To the newcomer, the Carian coast is a beautiful confusion. Layer upon layer of hills, each veiling the next, recedes off into the distance; below, by the glistering sea, headlands, and promontories, one after the other. An island? A peninsula? Who can tell? Almost a place that demands an expert guide, you might think.
On this gulet cruise in Turkey, you get an extended view of one of the most beautiful and richly historic coasts of the Mediterranean. Given the competition, you’ll know that’s a high recommendation. On this tour, you’ll experience the full breadth of its history, cuisine, and culture, all the while basking in outstanding views from the relaxed comfort of a traditional gulet, sailing the same seaways as the ancient Greeks who did so much to make it an historical arena with few parallels.
We begin in the broad and sparkling waters of the Gulf of Fethiye and make our way west along a coast that meanders and undulates on the map, notched with inlets, creeks, and bays, and spattered with islets. We find our way into these for secluded spots to swim and relax, or out of the way, superbly atmospheric archaeological sites on this exceptionally important ancient route which brought the physical and intellectual riches of the near east and Egypt to the ancient Greeks. As we go, we’ll take in major classical and Roman cities, their temples, broad roadways, and public buildings; small towns nested high above the waters to provide perfect views over the picturesque remains of an ancient theatre, and sturdy Rhodian forts to guard the sinews of their mercantile wealth.
We’ll also take time to bring before you the ancient Carians themselves, a vigorous and locally-powerful civilisation that even the Greeks admitted had their impressive side. We’ll view ancient Halicarnassus, home to the Hecatomnid dynasty’s palace, to a Wonder of the ancient world, and to the first true historian Herodotus; and their earlier power centre, magnificent Mylasa, where even now astounding new discoveries are being teased from the earth. We’ll make our way up a maze of reed-masked channels to the great ancient city of Kaunos and see the marvellous Carian tombs carved into the high red-grey walls of rock nearby.
Add the natural miracles of the landscape itself, and the human ingenuity of some of the finest food and wine available, plenty of time to swim or just sit back on the warm deck and wait for the inevitable smile (and something tasty) to come, and in this trip you have the perfect memory factory.
Day 1: Our boat is about 40 minutes from Bodrum airport, in the town’s beautiful harbour. Welcome drink and dinner aboard.
Day 2: We begin with the newest archaeological revelations at one of the most exciting excavations currently underway on the Bodrum peninsula: Pedasa. Long known as one of the six towns whose citizens Mausolus brought together to re-found Halikarnassos, recent archaeological work has unveiled a long and storied history from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Herodotus tells the memorable story of the priestesses of Athena in Pedasa, who grew a beard whenever something bad happened to their city, and although proof of this has yet to be found, the sanctuary of Athena was recently discovered and revealed in wonderful detail. Along with some brilliant funerary tumuli, this makes for a truly exciting visit.
Day 3: A long and pleasant drive into the central plain of Karia brings us to Mylasa, one of the ancient capitals of this region – the first seat of power of the Hekatomnid dynasty who ruled this region in the later years of the Persian Empire. The modern town of Milas has been built over much of the ancient remains, but a jaw-dropping discovery made as recently as 2010 has completely revolutionised our knowledge of the early history of Mylasa and the Hekatomnid dynasty itself. Long thought to have been an unfinished temple platform crammed into and intermingled with the jumbled and poor houses of the old town, it transpired that this shattered remnant was in fact the tip of an archaeological iceberg, and that deep below the ground lay the untouched tomb of Hekatomnos himself. Little publicised, and seldom visited, the story that can now be told here is one of spectacular riches and deep anguish.
Milas is also home to a wonderfully colourful market each Tuesday, with all manner of fresh produce pouring in from the surrounding countryside and lots of locals coming to shop. We’ll have a chance to stroll around and soak up the vibrant atmosphere before driving back to our lovely gulet.
Day 4: Kedreai, a small island charmingly located at the head of the Ceramic gulf, is our destination today. Erroneously associated with the famed Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, who won the hearts of both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, this island is also renowned for a beautiful beach that is like nothing else in the area, with distant hills fading to blue and purple at the further shore across the waters. Blessed with a theatre, sanctuaries, residential quarters, and harbour, this is also a lovely ancient city to explore by wending our way on paths through the trees and along its rocky coast.
