Are you desperate to escape manic city life, even just for a few days? With regular flights from Istanbul to Dalaman, a long weekend break is possible. If the great outdoors beckons come to Kayaköy, one of the top places to refresh your mind and body. A six-hour trekking route through the Kayaköy Peninsula will refresh your body and soul.
Nestled in the hills above Fethiye, Kayaköy is a corner of Turkey that beguiles all who visit. Overlooked by the abandoned hillside town of Levissi, a legacy of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne and the population exchange between Ottoman Christians and Greek Muslims, the valley is full of the wonders of nature, and intrigues and mesmerizes those who visit.
In the age of mass tourism, Kayaköy valley has managed to remain relatively untouched with springtime fields bright with meadow flowers that form a patchwork quilt of rural homesteads that sit comfortably alongside cottages and holiday accomodation.
At 200 meters above sea level, the area has a unique microclimate, always a few degrees cooler during the summer months and sheltered in the winter. This, together with the surrounding forested hills and mountains, make it ideal for those who trek.
One such adventurer is outdoor sports specialist Dean Livesley, who has lived in Turkey for almost 30 years and in Kayaköy for seven. “When I lived in Kayaköy, I lived in an old stone house down a dirt track,” Livesley told The Guide Istanbul. “Winter and early spring when there were not many, if any, people around was always a great time for exploring. Many times I would be sitting in front of my computer trying to work but the draw of the winter sunshine and blue skies would nearly always result in me getting my walking boots on and heading out the door.”
For Livesley, one of the most challenging yet enjoyable treks is one that goes through Kayaköy’s peninsula and its historical sites. There are also breathtaking views and a level of remoteness that allows visitors to experience a remarkable level of solitude.
Kayaköy – Afkule Monastery – Haç Beli (Church) – Turunç – Kayaköy
This six-hour trekking route takes visitors on a mainly well-kept footpath through the coastal hills of the Kaya Peninsula. Along with enticing nature and spectacular views, this walk uncovers the ruins of the past. For the extra fit, a steep descent and ascent of 200 meters provides a swimming and refreshment opportunity at Pınaraltı beach and restaurant.
Start from the village center and head south along the Hisarönü road toward the abandoned town of Levissi. Turn right at the first bend. The narrow road bends left; at the next sharp right continue straight toward the church. Continue through the ghost town, past the church and ruined houses.
Follow the trail toward Kınalı Mahallesi, which is a sharp right by a stone house followed by the first left along the dirt road running through the fields. Before reaching Kınalı, a footpath leads to the left to the edge of the valley and joins a wider trail that continues to Gemile Road.
Turn left along the asphalt road and continue for one kilometer until you turn right at a forest road signposted to the Afkule Monastery. Pick up the way-marked path (red and yellow stripes) swinging right then left. The path is a steep ascent than a descent to the monastery, which was built on a cliff. It is possible to climb the steps and explore the cave-like rooms. From here, one can enjoy a magical sunset view over Fethiye bay. Retrace your steps to the main walk.
The path heads up the hillside, veering right and ascending to a small clearing with olive trees. Continue until you reach a clearing with cultivated olive and carob trees. Veer left toward the sea and follow the steady ascent around the hillside and back into the forest. The route descends into a clearing and the path continues, descending to the left of a water hole.
The trail continues down to an open terraced area. Head for the large oak tree and ruined church. The triple-vaulted Haç Beli Byzantine church has a mysterious location built in total seclusion. Facing the church, turn left and continue to the way marks by the first terrace. The path goes toward the sea and veers right with the sea below, to your left. The path now becomes indistinct and descends slightly though scrubby oak trees. Keep an eye out for way marks.
Facing the church, turn left and continue to the corner of the clearing to pick up the way marks by the first terrace. The path stays level, heading toward the sea then veering right around the hillside with the sea below on your left. The path now becomes indistinct, descending slightly through the scrubby oak trees. Keep an eye out for the way marks; the trail becomes easier to follow on a defined path through the pine forest with a view opening across to Kızılada feneri (lighthouse).
The path descends through pine and strawberry trees before rising over a small erosion zone to a small stony clearing. The trail continues straight. Keep to the right at the next clearing before reentering the forest. Reaching a rocky bluff, two Lycian tombs cut from the rock can be clearly seen to the right. On the left a local shepherd has made a shelter under the rock and it is possible to scramble up the boulder for the view. There is evidence of ruins and numerous pottery shards scattered everywhere.
A well-defined path continues around the hillside, passing a circular stone mortar used for crushing and milling in ancient times. At the next clearing the trail continues straight, rising back into the forest. By the trail there are more ruins with an ancient construction partially uncovered with evidence of digging by modern treasure hunters.
Optional walk to Pınaraltı
This trek is a little further along the main trail, cutting left on an indistinct path descending through the trees. The route continues over old terracing leading to a large walnut tree with a fresh water spring below and finally to the coast and Pınaraltı Restaurant. The restaurant is open from May to the end of October and is very popular with gulets and yachts.
Along this trail is the only swimming opportunity along the trail. Above the spring there are ruins of an old stone house. Veer to the left of the gulley and ascend through the trees to rejoin the main path in an open area. Allow at least one-and-a-half hours for this scenic and refreshing detour.
The open area provides wonderful views of mountain and sea. Continuing along the trail, descend left and zigzag down to a spring. At the next clearing, there is more evidence of a ruined construction and graves cut from the stone. The trail continues descending, and then cuts through lush vegetation of myrtle, with two ancient cisterns hidden in the bushes. This area also has several species of orchid, which flower in springtime.
The route eventually comes to an open area the size of a football field. Continue along the path through the scrub on the left side. The rocky trail now ascends over the brow for a view of Mendos and Babadağ mountains, with Kaya valley below. The path leads to a domed whitewashed cistern. Turn right on the road and head down into the village.
At the foot of the hill carry on straight past the water fountain, continue for one kilometer, and then fork left by the plane trees and cisterns. Continue along the road to the Belen junction between the teahouses and turn left to complete the loop and walk to the center of the village. Have a glass or two of çay at the local tea house.
Ensuring quick return, dolmuş (local buses) run between Kayaköy and Fethiye throughout the year but more frequently during the summer months.
To stay safe and healthy during your trek, remember to pack the following:
- Walking shoes: a good pair of walking shoes is recommended, asthe paths are quite rough and steep in places.
- Walking/hiking sticks: recommended for all but the young and mountain goats.
- Sun hat: the sun is invariably hotter than you think.
- T-shirt: sunburn can ruin your holiday.
- Shorts or trousers: to avoid injuries from the prickly undergrowth.
- Sunscreen/block: to avoid sunburn apply to all those exposed bits.
- First aid kit: in case of any mishaps.
- Sunglasses: lack of eye protection can cause headaches and worse.
- Water: dehydration is not a nice experience and can ruin your holiday.
- Camera: so many wonderful views to share with your friends!
For more treks around southwest Turkey contact Dean Livesley at www.sevencapes.com