It may only be two more sleeps until Christmas, but it’s certainly going to be a strange one. The tree is up and the Turkey is defrosting in the fridge, but thanks to 2020 and London being in Tier 4, it’s going to be a ‘merry little Christmas’ to quote Boris. With no family allowed in each other’s houses, all the plans went out of the window last Saturday so it’s just the two of us this year- me and Berkay, the real life Grinchy Scrooge!
I, however, love Christmas, so back in January when the world was normal, I was so excited to see Christmas decorations still up around Istanbul when we visited. Saint Antoine Church had it’s nativity scene outside along with a huge tree decorated with white and red poinsettias, so beautiful. You can read a blog post I wrote about the church with more photos here – https://livingtheturkishdream.com/2020/02/16/sent-antuan-kilisesi-st-antoine-church/
Even though most Turkish people don’t celebrate Christmas, (though Father Christmas does originate from there), some do associate him with New Year, so I think that’s why there were still a few Santa’s to be seen mid-January. One restaurant we went to still had a Christmas tree, Santa, reindeer and snow globes on display, looking wonderfully festive! Istiklal Street had bauble lights with a new year message lit up, and a hotel had teddy bears and light up Christmas presents above it’s entrance!
It’s so weird looking at these photos now, remembering being out and about sightseeing without masks on, thousands of people strolling down Istiklal street in the evening with no social distancing required, a time where nobody had ever heard the worlds ‘furlough’ and ‘covid19’, and where strangers walking past you in the street weren’t assumed to be an immediate threat to your health! It seems like a lifetime ago. Just two months after those photos were taken, the whole world got turned upside down! Travel bans, working from home, the 2 meter rule, face coverings… and in the past week we seem to have gone back to square one again! I often just think back to my lonely little desk in Canary Wharf, with everything just as I left it on March 16th, my desk calendar stuck on the same page for over nine months now, like something you see on a documentary where people abandon their houses in a rush, toys left behind, food still in the cupboard and things left untouched for decades. So weird.
Let’s hope 2021 brings better things – Merry Christmas and a happy healthy new year to everyone!
Six months ago, we had just had our April holiday to Turkey cancelled – three months later, things still looked bleak, although Berkay had managed to get a flight to Turkey and visit family for a couple of weeks, albeit with a two week quarantine on return to the UK. We had had our September holiday booked for a whole year, but even just 6 weeks ago I still wasn’t really sure if it was going to go ahead – I was checking the Covid19 totals in Turkey daily, and obsessing over the cases per 100,000, afraid to buy holiday clothes, stock up on sun cream or get fully excited! Then, my countdown became closer.. a month to go, 3 weeks, 2 weeks… with just a week to go, our flights were cancelled with Pegasus but within half an hour we had re-booked again with Easyjet, for a day sooner than originally planned, so finally it felt like we could get excited and start packing!
We flew to Dalaman on 4th September from Gatwick and all the new measures in place at the airport and on the plane went smoothly – masks, distancing where possible & hand sanitizer everywhere! We arrived, got in our transfer and off we went to Fethiye to a hotel for two nights. I had packed Dettol spray in my bag and sprayed the hell out of everything in the room, and I was nervous as I’ve got so used to my little working from home bubble! We spent the first morning in Calis, sunbathing and eating, then went back to Fethiye for a late afternoon nap and dinner at the fish market, followed by cake at a local patisserie. Although everyone we met had been good at keeping a distance, even good friends who Berkay has known for years only fist bumped instead of the usual shaking hands, it was whilst walking along in Fethiye that evening that I realised people were a lot more relaxed about masks being worn properly than they should be. It’s the law to wear masks as soon as you step foot outside your home/hotel/accommodation in Turkey, so, when walking the streets, parks, inside restaurants (until at your table), even when in your own private cars masks are supposed to be worn! It didn’t really surprise me that Turkish people, and tourists, had adopted new ways to wear their masks – chin straps, elbow pads or bracelets. We were good though, too scared to break the rules and risk a fine!
