There isn’t much that leave me speechless. Really, very little. Ask my long-suffering friends. But sitting back in my little couch-like harness, sailing through the blue skies some 2000 metres above the gleaming white sands and turquoise lagoons of Olu Deniz, I couldn’t muster a word. For a second or two, at least.
Olu Deniz is a beautiful seaside resort village - and famous paragliding destination - about half an hour's drive from Fethiye, where I spent a few blissful days as part of my visit to Turkey's Turquoise Coast to mark the beginning of Ryanair's flights to Dalaman.
Fethiye is a fairly big and very vibrant city, and it's a perfect base from which to explore the incredible Lycian Coast and all it has to offer. And it offers a lot. From ancient tombs to butterfly-filled valleys and deserted ghost-towns, Fethiye has a wealth of incrdible and beautiful attractions, and here are five of its highlights...
Just half an hour from Fethiye is the stunning seaside resort village of Ölüdeniz. It’s the first place I went and it’s the first place I’m sending you to. It’s just 15km from Fethiye and if you ask me, it’s better to stay in the city and go to Ölüdeniz for day trips. This way you get all the paradise you want - but in the evening you have a city to explore, and you’ll see a more ‘authentic’ Turkey.
Ölüdeniz is where you’ll find the famous blue lagoon as well as white sand beaches, buzzing little cafés and bars, myriad boat trips (including one to the beautiful Butterfly Valley), and more. It can get pretty busy in summer, because of course it does, but it’s a well-run little place so you’ll always find a spot to chill out. The sea is shallow and perfect for kids, therefore it's busy too, but swim out a little past them all and you'll feel beautifully alone in the crystal waters.
Ölüdeniz is also the perfect place to…
Well you don’t so much throw yourself off the mountain as you do run and take off from it. It’s an incredible feeling, the wind catching the parachute and billowing up, your feet lifting from solid ground... It would be wonderful even if you weren’t gazing down upon white sands and water so blue, clear, and inviting that you feel like a parachute failure wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. But you are gazing down upon that, and the views really do take an already exhilerating experience to dizzying new heights.
Paragliding from the 2000m high peak of Babadağ Mountan is one of the most popular activities you can do in Oludeniz, and on any clear day you’ll see a sky full of colourful arches dancing across the bay - on a busy day, some 3000 pilots take their passengers on the 20-30 minute flight from the mountain’s peak back down to earth.
It’s an amazing experience, honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I demand you do it too if you're in Fethiye. I went with Skystar paragliding, and felt like i was in exceptionally good hands throughout. One unforgettable flight is about €70, including a video and lots of amazing photos.
Kayakoy is a weirdly beautiful, fascinating, eerie, gorgeous deserted city that fell to ruin in the messy aftermath of the Greco-Turkish war, when a compulsory ‘population exchange’ saw over a million and a half people displaced from their homes to become refugees when forcibly returned to their homelands. Kayakoy’s 6,500 residents were sent back to Greece, and the town began to decay. In 1957, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake delivered a final and fatal blow to whatever buildings still stood intact
It’s a captivating place and yes, strangely beautiful, but poignant too. Walking through ruins that still bear hints of the decorative tastes of their old inhabitnts, it’s impossible not to think about the families that once lived inside all those crumbling walls, the lives that were uprooted and turned upside down because of this brutal war.
Not on a yacht, in The Yacht. Some of the nicest accommodation you’ll find in Fethiye is down by the marina, and of those hotels, I'd bet you my bottom euro that I stayed in the best one. I cannot recommend The Yacht Boheme more highly. It's a gorgeous boutique hotel, and it’s one done very, very well - from the calming, natural nautical design to the high-end fittings and even down to the l’Occitane toiletries.
There's nothing that wasn't impressive in the Yacht Boheme. Remarkably comfortable beds, wicker seats suspended from the ceiling, a huge powerful waterfall shower and an opulent bathtub in the balcony room I briefly called home. The breakfast is superb - genuinely one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had (and I’ve had plenty). Rooms even have blackout blinds that you can control from your bed. To put all this another way; this is a hotel you won’t want to check out from.
When you walk into a restaurant and it’s completely packed out with locals having a great time, you know you’re on to a good thing. Never has this been more true than in Fethiye’s fish market. The Fish Market is really famous with tourists in the city, but the fact that it’s retained its popularity with locals despite the influx of visitors tells you everything you need to know about the place.
It's a buzzing open air space, pretty much a market square but with most of the floor – except the centre – set up with dining tables. In the middle is the market – a stall with four sides, each side a refrigerated counter facing out customers, piled high with fresh fish. Behind the stall stand the fishmongers, joking, laughing, shouting - even smoking - while they compete to sell you their catch. You’ll find anything and everything here, from giant swordfish steaks to prawns, squid, and octopus. Once you’ve chosen and paid for your fish, you take to your waiter and they will have the chefs cook it to your exact liking for around €5 per person.
Start your meal with a selection of Turkish meze, and wash it down with some Raki (also known as 'Aslan Sutu', or 'Lion’s Milk’) – you’ll be hard pressed to find a better tasting, better value meal in the city, and you definitely can't match the atmosphere..
Ok, maybe not tomb raiding per se... tomb visiting. Tomb appreciating. Tomb MARVELLING. Because you will marvel at the amazing Lycian tombs at Tlos, just a 40 minute drive from Fethiye. These are like something from a paricularly dramatic Game of Thrones scene, and you can get right up close and even inside them (don't worry; they've been empty for any years now). There's an entire ancient city at Tlos, including an amphitheatre and an ancient sports stadium that you can explore - once you get past the bafflement of how these things were even created by human hands in the first place.
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- Dee Murray