Turkey is a destination that has it all. If breath-taking mountains, stunning beaches and charming villages weren’t enough; the country is littered, quite literally, with history. And the ancient province of Lycia encompasses all of the country’s highlights.

Turkey was never high on my destination radar, having become (in my eyes) synonymous with all-inclusive package holidays and ‘Brits abroad’. But away from the glitz and sprawling five-resorts is a warm, inviting country that not only surprised me but took my breath away day after day.

The first night and last night of the trip is spent in the fascinating, albeit eerie village of Kayaköy. Despite being just a little over an hour’s drive from Dalaman airport and just 5km from the raucous resort of Hisaronu, few independent travellers make their way here.

Once a 10,000 strong thriving community, Kayaköy is a now ghost town. It has lain dormant since 1923 it was abandoned following a population exchange between Turkey and Greece.

Since then the majority of the roofs have been removed from the stone houses which has left behind an eerie skeletal impression which looks far more ancient than the village is. The best time to hike through the village is just before sunset when the sprawling sea of houses is bathed in amber light.

You also get the chance to take in the ancient city of Xanthos. Despite being one of the most powerful cities of its time and the oldest city mentioned in Homer’s Iliad bizarrely there is barely an indicator that the city is there. Fortunately, our guide Paul had a wealth of knowledge giving us a crash course in the city’s vast and violent history – most notably the Xanthosians twice chose to commit mass suicide instead of surrendering to invading forces.

The real highlights of the trip however, are the activities. If you’re looking for a fly and flop holiday, this is NOT the trip for you as downtime is scarce outside of evenings. But if like me, you prefer you time away with a bit of added excitement, you will come away from this trip satisfyingly tired and feeling fitter – although the exercise is easily offset with endless mezze and Turkish delight.

As someone who is most at home on a hilltop, summiting Mount Bozkaya was probably my favourite moment of the trip. The 12 kilometre ascent starts in imposing cedar forest, something more associated with Lebanon than Turkey, despite the latter being home to the largest forest of its type in the world. The final stretch to the peak is challenging due to scree and year round snow, but the jaw-dropping views at the top (at 2,050m) are well worth it.

If you prefer coming down a mountain opposed to heading up it or something to get the adrenaline pumping, mountain biking will tick the boxes.

The route contains a mixture of off road and tarmac routes winding through forest and mountain terrain. Be warned some of the inclines are pretty long and gruelling but fortunately a mini bus is always right behind so you can hitch a lift to the top if your legs can’t hack it (or if you just prefer to relax and take in the view).

For those who revel in a physical challenge the feeling of satisfaction you get when you hit the peak, lungs burning, only to fly down the hairpin bends, taking in views over the bay as your reward is like nothing else.

With its hidden coves, sparkling islands and stunning beaches, one of the best ways to explore the area is by water.

The four-hour canoeing trip heads down the Xanthos River, finishing at Patara Beach – an eighteen kilometres stretch of golden sand and a protected nesting area for giant loggerhead turtles. Once you get the hang of it, it’s a beautifully serene way to see some of the country’s wildlife including terrapins and kingfishers.

There’s an early start to head out sea kayaking but it means you set off onto the glassy water ahead before any other boats. Turkey’s dramatic Mediterranean coastline combines turquoise water with plunging cliffs that appear all the more incredible from the water. After a few hours leisurely paddling, you pull in to a secluded cove for a dip before heading out again over the ancient and mysterious sunken city of Kekova which has been overtaken by the sea as a result of a series of earthquakes. Add in another stop for meze and grill in Simena, the day is definitely one of the most relaxing and soul-soothing on the trip (necessary after the thrills of the previous days).

I can honestly say I have fallen head over heels for with the Lycian province and will be heading back as soon as I can. If you want to explore this fascinating area by less traditional methods of transport, Explore’s Active Turkey trip offers an all-embracing and grassroots way of doing it.


Walk and cycle in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains, canoe from ancient Xanthos to Patara Beach, wake up early to sea kayak in Kekova Bay and see the sunken city ahead of the crowds, and snorkel on a traditional gulet boat trip on Explore’s Active Turkey trip.

Prices for Explore’s Active Turkey trip start from £745 per person including flights, internal transfers, seven nights’ accommodation, seven breakfasts, four lunches and two dinners. For more information visit www.explore.co.uk or contact 01252 883 962.