Turkey's Beautiful Turquoise Coast
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's my friend, flying above the pine-forested ridges on the edge of the ocean on Turkey's Turquoise Coast. I was up next to take the runway, racing down the slope until the brightly coloured parachute went up into the air and the ground fell away beneath my feet.
Below, I could see islands out across Fethiye Bay and the long white crescent of Olu Deniz's famous beach curving right around the coast towards the popular Blue Lagoon. Up here, the beach looked like a white teardrop coming from the eye of the lagoon with its iris-like shades of blue. It's this most breathtaking scenery that makes the paraglide from the 2,000 metre-high Mount Babadag in Turkey's magnificent Taurus Mountains one of the most famous in the world. Apparently, it's also one of the longest drops in the paragliding world, giving you plenty of time to drink in the panoramic views.
We had traveled to the rugged coastline of southwest Turkey to enjoy a variety of adventure and relaxation, and after a bumpy landing on Olu Deniz sandy beach in the intense heat, going for a refreshing swim in the region's famously crystal-blue waters seemed the only thing to do. The beach that stretches all the way along the lagoon was scattered with sun beds and tourists, and the resort that has grown in the valley is towered by the awe-inspiring peaks beyond, leaving the mesmerising beauty of this spot intact.
Alanya with marina and Kizil Kule red tower in Antalya district, Turkey
The white sandy beaches of the lagoon, however, were busy with bronzing holidaymakers, so we chose to rent a boat to get away from the crowds and enjoy some peace out on the water. I also hired some snorkelling gear, as I wanted to catch sight of the elusive sea turtles that have made the lagoon their home. Paddling out into the emerald water, the melee of the shore soon seemed a memory. A barely touched landscape of limestone crags surrounded us with fragrant pine wafting in the breeze, and there was virtually no sound except for the buzz of insects and songs from the birds. It wasn't that long before I realized I was in the presence of a turtle, as a snorkeler close by quickly pulled his head from under the water with a delighted scream. I soon turned and swam over just to get there in time to see the shape of a sea turtle disappearing into the bright green water.
The allure of the area wasn't lost on the ancient Romans and Greeks either, who left their mark on this stunning landscape in the form of amphitheaters, temples and too many relics to mention. To explore this side of the area's history, we spent one morning wandering around the UNESCO-listed ancient city of Xanthos, which has the crumbling tiers of a Roman theatre and Byzantine basilica with its mosaic floor still intact.
Exploring this country's beautiful cultural sites can be quite hard work in the scorching heat of summer, but luckily for us, spas are very popular here too. There are traditionally known as Turkish hammams and visiting one is definitely recommended especially after the trek up and down the region's high bluffs. Inside the hammam's marble rooms, we were lathered and buffed on large stone plinths before being covered in oil and massaged from head-to-toe. The experience was so relaxing that we just had to treat ourselves to another session later in the trip.
Sunken ruins in Kekova / Antalya prov.Turkey
Having explored this beautiful stretch of Turkey's turquoise coastline, we felt we'd had a well-rounded trip with new vistas and some unique experiences. As well as feeling relaxed, I had discovered an ancient civilisation I had never heard of, the Lycians, spotted one of my favourite animals the sea turtle, and fulfilled a life-long ambition of jumping off a mountain and still living to tell the tale.