My 4-year-old son and I spent a week visiting places recommended by friends. We went west from Antalya to Tekirova, then Çıralı and onto İslamlar and Sarıbelen near Kalkan and then returned to Antalya through the mountains, all by bus.
Where the outside world ceases to exist: Sundance
We all associate Antalya and Kemer with mass tourism but Sundance Nature Village is like an oasis in the desert if you’re looking for somewhere undeveloped. It covers 120 acres of unspoiled land, complete with a private bay and beach. The spirit behind Sundance is about respecting nature and you find yourself surrounded by like-minded people from all over the world, many of them walkers, or regulars from İstanbul who go there to get away from the bustle of the metropolis.
Needless to say, the atmosphere at Sundance is laid-back but there’s actually a lot you can choose to do if you have withdrawals from being busy. Perhaps the most obvious activity --apart from a boat trip to nearby Phaselis or having a Thai massage -- is to go riding on one of the horses from their stables. There’s no need to worry about the horses: They’re left to roam free during the day, don’t have bits in their mouths, and as they don’t walk on tarmac, they aren’t shod. In short, they’re happy horses. You could find yourself staying at the same time as a yoga or permaculture course, a music workshop or the annual juggling festival (in October).
When it comes to sleeping, you can choose from spotlessly clean wooden bungalows with ensuite bathrooms and porches (which we did), spacious wooden houses with patios, or you can also camp by the sea under the pine trees. There’s a restaurant and you can also get snacks from the bar. They grow their own vegetables and they get eggs from their free-range chickens. They also make their own yogurt, jam and pickles.
Getting there: From Antalya, you can get a bus from the bus station that will drop you off in Tekirova. From there, you can ether get a taxi to Sundance or they will pick you up if they have a car available. You could also walk. When leaving, ask to be dropped off at the roundabout just outside Tekirova where you can flag down a bus to Antalya or somewhere further along the coast.
For more info about Sundance, you can phone 0242 821 4165 or 0242 821 5527 or contact them via their website: www.sundancecamp.com.
Kids don’t need five-star hotels: Çıralı
While planning our trip, I was told that Çıralı is for families and nearby Olympos is for singles and my sources were right. The village is a peaceful alternative to the noisy, bustling resorts along the Antalya coast and reminded me of my own childhood bucket-and-spade beach holidays (without the cold and rain).
It really is a seaside village, albeit a lush and tropical one. You can have breakfast at your B&B and then spend the day on the beach. Staying in Çıralı was a breath of fresh air, in more ways than one. As the vast majority of people there are families, everybody is very relaxed and focused on spending time with their children; nobody was remotely interested in what brand my bikini was. The people who live and work in Çıralı are also different to those in busy resorts. They’re very relaxed, helpful and friendly. Above all, they aren’t pushy. Unlike in Antalya, for example, here my son and I were able to go and look at the different fish on display outside restaurants without being hustled inside. The restaurants along the beach road also don’t charge for the use of their chaise longue.
Eating in Çıralı is inexpensive as you can choose from one of the many gozleme (pancake) restaurants near the bridge into Çıralı or have a more sophisticated meal at one of the (reasonably priced) restaurants along the beach, listening to the waves and counting stars.
There are a multitude of B&Bs and small hotels to choose from, some with swimming pools and TVs. We stayed at Karakuş Pansiyon partly because it has neither: The sea is five minutes away and my son watches enough TV when he’s at home anyway. The rooms are large, airy and spotlessly clean (before we got sand everywhere) and we ate breakfast -- the most generous and varied breakfast I’ve ever had -- in their shady garden. When we arrived I was tempted to change my mind about staying in a B&B when we were also shown the nearby boutique hotel -- Villa Lukka -- owned by the same family.
Getting there: Buses from Antalya or Kaş will drop you off at the top of the hill into Çıralı. From there you can either go down to the village by minibus (you will probably have to wait for one to fill up), take a taxi or simply walk.
