TURKEY: Your guide to KALKAN
Turkey has a winter and summer culture. Those families who can afford it, have a summer house near some coast line to escape the heat of the city. Two our of 4 sets of our neighbors do this exact thing ever year. Ever since we moved to Turkey, we had wanted to try it out.
Last summer(2020) after a strict and exhaustive COVID lockdown, Jason and I opted get out of Izmir for 3 weeks to a summer villa in Kalkan, Turkey. You can check out some of our other travels during COVID times to Kalkan this past summer.
Now on to Kalkan!
Kalkan, like its neighbor Kas, is a lovely Turkish beach town on the Turkish Mediterranean coast in the Antalya Province (Kaş District). Kalkan, which has features far beyond a holiday beach resort, is home to world-famous ancient Lycian cities, endangered caretta turtles, and the world’s most famous bays and beaches.
We can start our guide with the most basic question: Where is Kalkan?
- 190 km E from Muğla
- 80 km SE from Fethiye
- 27 km W from Kas
- 210 km W from Antalya
The town of Kalkan, which is believed to have been founded by traders from the island of Meis, remained untouched for many years due to the difficulty of transportation, making it a perfect little jewel of a town now with its natural beauties.
What you should see and do in and near Kalkan, Turkey:
1. Explore Kalkan!
In the summer, Kalkan takes on a vibrant, coastal town vibe drawing in all sorts of tourist, but especially British ones! Tons of villas and property are own by British nationals as their summer getaway. And when they aren’t able to enjoy, then the properties are rented out to others.
However, I totally understand WHY they come! It’s small, walkable, easy to navigate with just enough nooks and alleys to keep you wandering the streets for more during your week-long holiday.
Set against a breathtaking mountain backdrop, the town centre is a treasure trove of narrow streets, whitewashed Ottoman Greek houses and inviting boutiques. It’s also famous for its harbourside lounge bars and rooftop restaurants serving a variety of delicious food with impeccable service.
The public beach is located right in town making it easy to dip into the water at anytime of day. The harbor nearby offers day trips via boat to other locations so you can enjoy the sea to the max. Keep reading for all my local to-dos and restaurant recs at the end of this post!
WATCH our first week in Kalkan via our video below.
2. Patara Ancient City and Beach
Located in the Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey just 17 km (11 miles) west of Kalkan is the Patara Beach and Archeological sites. Patara is an ancient Lycian town, now archeological site, but also ancient beach. The surrounding area of Patara are protected which thankfully means no big hotels or heavy tourist development. The nearby small village hosts only a few hundred guests, making it an affordable little area to vacation too.
Patara beach is 20 km (12 miles) long and hardly crowded because it caters to day visitors. You don’t have to walk very far to get a secluded spot on the beach. Most people stay close to the entrance area so they can access the cafe, facilities, and grab an umbrella and chair (for a fee).
More importantly, it’s also the birth place of world famous fourth-century Christian saint, Saint Nicholas of Myra, better know now in the states as the mythicize Santa Clause.
WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ more about Patara from my friend’s at West2East.
3. Ancient City of Xanthos
Xanthos, which was the capital of ancient Lycia. Located in the Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, this site is just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kalkan, about 50 minutes from Kaş. Here you can see a theater, old church, rock-cut tombs, pillar tombs and pillar-mounted sarcophagi. One of the 7th Wonder of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, was directly influenced by the Xanthos Nereid Monument.
Unfortunately like many sites in Turkey, pieces of this site were taken to England in the 19th century, including the Monument of Harpy, the Tomb of Payava and the Nereid Monument. See them here.
WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ a bit more about it here via my friends at West2East.
4. Kaputaş Beach
There are lots a beaches to go to in the surrounding area of Kalkan and Kaş… But Kaputaş Beach, which has the same name and is surrounded by cliffs, is definitely an all-around favorite with everyone who goes!
On the coastal road between Kalkan and Kaş, this natural wonder is a hidden canyon pass sliding into a large spectacular beach. To reached it, one must descend 187 steps starting from the roadside (very limited parking so some early!). It is also among the favorite place of passing boat tours.
There is a cafe with facilities available including showers – perfect if you go early in the morning but want to tour more later in the day without going back to your hotel.
5. Neighbor city of Kaş
Kaş being just a bit larger than Kalkan, and the seaside road makes it an easy half hour drive from Kalkan – making it a great half-day or full-day trip. Kaş literally means ‘eyebrow’ in Turkish. This city was originally called Antiphellos. Phellos was a Greek word meaning “stony place”, and this name is very well suited to the area. It has lots of restaurants, a few ancient sites, and a giant that watching over the city (yep that is correct).
WATCH our visit to this site via our video link below!
6. Saklıkent Canyon
Saklikent National Park is around 40 km due east of Fethiye and an hour drive north of Kalkan. This 18 km long, 300 meters deep canyon is unbelievably beautiful. After Verdon in France and Vikos in Greece, it is considered to be the third longest canyon in Europe.
The Saklikent Gorge also known as “Hidden Valley” or The Lost City. Its passageways shaded from the steep and narrow walls with streams of icy waters flow through the canyon making it a perfect day trip to except the summer heat! Don’t forget to take water shoes as you have to cross a bit of rocky water to get into the gorge.
