empire in 43 BC. Later, in the 4th century under the Byzantine Empire, Myra had its own bishop, St. Nicholas (died 343 AD), who eventually became today’s Santa Claus (“Jolly Old St. Nicholas…”).  St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Russia and lots of Russians love to make the pilgrimage here. The theater at Myra is huge and the nearby house tombs on the hill are a great example of Lycian architecture. The entry fee was 15 TL per person (1.8 Turkish Lira per USD).

Another view of the theater at Myra - there is a fortress at the top of the hill in the distance and tomb in the distance above the theater.

Another view of the theater at Myra – there is a fortress at the top of the hill in the distance and tomb in the distance above the theater.

Kaş

If I had had any idea how much there was to do around Kaş (pronounced “cash”), we would have spent more than one night here.

A street scene in Kas. The bougainvillea are everwhere.

A street scene in Kas. The bougainvillea are everwhere.

The town is in a beautiful setting, nestled on a steep hillside, with views of the Greek island of Meis (or Kastellorizo) just offshore. We had a good hotel here (Hotel Kayahan), with a fantastic view overlooking the harbor. The only downside to the hotel was that parking is extremely limted–we ended up parking about 200 yards away in a town square.

View from the terrace of the Kayahan Hotel.

View from the terrace of the Kayahan Hotel.

The terrace dining area of the Kayahan Hotel.

The terrace dining area of the Kayahan Hotel.

There are lots of day-trips by boat to be had out of Kaş, with options including secluded beaches, snorkeling, sea kayaking, sunken ruins (such as Kekova Island), a ferry ride to Meis or just lazing around Kaş itself. It would be very easy to spend an entire week in this spot with no chance of getting bored.

Antalya – The Gateway to the Lycian Way

A view of the old town of Antalya with the blue Mediterranean and mountains in the distance.

From Cappadocia we flew to Antalya (via Istanbul). Antalya is on the southwestern coast of Turkey, and has a beautiful setting, centered on a small scenic harbor with pebbly beaches and mountains nearby. It would be easy to spend a week here, by making Antalya your base for exploring this part of Turkey. We spent two nights at the Atelya Hotel in the heart of the old city (parking is tight in the old town, but the hotel had a smal enclosed parking area). For a map of our locations visited in Turkey please click here.

The beautiful coastline of Antalya. We ate at an excellent restaurant overlooking this beach.

The beautiful coastline of Antalya. We ate at an excellent restaurant overlooking this beach.

Anciently, there were six major cities that made up the Lycian League. The Lycian Way is a pathway that more or less follows the coast from Antalya west to Fethiye, connecting these ancient cities and wandering through the forests and along the coast. We were lazy and made this trip by car.

The interior courtyard of the Atelya Hotel, in the old part of Antalya.

The interior courtyard of the Atelya Hotel, in the old part of Antalya.

Antalya was founded in 159 BC and prospered in the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. There are remnants from these historical eras scattered around the town including walls, towers, mosques, minarets and gates still standing.

The 13th century Fluted Minaret - a major landmark of Antalya.This minaret was once covered in turquoise tiles.

The 13th century Fluted Minaret – a major landmark of Antalya.This minaret was once covered in turquoise tiles.

Hadrian's Gate - built to honor the visit of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 130 AD. Located at the eastern edge of the old city.

Hadrian’s Gate – built to honor the visit of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 130 AD. Located at the eastern edge of the old city.

The Hidirlik Tower in Karaalioglu Park, a Roman lighthouse.

The Hidirlik Tower in Karaalioglu Park, a Roman lighthouse.

Take time to explore Karaalioglu Park, set on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean just to the east of the old town.  This side of town is quieter than the western side and has some good restaurants and interesting streets to wander. Antalya is a pretty big city (with a very nice modern airport), but once you’re in the historic area it feels more like a quaint town.

Near Karaalioglu Park. In September, it felt like Spring in Antalya.

Near Karaalioglu Park. In September, it felt like Spring in Antalya.

Antalya's old town shopping area.

Antalya’s old town shopping area.

A house in Antalya's old town - in need of some siding repair!

A house in Antalya’s old town – in need of some siding repair!

Nearby are beaches, waterfalls, and many historical sights. Inland (about 35 km) up in the mountains is the massive ancient Pisidian city of Termessos (which we’ll cover in another post). From Antalya you can work your way westward along the coast (the Lycian Way mentioned above)—with numerous ancient ruins and stunning natural scenery, and of course eastward to the grand restored Roman theater of Aspendos and the city of Side. I would seriously consider returning to Antalya and exploring more of this beautiful part of Turkey.