It’s a dreary and rainy autumn day in northern Japan. Rain, snow, and even hail has fallen intermittently all day, and the chilly wind and clouds, cinereous and heavy with rain, have only reinforced the fact that winter is coming. And as much as I love the grey, cold weather – perfect for readings piles of books, drinking endless mugs of coffee, and burrowing under my cozy kotatsu – I can’t help but dream of the sunny days and blue waters I saw in Turkey this summer.
Turkey’s got its fair share of gorgeous coastlines, but none are as beautiful as the aptly named Turquoise Coast. It has the sort of white sand beaches, craggy cliffs, and crystal waters that you’d associate with Santorini or Mykonos, and once or twice I found myself wondering aloud if we’d taken a wrong turn and somehow ended up in Greece.
“Turquoise” is a fitting word to describe the waters surrounding Kekova, the name used for both the largest island in the region and the waters surrounding it, but that’s not the only shade of blue you’ll see. Sapphire, cerulean, aquamarine, indigo, cyan, azure, cobalt…you’ve got it all, from brilliant pavonine to pale chrysoberyl. If Mother Nature assembled a color palette consisting only of blue, every hue could be seen on the Turquoise Coast.
Many of the beaches, inlets, and coves are inaccessible by land, so the popular thing to do is hop aboard a boat captained and run by a local family and sail around the area for a few days. And that’s exactly what we did for two days, which turned out to be some of the most relaxing I’ve ever experienced. Our home base was a tiny town called Üçağız, whose name means “three mouths” in Turkish and refers to the three paths to the open waters.
We had an easy routine: wake up at sunrise, head out to an isolated cove for a pre-breakfast swim, eat breakfast…find a new cove, swim, eat lunch…find a new cove, swim, eat dinner…return to the harbor to sleep on deck under the stars. Lots of eating, lots of swimming, and – above all – lots and lots of marveling at the perfectly blue water that surrounded us.
And when I say the water was perfect, I do mean it. It was some of the clearest I’ve ever seen. Sometimes we’d drop anchor in water nine meters (around thirty feet) in depth, and you could see straight to the bottom. As much as I love the ocean, I also have a very healthy respect for everything (especially the stuff with sharp teeth) that lives in it. That often translates into me happily cavorting in the water until I start hearing the Jaws theme song in my head and book it back to the beach for a few minutes, until I’m convinced that whatever wanted to have me for lunch has moved on to some other unfortunate swimmer. In Kekova, that was never an issue. The water is so clear that you could easily see everything surrounding you. (That doesn’t mean that I’d have made it back to the boat in time if Jaws had decided to make an appearance, but still…made me feel a bit better.)
The clarity of the water has another advantage, too. In ancient times, the area was known as Lycia, and the remnants of the extinct culture can still be seen. Most famous is Kekova’s “sunken city.” No diving or swimming is allowed in the areas surrounding Kekova in order to preserve the stone ruins beneath the water’s surface, but boats still sail over them, and if your eyes are keen, you can pick out the angular lines and boundaries that mark where houses, roads, and walls once stood before the rising water submerged them.
Other ruins still exist on the islands themselves. You can hike among crumbling walls and hollowed shells of houses long abandoned, but the most impressive of them is the castle that sits atop Kaleköy, a village about a kilometer from Üçağız. Simena, as the town was known in Lycian, clings to the steep bluffs, and you wind your way through its narrow alleys canopied by heavy bougainvillea to the top of the hill.
It’s a steep climb, but the ruined castle – and the view from it – that awaits you makes it worth the aching calf muscles. The Turquoise Coast’s stunning blue waters, underwater ruins, and picture perfect islands are lain out in front out you in all their sunny glory.