Fethiye, 200 km/124 miles (3 hours) west of Antalya, and 131 km/81 miles (2 hours) east of Marmaris, rests on a broad Mediterranean bay boasting some of Turkey’s best beaches and yachting. Plenty of hotels provide a place to stay, and Dalaman Airport makes access fairly easy.
The wide swath of Çalış Beach, several kilometers long, is only 5 km (3 miles) northeast of Fethiye. Ölüdeniz, perhaps Turkey’s most beautifully-situated beach, is 8.5 km (5.3 miles) south of Fethiye, over the hills. Both beaches have their own selections of hotels and restaurants.
Besides the beach, visitors like the ruins of ancient Telmessos scattered through the city, and the day-long 12-Island yacht cruise of the bay, especially the stop at Gemile Island, covered in unrestored Byzantine ruins. Boats depart on the cruise every day in the warm months from Fethiye’s busy harbor.
Fethiye is a favorite getaway for British travelers. You may hear English spoken in the streets, shops and markets.
Some 2400 years ago, Fethiye (FET-hee-yeh) was the prominent town of Telmessos, but earthquakes have left only a few Lycian stone sarcophagi from the old town, along with the dramatic Tomb of Amyntas carved into the sheer rock cliff high above the town.
Fethiye is the starting point of the Lycian Way, a 500-km (311-mile) footpath through the rugged mountains of the Tekke Peninsula to Antalya.
Most people come to Fethiye by bus or car. The nearest airport is 50 km (31 miles) west at Dalaman.
From mid-June through August there is direct ferry service between Fethiye and the island of Rhodes, Greece.
In ancient times, Fethiye was the most important city in Lycia, one of the oldest Anatolian civilizations. Today the city’s rich past is evoked in Lycian rock tombs, Fethiye Castle and the Telmessos Ancient Theatre. Dating back from the 4th century BC, these majestic Lycian rock-cut tombs are the place where great rulers and their grand wealth were buried. Set by the harbor is the Telmessos Antique Theatre, built around the 2nd century with a capacity for 5,000 spectators. Built by the Knights of St John in the 11th century, the Fethiye Castle is a must-see for anyone interested in archaeological sites.
The Lycians ruled over this stretch of Turkey’s coast from 200 BC, and Fethiye stands on the site of the important Lycian city of Telmessos. There are plenty of monuments scattered throughout the city, but the most famous is the rock-cut Tomb of Amyntas in the south of Fethiye. On Kaya Caddesi, as you walk up the hill towards the tomb, you can see Lycian sarcophagi along the way. More Lycian sarcophagi are also by the town hall in the city center.
When the Romans conquered Turkey, they allowed the independently minded Lycians self-rule, but that didn’t stop them making their own mark on the Lycian cities. Fethiye’s small and only partially excavated theater was built in the 2nd century BC, when Telmessos had become part of Rome’s Asia Minor dominion. It would have originally seated 6,000 spectators.
Climb up to the top tier of seating for great views across town and over the sea beyond. The park opposite the theater is a good place to relax and seek some shade on a summer’s day.
It may be small, but Fethiye Museum is an excellent place to get a grip on Lycian history, especially if you’re planning to head on to attractions such as Tlos and Letoön. Brilliant information panels clearly explain Lycian culture, and the exhibits of pottery, jewelry, and stele are beautifully displayed.The museum’s pride and joy is the Trilingual Stele (inscribed with Lycian, ancient Greek, and Aramaic) found while excavating Letoön. This stone helped archaeologists to finally crack the Lycian language.
Up until the 1920s, Kayaköy (ancient Karmylassos), eight kilometers from Fethiye, had a thriving mixed population of Greeks and Turks who had lived together for centuries. The 1923 Population Exchange changed all of that, uprooting ethnic Greeks across Turkey and sending them to live in Greece and making ethnic Turks who lived in Greece abandon their lives there. The exchange created heartbreak and much trauma among those who were made to leave, and the somber results of this are no better seen than in Kayaköy.