Day 5: Today we set out on a journey inland to the little-visited but hugely-important site of Stratonikeia. Excavated intensively over the last decades by a brilliant Turkish team, an entire ancient city is slowly being revealed and restored within the charming embrace of a rich Ottoman trading town that was mostly abandoned after an earthquake in the 20th century. From the lovingly restored mosque and Seljuk bathhouse to evocative ruined townhouses of the glorious marble city of Roman and Hellenistic times, Stratonikeia is a feast for the eyes and each and every year more and more of it is uncovered. This is a site that has the potential to revolutionise our knowledge of this part of the ancient world. From here, we travel a little way further inland to the beautiful sanctuary site of Lagina, dedicated to the goddess Hecate, and site of some of the most important festivals in the land of the Stratonikeians. Many of the buildings here have been wrenched and twisted by seismic activity, and the result is a photographer’s dream.
Day 6: A wonderful relaxing day of swimming, cruising, talking, resting, and enjoying the magnificent views as we leave the Ceramic gulf.
Day 7: Our voyage brings us to the spectacular Greek and Roman city of Knidos, draped along the tip of the long and sinewy Datça peninsula. With a double harbour offering shelter to ships plying their way north and south, Knidos made a deep mark on Greek history and grew rich from its stunning natural position. We’ll be awed by the result: a grand and ordered city rising in tier upon opulent tier. Like many a classical predecessor on this route, we’ll anchor in the eastern harbour, with the heart of the ancient city rising above us. Decades of excavation have freed a beautifully-planned city from the soil, allowing us to make our way through its streets and along terraces festooned with temples to be met with a magnificent view across the Aegean.
Day 8: East along the Datça peninsula to the main county town, also Datça. We head inland to visit a small local winery producing a range of delectable wines from the vines which thrive in the region. Wine production has been at the heart of the local economy for well over 2,000 years. Knidos, the ancient city we visited yesterday, produced huge quantities of wine from vineyards stretching throughout the peninsula, transported in locally made amphorae all over the Mediterranean. We’ll savour a variety of them in a delightful setting and then head into town to have lunch at a traditional lokanta, where you’ll sample a number of classic Turkish dishes. You then have some free time to wander in town before we cruise on for another wonderful swimming opportunity.
Day 9: Heading south we have wonderful views of the Greek island of Symi as we cruise along the forest covered slopes of the Bozburun peninsula, studded with coves and bays. One of these is watched over by the magnificent fortress of Loryma, built around 300 BC by the Rhodians, then the major naval power in the region, which made sustained efforts to control this entire coast. The deadly catapults once mounted in the squat towers of Loryma’s gleaming walls ensured domination of the splendid bay below, then treasured for its strategic value, now peaceful enough to provide a glorious spot for a swim. A fine walk across rugged ground allows us to explore the walls and shrines that protected the soldiers before returning to this natural overnight anchorage.
Day 10: We round the peninsula to find a steep promontory with spectacular panoramic views on which the Greeks of Rhodes founded the small city of Amos. Secured behind powerful walls, they terraced the surrounding hillsides and cultivated grapes for one of the most popular wines of the ancient world. Almost uniquely, the people recorded in great detail on lasting stone every lease that was made, how the land was to be managed, upgraded, and invested in, and several of these inscriptions have survived to the present, allowing us a fascinating insight into the care and effort the ancients put into managing this once rich spot.
Day 11: We enter the spectacular bay of Marmaris, one of the greatest natural harbours in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the winter of 1800 to 1801 it sheltered a British fleet and army preparing to sail for Egypt where they would destroy Napoleon’s Army of the Orient - a conflict that would unexpectedly and eventually lead to the decipherment of hieroglyphics. Its current popularity as a yacht harbour makes it very easy to imagine the hundreds of sailing ships that were drawn up at anchor here in those months as we cruise across the bay towards the modern town of Marmaris. Our focus is its rich museum, housed in an Ottoman castle at the heart of the old town; in it are gathered beautiful artefacts from all over the surrounding region, with a special focus on Knidos and the Datça peninsula, sites we know well after our recent visits, but can now fill with finds.
