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Akyaka – away from Turkey’s tourist trail

September 10, 2013

Akyaka - away from Turkey's tourist trail

Akyaka is a little town in western Turkey, set into the hillside at the end of the bay of Gökova. Its two beaches are set at right angles to eachother, nestled into the crook of the bay and lapped by the clear turquoise waters where the Aegean and Mediterranean seas meet.

Kite surfing is the jewel in Akyaka’s watersport crown, and from 9am until early evening this is evinced by the dozens of soaring canopies looping and diving above the shallow water, towing the surfers over white-crested waves at impressive speeds. But at the adjacent beach, beyond the tightly packed rows of sunbeds, there is windsurfing, kayaking and canoeing available, not to mention excellent swimming conditions.

Behind and around the town, as you climb the grey-block streets, is the expanse of the pine forest, a protected area abundant with such fauna as snakes, lizards, tortoises, and watched from above by eagles, kestrels and other majestic birds of prey. In fact the forests are so well cared for that they warrant their own guardians who can often be seen in their red trucks embellished with the roofrack lights normally reserved for vehicles of the emergency service. They’re a friendly bunch though, only too happy to snap a family photo for us allowing me to obviate the camera’s rather erratic self-timer facility!

Back to the beaches though…As I said these can get very crowded during Turkish summer holiday season, and while blessedly devoid of ‘Brits abroad’ and the intrinsic surfeit of sagging tattooed flesh, you will find yourself literally tripping over row upon row of sunbeds. So head west along the coastal road which winds through the pine trees, affording spectacular views of the bright blue waters of the bay and the forested mountains looming on the far side, and discover your own stretch of white pebble beach down one of the many rocky half-roads leading to the water’s edge and stunning snorkelling conditions. If you fancy something a little more structured, keep going until you hit Akbuk, 30km or so from Akyaka, where you’ll find a scattering of facilities including eateries, public conveniences and showers. The beach doesn’t get too crowded, even in peak season, and the water is glass-clear and calm.

As well as the aforementioned kayaking, windsurfing and kite surfing, Akyaka is a platform for plenty of other enticing activities. Of these surely the optimum for value for money must be one of the daily boat trips along the bay. We booked with ‘Captain’s’ tours, who can be found along the harbour front, and for £40 got the four of us on board an uncrowded, music-free boat which included a fabulous lunch cooked on board. We spent the day lying beneath a tarpaulin on cushions in the shade, revelling in the epitome of relaxation as ‘Captain 1’ stopped at various swimming spots of such beauty as to take the breath away. Cool off by leaping from the top of the boat into the clear water, dive down to underwater caves, watch the brightly coloured fish flit around you, and climb onto the isolated beaches and the uninhabited ‘Rabbit Island’. It’s also an opportunity to visit Sedir Island and check out Cleopatra’s beach, renowned for its fine pale sand. Don’t expect the place to yourself though: it is thronged with voyagers from all over the region, as evidenced by the numerous boats moored up at the island’s marina. The crowds are serviced by a restaurant and public conveniences, and the famed beach itself is literally roped off so that only a thin ribbon of sand is available for bathing. The main appeal of Sedir though is in fact the ancient amphitheatre, a place where you can escape the crowds for some peace and quiet while they jostle for position on the tiny beach.

Don’t worry though – Sedir Island is just a stop off on what is otherwise a truly serene excursion. A friendly crew (including a captain who will give a second version of every commentary in English just for you if you happen to be the only non-Turk aboard!) ensure your tour is as welcoming as it is indulgent.

Eating out in Akyaka is cheap, no two ways about it! A lunch of delicious filled pastries came to less than a tenner for the four of us, and an evening at any of the beachfront restaurants is easily achievable for £10 a head. There’s a catch though. Alcohol (along with petrol) is around the same price as you’ll pay back in the UK, so expect this to impact your bill considerably if you’re after a drink or two.

One culinary experience you should try at least once though is a river restaurant, several of which can be found along the Azmak River which drains into the gulf from the mountains. Vira Vira for one is simply outstanding for its setting and the fresh sea bream is a must, although the red mullett and grouper are by all accounts in a class of their own. Expect to pay more if eating fish, but a whole bream is in the region of £12, and worth every penny.

Speaking of money, if you’re planning a trip to Turkey, at least at the time of writing, you’ll get a much better rate of exchange if you take sterling with you and change it there. I was able to get 3.1 TL to the £ in Turkey versus 2.8 (at best) in the UK. The best place to trade your pounds is at the post office, known as the PTT. There’s one in the middle of Akyaka but be prepared for a wait. There’s only one lady serving (and she didn’t like to engage in banter, despite my best efforts) and every transaction seemed to require at least two phone calls. Feel free to try and get a smile though. Just remember: Iki yüz sterlin bozdurmak istiyorum (look it up!)

Mostly the residents and workers of Akyaka are a friendly and helpful bunch but of course, if you’re visiting their country have the decency to learn at least a few sentences of their language before you go. You’ll get so much more out of your visit.

Outside of Akyaka, Marmaris is a 40 minute drive away. I can’t think of a reason to recommend this place, but just beyond is the slightly (very slightly) toned down Içmeler, and twenty minutes across the mountains is the further diluted Turunç, which is a far better proposition and has all the watersports you could wish for, from parasailing at £25 a head and a host of other white knuckle water activities, all at very reasonable prices. There’s another beach called Çiftlik which also lies across the mountain passes beyond Içmeler and is reputed to be very scenic with just the right dose of commercialism, but be sure to get directions. We never made it that far but by all accounts it’s a bit of a secret treasure.

There’s plenty more to discover around the Datça Peninsula, including a host of historical sites from ancient cisterns to underground tombs – far too much to go into in fact. That’s why this corner of Turkey is best discovered for yourself. If you like a holiday that has a bit of adventure, a bit of excitement, as well as all the usual pastimes you expect from your summer break away, Akyaka and its environs are right up your pine-tree-lined street.

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One Comment
  1. Good summary of the area 🙂
    Shame our government are overruling the local planning laws in favıour of building 8 story carbuncles there soon 😦

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