The next day, we got a taxi to Jiva Beach Hotel (where else of course…..) where we stayed for 9 nights. Once we were inside there, it felt like a huge weight was lifted. I know it’s a psychological thing, and that corona doesn’t care about holidays or hotels, but it felt safe to us. Our suitcases were sprayed down, our temperatures were taken on arrival via a wrist thermometer gun, reception had perspex screens up and distance markers on the floor, and 99% of staff had masks on for their whole, long shifts. I was wondering about the buffet, as obviously tongs being handled by 100’s of guests is not allowed anymore, but actually the whole set up was so much better than normal! There are perspex screens up at each food station, you point to or ask the chef (who is armed with gloves and a mask) what you want, they put it on your plate and away you go to the next station that tickles your fancy! There were a few less options as a result, but not much difference really! I think it will improve wastage, since you’re not responsible for piling your own plate sky-high, so that’s a good thing! The tables had disposable paper mats and packets set up with cutlery in, one-time use salt & pepper sachets, and a strong alcohol wipe. Each persons temperature was taken every time they entered the restaurant at breakfast, lunch and dinner times. Guests were encouraged to wear masks in the restaurant whilst browsing, and there were specific bins to dispose of masks in. Hand sanitizer was available all over the place – mostly touch-free points too. There were even masks and wipes in the room, restocked by the cleaners. Activities like table tennis, darts and pool still took place, but bats etc were all sprayed down with disinfectant when changing hands. Poolside bars and even the mini disco stage had social distancing markers and reminders on the floor. Sunbeds were laid out with measured distanced painted yellow markers on the floor, though obviously groups of people did move these around a bit, the staff were good at putting them back at the end of every day. There were even special rooms put aside for quarantine, near the on-site doctors office, in case a case arose. I don’t think they could do much more really. We distanced from most people, though mingled with a few ‘chosen’ ones, our decision and perfectly avoidable if we wanted to. The evening entertainment was pretty well organised, people were asked to respect social distancing outside of family groups in the amphitheater, and tables laid out 1.5 meters apart for the ‘disco’ and live music nights, and plenty of space on the make-shift dance floor, since the underground nightclub wasn’t allowed to open, obviously. Masks weren’t required to be worn by guests in the hotel grounds (apart from in the inside areas like the restaurant), so this made staying inside the hotel grounds a lot more desirable than going outside for a sweaty, stroll into Calis, but we did a few times.
After 9 nights, we checked out and drove 2.5 hours to Berkay’s family’s village in Denizli (I’ll be honest, I didn’t wear my mask in the car whilst it was just us two inside, unless we saw a police check point…) I expected not many villagers to be wearing masks as I thought the authorities might not be so strict with checking up on people there – but actually, people were really good! Masks, hand sanitizer outside all the shops, cafes and businesses and even more lemon cologne being offered around than usual. I was nervous when it came to eating – in this village its usual for the whole family, neighbours, friends and whoever is visiting to sit on the floor around a table cloth full of bowls and food, and all share things – dipping spoons in and out of bowls, ripping bread apart and handing it to someone else, sharing a side of salad, fried eggs, or a bowl of snacks and not to mention the countless hands in and out of a bowl of sunflower seeds. But, there were ways around it, and we were able to be a bit careful with our choices – more to protect Berkay’s family than us, since we were the ones who had just come from ‘outside’!
Dalaman airport, the gate and boarding situation for the flight home was chaotic though, and definitely felt like the most risky part – I know distancing isn’t really possible on the plane anyway, but absolutely no effort was being made by staff or passengers to distance at the gate, and it was a bit of an uncomfortable gathering! Forms had to be completed before arrival to both Turkey and the UK for track and trace purposes.
All of that said, I would be happy to get on a plane back to Turkey again tomorrow. I know some people think people shouldn’t be travelling at the moment and putting each other through unnecessary risk, but when you weigh up the positives, and the effect it has on people’s mental health, I think it’s absolutely the right decision for some! Is there really less risk involved in a staycation in the UK, an afternoon meal in your local Nando’s, a pub, or even a shopping trip to Asda? It also depends on your situation at home – Berkay travels to work in the pub on the London tube’s everyday, so taking a break from that environment for a few weeks can only be a good thing. Me – I’ve worked from home for nearly 7 months, and have seen and spoken to more people face to face (whilst distanced safely apart- mostly) in these two weeks than I have in the past 7 months, so that’s been good too.
