Unforgettable charter adventure aboard a traditional Turkish luxury gulet along the southern stretch of the Turkish Riviera
Last month we travelled on board a traditional sailing gulet and took in the sights and sounds of the northern Aegean coast in Turkey. This time, the southern Turquoise Coast plays host as we explore more beautiful and fascinating Turkish delights.
To refresh your memory, a gulet is a classic wooden sailing boat, traditional to Turkey and popular with charterers around the Eastern Mediterranean for its style and elegance. Many are crewed by experienced locals who delight in sharing their passion and commitment to their beloved Turkey.
Having explored the North, there are plenty of options for onward travel from Bodrum to the Greek islands, but our journey continues down the coast. Your captain will expertly negotiate the Gulf of Gokava around the Datca peninsula and past the ancient city of Knidos, where the Aegean and the Mediterranean seas meet. This once-prosperous port dates back to 400 BC and the remains of Aphrodite’s temple and the 8000-seater Hellenistic theatre are popular visitor attractions. Looking up from your anchorage, you will see steep terraced hillsides heavy with olive groves and fruit trees and you may even be lucky enough to see a Mediterranean monk seal swim by.
As you sail towards the Bozburun Peninsula there is another opportunity to dip your toe in Greek waters with a visit to Symi, a cosmopolitan island where you can lose yourself in the meandering alleys in the port of Gialos. Symi is simply charming and with no airport, is a haven not easily accessible to the masses, making it perfect for charter yachts.
Another exclusive for charter guests is the three restaurants in Bozukkale Bay which can only be reached by boat. Anchoring at their private docks you can enjoy delicious Turkish cuisine served with a backdrop of azure blue waters and lush green landscapes. Up on the hill, Bozuk Buku castle boasts a fascinating and unusual history; an ancient tale of ambition, failed naval battles and the creation of one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Your local captain will no doubt elaborate on this gripping story as you sip a pre-dinner cocktail back on board!
Having been kept busy cruising and sightseeing it’s time to sit back and let your crew pamper you and provide entertainment with the collection of water toys. Most yachts have a choice of power toys, perhaps a jets ski or tender with towables and more leisurely options, such as stand-up paddle boards or snorkelling gear. An experienced charter broker will ensure the onboard chef knows your favourite dishes or local cuisine you are excited to try, which the crew will serve attentively alongside a selection of your chosen beverages.
After a good night’s sleep on board, and as the sun rises on a new day, your gulet will set sail towards Marmaris, a once quiet fishing port which now boasts the largest charter yacht marina in Turkey and an old town which buzzes with restaurants, bars and bazaars. Climb the 15th-century Ottoman battlements for a bird’s eye view of the harbour or take a leisurely walk along the pedestrian-only promenade that runs all the way from the marina to the quiet beach resort of Icmeler. A short sail south brings you to Ekincik Bay which makes a perfect overnight anchorage and has a delightful restaurant in the nearby village.
The Dalyan Delta offers an opportunity to transfer to a river boat which will cruise to the ancient city of Caunos via the haunting rock tombs, evocative of small porticos set into the cliff edges. Dalyan means ‘fish trap’ and the delta is teaming with Mullet and Bass which swim upriver to spawn and provide a catch of the day for local restaurants. For those looking to appreciate nature at its finest, aptly named Turtle Beach is a narrow spit of land which forms a natural barrier between the freshwater delta and the Mediterranean and is the main breeding ground for Loggerhead Sea turtles. If you are visiting between May and October, the turtles have priority on the beach between 8pm-8am, but if you are anchored close to shore you might be lucky enough to witness these magnificent creatures. Your crew can organize a riverboat tour or excursions to any other inland destination.
The charter season in Turkey runs from April to October peaking in July and August when the weather is at its hottest. If you prefer cooler days, then April, May and October not only offer comfortable temperatures and fewer crowds but also warm seas perfect for watersports, snorkelling and diving. The sun in Turkey is hot and can be dangerous, particularly on yachts where there is a tremendous amount of reflected light off the water. So be prepared with plenty of sunscreens, a good hat and a cover-up. Most yachts offer advice, and some provide a selection of sun protection suitable for use onboard – typically non-oil based – which won’t damage the teak decking.
Charter vacations offer flexibility and choice for everyone on board, so if some of your party are tired of history and culture, the next stop at Ölüdeniz and its famous blue lagoon will no doubt enthral. This stunning beach is often voted one of the best in the Mediterranean and is also one of the most photographed – we challenge you to resist getting your phone out! It is also a centre for paragliding thanks to its unique panoramic views and soaring Babadağ Mountain. If you’d like to give this a go, then your crew can organize this on your behalf with local operators.
Watersports are a big part of the charter experience, and your crew will know the best anchorages to make the most of those on board. If you are a keen diver or want to learn in some of the best diving waters in the world, then specialist diving equipment and guides can be arranged in advance by your charter broker.
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Three of the best dive sites in Turkey lie on the stretch of coastline south of Gocek:
- Kaş offers a variety of diving opportunities for all levels of experience with several wrecks, lively aquatic fauna and an ancient underwater landscape.
- The waters around Fethiye offer an archaeological wonderland with caves, tunnels, caverns and wrecks in abundance. Akfule, also known as Aladdin’s Cavern, is a popular area to see coral and other colourful formations plus an old shipwreck teeming with marine life.
- Kalkan has around 20 dive sites located around the mouth of the bay with rocky reefs, stunning walls and wrecks which offer something different every time you visit. Look out for turtles – more often than not the species divers delight in seeing the most.
Gocek and Fethiye are both bustling towns where you can rest your sea legs with a visit ashore. With strict planning regulations, Gocek retains its charm without threat of overdevelopment and the town’s four marinas host visiting yachts of all sizes. Shopping, sightseeing and dining are all on offer, with bazaars and boutiques concentrated along the main street and an eclectic selection of restaurants serving fine dining experiences or more rustic local cuisine. Fethiye is also a popular destination for yacht charters, given its magnificent marina. Visitors are drawn to the region to visit the rock tombs built by the ancient Lycians and to the modern town’s vibrant nightlife.
Your last evening on board might include a special celebration or just a quiet final sunset dinner on the deck. However you choose to wish a fond farewell to your friends and your charter vacation, the dedicated crew will be sure to leave you with lasting memories of genuine Turkish hospitality.
Trina Howes is a Director of CharterWorld America. CharterWorld is a luxury private yacht charter company that creates outstanding vacations with excellent yachts at amazing prices – worldwide.
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