Hidden Gems of Fethiye

Hillside Beach Club is just a short drive away from the lively Mediterranean town of Fethiye with its parks, shops and markets, as well as a wealth of precious gems; some hidden, some for all to see. But before looking any further, it must be said that Hillside Beach Club itself is one of the town’s most stunning!

A hidden gem in its own right, Hillside Beach Club is totally concealed from view until the very last minute. An organic part of the peninsula’s breath-taking landscape, the clean lines of the elegant architecture is complemented beautifully by the exuberant and colourful gardens. Embraced by a forest of pine trees, overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Turquoise coast with its dramatic backdrop of islands, hills and mountains in the distance, Hillside really is certainly one of Fethiye’s most precious treasures.

Jewels in Fethiye’s crown

There are many jewels in Fethiye’s crown that have made this part of south west Turkey famous. The rugged and majestic Babadağ is certainly no hidden gem! It’s a rare and stunning diamond of a mountain that towers above the natural spectacle of Olü Deniz. Its peak reaches 1969 metres into the heavens and this, together with its unique coastal location, means its high forested slopes are home to many tree and plant species, some of which are endemic to the mountain.

Then there are Fethiye’s unforgettable emerald forests that contrast so perfectly with the sapphire and turquoise water, harmonising with the lapis lazuli and topaz of the summer skies and the ruby reds, opals and amethyst hues of the sunsets…

But of course, there are many other gems – those “secret” ones that only the locals know about – each remarkable in its own way:

Mesmerizing mountains

While visitors to Fethiye usually go all the way to the top of Babadağ, to paraglide or maybe to sit and gaze – as if entranced – by the awe inspiring panoramas, locals climb by foot or car to the verdant saddle that joins Babadağı and Mendos. Here they sit and relax or stroll through the silent forest, feeling the cool breeze on their faces and listening to the beautiful restful bird song. It’s a magical and healing experience, especially during the hot summer months.

Spiritual mysteries

The first sight of Gemiler Island and Iblis Burnu – the Devil’s Cape – in which the islet finds shelter from south-westerly winds, has to be one of the most breath-taking panoramas in Turkey… and Gemiler Island itself, a remarkable and lesser known historical site, it’s well worth a visit.

Centuries ago, this island was home to one of the world’s first tourism destinations! On their way to the Holy Land, the earliest Christian pilgrims would stop off at Gemiler Island – to pray in one of the fifth century basilicas and perhaps stay at one of the numerous buildings.

In the early centuries of Christianity this diminutive rock was just one of many religious centres along this stretch of the Turkish coast and, although now in ruins, but now it’s the only one of any substance that remains in the area. Indeed, it has been said that the Bishop of Myra – the very same St Nicholas who we know today as Santa Claus – spent some time here. There is even evidence on the island of the role he played as the protector of sailors –in a similar vein to his ancient Greek predecessor, Poseidon – hence its other name, St. Nicholas Island.

Standing in front of the apse of one of the church at the western end of the island at sunset is a spiritual experience in itself.

Awe inspiring Af Kule

The hidden gem of Af Kule is a remarkable and awe inspiring monastery that clings precariously to the edge of a dizzyingly high cliff face. Hewn from the living rock, it has inevitably fascinated everyone who visits it and there’s a wealth of myths and legends about how it came to be. One quite plausible fable suggests that this vertigo inducing accomplishment was the work of a single 11th century monk – a hermit called Ayios Eleftherios. Allegedly he thought it would be a good place to pray and be near to God. The views are certainly sublime enough to induce a prayer, as is the drop to the sea below.

Back street rambles

Wandering around Paspatur, the oldest district of Fethiye, there are in addition to the many curiosities that fill the shops, narrow, shady alleyways and steps cut into the steep hillside that lead who knows where. These paths and passageways are the back streets of Fethiye, the neighbourhood where the townspeople used to live when Fethiye was a small settlement, and today they give visitors a sense of what the town was like in those distant days before tourism.

Lycian tombs rock

Like single pearls, or perhaps more like ancient nuggets of gold, are the Lycian house tombs carved from limestone that can be found in unexpected places around Fethiye. some are free-standing, while others like the mighty Amyntas are hewn into the bare rockface and look out across the town. Each continues to give a loud and clear message – that this part of the world has been home to a wealth of civilisations over the millennia – and that we are merely the latest to call Fethiye home. What is particularly interesting about these tombs is that they are hidden. Yes! Hidden in plain sight. You see, they are so much part of Fethiye’s daily life it’s easy to forget their cultural and historical significance.

The Cadianda conundrum

Cadianda is an ancient agate… Its ruins, which have a dreamy quality, are another powerful reminder that civilizations come and go… But there is a wonderful energy too. Those old timers certainly knew how to find the best panoramas for the living –  the views over Fethiye and the Xanthos Valley are inspiring. Kadawanti, as it was known to the Lyicans, has not yet been excavated, so there are only tantalizing glimpses of its extraordinary artefacts as they peak tantalizingly through the layers of soil and loam. Even though there is nothing left to show what the city must have looked like in its prime, there is a nevertheless a remarkable and quite mysterious atmosphere at this once mighty settlement with its which becomes increasingly intense as you wander through the still, silent forest, lending an enigmatic air to the theatre, the Exedra, the Haroon, the Agora, the hamam or the stadium. Cadianda leaves you wondering if you might – just for a second – spot a tunic clad warrior out of the corner of your eye…

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