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Backpacker Gulet Cruise in South Turkey

More Adventure travel tales in Turkey:
Sultanahmet in Istanbul
Selçuk and Ephesus
Other East European Tales:
Vilnius, Lithuania
Cesky Krumlov, Bohemia
Budapest, Hungary
Brasov, Romania
Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Traditional Turkish Gulet

The gulet cruise for backpackers is announced in almost every hostel in Turkey. Except for sun and see entertainment, it consists of several excursions to the ruins of Lycian cities. The cruise doesn’t sail in winter, but we catch one of the last gulet cruises in the season, at the end of October.

Santa Claus

Although the cruise is supposed to be between Olympos and Fetiye, a minivan brings us to Demre first. This is the modern city on the spot where once the Lycian city of Myra was located. And, although most people think he comes from the North Pole, it was the bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas, who stood model for the character of Santa Claus.

We visit the little church where the bones of Saint Nicholas were buried, before the grave was robbed by Italians. Currently, the place is a tourist haven, where tourists are looking for the roots of Santa Claus, and watch a statue of this character. The tale of the good Bishop of Myra, who dropped small bags with money into the chimneys for poor girls, so they had a wedding treasure, is translated into fat character on a sled with reindeer. Statue of the Bishop of Myra, St NicholasNot a word about the Dutch tradition of Sinterklaas, which is in fact the predessor of Santa Claus, and a direct copy of the Bishop of Myra. At least there is also a statue of the Bishop in the center of Demre.

From the Lycian city of Myra not much remains. But the graves, hewn in the rocks are impressive. And we also take a look in the amphitheatre, which is renovated nicely. The size of it shows that Myra once was a large and important city.

On board of the Gulet

After a stop at the local supermarket we arrive at the harbor, where a bunch of nice yachts are docked. And, to our surprise, the most beautiful one is ours. We quickly board all our stuff to start the gulet cruise. On board, we have a private hut with our own shower and toilet, what a luxury!! The crew consists of four people: captain Ramazan, his girlfriend Jo who will prepare the meals, steersman Alex, and sailor Amir. Apart from us, there are 5 more backpackers on board, with whom we chat about what lies ahead of us.

After an hour of sailing we arrive at a beautiful bay where we drop anchor. There are more ships here, and there is even a boat passing by selling ice-creams. On the shore, there is also a bar especially for boatsman, it can only be reached by boat. We enjoy a nice meal on board, and chat away until it’s time to go to either bed of bar.

The next morning we rise early for breakfast and a dive into the sea. We do that at an underwater cave, which is nice but not very special. Then, a bit to our surprise, we go back to Demre to pick up five more passengers before we move on.

Sunken city Kekova

The medieval castle of SimenaOur next stop is the sunken city of Dolchiste near Kekova. After an earthquake, part of this Lycian city disappeared under water. From the boat, we can see some walls and staircases under water. At the point where we are allowed to stop to swim and snorkel, however, there is not much more to be seen than that. As we move on, we do get to see the famous sarcophagus rising up from the water. And we have a magnificent view on the medieval castle of Simena, located on a hill top on the shore. We anchor in a bay a little further to spend the night.

While we are still asleep, we hear the motor starting, and apparently we are leaving already. Consequently, we arrive early in Kas, where we have breakfast and step ashore. Kas is a tourist spot with a lot of souvenir shops, bars, and travel agencies. It is quiet right now, but there are quite some people around. It must be crowded in the summer. Yet, it is not easy to find an Internet café. The place obviously caters for more luxurious tourists.

Rough sea

Pancake boat bringing breakfastBack on the boat our captain decided to make some miles. Around 4 PM he has the choice to stop in a bay, or move on to the next bay, which takes 3 more hours. He decides to move on, and after a nice sunset, the sea gets rough. One by one, the passengers get sick, and we don’t feel to well either. The only remedy is to lie down, and that’s what we do. At 7.30 PM we arrive at the bay, and the misery is over.

When we wake up the next morning, we realize the beauty of the bay. Beautiful blue waters, with a nice backdrop of hills on the shore and the peninsula. There are several other boats here, and a small boat is passing, offering pancakes for breakfast. Meanwhile, we enjoy a swim in the crystal waters. What a great way to wake up.

Our next stop is at the Butterfly Valley, where we walk through the valley to a waterfall. Although the waterfall is not very impressive, and it’s too late in the season for many butterflies, we enjoy the walk and the surroundings. But there is no reason to stay longer than the walk would take.

Ölüdeniz is where we have our last sleep-over during the gulet cruise. This place is located near the blue lagoon, but unfortunately no boats are allowed there anymore. The village itself is nice and relaxed. No high tourist blocks here, although that is a bit deceiving: they are located just behind the hills, and the tourists are brought here by minivans. Yet, the place looks nice, and could pass for a backpacker village, although the prices are a bit too high for that.

The rock graves and masks of MyraOur last night on the gulet cruise is a bit like the other nights: we read, play a game, talk, and drink a beer. Since it gets a bit cold we go to bed early, and the next morning is typical as well: we have a good breakfast and take a swim in the blue water. It’s the routine of a lovely, relaxing gulet cruise, with in the meantime, some cultural excursions as well.

When we arrive in Fethiye, we sadly say goodbye to the crew and our fellow passengers of the gulet cruise. Fethiye is a bigger tourist port, with many boats in the harbor, and a lot of expensive hotels and restaurants. We are here in the off season, so a lot of them are closed, which doesn’t make things better. We decide to take it slow here, and do not visit the nearby ruins. The next day, we quickly move on on our route through Turkey.

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