For more info about Karakuş Pansiyon, phone 0242 825 70 61/62, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.karakuslikya.com.
Foreigners’ yayla: Sarıbelen
Many of us spent would have spent summer somewhere very hot and humid, listening to people telling us how great it was on the yayla (summer pasture). There is, however, a yayla village we can all stay in: Sarıbelen, 10 kilometers inland from Kalkan.
In Sarıbelen, you see how people in the majority of coastal villages used to be and you’re treated like a guest by the whole community. We were not only invited in for tea but were also invited to stay for food. With fresh, unpolluted air and a cooler, less humid climate, it will make you wonder why you never went there before.
Depending on the time of year, there’s a great deal to see and do in Sarıbelen. As grapes are picked in October to make traditional pekmez (molasses), it’s a good time to visit and find out how it’s done. There are also many places to go for a walk or if you want to just sit and appreciate the quiet, you can enjoy views without anyone interrupting you. My son loved Sarıbelen because of the animals: He saw his first real goats, sheep and cows and got to chase some chickens.
You can also use Sarıbelen as a base from which to visit Kalkan and Kaş or the mountain villages of Sütleğen and Gömbe. Saklıkent gorge and the Lycian cities of Patara and Xanthos are also less than 30 minutes away. The Lycian Way passes through Sarıbelen from Bezirgan and on to Gökçeören, a four-hour walk. You can take a picnic or stop for a glass of tea and some village food with Huseyin the shepherd. If you have a car, you can also visit the other side of the mountains overlooking the sea.
There’s one place you can stay in Sarıbelen, Moonstone House, which also has a swimming pool with a view down Kaputaş Canyon. They will also make dinner. If you’d like to eat out
in Sarıbelen itself or the neighboring village of Gökçeören, you can get gözleme or a village meal at the local café in Sarıbelen if you ask in advance. Getting there and away: Gombe Tur buses pass through Saribelen as part of their Antalya-Kinik route every hour.
For more information about staying in Sarıbelen, visit www.moonstonehouseturkey.com.
Far from consumerism: İslamlar
İslamlar is eight kilometers inland from Kalkan and Kaş and is best known for its trout restaurants. What people don’t realize is that it’s also a relaxing base from which to explore the coast, the surrounding inland villages or to take a break in when walking the Lycian Way. Unlike the surrounding yayla villages, it’s in a lush, green, wooded valley where you go to sleep to the sound of babbling brooks. The air is fresh, a luxury if you live in a city, and there’s very little noise pollution. It’s also a welcome relief to visit somewhere where there is activity -- thanks to the popularity of the trout restaurants -- but where you’re also far from the consumerism of the coast. Apparently you can also go out and leave the door open without the fear of intruders.
The village is well-worth exploring. The abundance of water in the valley has been important to İslamlar. There are three watermills; two are used for grinding flour and the other to make tahini (sesame paste). They’re attributed to the Greeks who lived in İslamlar, which was called Bodamya when the Greeks were there before the population exchanges. Water remains important nowadays as it has led to the emergence of trout farms.
We did, of course, go to a trout restaurant but, since there are eight of them, it was hard to choose. At Çiftlik Restaurant the trout came straight out of the tank (much to the delight of my son) and was accompanied by the best French fries I’ve ever had.
If you’d like to stay in İslamlar, there’s one B&B, Grapevine Cottage. It’s a village house that’s been restored and has a separate ensuite guest room in the garden. The owner also rents out the main house. The garden is a veritable Garden of Eden, complete with animals -- cats, dogs, chickens and ducks -- and a fantastic variety of flowers, bushes, vines and trees (there are over 20 different kinds of fruit trees). Another bonus is that the drinking water comes from a natural spring in the village.
Getting there: There’s no public transport in İslamlar so you can get a minibus from Kalkan to Akbel and then get a taxi or if you’re staying, Deborah will pick you up.
For more info about staying at Grapevine Cottage, phone Deborah Harston on 0534 744 9255 or email her at email@example.com.