We're not talking about the feathered variety, rather the country! Turkey has a lot to offer all year round, but we discovered that Turkey has huge potential for off-season sun and fun.
Turkey has had a bit of a hard time in recent years and suffered a reduction in visitor numbers due to the ongoing Muslim bashing and Isis scaremongering going on in tabloid media. In reality, the terror risk in Turkey is not dissimilar to the risk in the UK or any other European country and we've found its people are far friendlier and welcoming to foreign visitors than many other Euro destinations.
I'm amazed at how peoples perceptions of Turkey have been so inaccurate. The country has so much going for it, and so much to offer. Don't let unwarranted fear and misguided reports of danger get in your way, and miss out on an opportunity to visit this amazing country full of such riches in culture, history and of course landscapes and climate.
I first visited Turkey as a young child on a sailing holiday around 25 years ago, so I had a very distant memory of some of the areas I visited on my recent trip. I was excited to go and revisit some of these areas and see how they had changed over the years.
Turkey has many popular tourist destinations, including what some may picture in their mind when thinking of Turkish holidays with huge sprawling resorts and all-inclusive buffet fests. You'll be pleased to know I didn't see a single coastal metropolis full of drunken lobsters at all on my trip. This partly due to the off-season timing but also due to the destinations I went to.
The Dalyan region
This was my first stop and a truly awesome place to enjoy calm and tranquillity. The region is famous for beautiful beaches, turtles and dramatic orange rocks and hills. I stayed in the town of Dalyan which sits alongside the Dalyan river which is famous for its Lycian rock tombs nestled up in the rocky hills which surround the river basin. The river connects to the sea at Iztuzu beach, which is renowned for its stunning scenery and the turtles which lay their eggs on the beach each year.
The beach is over 4km long and is actually a spit of land separating the freshwater river system and the sea, this provides a very unique ecosystem. It's now a protected area due to the ecological plight of the loggerhead turtles and as such you can expect pristine beach all year round. It can get fairly busy in peak season, but off-season it's very quiet.
There are many operators who provide boat trips along the river between Dalyan and Iztuzu and you can expect to soak up the sun and take in the stunning scenery along the river including the famous rock tombs.
Dalyan itself is a sleepy town out of peak season but has a rich mix of bars and restaurants and a great selection of hotels. I stayed in a new boutique hotel called Dalyan Live, don't let the name put you off, whilst it may sound like a nightclub, it's a very peaceful place with a great outdoor pool area and indoor Turkish spa. They have a cosy dining area and the staff are warm and friendly. The hotel is run by a lovely family, and they provided some of the most hospitable service I've experienced in Turkey.
There is loads to offer in the Dalyan region in peak and off-peak seasons. There has been a huge investment in the area to offer ecotourism activities and one of the most recent additions is a huge network of signposted cycle and hiking trails. The trails are a mix of small road and off-road trails and are so comprehensive you could spend a whole holiday exploring by foot or bike. The region is perfect for this type of exploration and you can get to most of the region's points of interest via bike. This is a really significant part of the regions ongoing tourism strategy so expect to see a big effort in this area. The Dalyan region has so much to offer including traditional Turkish baths and themal spas which you can get to by road or riverboat trip. I first visited this region 25 years ago, and I was expecting much more overdevelopment that has been seen in other regions. But in reality the development seems to be under strict control and the area fully understands the heritage of the location and is working hard to maintain it.
The area is steeped in history and you can find historic sites dotted around the place. This includes Roman amphitheatres like at sites like Kaunos which is well worth a visit.
Top tips for the Dalyan region
1. Drink lots of fresh pomegranate juice. It's really tasty.
2. Go and enjoy a traditional Turkish bath at the thermal spa.
A couple of hours drive from Dalyan town is the coastal town of Fethiye, whilst a bustling harbour town during the summer months it's a popular destination for flotilla and skippered sailing fleets so it can get a bit busy in the peak season. Offseason, however, the town returns to its fishing roots and takes a much slower pace of life. It's a much bigger town than Dalyan with lots of shops, bars and restaurants and plenty of choice for rental apartments and hotels.
The town has many great destinations on its doorstep with mountainous regions, beaches and small islands to explore by boat or kayak. popular Babadağ mountain is a very popular paragliding destination and has had a significant investment in better access roads and even restaurants and look out spots. I was fortunate enough to jump with Gravity Paragliding from Babadağ mountain down onto one of the beaches on the Blue Lagoon.
I've been Paragliding in the Pyraneese and this experience in Fethiye was far more enjoyable. It's a super thing to do and will give you some of the best views you'll experience. There's so much to do in this area, from abandoned villages, ancient sites with UNESCO Heritage status and even the suggested final resting place of the mythical creature Pegasus! This region is steeped with history and unlike other historical sites around the world it's really accessible to explore and not overrun with hoards of people. This is another really good reason to beat the crowd and go off-season as in many places you will have the place to yourself. There was something quite magical about sitting in a huge Roman amphitheatre on my own and imagining the displays of bravery (or more likely slavery) in these huge arenas.
I stayed at the Yacht Boheme Hotel on the harbour in Fethiye, it's a lovely small boutique hotel with exceptional rooms and fabulous facilities. The room rates are much lower than you would imagine, so go and spoil yourself!
3. Go and take a dip in the deep blue water of the Blue Lagoon beaches
4. Go and explore the UNESCO world heritage sites and other historic sites.
5. Get a boat and explore the coastline and islands
6. Go and eat BBQ at CinBal (Carnivor heaven)
Weather wise, the evening temperature does drop quite a lot during the real winter months (Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb) but the daytime temperature is delightful and perfect for being active without sweltering in the summer months. My top tip would be to visit in March/ April time to get the best of the weather to crowd ratios.
I went to Turkey with very little expectation of what modern Turkish tourism might look like. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was far closer to my experience 25 years ago than my expected perception of the overdeveloped euro resorts for the masses, or the media's perception of impending terror threats. Turkish tourism has taken a real hit over the last few years, and as a result, there is no better time to go. Not only will the cost be much cheaper than you expect but the reception you get when you arrive will be warm and welcoming. Turkey genuinely thrives on tourism and the impact of negative press is very noticeable. Don't let the fearmongering discourage you from visiting, perception bears very little resemblance of the reality.
If you want to find out more about this destination then, get in touch with Eco Travel Shop, who are experts in this area and will make sure you get the best possible trip. http://ecotravelshop.com
Also, our good friends at Go Sail Turkey's boats depart from Fethiye so there's also a great opportunity to tag a sailing trip to your itinerary too. https://gosailturkey.com