In the hills southeast of Fethiye, the ruins of the Lycian city of Pinara are chiefly interesting for their honeycombed cliff of more than 900 rock tombs and monolithic house tombs. The site was so inaccessible that the tomb-builders had to be lowered on stages secured with ropes. The beautiful scenery that surrounds the ruins is lushly stunning, especially around the theater area overlooked by snow-topped peaks and rimmed by verdant forest. This is one of the quieter Lycian sites in the area and rarely gets busy with tourists.
This UNESCO-protected ruin was an important Lycian religious center dedicated to the Greek goddess Leto who, according to local mythology, was banished to Lycia by Zeus’ jealous wife Hera after an affair with the great Greek god. The three temples here are dedicated to Leto and her twin children by Zeus, Apollo and Artemis. The site is incredibly atmospheric and a wonderful accompaniment to a visit to Xanthos, the ancient capital of Lycia. In particular, check out the well-preserved mosaic in the floor of the Apollo temple.
History might have made Fethiye unique, but nature blessed the city with eternal beauty. Known as The Hidden City, Saklikent is a 300-deep canyon. Nature lovers will have the time of their lives trekking between the gorge’s sculpted walls, rock cliffs, plane trees and spring waters. Another unmissable natural wonder is The Blue Lagoon of Oludeniz, which breaks from the main beach to form a small cove. The beauty of this natural formation and emerald waters will dazzle visitors from far and wide. If you want to see something magnificent, visit Butterfly Valley, a deep gorge that features hidden waterfalls and sandy beaches.
Turkey’s most famous beach is 15 kilometers from Fethiye. The calm turquoise water, sheltered from the sea, with its white-sand beach rimmed by dense pine forest, is impossibly perfect, which is why people have been flocking here for years now. Some of Ölüdeniz’s sheen has been shaken off over the past two decades, as package tourism arrived on the scene, but the lagoon area has not seen the construction development of other tourism hot spots, and the village attached to the lagoon is still a low-story unobtrusive affair.
If you don’t want to swim or sunbathe then the other big activity here is paragliding. Mt. Baba (Baba Dag) dominates the scenery inland, and paragliders launch themselves off the peak throughout the summer months. Even beginners can have a go with a tandem paragliding flight.
If you are in Ölüdeniz but looking for something a bit more adventurous than sunbathing and a calm dip in the sea, Belcekız (or Belceğiz) Beach awaits you. This beach is the one that welcomes you at the coast of Ölüdeniz, right before the Blue Lagoon national reserve park.
Here, you’ll find the same dashing light turquoise waters as with the Blue Lagoon, but they can be a bit rougher. This part of the coast is open to winds and usually wavy. The sea gets deep quickly, so it’s not as comfortable to swim in, but definitely more fun.
The beach is sandy, and you can rent sunbeds and beach umbrellas, or you can just bring your own. The cafes, bars, and restaurants lined up behind the beach offer a variety of foods and drinks, from reasonably priced snacks to luxury dishes. There are also small shops and stores to buy packed goods.
Standing at the beach, you’ll see a rainbow of paragliders descending. The beach lies at Babadağ Mountain’s foothills, enabling paragliders to fly into the breathtaking view of the turquoise gem below. One paragliding session costs about $50 USD.
The crystal clear waters, underwater caves, and aquatic life also attract scuba divers. You can also rent a canoe or a pedalo, sail, or take a boat trip to other bays and coves around Ölüdeniz on a pirate ship.
Kelebekler Vadisi / Butterfly Valley
This valley has the most striking view from above, and there’s more to discover down at sea level. The bohemian-vibed “Butterfly Valley” gets its name from over 100 species of butterflies visiting or living in the valley.
The valley is full of various trees, with a few bungalows hidden under them just a few steps away from the shore, making the valley a perfect spot for ecotourism.
This fabulous pebble beach is frequented by many cruise ships, which you should avoid while swimming. The light turquoise waters welcome you to the deep sea, but be cautious.
The sea is often wavy, and the heavy boat traffic adds to the turbulence. And rocky plates at the bottom make the sea entrance slippery. Nevertheless, no one can resist swimming in the breathtaking shades of blue in Butterfly Valley.