Berkay is actually still in Turkey at the moment, due to fly home this Thursday, he’s stayed a little longer with his family, and our new baby niece, who is absolutely adorable, by the way. We got to see Boncuk too, who still has a soul as beautiful as ever.
I keep reading people say it’s selfish to travel at the moment, but I obviously don’t agree – as long as you’re sensible, being as safe as you can be, are insured and follow the guidelines of the places you’re visiting (including your own Governments travel advice), I say go for it – don’t expect it to be quite as carefree and ‘fun’ as usual, but Lord knows we all deserve a break from this year, and none of us need judging for taking any opportunity we get for that.
There are hundreds of underground reservoirs that lie beneath Istanbul, and the largest one of all is The Basilica Cistern. The cistern is in the old city, Sultanahmet, near Hagia Sophia and was built in the year 532, by a Byzantine Emperor.
From the outside, you’d never know this place existed – apart from the long queue of people lining up to visit in summer ,apparently! However, when you buy your ticket (we paid 10tl each as Berkay showed his ID card, but I think for foreign tourists its around 30tl) enter and go down the steps, you see the hidden beauty that lies beneath.
A forest of 336 columns support the arched ceiling, most of which were salvaged from the ruins of other temples and recycled. They are beautifully lit up from the ground, with the lights reflecting off the shallow water that still remains in the cistern. There are raised walkways over the pool of water, allowing visitors to walk around..
Obviously this place once held a lot of water, 100,000 tonnes according to the signs inside, and supplied places such as the Great Palace & Topkapi Palace but it is now almost completely drained.
One of the columns is noticeably different to the others – it is known as the crying or tear column as it is wet and has eyes engraved on it which look as if they are crying. It’s thought that this was deliberate, to honor the 7000 slaves who lost their lives during the construction of the cistern.
Towards the back corner of the cistern, there are two famous columns – the bases of which are carved with images of the snake-headed Medusa. One is placed upside down, the other on its side, and nobody really quite knows why – a mystery!
It is said that the cistern was forgotten about for a long period of time, and only got rediscovered in the 1500’s when a foreign traveler researching ruins in the area became curious after learning that residents in the area gathered fresh water and fish by lowering buckets into holes in their basements, leading into the cistern – I love this story, what a discovery that must have been! It became neglected even more so after its discovery, and it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that it was cleaned, renovated, properly drained and opened to the public.
Ever since I first saw photos of this place, one thing came into my mind – Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. Does anyone else see that?! I was so excited to visit as it really reminds me of that so much! My photo’s don’t really do it justice, in person it is a little eerie – dim lights, a mixture of atmospheric music and the sound of dripping water from above – quite off putting when drips land on your head!
Definitely a must visit place!
P.S click on any of the photos above to enlarge them and see them in all their glistening glory!
It’s been almost a year since my last post on this blog – but thanks to a trip to Istanbul last week, I have a lot of new material and photos to post!
I’ve wanted to go to Istanbul for years, but Berkay was never really keen to go, and we didn’t really have time, anytime we go to Turkey we just go back to Fethiye, because it feels like ‘going home’.
One day in November Berkay messaged me at work and said he wanted to go to Turkey in January, so I said lets go to Istanbul and he agreed.. when I got home from work that evening we booked our flights and hotel before he had a chance to change his mind!
We flew to Sabiha Gökçen airport on 10th January and I flew back to London again on 14th – so it was a very swift but very busy four day visit! Berkay is still in Turkey now as he has gone to visit his family in the village for a few days.
Despite living in busy London ourselves, I thought that a city as busy as Istanbul might be a bit overwhelming, especially as we had no idea where to go and where things were, or how to get around, but we found public transport in the form of trams, buses and ferries really easy and cheap and it was fun finding our way around a new place.
