The perfect trip: Turkey
Where to stay
Turan Hill Lounge: at the bottom of a forested valley, this beatific retreat with yoga platforms is perfect for meditation – even if that just means popping olives and taking in the sea views. The Lycian Way passes through, and jeeps descend the steep track from the main road. The chalets have astrological names and varying degrees of luxury; best are the Special Boutique rooms, with glass doors opening onto balconies. The nearby beach, the terrace bar and restaurant and paths to waterfalls invariably convince guests to extend their stay (from £39).
Kekova: Best for a boat trip
Drive 90 minutes southeast to Üçagız via Kas.
It’s sunrise on a still Mediterranean bay, and wooden gülets (traditional Turkish sailing boats) ease silently away from the cove like sheepish morning after partygoers. From the water, the ramshackle village of Kaleköy appears to cascade downhill from a ruined fortress on the top, all the way to the shore, where Lycian tombs poke up out of the shallows – towering sarcophagi topped with domed, ridged lids reminiscent of Norman helmets.
While the beautiful scenery is encouragement enough to take a boat trip, the real draw is beneath the waves. A short trip brings the boats to a spot just off the island of Kekova, where lies the Sunken City – formerly Simena, half of which was consigned to a watery grave by earthquakes in the second century AD. For a 500-metre stretch, staircases and the stumpy remains of walls disappear into the sea. Black fish dart over the submerged, ancient district, its foundations picked out pale green by the morning sun.
Boats are not allowed to stop above the ruins, but they do pause at Simena’s shipyard, where flagstones lead into the water, and passengers wade to the beach. While he waits, a chain-smoking captain, Salih Yilmaz, busies himself with a plastic bottle and a piece of string, fishing for calamari to serve in his restaurant. He is from Kaleköy and, like many of his fellow villagers, he runs these boat trips to supplement his income. ‘Before tourists started coming 30 years ago, it was a hard life. Now it’s a bit easier,’ he says. He peers down into the blue. ‘We knew the ruins were there when I was growing up, but they didn’t seem very special to us. Now we know how important they are.’
Boat trips to Kekova, which normally include lunch, depart from Üçagız (£19) and Kaş (£22).
Where to eat
Dine in the courtyard at Bahçe Balik, where dishes include grilled octopus and calamari with chestnut mayonnaise (mains £10; Dogruyol Sokak, Kaş).
Where to stay
Mehtap Pension: reached only by a 10-minute boat ride or a 45-minute walk, Kaleköy has 50 houses and three pensions. It’s a wonderfully preserved spot, thanks to its isolated position on a peninsula. Mehtap’s bougainvillea-covered terraces are perfect for a long breakfast or seafood dinner. The air-conditioned rooms with en-suite bathrooms occupy two stone cottages (from £60).
Cappadocia: Best for horse riding
Drive northeast to Antalya (3½ hours), then fly to Kayseri (1¼ hours) and drive a hire car or pick up a transfer west to central Cappadocia (two hours).
A man rides on horseback through a rocky valley, his black hair spilling out of a cowboy hat, in a scene that could almost be from the old American West. This sure-footed steed, however, is an Anatolian horse, and the towering rock formations are unmistakably Cappadocian. Otherworldly columns of rock with mushroom-like overhangs loom above the track against a backdrop of labyrinthine valleys and curvy cliff faces. They were formed by volcanic ash being compressed and eroded into fantastic shapes and chiselled into troglodyte dwellings. Early Christians carved cave monasteries, churches and multilevel hideouts, many of which can be seen in the village of Göreme at the Göreme Open-Air Museum.