Essential to the Turkish experience is a cruise along its magnificent coastline. The way to go is a cruise aboard one of the traditional coastal vessels known as gulets. A broad-beamed sailing vessel that can measure up to about 25 metres, gulets are comfortable, small-group coastal cruisers that once transported mandarins and lemons from southern Turkey to Izmir. Standards vary, but at the upper end of the scale you can expect sunbeds, snorkelling and fishing gear, hot showers, air conditioning, windsurfers and a stereo system. The coast is delightful – bleached cliffs with fishing villages tucked away in tiny coves, the scent of pine and wild thyme mingled with the sea air, glorious beaches and enough archaeology to make your feet ache. Make sure your itinerary includes Bodrum, prettiest resort in the South Aegean, with its palm-lined streets, sugar-cube architecture and glam yacht harbour.
Most gulets operate between Antalya and Bodrum, the prettiest resort in the South Aegean, with its palm-lined streets, sugar-cube architecture and glam yacht harbour. Be warned though – Bodrum is subtitled the Turkish St Tropez, and the local discos are legendary and loud. The first section of the voyage from Bodrum to Marmaris takes in the “Turquoise Coast”, where the jagged, pine-covered mountains of the Dacta Peninsulas wrap themselves around fjords of the deepest blue. Between Marmaris to Antalya, gulets circle the coast of ancient Lycia, a region where every fishing village, every mountain and every harbour comes with another footnote from the ancient world. Wedged between the mountains and the sea, the village of Kas has a sparkling harbour, with a Greek amphitheatre and rock tombs that date back to the sixth century B.C. At Kalekoy, where St Nicholas – aka Santa Claus – was once bishop, carved rock tombs overlook the statuesque remains of the Roman settlement. In the nearby waters are the outlines of the ancient Lycian city of Simena, sunk beneath the sea.