People kept telling me that because we landed at 5pm, we would be stuck in rush hour traffic for hours on the transfer to our hotel, but it actually only took an hour and a half which is pretty good going! The funniest thing for me was being sat in the car in traffic, seeing people stood out on the road, in between lanes,surrounded by cars, selling things like light up balloons, snacks and bottles of water – I have never seen that before, I suppose it might keep the kids quiet if they had been sat in traffic for ages though!
We stayed in the ‘Old City’ – Sultanahmet. Our hotel was basic but nice, and right next to Sultanahmet square and the Blue Mosque. We had a rooftop area where breakfast was served and the views were lovely! Berkay was surprised by how many foreign tourists were there considering it was winter. In the Sultanahmet area there were definitely more tourists than locals, and when walking past shops and restaurants everyone spoke to us in English because they didn’t expect either of us to be Turkish. One night we ate in a lokanta restaurant and even they assumed Berkay wasn’t Turkish because they asked him if he understood the language, which he thought was really weird!
I am so glad we visited in winter. It was cold, around 7oc during the day and 2oc at night, but it was mostly sunny and we only had one night of rain. I’m not sure I could cope with the heat in the city in summer and we wouldn’t have been able to do all the walking we done – we did about 50,000 steps over the first two days! It was nice being able to wrap up in our coats and hats and wander around without being too hot or sweaty!
I carefully planned every day of our trip with a list of things to see, I did a lot of research before hand, writing down places to visit and checking on the map how far away things were from each other and the best order to do things in and which routes to take – I wrote down how much museums and attractions would cost so that we had an idea of how much money we’d need with us each day too. It worked out really well because without the little plan I’d made we would have woken up each day without a clue where we were going, even Berkay reluctantly admitted that my careful planning was a good idea!
We managed to see everything on my list and more, which I was so glad about. My feet got blisters and my legs ached (why did nobody tell me how hilly Istanbul is!?!) but it was definitely worth it and the 4 days went by fairly slowly so we managed to pack so much in, and even had time for some afternoon naps. The first afternoon we were there we were laying on the bed catching up on social media when the bed started wobbling – we both blamed each other for shaking it and then realised that it was actually a earth tremor, but thankfully only a small one at 4.8 on the scale. Still, enough to remind me that whilst in Turkey you can never really fully trust the ground you walk on, and I do not miss going to bed everynight with earthquakes on my mind!
We managed to visit Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, Istiklal street, St Antoine’s church, Taksim Square, Dolmabahçe Palace, Basilica cistern, Topkapı Palace, Aya Sofya, Eminönü, the Spice Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, Istiklal Street at night, Balat and saw famous Turkish actors filming for a tv series – Çukur, Bulgarian St Stephen’s church, a boat trip down the Bosphorus, Suleymaniye Mosque & the Grand Bazaar.
Everything was so beautiful and I took over 1000 photos – I’m excited to finally have new things to write about, so come back for new posts soon! 🙂
Last Wednesday we returned from our end-of-season trip to Turkey. We wouldn’t normally visit so late in the year, but we mainly went out for Berkay’s brother’s wedding. Berkay went out 5 days before me to help with wedding preparations, and then I flew out the day the wedding celebrations began (all 3 days of it)…. I missed the actual ceremony as that was earlier in the week, but was there for 2 full days of wedding parties, one in the brides village, one in the grooms. It involved some bizarre traditions, like men beating the groom, having him dress up in women’s clothes then cooking his wife an egg… Thousands of people came to the family home and the final night ended in a few tears after police were called and closed down the wedding due to several fights…… Honestly, if I didn’t have photographic evidence of all this stuff you’d all think I was making it up…
Anyway, after surviving 4 nights in the village, with the help of some ‘rescue remedy’ drops (seriously…) I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was finally time to drive to Calis. Berkay’s brother and his new wife came with us for a few days too. We stayed in our favourite hotel, Jiva Beach Resort, which was lovely but also not without its surprises, partly because there was a loud, intimidating, narcotics anonymous convention in the hotel for a few days while we were there, with people from all over the world gathering… After a few days, that was over and during the end of our stay we were one of very few occupied rooms left…in fact, we checked out the morning the hotel closed for winter, so we had a very quiet last two days and practically had the hotel to ourselves! In amongst all that, we did the usual things, watched some beautiful sunsets, visited some old friends, made some new furry 4 legged ones and ate a lot of food! We also had some new experiences, visiting the new beautiful park in Calis/Fethiye was definitely a highlight, as well as hopping over to Sovalye Island for lunch, a first for us! Also somewhere amongst all the fun, we’re sure Berkay broke his toe.
