Turkey Aegean road trip: Akyaka to Fethiye
Our Turkey Aegean road trip continues! After a day of alternating long drives through mountainous scenery and two major archaeological sites, we decided to move a little slower this time. We only had 100 km from the “slow city” of Akyaka to Fethiye, our next destination.
What better way to take things slowly than turning off the main highway and visit another small town that is officially part of the “Cittaslow” movement?
Koycegiz: a Cittaslow scenic town off the Turkish Aegean Coast
When even your travel guide certifies there isn’t much to see, do you turn of the main road and enter what looks like a quiet small town, framed by green hills? Oh, we did, and we drive through town, unsure where to park and what to do. When we reached the large Koycegiz Lake we parked and walked back to explore, unsure what was there. Having just had an enormous all-you-can-eat breakfast at our previous hotel, we were not so attracted by the pretty lake side terraces .
And behind there – was a bit of smalltown life. Real slow indeed, and not a tourist in sight. The excursion boats all moored up, trips down the lake and to the Sultaniye Hot Springs and Dalyan were finished for the year. It would be the perfect place for a quiet holiday with good restaurants, a lake, but not much else going on. Forget bars and clubs – this would be more like the perfect retreat.
There’s not a lot to do in Koycegiz but I loved it anyway
In a flowerbed in the main square we noticed a very friendly family of cats. So the husband was duly parked in the municipal coffee shop while I hurried off to the pet shop to buy their breakfast. I did notice the cats looked in good shape. They had food bowls and water provided for them. I just wish people were more conscientious about neutering. But at least in these small places cats tend to get looked after – and our cat food was eaten with moderate enthusiasm.
My round through the tiny bazaar to buy a few dried nuts and tomatoes and cat food barely took twenty minutes. Not even the great variety of soaps could distract me. Honestly – the Turkish Aegean Coast is no shopping paradise if you’re looking for locally made specialties or crafts. Sitting in the shady square with our coffee, we proceeded to feed the cat family.
Other than that – we just strolled through the small market area, drank coffee and walked along the lake. At the end of October, the tourist season was pretty much finished here. Restaurants were still open, but tour boats had finished for the years. If you come here before the end of October, you can take a ride in a small-ish tour boat across the lake to Sultaniye Mud Baths and as far as Dalyan and its famous Lycian Rock Tombs.
Entering ancient Lycia and exploring Dalyan riverside
We debated on whether to take the minor super-windy road past Kaunos, to Dalyan. Eventually coming onto it from the other side, I am glad we didn’t! So it was back on the highway for half an hour then another turn into extremely scenic Dalyan.
It is pretty rare for a larger resort to have no direct beach access, but Dalyan somehow manages to pull it off. It is more like a village located on a river, with its main business unashamedly tourism – as the centre village glut of souvenir shops and restaurants showed. However, most of the accommodation here is in smaller family-run hotels and some high-end spa hotels. To get to the beach, you will need to take a boat shuttle to the long and shallow Iztuzu Beach. This is where all the action is in the summer. At night, the beach is off limits as this is also a breeding ground loggerhead turtles.
Getting to Kaunos
To get to Kaunos site, we took a tiny ferry across the river and drove up some really steep road for a mile. There are boat rides from the centre during the summer season as well. The tour boats often drop off further downhill, so you see the ancient Lycian city starting at mid-level between the Acropolis on top and the port. If you take the car ferry, the only way is up, then park, then find the ticket booths and at the amphitheatre near the top – which, on terms of orientation, make a little bit more sense. It’s roughly a kilometre uphill walk from the ferry and not particularly scenic – so we just took the car across and parked by the entrance. Which is a bit obscured by trees and shrubbery but just opposite the small car park.
We shared the ferry with a bunch families and their tractors. Come to think of it, they probably would have given us a ride in their tractor they way they smiled at us. So. The upper entrance to KAunos is about halfway up the hill in the picture, with the Acropolis sitting at its highest point. Not exactly mountaineering, but for the unfit one like me a touch too much.
Kaunos Archaeological Site
We entered Kaunos at the top and amphitheatre level and the first building into sight was also one of the most recent ones, the Byzantine Basilica. It is bare walls with a faint cross here and there and can be skipped without fear of missing something.
