Last weekend, Oğuzhan and I left Izmir for the much bluer, greener, and slightly more humid Fethiye and Ölüdeniz, two beautiful cities located in the province Muğla, Turkey. We rented a car with our two friends Jocette (Jo) and Salih, and my little sister-in-law Lidya, who is only 11! We wanted to take her since she had never been.
Fethiye and Ölüdeniz are, in my opinion, a few of the liveliest cities in southwestern Turkey. There are so many things to do at the beach and in the area! There is paragliding, where you literally jump off the mountain; parasailing and other water sports like jet-skiing, wake-boarding, tubing and water-skiing. There is also paddle-boating, paddle-boarding, and kayaking. Since Lidya is so young, and I am deathly afraid of heights, we opted for kayaking in the beautiful Blue Lagoon.
The Blue Lagoon is one of the most famous sites in Ölüdeniz. In the summertime thousands of people come, rent beach chairs and umbrellas, and swim in the blue sea with their families. The water is calm and shallow which makes it great for families with small kids. There are mainly local Turkish tourists and English tourists visiting Ölüdeniz. Since Turkey is a 99% Muslim nation, it is not unusual to see women wearing bathing suits that fully cover their head and body, as a symbol of their value for modesty. Then there may be a few Americans and people of other nationalities around, like me and Jo. Turkey is known to be a place where the worlds of East and West meet, and apart from Istanbul, I think this truth is most apparent on the western coast at the beach. We may all come from different worlds and nations, but we all had the same purpose: to relax, have fun and enjoy vacation with our friends and families in the sun! There are children piggy-backing on mom and dad, kids and adults splashing and wading in the water, and laughter heard all around. We were just there to relax and have a good time.
After hours lounging and kayaking at the Blue Lagoon, we headed to dinner in Fethiye at a steakhouse called Manchero that is right on the water. It has outdoor seating next to the water, which is a great spot for a nice dinner. Manchero is by far my favorite restaurant in Fethiye. I’ve been there three times on all of my visits and I’ve always left satisfied. This time I ordered ‘kuzu incik‘ which is a lovely lamb dish. They have excellent meat, and if meat is not for you, there are many fantastic non-meat options on the menu, as well.
On our second day, we rented a small private speed boat in Ölüdeniz to take us to Kelebek Vadisi (Butterfly Valley), which is essentially a private beach since you can only get there by boat- unless you want to risk death and break the law by scaling the mountainside. Most tourists go on boat tours, called a tekne tur. These boat tours are extremely affordable, lots of fun, and take you to many locations to swim throughout the day. The only down side is it is usually the only thing you can do that day, since it returns to shore in the evening.
We opted for the speed boat, because we wanted to make the most of our time that day. We only had the weekend, after all! We sped over the Kelebek Vadisi, which only took about 35 minutes from the main shore and each of us took turns driving the speed boat. Lidya definitely made us all smile and giggle as she tried to steer the boat, but couldn’t quite manage to go straight. She zig-zagged from left to right, much like the day before when she tried kayaking for the first time. Nobody said driving a boat was easy! But we are so proud of her for trying something new and a little scary for her!
Ozzy and I decided to hike to a small waterfall wedged in the rocks at Kelebek Vadisi. It takes about 45 minutes to walk there and back, but it is a lovely, shaded trail hidden under the trees. However, you won’t miss the beautiful mountainside, they are still very visible during the trek! The waterfall wasn’t much to see but the walk was a nice reprieve from laying on the beach and getting active. For 65-80 TL you can even pitch a tent on the beach and stay the night. They have bathroom and shower facilities, as well as a few cafes and restaurants to get food and drinks.
After heading back from Kelebek Vadisi, we ate some burgers (with bacon in them, a rarity in Turkey. Thank you British tourists) and headed to our next destination: Saklıkent. Saklıkent (meaning hidden city) Canyon is about an hour drive from Fethiye, so you see more local Turkish tourists. Foreign tourists tend to stay at all-inclusive hotels, and don’t rent cars which limits them from freely exploring the area. Did I mention Turkish drivers are crazy? Regardless, I highly recommend this beautiful canyon, it is well worth the trip!
We arrived and were blown away by the beauty of this canyon and the turquoise blue water. In order to actually get to the canyon, you have to pass through some small rapids while hanging on to a rope. Even in this heat and humidity, that rushing water was ICE COLD. It hurt a little to enter in, but if you can last the few minutes to pass by to the other side the numbness wears off quickly.
*Tourist tip for Turkish beaches: They have small rocks, not sand, so definitely buy some good water shoes or be willing to totally soak your own shoes! Not only is it a bit painful to step on the mini rocks barefoot, the rocks are very hot too.
We wandered through the canyon for about 15 minutes before turning back. There is plenty of canyon to wander through! We loved seeing the large mountains and laughed at the people smearing mud all over their face. The mud is thought to be a natural exfoliant. Why not get beautiful while walking, right?
On our way back from Saklikent, we noticed a bunch of signs for Bıldırcın kebabı, or quail kebab. None of us had tried quail before, so we stopped off on the side of a road a restaurant called Pembe Piknik. We ordered some quail with some ayran (a salty yogurt drink- its delicious) on the side. The restaurant had floor seating with many pillows, so we lounged while we waited for our food.
We headed back to Fethiye and decided to split for dinner so Salih and Jo could finally have some alone time. They ate at a restaurant called Mozaik Bahçe, which has great traditional eastern Turkish food. We went to a restaurant called Limon H2O and were also all very happy with our dishes. I had a shrimp and bell pepper casserole that was just perfect in size and flavor. Limon H2O and Mozaik are both near the Fethiye harbor.
For our last morning before heading home, we went to a village nearby for breakfast called Kayaköy. Kayaköy is an ancient city that is made up of old rock houses, and appears to have been entirely abandoned. We went to a restaurant called Antik Restaurant and enjoyed a classic village breakfast, which is always better than the regular Turkish breakfast you get in the city (although they are all quite grand). I also ordered some gözleme, which is advertised in english as “turkish pancakes,” but it really resembles more of a quesadilla. It is made from thin lavash bread and has cheese, butter and various greens that you want inside. Really, you can put whatever you want in it! Just don’t be deceived by the word pancake, it is not a pancake.
If you enjoy the beach, sunshine, water sports, yummy food, a family atmosphere and boat trips then you should definitely plan a trip to Fethiye and Ölüdeniz. I hope my tips and stories offer you some insight and guidance on fun things to do and places to eat on your next trip to Fethiye!
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