You can reach the valley from the land by hiking through a very steep hill, but this isn’t recommended if you’re not a professional climber with the right equipment.
You can board a cruise ship or a boat to get to the beach from Fethiye or Belcekız Beach in Ölüdeniz. The beach is free, but you pay a fee (about $1 USD) for the optional valley hike as it’s privately owned.
Kabak Valley is a true hippie haven. The turquoise sea beats the pebbly shore with a background filled with pine trees.
You can take it all in here, the salty, fresh air, the oxygen, the blue skies, the starry sky at night, the sound of the waves, crickets, and the occasional guitars of the campers.
The sea is not always calm, though it looks that way from the charming village of Faralya above. The waves are strong when the winds blow, and the entrance is not very shallow. But it’s safer than the Butterfly Valley for kids.
You can reach Kabak Bay from the land or the sea. If you choose the land, be prepared to hike through the forest. Although most standard daily cruises don’t visit this beach, you can rent a small boat from Belcekız Beach in Ölüdeniz to enjoy the bohemian vibes of the valley.
This beach is a lovely, quiet beach that’s not far from Ölüdeniz. Gemiler Beach is located across Gemiler Adası (St. Nicholas Island), where you can see the church of St. Nicholas and other Byzantine ruins.
Surrounded by pine trees, this beautiful bay is great to swim with the fish, snorkel, and relax. The beach is pebbly, and the sea entrance is shallow. There’s a snack bar and fish restaurant to enjoy lunch on the beach as well.
From land, the beach is near Kayaköy, the thrillingly beautiful historical ghost village. You can take a dolmuş (minibus) from Fethiye to Gemiler Beach.
You can also enjoy a scenic walk through the trees from Kayaköy, following the signpost that reads Gemiler Adası. The postcard view of this dreamy bay will surprise you as you walk out of the Kınalı town.
Kıdrak beach is a 7-minute drive (about 3km/2 miles) away from Ölüdeniz. It is also a natural park, a preserved area like the Blue Lagoon, where you can relax in the shade of pine trees.
This is another sandy beach with crystal clear waters for those who want to get away from the crowds but enjoy the same waters as Ölüdeniz. There’s a picnic area, a snack bar, toilets, and showers on this beach.
Çalış Beach is a 2.5-mile long sandy beach near Fethiye city center. It has a fascinating view, especially at sunset, as the beach looks right at a group of small islands.
The beach is frequented by Caretta Carettas as well as local and international tourists. It’s a nesting beach for these turtles, and you can spot one if you’re lucky.
Fun in the beach
Every summer, sun worshippers flock to the paradisiac beaches of Fethiye. Five kilometers from the town center is the long beach of Calis, a favorite holiday destination. Watch the sunset for a vision to last forever, sunbathe or practice a water sport in this fabulous beach. The famous beach of Oludeniz ranks among the top five beaches in the world and its warm temperature during the summer make it the ideal place to swim in its crystalline waters. Boasting secluded bays and modern marinas, Gocek is a great place to take a boat trip around spectacular islands, bays and forests.
Mezze, seafood and pastries
Traditional mezze and fresh seafood are a Fethiye must. Head over to Fethiye Fish Market, choose one of the fresh seafood they offer – such as bream, bass, prawns and calamari – and take it to one of the restaurants in the market to get it cooked. Traditional restaurants stand alongside fish and chips stores and many different establishments serving international food; from Chinese to Indian, Mediterranean or English cuisine, Fethiye caters to all tastes. At dusk, join the locals and indulge yourself in some sweet Turkish pastries.
Fethiye is also a destination to experience some action. Prepare yourself for an adrenaline rush and go paragliding from Babadag Mountain and fly over paradisiac beaches, mountains and the Blue Lagoon. If you are into water sports, try out rafting and kayaking in the crystalline waters of Dalaman, Karacay and Esen. Discover a whole new world underwater by scuba diving in the crystal clear waters of Oludeniz, where the visibility is exceptional. Include yachting in your to-do list to explore secluded natural bays and the coves Fethiye is famous for.