A Trip to one of Turkey’s Coastal Secrets
The town of Köyceğiz lies in a beautiful lakeside setting about 150km to the west of Kalkan where we have our home in Turkey. It is a great retreat from the bustle of so many of the towns along Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline. Once there, you will find it hard to believe that Marmaris, Turkey’s answer to Blackpool, is just behind the hills in one direction, and Dalaman Airport behind the hills in the other direction. Köyceğiz Belediye took the decision some time ago that, whilst it would welcome visitors with open arms, it didn’t want to be over-run by tourist and holiday villas with swimming pools. In doing so they have created the antidote to places dominated by the tourism industry, such as Kalkan.
At first glance non-Turkish speakers can be easily put off by the name Köyceğiz, which seems to be impossible to pronounce. Actually it is quite easy to get a working pronunciation. Look at it as coy-je-is. This won’t suit the language purists but, believe me, it will be understood and that’s the acid test.
Getting to Köyceğiz from Kalkan or any place on the Turkish Mediterranean coast is easy. From Kalkan by car take the D400 towards Fethiye which you pass on the left after about one hour. Continue on the D400 passing Dalaman town and Ortaca until you come to a slip road on the right hand side signposted to Köyceğiz. The road bends under the D400 and you approach the town along a palm-lined boulevard reminiscent of a French town. Follow this road and you will come to the town centre with a paved area straight in front of you, leading to the lakeside promenade.
For the more adventurous, and for a better taste of Turkey, it is easy to get there by bus. The daily Izmir bus from Kalkan will take you directly to Köyceğiz or you can take any bus to Fethiye and change to one of many buses that pass Köyceğiz en route to Muğla, Marmaris, Bodrum and Kuşadasi. If taking the Izmir bus then it is best to book a ticket in advance but generally tickets can be purchased at the time of travel. If you are changing buses in Fethiye, don’t buy a through ticket as this will restrict you to buses belonging to the same company or its business partners. It is better and no more expensive to buy single tickets for each leg of the journey at the time of travel. At Köyceğiz, the Otogar (bus station) is on the edge of the town but there are connecting shuttle buses that will take you into the town centre.
Getting accommodation is very easy. In the peak season it may be prudent to book ahead but off-peak just turn up and take your pick. A personal favourite is the Alila Hotel on the lake shore and very close to the town centre. A double room with en suite facilities and breakfast was available for 65 TL per night in June 2011. There is a good choice of other small hotels and pensions.
The most outstanding feature of Köyceğiz is the lake. The water is constantly changing colour depending on the position of the sun in the sky, when it can vary through all the shades of blue from turquoise to aqua marine. Most of the time it is virtually flat calm but one afternoon during a recent visit a thunderstorm passed through the area and sent the lake into a turmoil of white water that sent the trip boats scurrying for shelter and the lakeside cafes racing to take down their umbrellas . Fortunately this storm passed over quickly and in the evening the lake transformed into a scene of dark blue, moonlit tranquillity.
Köyceğiz Göyü (Lake) is approximately 12 km by 5 km and is surrounded by low hills. Köyceğiz town is situated on the northern shore whilst from the southern shore the lake flows into the Dalyan River that the meanders for some 7 or 8 kms to the sea. There are daily boat trips across the lake, along the Dalyan River, past the town of Dalyan and the Lycian site of Kaunos and onto the magnificent sandy beach where turtles nest.
Köyceğiz is an excellent centre for exploration. Apart from Dalyan, which can be reached by boat, bus or road and Marmaris which can be reached by bus or road, there are also the beautiful peninsulas of Datcha and Selimiye which stretch out into the Aegean and overlook a number of Greek islands including Kos and Rhodes. These can only effectively be reached by car although you can get to Marmaris by regular bus and then travel onwards by dolmus .
The capital city of the province is Muğla, a busy city with many attractions. It is about a 60 km journey and can be reached by direct bus as well as by car. The most impressive feature of the city is the old Ottoman quarter that stretches from the city centre up the hillside to the north. It is a maze of white houses with red tiled roofs and wooden balconies and doors. Interspersed between the houses are mosques and small corner shops. As you walk up the narrow streets you literally touch the stone walls of the houses on each side of you, and glimpse tantalising courtyards with trees and flowers. Small children play in the streets and will happily respond to a wave and a ‘merhaba’.
At the bottom of the Ottoman Quarter there is another maze of street with a wide range of specialist shops selling anything from art and ironwork to general household goods and caged birds. The prices are well below tourist towns. The City Museum has a collection of the locally discovered fossilised remains of pre-historic animals. There are also busts and statues of Roman gladiators carved from local marble and examples of pottery, clothing and carpets from more recent times.
Dalyan is another town that is well worth a visit. It has some similarities with Kalkan in that there is a large ex-pat community but it has more old houses, is surrounded by a thriving agricultural industry and it is on the flat, i.e. no hills. Not to be missed is the major beach of Iztuzu or Turtle Beach There is a continuous sandy beach stretching some 8-10km with good facilities similar to those at Patara. This beach is a breeding ground for Loggerhead and Green Turtles. There is also a turtle refuge and re-habilitation centre for turtles that have been injured or trapped in nets. This centre, located at the eastern end of the beach, can be visited. From Dalyan town the beach can be reached by river boat for the western end and by dolmus or car for the eastern end.
Throughout the whole of Köyceğiz area there are excellent places to eat. Many are much simpler than you find in Kalkan and prices can be 25% lower for similar meals. They tend not to offer appetisers and the complimentary drink at the end of a meal will be çay or coffee but a good bottle of house wine is around 20 TL. The waiters will try to entice you into their restaurants but there is no hard sell and a “thanks but no thanks” is understood.
If you happen to be in Köyceğiz on a Monday, there is an excellent bustling market, set out among the little shopping streets surrounding the town square. Prices are excellent and compare favourably with Fethiye market. No hassle, no cheek – and lots of really cheap food.
So if you’re looking for a break from Kalkan and want to see a bit more of Turkey without covering vast distances, then Köyceğiz should be high on your list. It ticks all the boxes and won’t break the bank. And for some added adventure, try the public transport option.