Despite problems, amazing experience in Turkish nature calls
Işıl EğrikavukA few months ago, an American friend of mine told me about a weeklong getaway where you can swim, hike the famous historic Lycean way and stay on a boat on the most untouched beaches in southern Turkey. As a Turkish citizen, I consider a holiday to be mostly about lying under the sun and swimming every now and then, spending most of the day on the same beach. Hearing about a different voyage was exciting, yet I had no idea what was waiting for me.
Due to the recent bombings in Istanbul, there has been a major fall in the number of foreign tourists visiting Turkey this year. According to a recent report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Turkey’s tourism industry has suffered as a result of terrorist attacks in the country, with summer bookings down by up to 50 percent. Living in Istanbul, I also knew that fewer tourists were visiting the city this year, and that seemed to be true for the south as well.
However, there are still people who are trying to create a safe and authentic experience for local and foreign tourists deep in Turkish nature. A Turkish-American collaborative company, Mediterranean Fitness Voyage (www.mdfvoyage.com), is one of them. The two partners of the company, Cindy Paulauskas and Ali Yalçın, are dedicated to ensuring that the experience is authentic and includes no cliché tourist traps.
Having decided to do my getaway with my mom, we plumped for their Blue Voyage, where you can stay in a private cabin on a gullet and spend most of the day hiking on the route of the famous Lycean Way, a 540-kilometer cultural route that follows in the footsteps of the Lycean civilization and its ancient remnants dating back to the fifth century B.C.
The voyage starts on the boat in the southwestern district of Fethiye, taking you through bluest, greenest and most untouched waters while giving you a chance to effectively enjoy your own private beach. Along the way, you might receive an escort of caretta carettas, a protected oceanic sea turtle that often leaves eggs on those beaches. They are harmless, but may seem funny at first when they pass beneath you while you are swimming.
Yalçın and Paulauskas said they started the company after they realized that many people think of holiday as a lazy getaway, yet there are also many who want to combine it with history, sightseeing and fitness. “And Turkey with all its history dating back to ancient civilizations and natural beaches is a perfect place for this,” Paulauskas said.
Our hikes included all those as well. We started off with Kayaköy, a ghost town that was inhabited by Greeks until the population exchange in the 1920s. Then we did hikes from uninhabited beaches upwards, where there is nothing but Lycean kings’ tombs and a nomad family protecting them in the middle of a low plain. We also did hikes in beautiful forests, among pine tree smells and amazing views. Our last hike was toward Kaunos, an ancient Greco-Roman city, where we saw the remarkably intact remnants of the city before heading toward Dalyan, another beautiful town where you can see the Lycean tombs – this time carved into giant rocks. However, the climax of the trip came when we all went to a Turkish mud bath and hamam in Dalyan after our longest hike, 12 kilometers, and headed to eating blue crabs, a specialty of Dalyan.
Mediterranean Fitness Voyage suggests that you go on hikes of between 3-12 kilometers every day, depending on your level of energy. However, their fitness options are not limited to that; you can also do morning and evening yoga on the boat with an instructor together at sunrise and sunset. If you are a natural-born swimmer like me, you can also jump into the water anytime you want or eat from the wonderful healthy food the crew prepares every day.
“A lot of people are asking us if Turkey is safe right now,” Yalçın said. “We are telling them that what you see on the news is only one part of the country; there are many other parts where you can be safe and really have an authentic experience.” The partners also offer other packages that combine the Greek islands as well.
Our group included mostly foreign tourists, especially from England and the United States. Coming to the tour for a second time, Amy Crawford Small and Rachel Gully said they loved the experience. Other guests also said the experience was quite different than coming to a foreign city on your own and getting stuck between crowded restaurants and drinking. Indeed, the one thing about the tour is that it gives you nothing but nature.
If you think that you are one of those people who love to combine walking, swimming, cultural sight-seeing and eating, this is one life-changing experience to do. Despite all the dark news in politics, the country still has a lot to offer thanks to its abundant nature.