7. Demre, Turkey – Home of Santa Claus
A 1.5 hour ish drive from Kalkan makes this a longer day trip, but we think it’s worth the drive!
Demre is a tiny town (considerably) located in the Antalya Province on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey with the Taurus Mountains rising behind. The villages of Demre grow pomegranates and citrus fruits as well as large quantity of fruits and vegetables all year round in greenhouses. Previously known as Kale, it was renamed in 2005 after the river Demre. Demre is also the ancient the Lycian town of Myra.
More importantly it’s the home to the world famous fourth-century Christian saint, Saint Nicholas of Myra – better know now in the states as the mythicize Santa Clause.
WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ a more detailed itinerary for Demre in this blog post for sites like Myra, Andriake Ancient City, Saint Nicolas’ Church and Kekova.
8. Turkish Breakfast at Belmuar Restaurant in Islamlar
Kahvaltı is the word we use for breakfast in Turkish, but it literally means “under coffee” or “before coffee.” It’s the meal you eat before you drink your first cup of Turkish coffee.
And of course Kalkan has loads of yummy Kahvaltı places, our favorite being Belmuar Restaurant in Islamlar. The presentation, home-made foods, and views made it a place I want to go back to every week! It’s about a 20 minute drive north of Kalkan into the mountain. Make sure to search for the old unmarked Lycian rock tombs and stop to take some pictures of the Kalkan bay below on your way there!
WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ more about Turkish Breakfast here.
P.S. – Our second rec is here.
I marked this as a ‘bonus’ because honestly, just like Antalya, Fethiye can be its own trip!
We had some new friends we wanted to meet up with there so we just took a long day trip there! Check out Turkeysforlife for all things Fethiye related.
Because we have already explore Fethiye via a sailing trip back in 2016 (still need to write about it!), we decided to do something nearby that we missed the first time – Babadağ or Father Mountain. Well, technically, the first time we came up to paraglide off the mountaintop! This time we came to watch others and enjoy a nice afternoon tea.
WATCH our visit to this site via our video below and READ about it here via our friends at Turkeysforlife. (You can even enjoy watching some of our first experience paragliding in this video too!)
Our other tips for this area:
- For our road trip, we drove in our own car from Izmir to Kalkan. Even thought the drive is only 5.5 hours, we decided to stop off and explore Dalyan on the way.
- If you want to reach with your private vehicle, Kalkan,
- 840 km-9.5 hours from Istanbul
- 660 km-8 hours from Ankara
- 410 km- 5.5/6 hours from İzmir.
- If you want to reach with your private vehicle, Kalkan,
- If you don’t want to drive from Izmir, taking a bus will be the easiest and quickest route. You can find bus tickets here. Looks like Pammukale and Kamilkoç bus companies go and take approximately 5.5-6.5 hours.
- The closest airport to the Kalkan area is still the Dalaman airport at approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes drive. Dalaman airport, otherwise known as “Mugla Airport”, is located 5km south of Dalaman on the south west coast of Turkey.
- Sunexpress and Pegasus Airlines do not offer direct flights from IZMIR to Dalaman airport as it is too close. But you can fly with a stopover via Istanbul airports. Istanbul should have daily direct flights to Dalaman then you will need to rent a car or take a transfer to Kalkan.
- You can also fly into Antalya Airport, but the journey to Kalkan is longer at around 3 hours. If you are coming from Antalya rent a car (one day I’m going to write a post about renting a car in Turkey because it’s my favorite way to travel around the country) and set off on the 3.5 hour journey to Kalkan. You will pass by Demre (home of Santa Claus) and Kaş. The three hour drive from Antalya is NOT for the faint of heart; there are lots of hairpin curves and winding, 2 lane roads. However, the drive is through the mountains and along the coast, so the scenery is never dull. CHECK OUT A 3 DAY ITINERARY FROM ANTALYA via my friend over at Travelinglensphotography.
- We stayed in a large villa recommended by some friends and we always shared it with another family. I would suggest a checking out these websites:
- Airbnb – If you are a smaller 1 family unit, I would suggest checking out my friend’s apartment that has a shared pool. It’s modern, well-designed with thoughtful touches and right in the center of town. You can find her LISTING HERE.
- Holiday Lettings (UK)
- Kalkan Regency Hotel is off to the side of Kalkan (not downtown) but it came recommend by some friends of ours. We had a 1.5 year old and sharing would not be overly enjoyable for any length of time. 😉
When to go to Kalkan:
- Kalkan, which has a Mediterranean climate, is actually a town that can be visited in all seasons. Winters are warm and rainy, and summers are very hot. In short, it may be more accurate to determine the season according to your needs.
- Like us, most people go for the summer season to cool off in Kalkan’s villas with pools or swim in the sea, you should choose hot or hot weather in summer, and
- However, if you want to escape the cold winters were you live and be in a warmer place, you can choose it even in winter – just don’t expect the pools to be open! The sea however, is always available for a chilly swim!