The amphitheatre is Roman and well… it’s an amphitheatre. Certainly picturesque, but you do see many in Turkey, and there are certainly bigger ones (Miletus), better preserved (Myra) and more famous ones (Ephesus).
The path leading down to the harbour is very pretty but not exactly studded with exciting well, preserved structures or artworks. It is quite nice in a wild way though, provided you’ve brought enough water and sun protection.
Doing not very much in Dalyan
It was late afternoon when we returned to Dalyan proper. I was not quote sure what to make of it. Its location along a river, in close proximity to the sea, and the absence of high rise buildings and megaresorts make this a rather chilled place. But upon taking a closer look at its main street, we found restaurants and bars catering to the Anglo-American market and fairly useless souvenir shops all lined up. Dalyan is by no means a hidden treasure. It is very developed, although not nearly as mass market and still relatively small.
We ambled to the riverside promenade, a beautiful walkway with boats bobbing along their jetties – most trips done for the day, and the tourist season nearing its finish. And here you can clearly see one of the main attractions of Dalyan, two group of rock tombs high up on the riverside.
They’re probably best admired from a distance although it may be possible but not adviseable to scramble up there.
Another attraction of Dalyan is the population of loggerhead turtles on nearby Iztuzu Beach. The reason the beach is undeveloped is turtle conservation – there were plans for some megaresorts in the 1980s but protests put an end to that. The beach is open for swimming, and most boats will offer tours there. An extensive conservation programme is in operation on Dalyan, and its beaches are off limits at night when the turtles lay their eggs. It is probably fine to go on a boat trip to watch turtles, but be advised to travel with an ecologically responsible operator. This includes using safe boat engines and not feeding the turtles – enquire before you book!
We took a glass of tea in the municipal coffee house – this is a really nice one, set in a pavilion right by the river side. And then it was time to move on, with another 50km to go to the much larger resort town of Fethiye. We already had accommodation arranged in Fethiye, otherwise I probably would have stayed and gone on some private boat trip the next morning -there were certainly plenty offers open to negotiation at this time of the year.
Running the sweet sellers of Fethiye
Fethiye is very large – a huge resort town with a charming old town centre. We were lucky enough to stay in a small private guesthouse between the Marina and Paspatur, the old town centre. On the whole, Paspatur is very touristified, with souvenir shops, tourist restaurants, etc.
Not even the shopping addict in me found anything worth buying – except sweets, But the fun ended when I asked for a small selection of lokum sweets, like, 200 grams, and a kilo was slapped onto the scales! After my polite request to reduce that to about 200grams, they did that but calculated some price that did not match the price per kilo.
There is also a small historical hamam (“Türk HAmami) which is supposed to be quite good. It is in 47 Sk. just off the roundabout between the marina and the seaside Ataturk Boulevard, a bit hard to find, but locals will point it out for you.
At this point I could not stay calm and quiet any longer, so I told them to eat the sweets themselves and walked out of the shop. Gah! Not even in the touristy bazaars of Istanbul you are met with this kind of impudence. Another nice trip is the drive up to the Lycian rock tombs and to Oludeniz Beach – stay tuned for the next instalment of our Turkey Aegean road trip!
Map of our Aegean Turkey road trip
Here is a map of our entire trip! We started in Izmir on a Sunday night and returned on a Sunday, so the “big loop” drive took us 8 days. We then added two days of relaxation on Cesme peninsula. Admittedly, it was a bit ambitious, and due to weather, we skipped a beach day and a couple of sites on the coast near Antalya.
We stayed at Yildirim Guesthouse in central Fethiye for 230 TL (35 Euro) per room per night including breakfast. It is simple and comfy. The owner is a well of local knowledge – worth staying for a chat with the owner alone – and getting local advice! He advised us on the best Lycian sites to visit, which led us to Pinara – one of the highlights of our trip.
The guesthouse is just opposite the yacht marina and in walking distance to Paspatur, Fethiye’s old centre. It’s a good central location for restaurants, it’s pretty but it will be miles to the nearest beach. Altogether, we just used Fethiye as a convenient stop without exploring its resort qualities, but… walking through Paspatur at night, it was really really touristy! Off season touristy, but nevertheless. There are some wonderful beaches in 10-15km distance, so Fethiye may well be a great base for a beach holiday with a side of culture. Just don’t expect rugged authenticity.