As with everything, all good things must come to an end. Saying goodbye to our family and friends is horrible. Even saying bye to the hotel staff was hard, its funny how quickly you get into a routine of doing things and seeing people and then it’s hard to leave them all behind and go back to reality! I could never be one of those seasonal workers, making friends and knowing you’ll probably never see them again…I know they’re used to it and probably don’t really care about the people going and coming, but even for them I think it felt a bit weird right at the end of the season, there was definitely a strange atmosphere around! The hardest goodbye of all, was when we left the village and had to say bye to our Boncuk dog, she had the happiest face when we were around, and the morning we were leaving she just knew, she had the saddest face ever and she just broke my heart!
While we were out there, the clocks went back in the UK, but stayed the same out in Turkey, meaning the time difference is now 3 hours, long enough to leave us with a little jet lag on our return!
All in all, it was a good 12 days away, even if a little….very…stressful at times… It was the perfect end to the summer.
If you want beautiful, panoramic views of Fethiye, a good place to head to is ‘Aşıklar Tepesi’ – roughly translated to ‘hill of lovers’. You can reach it by car, up a very steep winding hill road, or via foot, up 163 steps from a backstreet below.
Whenever we rent a car, we usually drive up and pull over for a while so that we can take in the views, and on our last trip we did that twice.
The view at the top is just stunning. The boat yard, harbour and amphitheatre to the left, the main bay, marina and town in the centre, and Calis in the distance to the right. All the buildings, especially the more traditional houses with white walls and red/orange roofs look good from high above too. You can see various mountain ranges in the far distance and the trees growing on the hillside just frame the view perfectly.
There are wooden seating areas hanging over the edge, some of them are very rustic and wobbly and I’m always a bit afraid of them breaking! There used to be a little cafe up there but it’s been gone for a few years now and it still looks a bit of a mess really. You’ll also find piles and piles of sunflower seed shells on the floor, since it’s a popular place for locals to come and sit with a packet of them, a beer and their friends. You can sit here for ages, watching the boats sail in and out, but it’s equally as spectacular at night with the whole of Fethiye lit up down below. On the last day of our holiday back in June, Berkay’s family came to visit for the day since it was Bayram/Eid, so we took them up to the look out point and sat at a table with a couple of bottles of coke and some ice creams. His step-mum was too scared to stand too close to the edge so she took this photo of the rest of us instead, Berkay’s dad, brother, his brother’s fiancee and us.
Anyone who has been following my blog for a while will know that my favourite thing to do in Turkey is watch a sunset, and there is no better place to do that than in Calis!
There’s just something special about sitting on the beach watching the sun slowly shrink and disappear, at the end of another day.
Cloudy sunsets are particularly impressive, but this was on a clear day back in June, although a bit hazy due to the heat. I stood on the sand in front of Jiva Beach hotel, pointed my camera and snapped photos as the sun disappeared behind the mountains and hills in the far distance, going from a full circle to a tiny red slither, leaving an orange glowing sky behind. I love the slow gradient from red to all shades of orange, so perfect, as if straight off of an artists paintbrush onto a canvas.
People were swimming in the sea admiring the sunset for themselves too, so there are a few heads bobbing around in my photos!
Apparently, watching the sunset can have actual benefits on our health and attitude. Not only does it get us outside in the fresh air, but it’s also inspiring and reminds us that we should be thankful for each day, for each morning the sun rises and each evening the sun sets. Watching a sunset can apparently also be a stress reliever, as we watch the sun disappear it can help us feel like the weight of the worries and stress of the day is lifted from our shoulders, we can put the troubles of the day behind us. The soft orange glow of the sky can help us see things in a new light, and notice the beauty in things that the harsh daylight can make us easily miss.