Day 12: We head east and treat you to a day where you may have trouble deciding if it’s the fantastic site or the uniqueness of the journey that makes for the greatest memory. We’ll drop anchor in a bay and take to a flat-bottomed river boat, pass through a lagoon filled with turtles and make our way up the reed-walled Dalyan River, so remote-seeming that all trace of busy civilisation seems blotted-out. Our route twists and turns through narrow waterways, other channels appearing and disappearing, until we glimpse the great slab-sided horn of rock that tells us we’re close to our destination, the ancient city of Kaunos. We disembark at this striking site, spread between two great rocky outcrops, with yet others marching into the screens of distant hills, some set with tombs cut into the rock. A theatre and opulent public buildings, a late antique church, and a castle high above them all strain to gaze ever more steeply over an ancient harbour doomed by the silting of the waters from which it made its fortune to pass from busy activity to rest green and silent in testimony to the city’s passing.
Day 13: We cruise to the mouth of the shimmering gulf of Fethiye, where, despite the sense of busy civilisation suggested by the profusion of boats ahead of us, we have a remote and hidden marvel to visit, known by only a few. We drop anchor in the beautiful inlet of Ağlımanı and make our ascent by an ancient track, fringed by shady trees and steep in places. A slow and steady pace with magnificent views over the deep turquoise of the water soon sees us crest the ridge and reveals a magnificent sight: monumental tombs standing nearly complete in a secluded and dramatic landscape, veiled from most eyes by a cinematically-perfect curtain of hills. We’ve arrived at the isolated ancient settlement of Lydae, its ruins a spray of sculpture and inscriptions in the bowl of a valley utterly detached and silent but for the occasional tinkle of goat bells. Two thousand years ago, a settlement flourished here, now it lies beautifully desolate: mounds of sculptured rubble, a scatter of ancient buildings and, strewn between, tumbles of ancient statues and inscriptions, columns, and capitals, lying as if they’d never been seen over the long centuries since falling into ruin.
Day 14: After spending the night in one of the most evocative parts of this beautiful coast, we continue into the Gulf of Fethiye, a picturesque stretch often blessed with strong winds in the afternoon, so this could be a day given over to pure relaxation as we make our way to Göcek, at the head of a beautiful bay with impossibly ultramarine waters thronged with islands. A sublime view to accompany swimming and sunbathing in the morning, cruising or sailing in the afternoon.
Day 15: Transfer to Dalaman airport, about 30 minutes away.
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Arrival and Departure Information
Arrival Airport – Bodrum (Milas)
Departure Airport – Dalaman
Arrival Location – Bodrum Harbour (approx. 40 mins from airport)
Departure Location – Gocek Marina (approx. 30 mins from airport)
Embarkation and departure is planned for approx.17:00. You are more than welcome to arrive earlier to drop off your bags, but please be aware that the crew will be busy cleaning and tidying making everything ready for your group so you will not be able to settle into your cabin.
If your travel plans or flights do not allow you to arrive before 17:00 we recommend arriving the day before the tour starts. This would also allow time to relax, recover from any jet lag and arrive at the boat on time for embarkation and departure.
If you arrive at the gulet after 17:00, we will do our best to enable you to join the tour at a later time and place.
Please Note: Departure time is subject to change depending on weather, harbour, or other conditions.
Disembarkation is around 09:00. We will arrange local transfers on the first and last day of the tour.
Booking Flights: If you are staying in or connecting via Istanbul then the easiest way to get to and from the gulet is to fly. There are a number of airlines that offer domestic flights in Turkey. The cheapest way to book flights is directly with the airline online.
Please note: Flights are subject to change. Please contact the airline for exact details.
If you prefer to book with a travel agent, we are happy to recommend specialists in a number of countries around the world, please contact our office for more details.
Travel Insurance: We consider adequate travel insurance to be essential. You should ensure that you take out a suitable policy, to make sure that your trip is properly covered. Please be advised some insurers may require you to take out a policy within 15-20 days of booking your holiday to receive all of their insurance benefits.
Visas: You must check to see if you require a visa to enter Turkey. Visas are easily obtained online at eVisa and must be purchased before you travel.
Istanbul: If you are planning to stay in Istanbul before or after your gulet tour we would be happy to help with suggestions and information and things to see and do. Please get in touch.
Custom Tours: If you are thinking of extending your trip to Turkey to include visits to Cappadocia, Istanbul or further afield, please contact our office for further information.