Restaurants we enjoyed:
- Belmuar Restaurant in Islamlar: Mentioned it above but I can’t recommend it enough!
- Bodamya Tepe Restaurant in Islamlar: Great view and nice shaded area to enjoy your meal. Area for kids to play as well. Watch it here.
- Adams Restaurant Kalkan: On the way to Kapatus Beach. Parking is avalible at the spot but the exit to the street is very dangerous. Also, a panoramic view of the sea!
- Belgin’s Kitchen Restaurant: Traditional Turkish floor seating on the first floor terrace area. There is also table seating one level above. Service is excellent and if you are looking for authentic Turkish food, look no further.
- The Brothers Cafe Restaurant: Little far from the center of town. Very cozy family run place. The staff was very attentive and pleasant to communicate with. We enjoyed a variety of meat dishes and all were excellent.
- Kalamaki Restaurant &Bar: Some of our friends and Jason and I took a date night to this lovely place. Make sure to call ahead a reserve so you can get a rooftop table and enjoy the sunset! The steak was amazing.
- Taj Mahal: Indian food. We had kids so we went early (6 pm). They were obviously not prepared and it took forever. But the food was good and it was not normal experience I think.
- Kalamaki Dragon Chinese Restaurant: Town Center near the Botanik Garden Cafe. Yummy food and a little bit of outdoor seating.
- Seaport Restaurant: We got this big seafood spread. The view is just over the beach area. We get seafood a lot in Izmir so I guess I am a little picky now. It was not my favorite food and it was pricer because of the location.
- Lighthouse Cafe: Little Ice Cream and cafe right on the harbor. Perfect for an after dinner treat!
- Atlantis Dondurma: It’s on a side street up from the harbor a bit. Vegan option was available here!
- Cafe Del Mar: We stopped here when exploring the shops and side streets. Fun, quirky ambience and a really good cold frappe.
- Old Town Hotel & Cafe: I had a yummy coffee brunch/lunch here with a friend. I know the owners changed but the cafe could still be there!
- There is a larger Migros Market as you enter into Kalkan as well as other smaller ones (called Migros Jet) around town) and a smaller CarrefourSA down towards the city center. There is an A101, BIM, and Sok which are also a chain market. Since we stayed for 3 weeks, we did a bit of cooking, doing breakfast, lunch, and sometimes supper at home depending on our days (and attitudes of kids).
- Anka Super Market has a good bit of international food items (prices can sometimes reflect it too).
- Kalkan Balikçilik is where we got our fish. They did a great job with our order of fresh fish cuts.
- Next to the fish market is Uçarlar Manav had amazing veggies and fruits.
- Gratis is be a good stop for toiletries, sunscreen, and non-food items.
- Any ‘eczane’, aka pharmacies, will help you with all the medicine and medical needs. As well, this is the only place to get contact solution other than a eyeglass store. They are open every day except Sunday. On Sundays the eczanes take turn being the pharmacy ‘on-call’ for the day.
Few other tidbits (recs but didn’t do)
- The Kalkan local pazar (market) is Thursday. It is a fun thing to check out if you have never been to a local market. It can also make the area around it a bit congested.
- A boat trip from Kalkan harbor: This can be a private or public afair If you are looking for a private tour, again I would recommend by friend Victoria- her husband, Anıl, does an amazing day trip on his private boat. Otherwise check out the public big boat tours down by the harbor, book ahead and arrive early to get the best seats!
- Beach clubs: Personally I thought the Kalkan Public beach was one of the nicest ones we went too! However, if you want to spend a whole day on the water with facilities, restaurants, etc. – then check out the local beach clubs. Here are a few that were suggested to us: Kalamar Beach Club at the bottom of the hill in Kalamar Bay and Yali Beach Club which is along the road that runs past the end of the harbor near town. (ps – make sure they family friend before you go – aka not adult only)
- Other restaurants: (either not open at the time due to COVID or season timing for us)
- Alternatif: Supposively the best steaks in town.
- Sade: Straight down the main city street on the left (up first alleyway). Food is good, owned by Mustapha’s brothers.
- Begonvil: Just along the street on the left before going down the main city street. Street level, no views, but atmosphere. Food is good and cheap as is the wine.
- Olive Garden: Down the main city street, turn left at the Coffee shop and go up the stairs. The food and service are good, and has some nice views. I hear you get a complimentary starter and dessert, so just order a main course.
- Down by the Harbour you have the Marina with a line of restaurants: Sherlock Holmes and worth a visit. But just beware, along that harbor road is pricey!
- Pinarbası Terrace Restaurant: Beautiful restaurant at the Village of Islamar on an open terrace overlooking the mountains and the sea at Kalkan Bay & Patara
Overall, Kalkan is a fun little getaway for expats. There are so many Brits on summer holiday there that I never felt like a foreigner! If anything I felt more Turkish since we live in Turkey and speak Turkish. It was a perfect place to base our travels out off. While our goals were more to hang out with friends and relax for this trip, we did get to see a lot!
Comment below and let me know about some of the questions below:
- Do you want to travel to Kalkan now?
- Have you traveled to Kalkan before?
- If so, what did you love? What did we miss?!