Lycian Whirlwind: Kas, Ephesus, and Pammukkale

After hopping off our Blue Cruise in the port town of Kas, we had a few single-sight destinations that we wanted to hit. But first, we decided to hang out in Kas for a few days to get our land legs back and explore the town a bit.

Kas
Kas is 25 km away from Kalkan and they are both charming towns to visit. As we mentioned in our last post, we prefer Kas over Kalkan (but not by much!). It seems slightly less touristy, and the tourists that were there seemed to be more turkish (as opposed to British).

Kas (like Kalkan) is seriously lacking decent beaches in town (though there were some rocks you can swim from). Thankfully, our pension had a deal with a nearby inn that had a tiny swimming pool, which was critical given how hot it was (generally around 100F/38C).

Kas, Turkey

The town itself isn’t bursting at the seams with things to do. There’s a Friday market which is interesting to walk around. It has your standard produce as well as guys who roll up with trucks full of clothing and mannequins to sell assorted knock-off logo wear (polo, etc). There is also a Turkish “ice cream” food vendor that sells grape molasses poured over shaved ice.  Grape molasses (Pekmez) is added to many Turkish dishes and is made by boiling grape must and a special kind of dirt that purifies the juice from particles and balances the taste. There are some nice ruins right in town, including an amphitheater and some lycian tombs up along the cliff. Alex got up at the crack of dawn one morning to hike up to these and got to see some nice views of the town and enjoy the company of a mess of cats.

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The food in Kas was quite tasty. We’d eat a platter of mezes (turkish tapas) almost every day. We also experienced our first Manti here (AKA “Turkish Ravioli”). They are tiny little handmade ravioli (filled with spiced/ground meat) which are covered with garlic yogurt and marinara… These little guys are definitely going on our “food we’re going to try to make when we get home” list!

Our favorite activity was an all day romp to Saklikent Gorge. It’s a bit of a drive up there, so the tour company broke up the trip with stops at Xanthos-Letoon and Patara  beach (the longest sandy beach in Turkey at 17 km). Xanthos (a UNESCO world heritage site) featured some solid ruins, but they weren’t otherwise worth going too out of our way. Patara beach was lovely with miles of sand (rare in Turkey) and some great waves to splash around in. It also is the birthplace of St. Nicholas… It’s kind of weird to picture Santa Claus as a turkish man splashing around in the waves here (I’m thinking he wore a red and white speedo).

On the way to the gorge, we were armed with water balloons and had a great time battling other jeeps headed to the gorge (who were similarly armed). We were told that village kids oftentimes would attack with buckets of water too, but we never saw them.

The gorge itself was definitely one of many natural highlights of turkey. The stone in the gorge was a brilliant white color, with a milky stream running down the middle of it. Bathing suits and solid water shoes were a good idea– we had to hand-over-hand across the rapid part of the stream and then hiked up a kilometer or two in and out of up to waist deep water.

saklikent

Like Pamukkale (mentioned later) this is one of those places that is so visually stunning, but you can’t help but pine for its pre-tourism days. The gorge was full of tourists and the entranceway was full of (actually kinda charming) restaurants and little stalls selling junk. But that’s the problem with amazing places– it doesn’t take long for people to learn about them!

Here’s all of our Kas photos.

Next Stop, Ephesus
Ephesus was one of those places that was on our itinerary almost out of obligation. It’s purportedly one of the best preserved ancient spots next to Pompeii. So we dutifully hopped a bus north thru Fethiye and made it to Selcuk (the nearest town to Ephesus) late that evening.

Ephesus was an important port town around 100 BC but the harbor silted up and, as the river shifted, it found itself further and further from navigable water. Nowadays, it’s 12km away from the sea.

We used our now tried-and-true trick of showing up as early as we were allowed– 8am sharp. This was (as usual) a big win. None of the tourist stalls were open and we got a solid hour of hanging with the cats in the ruins before the big tour groups descended from above.

The ruins themselves were just about as impressive as we’ve seen… But I think we both came to the conclusion that we are just not the type of people who love ruins enough to go out of our way for them. New rule of travel: never base a destination (even for a just a day!) on ruins… We’d gone 8+ hours our of our way to see some of the best ruins in the world, but it just didn’t seem worth it.

Here’s our Ephesus photos (all iPhone-taken– we forgot our damn camera!)

Pamukkale: Mountain of Calcium
Next on our list was Pamukkale, a 3hr bus trip inland. Pammukkale translates to “Cotton Castle”– it’s a truly massive mountain of calcium carbonate, with water running down ever-changing paths. The water and the calcium creates bizarre textures, shapes, and formations up and down the mountainside, often forming into crazy cyan colored pools that you can splash around in.

Hulk SPLASH

There’s a ticket booth at the bottom that opens at 8 with a path running up the top. We researched a little bit and were told that the tour busses showed up after 9 at the top, so we showed up early to enjoy the lower pools with (relatively) few tourists. The lower area is more hands-on, with pools and formations you can walk around on. The upper area is arguably more photogenic, with the most spectacular pools nowadays off-limits to tourists.

Pools of Pamukkale

Also at the top is “Cleopatra’s Pool” (an expensive pool with ruined roman columns in the pool) and some additional ruins that you can hike up to. When we saw the back-side of the ruined amphitheater, we almost turned back. Did we really need to see another theatre after Ephesus, Xanthos, and Kas? Apparently we did– because we were delighted once we got inside– it was probably the best theatre we’d seen.

Roman Amphitheater

Pamukkale was hand-down the weirdest natural formation that we’ve seen. Sadly, it’s pretty heavily touristed, but it’s still absolutely worth it.

Want to see more? Here’s our Pamukkale photos.

Wrapup on the Lycian Coast
We’d had a blast exploring Turkey’s Lycian coast– from our time in quiet-but-fiery Cirali, to our 7 day blue cruise on a 100ft sailboat, and concluding with some more hectic bus-and-jeep-powered exploration of Kas, Ephesus, and Pamukkale. Next stop, hot air balloons and fairy chimneys in Cappadocia!