While Turkey may have been off the agenda for a few years, Kalkan was calling for Kath Brown and her family
Those of us born in the 60s and 70s are the first big generation of travellers – Interrailing, backpacking and the student gap year, we pioneered them all. When I was younger I was determined to see as much of the world as possible and wouldn’t have dreamt of returning to the same place twice. But, while I’m still determined to tick a few more destinations off my list, I have also discovered the joy of going back.
My happy place is Kalkan, a small, peaceful Turkish Mediterranean resort and fishing town on the stunning Turquoise Coast, and my family and I have had holidays there countless times. My husband Adrian and I first went in 1997, and we stayed in a tiny apartment in the oldest part of town.
Fast-forward a few years and Kalkan has become so popular with UK visitors and many have bought villas there. In the past few decades, the area around the bay has become much more built-up, but that hasn’t affected our love of this scenic harbour.
A rich history
Kalkan was an important port in the 19th century, and trading in silk, olive oil, and lumber from the vast cedar and pine forests continued until it faded away in the 1950s, when the Turkish road system improved. Kalkan was saved by the arrival of wealthy English yachtsmen in the 1960s, when the tourism industry began. Because of this, Kalkan has retained all its historic charm – many of the buildings are listed and beautiful old houses line narrow streets winding up from the harbour.
We love staying at the Korsan Suites, luxurious two and three-bedroom apartments, each with their own private terrace and large Jacuzzi, along with a shared pool. Offering the facilities of self-catering, there is also a full hotel service and the best hospitality you could wish for from the friendly manager, Memduh. We travelled with Simpson Travel. Prices for a week at the Korsan Suites start at £887 per person departing on 6 June 2020, based on four sharing a two-bedroom suite. Price includes return flights, private transfers and seven nights accommodation on a b&b basis, with one welcome dinner included.
Food, glorious food
There are several reasons why Kalkan is my place to return to when I really need to relax. The first is the views. Wherever you end up staying around the bay, you are bound to have a peaceful terrace or balcony overlooking the sea. Another reason is the food. Turkey might not have a reputation for cuisine in the way France or Italy do, but I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad meal in Kalkan, and there are so many dining options to choose from.
Down in the harbour you can mingle with the yachting crowd in Trio, or walk up to Korsan Meze, one of the oldest restaurants in the area. For very traditional and unbelievably cheap fare, we also like Hunkar, which attracts lots of locals and serves a doner kebab Adrian insists is the best in the world!
Our favourite places to eat, though, are on the roof terraces high above the cobbled streets, where a whole dining experience has been created to escape the heat and take advantage of the magical views. Sitting up on the roof surrounded by twinkling lanterns and listening to the call to prayer from the mosque is always a holiday highlight.
As regular returners, we’ve got to know several of the restaurant and bar owners, and they give us a warm welcome whenever we arrive. The same friendly waiters have been at our favourite restaurant Sade for years, and we always meet up with Lev at Cafe Leon, where they have the best cocktail bar in town. Our regular pastime as a family is to go for dinner, then my daughter Gracie and I will go shopping (Kalkan is brilliant for jewellery, Turkish pottery and linen, spices and, of course, fakes), while Adrian and my son Freddie will retire to Cafe Leon to chat to the locals until the early hours.
Memorable ways to spend a day in Kalkan
Turkey isn’t the place for you in the height of summer if you don’t like the heat. During the day, temperatures can get into the 40s, so if you want to go and see ancient Lycian ruins like Xanthos, make sure you’re prepared to swelter. A day trip to the Saklikent Gorge (pictured below) is great fun. The second largest gorge in Europe, it’s a spectacular place with rock walls soaring high above and rushing water you have to wade through to begin your walk.
Once you’ve had enough of trekking the gorge you’ll find a number of restaurants with seating suspended just above the rushing waters, with Turkish rugs and cushions to lie back on. It’s the perfect place to have a beer in the shade. And once you’re rested, you can hire a rubber dinghy to whizz down the rapids on.
Patara Beach, an amazing 12km stretch of sand that was once voted one of the top beaches in the world by The Times, is only a short ride away by a local bus but I have to confess we rarely go there. It’s not that we don’t think it’s a beautiful spot, it’s just that we really love to hang out at the famous beach clubs of Kalkan during the day.
There are seven clubs around the harbour that can be reached by water taxi or car. They are set into the rock with paved platform terraces to sunbathe on, water sports, and bars and restaurants. For family fun, you can’t beat the Kalamar Beach Club, where the staff are really friendly, the food is reasonably priced and there are kayaks and a trampoline you can swim out to. For a more sophisticated, quieter day by the sea, try Mahal Beach Club where the food is to die for.
If I had to sum up why Kalkan is so appealing to my family, it’s because it’s just touristy enough. It’s lively and fun and you end up dancing in a bar at 2am. But it still feels like an authentic cultural experience and that’s the kind of holiday we like. Both my teenagers are asking if we’ll be going back next year. I think that’s a good sign.
Words: Kath Brown