I use Booking.com for most of my accommodation. At the time of writing, it is impossible to male bookings on this site without a Virtual Private Network. Bookings made outside Turkey are unaffected. On this trip I made a few booking prior to the trip, and some others while already in Turkey. I used a mixture of contacting properties directly, Expedia and Trip.com. All worked well, although Turkish Lira conversion rates by online payments were sometimes really unfavourable.
We flew to Izmir on Pegasus Airlines and rented a car from Sixt. Finding parking isn’t a problem even in a city or resort if you are willing to pay a small parking fee. The main reason we hired a car was to gain access to out of the way archaeological sites. You should have no difficulty to reach Fethiye and Koycegiz on public transport from Antalya or Marmaris.
You can take organised trips from Fethiye to places like Dalyan, Oludeniz and Tlos. I highly recommend hiring a car to be totally independent.
We had a few minor issues with our cheap hire. The manual was in Turkish only, car ran out of AdBlue, a tire kept losing pressure slowly. These were minor hiccups that didn’t made us change our trip.
The roads on this section of the trip (and basically all major routes on our road trip) were excellent, with plenty of petrol stations and smaller places for snacks. There are road tolls on small sections of the road, especially around Izmir, but often there is an alternative route. In ten days, we paid approximately 5 Euro in road tolls.
The only thing I really recommend is sticking to driving during daylight hours only, unless you are on a major toll motorway. But even then, drivers without lights are common, and going along the coast or through the mountains, its best and safest to drive during the day.
Where to Eat
Koycegiz: This town is such a backwater that lakeside restaurants don’t charge you an arm and a leg to eat at its pretty terraces. We just studied the menus here, there are the recurring stables of Turkish claypot dishes and fish from the lake as well as the Mediterranean sea at prices at least one third less than Akyaka and Dalyan.
Dalyan: There are tons of international restaurant in the main tourist street of Maras Caddesi. We just went for drinks with a view at the surprisingly affordable Kaunos Çay Bahçesi. Here’s another great cafe run by the minicipality without silly tourist prices. Lot of reviews also say “cheap beer!” but as I was teetotal during this trip, I didn’t really look, so… probably cheap beer here!
Fethiye: We ran miles from the multilingual international menus and specialist seafood restaurants and stuffed ourselfes at the no-frills Nefis Pide Salonu right in the centre of the touristy Old Town. Decent pide and some other claypot dishes, friendly service, nice mix of locals and tourists.
Internet and SIM Cards in Turkey
We bought a Turkcell SIM Card for your two-week stay. It cost approximately 120 TL (about 20Euro). It included absolute tons of data (I think 10GB) as well as 60 world-wide minutes. You can only buy them in Turkcell shops. You will definitely need a passport to purchase one. They often become invalid after 30 days, so it is worth enquiring in the shop.
We travelled with an older edition of the Lonely Planet Turkey. In retrospect, I wish I had bought the Rough Guide to Turkey, but the current issue is 2016, meaning the content is about five years old. However – if you just need an Istanbul Guide, Rough Guides has an up-to-date Istanbul Guide!
If you want to delve deeper into the history of Asia Minor, there are a few recommended books.
“In the Land of a Thousand Gods” is a rather scholarly but excellent historical review of ancient Asia Minor by a German professor of ancient history. He personally led some expeditions to sites mentioned here, and if you are deeply into historical details, I recommend this one.
An excellent one full of details both historical and technical (hiking), is “On the Lycian Way”. It is for those who literally wish to turn every stone, but it will not cover the sites mentioned here – as the Lycian way starts properly in Fethiye, a few kilometres down the road.
To learn about the more recent history of Turkey, I read Midnight at the Pera Palace, an account of the s history of the Turkish Republic. It’s not just about Istanbul or the Pera Palace Hotel. It’s a fairly easy but rewarding read about the foundation of Modern Turkey.
This trip was entirely self funded. I will only review and recommend places that I have stayed in myself or that I have at least visited. You can trust me for the whole, unbiased truth. I have received no monetary or non-monetary rewards for linking aside from some affiliate links. In this case, this post contains some affiliate links to Booking.com. This means that I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you book through the affiliate links. More details on my affiliate link policy are here.