Muddy travels: Kalkan, Turkey
It may be off many people's holiday list this year, but not in the Muddy household and here are lots of excellent reasons why!
I love our county, I really do. It’s home to some fantastically talented people and some amazing artisans who I’m proud to call my friends, and it is a great place to return to when bones are truly warmed and horizons have been broadened. As some Rock N Roll wit once wrote ‘I never saw my hometown until I went around the world’. So this is a convoluted way of me saying I LOVE HOLIDAYS! Even though I live in a great place and this is a blog predominantly about stuff here, I do like to show you lovely readers all my other fave destinations around the world (but shhhhh, don’t tell everybody). Turkey is a particularly popular holiday choice in the Muddy household, despite the hype about terrorists (more of which later), and we just keep on going back. I’ve been to a few places in Turkey (it’s a mahoosive country), but my recent tip top favourite is the historic town of Kalkan. It’s sat on a cliff side along Turkey’s gorgeous Lycian Coast, which winds some 510km along Turkey’s south-western coast. The ruins of Lycian, Greek and Roman cities litter the area and the spectacular views over the Mediterranean coast and the rugged, mountainous scenery mean it’s been voted one of the best walks in the world. The path avoids the main tourist areas, and allows you to experience the natural beauty and welcoming locals of the Tekke Peninsula.
Kalkan can get quite a few visitors gracing its shores, but it’s not like the mass tourism of Bodrum and Marmaris. In fact, with numbers of people visiting Turkey going down, Kalkan definitely still retains its charming and unspoiled nature; brilliant blue crystal-clear sea, historic architecture, ancient history and warm traditional Turkish hospitality.
I first heard about Kalkan on my commuter train, and was so enamoured with the description (very foodie, beautiful seas and friendly people), I booked flights almost immediately. It was just out of season in October so lots of places were closed, but I stumbled upon the Pasha Hotel (more of which later), whose lovely owners actually gave me money off the apartment because there would be no barman working (as it transpired, more holiday makers booked, and the barman was there, with PROPER cocktails – no sex on the beach nonsense)! The trip was after a very bad personal time for me, so whatever you need a holiday for, I can promise you a shifted perspective that’ll keep you warm for a while after you leave…it’s pretty magical (oh, and did I mention, the nearby beaches are to die for).
Now, you might think that the easy reach of Turkey (4 hour flights to Dalaman from various Midland/London airports), and the ease of transferring to Kalkan (45 minutes south of traditional holiday destinations of Olu Deniz and Fethiye) would make this a place a holiday destination like any other; but in my humble opinion, it’s not. Sure it has all the amenities that make tourists tick, but there is a genuine warmth from the locals which is evident in the way they host you, they cook for you, they encourage your relaxation etc. And of course, then there are the colours and smells of Kalkan. Bright yellow sun, aqua blue sea and pink flowers for the day time, and then seductive neon and candlelights as the sun sets and the nightlife takes over. I’ve never felt so safe and so instantly part of a community than in Kalkan. And that’s why we’re heading back again this year.
And as it is, we’re heading back to Pasha Apartments with new owners Simon and Pauline in situ (who we actually met at the bar the first time we went, and are now our friends). The eagle eyed of you will notice that Pauline and Simon are not the most Turkish sounding names, but like many creatively minded Brits with an eye for art and culture, they’ve found their way down to this Turkish/European enclave – escaping Brum – and doing a really good job at convincing Muddy households like ours to holiday with them when (not massive) budgets allow (lots of people who holiday here, then move over, so be prepared). They’ve been visiting for many years and have lived there for three. And Simon, who is a keen photographer, is a bit of a Turkey afficianado, and can give you his personal Lonely Planet(esque) guide of great drives/walks/general exploring. He knows the roads off the beaten track where the only thing you’ll pass is the odd stray goat (certainly beats the pants off the A14/M25/M1 *delete accordingly), and he can advise on all of the historical sites in the area. But Turkey really, I hear you cry? And yes, you can’t shy away from the fact that the Turkish are experiencing difficult times, but don’t let that put you off. The problems of Istanbul are a 1,000km away and the Turkish (and British) people are at pains to point out that Turkey is a huge country, where West meets East, and largely where peaceful lives are led. Renowned travel journalist Simon Calder has been vocal about his stance on travelling to Turkey and wrote in The Times ‘I look forward to returning to Turkey soon, because the best way to counter random violence is to assert its futility by not changing your behaviour. The risks of a holiday in Turkey remain low, with road accidents presenting more of a danger than deranged gunmen or terror attacks.’
