A land of historic beauty
Between soaring mountains and an impossibly blue Mediterranean Sea, lies the land of the Lycians – an ancient people whose tombs now dot this rugged, Homeric landscape. The Persians, Athenians and Romans each had their hold over Lycia, the ruined architecture of the latter still delighting unsuspecting visitors at many a turn along many a trail.
The best known, and arguably most scenic, of these is the Lycian Way – a 310-mile tying-together of goat tracks and timeless paths, which traverses deserted beaches, lush forests and soaring peaks. Here, at its south-westerly sweep, it skims to touch a jewel of Turkey’s shoreline, the aptly named Turquoise Coast.
A town made of silk
Of all the settlements along these shores, Kalkan is one of the youngest. The original town's folk were Ottoman Greeks, who settled about 200 years ago and used this pretty bay to trade in silk, amongst other things. Today’s Kalkan favours the tourist over the trader, though mulberry trees – residence of choice for silk worms – continue to dot granite-paved streets in sophisticated memory of the past.
From a harbour edged with stylish eateries and Ibiza-esque chillout bars, narrow lanes lead to numerous restaurants, some of them rooftop and offering the best seats in the house for watching the sunset.
A crescent of perfection
Just a few miles west of Kalkan sits one of the longest – and surely most perfect – of the Mediterranean’s beaches. A silver hem to aquamarine sea, Patara beach boasts eight miles of coastal bliss backed by ancient Lycian ruins (in case the sunsets weren’t incredible enough).
On higher plains
Nestled high in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains, the village of Islamlar seeks solace from the heat – and from the pace of life in the busier dwellings of the world below.
Here, a village moves to its own rhythm – never courting attention, but attracting it nonetheless through tireless traditions, renowned hospitality and unbeatable views across fertile valleys to the white sands of Patara, far away.
Islamlar is Turkish countryside living at its beautiful best. A place where the tea gardens are somehow a touch more tranquil than elsewhere, and where pools fed by natural spring water are brimming with trout of such quality, the village’s restaurants are justly famed for miles around.
In ancient footsteps
A little farther to the east, and a little richer in history, lies the market town of Kaş. It dates back to around 4 BC and offers lots to ponder over during a sundowner along the palm-lined esplanade – the perfect vantage point for taking in the comings and goings of the local fishing boats as they weave between luxury yachts and traditional gülets.
Take to the water yourself and you might glimpse an ancient sunken city, while a wander up to higher ground might reveal the Lycian rock tombs. When the day's exploring is done, find one of the many cafés or tea gardens to dine alongside the locals in an atmospheric setting with a cool bohemian vibe.
A taste of Turkey
‘Fusion’ is invariably the theme when eating out in Kalkan, with Turkish flavours influencing contemporary dishes from far and wide. For more traditional fare, head out of town to the areas in and around Islamlar and Kaş and look out for gözleme – thin layers of dough, with a savoury or sweet filling.
At the heart of Turkish cookery is the concept of meze: small hot and cold dishes, invariably vegetarian, which are full of tantalising tastes, and served alongside irresistible dips ahead of the main course.
When morning rolls round again, you’ll find breakfast is given a bigger billing here than it perhaps gets elsewhere, with bread, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, olives, yoghurt and honey all having a place on the table.
Throughout Turkey, you’re never far away from a glass of warming ay tea, grown on the shores of the Black Sea and served black and strong in small, tulip-shaped glasses. Cooling, yoghurty ayran is a great accompaniment to pide (Turkish bread) and pancakes, or if you’d prefer something alcoholic, try a refreshing Efes, Turkey’s most popular beer. However, if you’re tucking into a fresh fish dish, act like a local and choose an aniseedy raki on the side.
In Kalkan, some of the best food – and cooler breezes – can be found atop the buildings at one of the town’s numerous rooftop restaurants, full of atmosphere and often with live jazz to give your evening a particularly laid-back vibe. And the waterfront never disappoints, with sofa-strewn cocktail bars luring those looking to enjoy an aperitif amid a sassier atmosphere before crossing the path to dine at the water’s edge.
Set in higher and cooler climes, Islamlar's restaurants invariably offer freshwater trout, the local speciality. Breakfast in the village is another must-do, sitting out on a terrace and enjoying valley views as sublime as the local yoghurt and honey dishes themselves.
Kaş is your destination for a more intensely Turkish culinary experience: a vibrant place where locals and visitors dine side by side at the wonderful selection of restaurants in the Old Town.
The most local option of all, though, must surely be to invite a chef to cook for you at your villa. Dine under the stars without so much as a whisper of ‘Who’s driving?’.