In the summer the sun sets towards the right hand side of the beach, so its partially blocked by the hill, but it still looks beautiful. In winter months however, the sun sets right on the horizon, right in the middle of the sea as you look at it from Calis Beach, I haven’t seen one of those kinds of sunsets for a few years, perhaps in October…
Aside from the beach, neither Berkay or I had visited Dalyan before, so when we had the chance to spend the night there we tried to make the most of it!
After coming back from the beach on the boat, I really fancied fish for dinner. Overwhelmed by the amount of restaurants to chose from, I messaged one of my Facebook friends who lives in Dalyan and she recommended we go to a restaurant called ‘Casa Nova’, where her husband works. So, off we went to find that restaurant and we were not disappointed! The whole restaurant was really nicely decorated and looked really fancy. Note the sign – you will see pomegranate signs and decorations everywhere in Dalyan as it is famous for its pomegranate growing, with millions of trees producing the fruit in the area.
The restaurant had a main menu to chose from, but also a cabinet full of fresh fish. We decided to share one as it was quite big! I can’t remember what kind of fish it was, but all I know is that when grilled and served it was very yummy! It was served with onions and tomatoes and chips, along with the side salad, bread, dips and olives we had already been given. My friend had also arranged for us to have a fruit plate for dessert, courtesy of her, bless!
The location couldn’t have been better either, a lot of the tables were already reserved but we managed to get one right on the waters edge, so we had a beautiful view while we were eating – we got to watch the sun go down behind the rocks, boats sail past and admire the floating garden boat while we ate, too! Considering how lovely the setting and the food was, the bill was very reasonable, so I definitely recommend it.
After dinner, we walked around the town centre, trying not to get lost! At night the roads are blocked off to traffic so you can wander around the many streets and side streets of the main town centre safely – it’s like a square maze of restaurants, bars and shops. There seemed to be the perfect mix of everything, something for everyone. Cocktail bars, coffee shops, souvenir shops, restaurants, and bakeries!
We stopped at one bakery for some cake, as they just looked too good to resist, but they were quite expensive, 30tl for 2 pieces, which shocked Berkay. He still talks about it now, “if i think about that expensive cake I can’t sleep”! I guess Dalyan is a little more expensive than what we’re used to in Calis and Fethiye.
By night, Dalyan still looks pretty, especially the rock tombs lit up, and the mosque in the town centre. I also loved that they had a little cat garden with beds safe for street cats and a bird house which seemed to be very popular with local pigeons!
We stayed at the Tezcan hotel, right on the waterfront by the marina. It was fairly basic but had clean rooms and a good buffet breakfast and was in a perfect location. The next morning before we left, we went for a stroll along the marina with a bag of dog and cat food and fed some of the local stray animals. It was so peaceful in the morning.
Over all I really liked Dalyan, the beach, the river, the scenery, nightlife, restaurants… there was definitely something for everyone and it caters for all kinds of tourists. A really lovely place!
Our little mini-adventure on the way back to Calis from Denizli took us from Akyaka to Dalyan. We’d been there on a day trip once before as part of an organised coach tour but didn’t see any of the main town, so this time we decided to stay for the night and see a bit more.
We arrived at lunchtime and drove around for what seemed like forever trying to find our hotel! It seems the whole of the main town has a one way system going on and Berkay ended up very lost and very confused! After asking a lot of passers by, we finally found our hotel, Dalyan Tezcan Hotel, which was right on the waterfront.
After checking in, we packed a bag ready for the beach and headed to the waterfront and marina, literally only a 30 second walk took us to the ‘dolmus boat’ which runs regular trips down the river to Iztuzu Beach. I think it was 15tl each for a return journey.
The trip down the river, twisting and turning through the reeds lasts for around 45 minutes. On the way, the boats pass the very impressive Lycian rock tombs, carved into the cliff face. There are 6 main ones, the largest of which is unfinished. They have been there for thousands of years, silently overlooking Dalyan, watching the changes happen and the people come and go, oh the tales they could tell!