So with the terrorist threat analysed, more about the good bits! As I mentioned earlier, we first travelled to Kalkan as a family to escape trauma and testing times in the UK, and the antidote was beautifully packaged up in the shape of a lovely apartment, a fab mixologist/barman (and now friend) and as much sunshine as you would want. The team at Pasha – Simon, Pauline & Chris are the kind of people you just want to be around in any walk of life, and friendly hospitality combined with natural beauty is what really sets this place apart (they’ve just received an Exceptional 9.8 rating from Booking.com and full 5/5 reviews). It was our first visit (of many) to Kalkan in 2014, and the old owners were really lovely too. While we definitely weren’t part of the advance party in the 90’s, I gather the place has retained much of it’s natural beauty, despite an influx of tourists and (superb) restaurants – all competing for the best the town has to offer.
It’s a haven for us western Europeans, the sky is blue, the sun is warm, and the beaches are great. And Pasha is a haven of relaxation (and fun), so we danced, we kissed and made merry.
And what of the apartments themselves? I’d say more rustic than boutique, with lovely little details and artwork on the walls (see end of post). They’re simply decorated, light, well appointed and absolutely fantastic value for money.
The Pool outside the back is set in a lovely garden area (complete with tortoises roaming around), and of course there is the cocktail bar within just a few yards for general imbibing around the pool, or sun downers (and sometimes sun uppers as experience would suggest).
There are so many things to do whilst visiting the guys at Pasha. Turkey is a country steeped in history and if you know where to look then it’s a breathtaking adventure. On one particular day we drove into the mountains, away from the coast and were treated to another world entirely, up at Saklikent Gorge.
The ruins at the ancient city of Tlos are amazing. It feels very, very old and you can just step right into it for a small fee (I managed to squeeze into a catacomb, natch).
The beach at Kaputash is gorgeous. No photoshop required here Mudsters. What you see is what you get, a beautiful, warm, unspoiled spot to lay back and think of…nothing at all. One time we were there, an old lady – who looked 95 if she was a day – sat shaded under a canvas and made pancake bread. Don’t really know what that is, but it was delish! Speaking of which! There’s also the stunning Patara beach (consistently voted in the world’s top beaches). On this part of the south-western Turkish coast most beaches are flat rocks, carved into the cliffs that drop sheer into the Mediterranean. Patara is unusual for having fine sand and shallow waters. It’s the longest unbroken beach in Turkey, and the 18km of dunes could take tonnes of people before it felt crowded. Ten minutes’ walk from the beach are more ancient Lycian ruins, and visitors can get a superb view over Patara from the top of the partly restored amphitheatre (apparently the original Santa Claus was born in Patara; ask Simon, I’m sure he knows more) .
There are many, many brilliant restaurants in Kalkan, and the food is great in nearly all of them. They all have something to offer and there’s an almost pathological focus on winning the TripAdvisor ranking war. You have to take into consideration if you want more of a fine dining affair, to sit next to the harbour, or visit the old town for a terrace view of Kalkan Bay, but it’s difficult to make a mistake as the standards are really high.
The Muddy clan chose Trio at the harbour for breakfast, Sade or Mussakka for dinner, and any one of many options for lunch (I remember eating four bowls of popcorn with my gin and tonic in the photo below, happy days). Prices aren’t as cheap as some of the Spanish tourist destinations, but the quality is fabulous, and the portions huge (top tip, between two of you order a starter and a main to share and you’ll still have leftovers). Also, the Turkish Lira has weakened by around 20% from last year, so where a pint of lager would have cost you £2.50, you can now bag it for around £2.00!
Mr Muddy it has to be said, has a soft spot for the amazing kebabs on offer at Hunkar Ocakbasi located just down the road from Pasha Apartments (they’ll even deliver to Pasha bar). Town is 10 minute walk down the hill from Pasha, or a two minute, £3 taxi ride. It’s not a party town like Bodrum, but there are plenty of bars and a couple of clubs, although we mostly found ourselves walking off dinner in the lovely cobbled streets (with Mr Muddy surreptitiously guiding me away from all the handbag shops – of which there are many).
I can’t recommend Kalkan or Pasha highly enough, although I will say if you’re looking for one of those huge, marbled-reception all inclusive hotels, Pasha’s maybe not for you. If however, you want, warm, friendly hosts (whose creative output adorn all of the walls), lovely cocktails, a pool outside your balcony and all at a reasonable price, then Pasha it is! See you there Mudsters, mine’s a flamin’ sambucca!
Deals & prices
If you quote Muddy, you’ll get a whopping 15 % off. Also, if you just fancy 3 days or 11 days, they’re very flexible and will work around you where they can.
Type 1 week 2 weeks Nightly rate
Regular Apartment (sleeps 2/3) £365 £700 £55
Larger Apartment (sleeps 3/4) £385 £750 £60