There is something extremely liberating about long drives along a beautiful coast. You roll the windows down, the ocean breeze hits your face, with the sea open and wide that it makes you envision a freedom. It gets even better if there are small coastal towns and villages for you to stop along the way to sample their slow-paced lifestyles, taste their local delights and watch sunsets in the quiet of the waves lapping onto the shores.
If you like all these things, then a drive along the coasts of South Turkey, otherwise known as the Turkish riviera, is definitely something you should do.
In general, the Turkish coast drive spans as long as Izmir to Antalya, but if you have limited time and would like to not rush through it, you can always compress it down to a drive from Fethiye to Antalya instead. In fact, you’ll find that most people would agree that this part of the coast is more beautiful. I took a flight from Istanbul to Dalaman airport, which is the closest available airport to Fethiye. It’s called a ‘coastal drive’ after all, so you’ll do well to rent yourself a car and pick it up at the airport which will buy you more freedom.
1. Take A Long Walk By The Pier
My first stop, Fethiye, is a large port town with a relaxed atmosphere. I'd say that staying here for at least 2 days would give you ample time to see its main sights, although of course you can stay even longer if you wish to relax even more. The first order of business is to take a nice long walk around the neighbourhood, and so I recommend finding places to stay by the water because that’s where the livelihood of the town is. Even in winter, which was the season I was visiting in, you’ll see people hanging out by the pier, youths cycling down the blue-paved roads and children gleefully enjoying themselves at the playground. The air is crisp, and the sea water is a calm dark blue, with beautiful snow-capped mountains in the background. Yachts bob by the shore, and if you walk along the pier, it will naturally lead you towards the Old Town.
2. Visit The Old Town
In the Old Town, you’ll find a fish market, a popular place to go and sample Fethiye’s fresh seafood. If you’re a foreigner, expect the price to be marked up a little. Outside the fish market, you’ll find lots of small cafes dotted along the small streets – why not try out a bowl of lentil soup, or eat a spread of home-style dishes in a mom-and-pop lokanta? Tea shops are also available, which are small shops serving hot tea with some bread. I have recommendations on what you should definitely eat here.
In these coastal towns, Fethiye included, you’ll see a seamless blend of the ancient and new. Right smack in the middle of the modern town with modern architecture, you’ll find a sacorphagi. A sarcophagi, simply put, is an ancient tomb, and you’ll see plenty of these as you drive along. The ancient Lycians (who inhabited these coastlines centuries ago) believed that the living and dead should co-exist together, and so you’ll find these sarcophagis in the middle of a bustling town or village. Take a good half day to just walk around and explore the area, while sampling some local cafes.
3. See the Amintas Rock Tombs
Another great exhibition of Lycians are the Amintas Rock Tombs. These are virtually impressive, located in the cliffs of the hills in the back of the town. At a first glance, they actually resemble Petra in Jordan, although at a much smaller scale. It’s awe-inspiring to think about the amount of work it takes to carve monuments straight out of the face of a granitic hill. The tombs require a small entrance fee, although I must say it is definitely worth it, because not only do you get to admire some ancient history, but you’ll also get a sprawling view of Fethiye from a lookout point. It’s located at the edge of the city, and a few hours is more than enough for this.
4. Oludeniz Beach
You’ll be spoilt with beaches everywhere you drive along the Turkish coast, but around Fethiye, one of the most beautiful would be the Oludeniz beach. It’s a long stretch of sand capped at the edge by a range of mountains, and in the summer this place would be crowded. In winter, it’s best if viewed from its lookout point – you’ll get to enjoy the dark and mysterious Aegean sea as it splashes against the pale-coloured rugged coasts of the region.
To get the most out of Fethiye, I’d recommend staying there for at least 2-3 days, although I opted for a much shorter duration and it still was quite adequate to see key things in surrounding the town. My next stop driving out of Fethiye was Kas, a small charming village town a couple of hours from Fethiye, and you can read about that in the next article, which you can read here!
Where To Eat: Go here for recommendations for what I think you should eat in Turkey, in general.