When we done this trip 5 years ago the boats stopped half way through and a nearby fisherman offered to sell you freshly cooked blue crab, but I don’t know if they still do this as we didn’t see any this time!
After the 45 minute trip along the river, the boat came to a sandy bank at one end of the beach, with a small jetty where people were able to disembark. The first thing we saw was this interesting sign, with lots of places listed and the distance to each one.
Iztuzu Beach is an arc shaped, 5km stretch of sand, it’s quite narrow and looks beautiful from above. You can get the boat to it like we did, or drive (or walk if you’re feeling adventurous!). The boats dock at one end of the arc and the car park is at the opposite end, so I suspect the car park end of the beach is probably less busy. It has toilets, a cafe and sun loungers/umbrellas, but other than that is relatively untouched, even the facilities are environmentally friendly though. Years ago there were plans for a hotel to be built on the beach, until in 1988 Prince Philip, as the head of the WWF, stepped in and begged the Turkish government to rethink. Following a study into the impact it would have on the environment and nature, the project got cancelled and the whole beach and surrounding area became a protected site.
The beach is a nesting site for the famous Caretta Caretta turtles, so you can only access it during the day, at night during the summer seasons the turtles come to lay their eggs. A team from Pammukale University have been researching and studying the turtles over a long period of time and have a turtle sanctuary set up at one end of the beach which we visited, but that deserves it’s own post, so I will write one soon!
The best thing about the beach is the golden sand, there aren’t many sandy beaches in the Dalaman area, a lot are stony and pebbly, with only Iztuzu and Patara really standing out to me as pure sandy beaches. The downside to the sand of course is how hot it gets, you know that feeling when you’re walking along in flip flops, getting your toes burnt, and the ridiculous run/dance you do to reach the sea when you decide it’s time to swim, then realise you’ve underestimated how hot the sand is and you have to run back to get your flip flips and take them to the waters edge with you anyway!
When we arrived at the beach it was lunch time and we were really hungry so we went to the wooden cafe and ordered some chips and drinks. Surprisingly, the prices were very reasonable, they could easily take advantage and charge a lot more. The shaded benches provided a very welcome break from the sun too.
There are wooden sun loungers and umbrellas available to rent on the beach, one sun bed and an umbrella was 10tl, and two beds and one umbrella was 15tl. We hired two and laid down sunbathing for a while before heading into the sea to cool off, it was an afternoon in early June so it wasn’t overly busy.
Apparently it gets very windy at this beach in the afternoon so it may be better to visit in the morning, although I can’t say that we had any problems, the sea wasn’t too wavy and it was lovely and relaxing.
When it was time to leave, we just headed back to the boat area and boarded one of the dolmus boats, then started the 45 minute trip back to Dalyan – the boat was very full though, barely enough room to squish our bums in!
Iztuzu beach is definitely worth a visit, if you want to do something really touristy, I recommend the boat taxi to the beach, but if you prefer things a bit quieter then maybe avoid the boats and make your own way to the beach instead, the boats can sometimes be a bit chaotic! The whole area, the reed-lined river, the pine covered mountain and the golden sandy beach is beautiful and very clean and it’s clear that it’s very well looked after, thankfully!
Whenever we visit Turkey we end up doing the same things and going to the same places, so this year we fancied a bit of a change and did a few days exploring. After spending a day in Denizli and the village, we left in the early afternoon and drove a couple of hours to Akyaka.
The road down to Akyaka is very winding and bendy, and has a place you can pull over and take photos of the view – we stopped there when we were passing by last September and it looked really pretty so that’s what made us chose there to visit!
By the time we arrived it was late afternoon and we were really tired, hot and bothered so we found our hotel and freshened up before going out for dinner.
We went to the first restaurant we came across, which was more of a lokanta, selling traditional Turkish dishes which are cooked in bulk and then you can chose which you want. There were a lot of those type of small restaurants around, advertising home cooked food – Berkay chose it expecting it to be cheap, but it wasn’t really! He had Etli Nohut (beef and chickpea stew) and rice, and I had Karniyarik (aubergine stuffed with mince) and rice. We also had künefe to share for dessert, yummy!
