Make sure to pack your hiking boots, swimsuit, whetted appetite and boundless curiosity, because there ain’t no mountain high enough or valley low enough to keep an adventurer from finding an ancient civilization – or a delicious restaurant — in Turkey. And for those who like a little creature comfort at the end of the day, seaside resorts, mountain refuges and the luxurious hotels of Antalya are never far away. [embedgallery id= 149939]
4x4 through the Tauros Mountains around Antalya: While the drive through narrow, winding roads is an adventure in itself, the true experience lies in what you’ll see along the way: ruins, snow-capped peaks, soft green meadows, cedar forests, nomadic huts and red-roofed valley villages that lie sleepy and half-forgotten in the shadow of the hills. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy the fresh mountain air.
Arykanda: This ancient Lycian aerie, built on five terraces, is a well-excavated example of everything an ancient city should be. It’s also a little out of the way, making it the perfect place to avoid the maddening crowd and take a good look at history – and a haunting, mist-laden panoramic view — on your own terms.
Kekova: This sunken city might lack mermaids, but it makes up for it with the chance for a jaunt through a series of blue-green, mirror-clear bays. There are boat tours for the less adventurous, but a true explorer will want to grab a few friends, rent some kayaks and discover what time and earthquakes do to the best-laid foundations of man.
Whitewater rafting: The Eurymedon River, best known by fans of naval history, is regarded today as a good place to enjoy getting tossed about in roiling rapids. The river is the color of the turquoise jewelry your mother bought in New Mexico and presents challenges worthy of nervous first-timers and experienced rafters alike. Many lodges along its bank offer adventure packages for families and groups.
Koprulu Canyon National Park: The goats and sheep in the mountains of Turkey are free-range indeed — expect to see a bunch when you hike through this park. The ancient Pisidian city of Selge bears down from a tall height upon shepherd villages in the valley, and rock formations like an army of misshapen giants line the canyon floor and twist up to dizzying heights where all – from faraway mountains to the misty blue sea — is revealed. Never fear, stalwart traveler – you can hike among this stone-faced host.
Turkish cuisine favors ingredients such as yogurt, eggplant, tomato and chickpeas, often presented in the appetizer-like meze course. For the main course, you would be hard-pressed indeed to find a place that doesn’t offer lamb in many forms. For those looking for lighter fare, the entire region is replete with trout farms and fisheries. During and after dinner, the locals also enjoy a glass of raki, a liquor that tastes like anise and gets diluted in water. For those who like a little less licorice with their dinner, try Efes, a national beer. Here are some of the best places to fill your stomach along the course of your journey:
When you fly into Istanbul: The Istanbul Culinary Institute offers a very modern touch amid a very old city. The offerings, while European in style, echo heavily of Turkish tastes. www.istanbulculinary.com
When in Kekova: The area, dotted with fishing boats and pleasure craft, is a great place to score some good seafood. Canopied outdoor restaurants are the norm. Sit back, order a bottle of Efes and get to eating some sea bream.
After viewing Arykanda: The mountains are a perfect place to score — again — some trout. We went to Ozcoban Trout Fish restaurant, where you can sit in the shade and watch the trout runs feed into a rushing brook below. Sick of seafood yet? Try their beef stew, which is less stew-ish and a lot more like particularly delicious fajita meat.
After 4x4 in the mountains: For lunch — seriously! — bring a picnic basket, pitch some chairs under a tree and enjoy the fresh mountain air. Should you find yourself returning to Antalya for the evening, however, for an elegant dining experience, try the establishment at the Tuvana Hotel – Seraser Fine Dining Restaurant. www.seraserrestaurant.com.
Should you find yourself in Islamlar, for any reason: Degirmen Trout Farm hosts a great view of the mountains, a friendly staff and great food. The town is situated about five miles northwest of Kas, and if you visit the famous ancient Lycian city of Xanthos, you’re not very far away at all.