Kalkan and Kas: The marvels of the Mediterranean
Tourism is on the increase in Turkey once again this year following a long dip. And two of the best places to visit are the towns of Kalkan and Kas along the stunning Turquiose Coast. Travel writer Nilufer Atik explains why…
It was once one of the most popular holiday destinations for Britons in search of a cultural break outside Europe. But political volatility and a string of terrorist attacks in Turkey have frightened holiday-makers off in recent years. Less than twelve months ago, tourism dwindled to an all-time low, dropping by 30 per cent, and leading to many hotels and businesses closing.
But things are on the up once again for the country once known as the ‘land of the crescent moon’. The number of foreign visitors has steadily risen by 18 per cent this year and more and more luxury hotel resorts are opening along the coast in popular holiday hotspots like Bodrum.
Just over 120 miles away, the less boisterous, picturesque towns of Kalkan and Kas have also witnessed a resurgence – despite beginning this tourism year against the backdrop of a disappointing 2016 and a quiet winter. With the numerous historical sites, spectacular beaches, mouth-watering cuisine and spectacular sea views boasted by both areas however, it’s no wonder.
Once a prosperous Greek fishing village, Kalkan has been transformed since the 1920s into a sophisticated town with a charming, yacht-filled marina. Along it you can find plenty of bars and restaurants – both lively and relaxed – boutique shops to browse through and steep lanes lined with 19-century fishermen’s cottages. Accommodation is plentiful, ranging from apartments and villas out of town to luxury hotels a stone’s throw away from the marina. But if you want to sample one of the finest hotels on the Turkish Riviera, the best place to stay is The Bay.
Sat on a small hill just a ten-minute walk away from Kalkan’s hub, this unique waterfront hotel, which comprises six stunning loft suites and four split-level pool houses, is like a luxurious home away from home. Designed by the award-winning Aykan Group, all of the suites and houses have their own private terraces, swimming pools, luxury bathrooms and an ultra-modern minimalist decor.
The best interior features of the pool houses are their winding, open staircases which lead up to gallery bedrooms. Their best exterior features are the glorious views over the bay itself, seen from both the pool areas and through the glass walls. Every comfort and mod con has been thought of here – from an Ipod docking station in case guests want to play music to an LED TV with DVD player for evening movie time. The cleaners even put fresh rose petals over the bed each morning to make the air smell nice.
The loft suites are semi-detached and set in three separate buildings, but have dividing walls between the decks and pools so still offer privacy and quiet. If you don’t want to sunbathe by your own pool, there is a private beach club with access via steps leading down to a decked area above the water’s edge. From here you can also go snorkeling and swimming in the sea or sit at a table in the Terrace restaurant and sip some delicious Turkish coffee while indulging in some Baklava desert.
The food is as good as the service at The Bay with a buffet-style Turkish breakfast each morning at the Pavilion Bar and restaurant, which circles a communal swimming pool. The views here are glorious too and in the evening, you can watch the sun set over the mountains as you tuck into dishes such as Grilled Fillet Grouper, Mixed Grill and Stuffed Lamb Ribs. There are wines from all over the world on the menu, including Turkish reds like the award-winning Kavaklidere Yakut – a definite must-try.
Kalkan is known for its proximity to numerous ancient Lycian sites so are plenty of day trip opportunities for those who want to explore the area further. The Green Lake in the semi-nomadic town of Gombe, which sits 6,500ft above sea level, is a pilgrimage spot where people come from every corner of the country to drink its sacred healing waters. It’s a beautiful place to walk around too.
For a historical trip, you can head to Elmali, the largest Ottoman town in southwest Turkey. Located high on a mountain plain, it’s famous for its 17th century wooden houses in which Ottoman Turks, Greeks and Armenians once lived together.
Then of course there is the neighbouring town of Kas, a half-hour drive away. A little quieter and more unspoiled, what Kas lacks in terms of nightlife it certainly makes up for in beauty. This seaside town, scattered with whitewashed houses covered in bougainvillea, is a pleasure for the eyes. With its unhurried ambience and setting at the foot of a wall of mountains facing the Mediterranean, this gem of a town is a place that, once visited, can never be forgotten. Despite dozens of new hotels and pensions opening here in recent years, Kas has managed to retain its authentic charm, and nowhere more so than at the Deniz Feneri Lighthouse.
This amazing 28-bedroom hotel is as close to heaven on earth as it gets. Just ten years old, its intricate design of natural stone buildings with paths leading from the reception area through a series of colourful terraces surrounded by aromatic plants and palm trees, makes you feel like you’re in an exotic paradise.
The sweeping coastal views are breathtaking, with viewpoints everywhere and some carved into the rocks around the hotel. One of the Feneri’s main attractions is a private waterfront, from where you can go kayaking or swimming with loggerhead turtles.
The rooms themselves vary from luxurious standard doubles to glorious pool houses, each with individual names. The pool houses are huge – approximately 200 square metres – with cool, artistically furnished living rooms complete with breakfast bars and glass walls which open up onto a glorious decked sunbathing area and infinity pool. The best thing about the pools though is that they extend straight into the living room, transforming into a jacuzzi or glass topped water feature with a retractable glass cover at the push of a button. So you can sit and soothe all your aches away come evening and sip champagne from the comfort of the living room as you watch the sun set over the mountains.
There are two double en-suite bedrooms upstairs with super comfortable king size beds and balconies with small tables and chairs outside in case you want a little fresh air – or again, to cast your eyes over the spectacular landscape. The two restaurants on site serve a variety of traditional Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine, including delicious Meze, lamb casserole, and slow-cooked chicken in sauce. And if the surroundings alone aren’t enough to get you into a blissfully relaxed state, there’s also a health spa with a variety of massages and facials on offer.
But of course, nobody should leave Turkey without treating themselves to a hammam (Turkish bath). This age-old tradition, which dates back to the 14th century, involves sitting in a circular marbled steam room to open up pores then being doused in water and a special soap by a masseur who then uses a coarse fabric glove to scrub the skin. Not only does it give you a healthy glow but also cleanses the pores of impurities, sloughs off dead skin and helps relieve muscular aches and pains. You’ll leave the hammam – as you’ll leave Deniz Feneri, feeling like a new person. Revived, refreshed, and looking forward to your next visit.
Turkey specialist Fairlight Jones (020 3875 0351 fairlightjones.com ) offers seven nights’ B&B at The Bay in Kalkan from £850pp based on 2 sharing, including return flights with BA from London Gatwick to Dalaman and transfers. Seven nights’ B&B at Deniz Feneri Lighthouse in Kaş from £750pp (standard room) to £1,200pp (Pool House) based on 2 sharing, with flights.