After dinner we went for a walk, totally clueless about where we were actually going or where anything was! We came across a river and walked across the bridge to the other side and followed the little marina around and then walked back again. I’d heard about the boat trips down the river Azmak and when we were crossing the bridge we saw one returning so we went to ask about it and ended up on one 2 minutes later! I will write another post about that as I have lots of photos to share.
When we got back from the 20 minute boat ride, the sun was close to setting so we followed the path from the river towards the main marina where the big boats were docked. Whilst walking along the promenade we came across lots of little stalls selling handmade goods and souvenirs like jewellery, painted pebbles, dream-catchers, fridge magnets etc – they were really pretty. We also came across a ‘phone box’ in the shape of a seagull, which I just had to get a photo with, I loved its quirkiness!
All the wandering around we had done and we hadn’t yet found the beach… until we turned the corner and finally reached it, just in time for sunset. It was really beautiful small beach, the shallow waves lapping on the sand, the red glow on the horizon and the mountains framing the view perfectly.
The beach in Turkey wouldn’t be the beach without some street food vendors selling Midye (stuffed mussels) and salted corn on the cob, so we just had to get some before heading back to our room for the night.
The next morning we went for a early morning walk before breakfast, we went straight to the beach and saw it in all it’s glory – blue sky, palm trees, calm sea and crystal clear water. The best thing about the beach is the fact the sea is so shallow, you can walk really far out and it only be up to your knees, perfect for children paddling. The water was so clear you could see the pattern of the sand on the floor, and little fish swimming around. I wish we had a little more time to spend there, so we could have swam properly!
After our walk we went back to our hotel’s restaurant for breakfast (it was a separate building a few feet down the road, owned by the same people). There was a bit of an issue getting it, since the staff didn’t turn up to open it until after 10.15am, and that was only because we asked someone to ring them and wake them up! But when we finally did get it it was a nice, traditional Turkish breakfast with eggs, honey, jam, tomato, cucumber, cheeses, olives and bread.
We stayed in the Ala Butik Hotel, a small boutique hotel. It didn’t have a pool but the rooms were lovely, modern and clean and it was in a perfect location a few minutes walk away from the marina, but honestly the staff weren’t very friendly or helpful at all (even before the breakfast incident!) I don’t think either of the receptionists smiled once which made us feel more of a nuisance to them than a welcome guest!
Something we loved about Akyaka was the fact that the houses, hotels and buildings were all the same design, white buildings with carved brown wooden roofs, windows and balconies – they looked really impressive and pretty.
Unfortunately, like most places, too much tourism is having an impact on Akyaka. In the 1970’s it was a small fishing village, but it’s becoming more popular and struggling since it’s not built for so many people. Before we went, I was warned to avoid it on a Sunday, since that’s the day when a lot of Turkish people have their day off and flock to the beach for a free day out, often leaving lots of rubbish behind. We arrived on the Sunday afternoon and it was really, really busy, with cars everywhere, parked in really random places, leaving us struggling to find a spot anywhere near our hotel. The streets are fairly narrow too, with lots of the restaurants and bars having tables and chairs along the paths, leaving us no choice but to walk in the road and having to dodge cars here there and everywhere! Thankfully, by Monday the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed with a lot less people and it was much more enjoyable, so I would stick to the advice one of my blog readers gave me and definitely avoid Akyaka on a Sunday! We also noticed the restaurants and shops were more expensive there, I think they rely a lot on organised tours and day trippers for their income, so raise the prices a bit to reflect that.
I definitely want to visit Akyaka again as we loved it, especially Berkay, he loved it so much he looked to see how much it would cost to buy land there, unfortunately for him it was in the millions of lira! It’s definitely worth a visit, especially for the beach and the boat trip down the river, I’ll share some photos of that in my next post.
If you’re looking to visit Akyaka yourself, it’s around 2 hours drive from Fethiye, or 30 minutes from Marmaris and the Mugla city centre.