Blue Cruise 2015

The main perk of working in Turkey's tourism industry is, of course, partaking in the same travel itineraries that we plan for others. What's more, in our efforts to perfect our own annual Blue Cruise vacation, we gain valuable experience to incorporate into our suggestions and guidance for clients. Win-win!

This year was one of our best trips yet, thanks to a hilarious group of friends and a brilliant route. But there were a couple of snags, as can be expected when you're trying to assemble a group of people coming from various parts of the world. No matter - these are the experiences we learned from, and will avoid next time around!

Without further ado, I give you

THE BLUE CRUISE 2015 TRAVEL LOG

or "The Real World Bozburun '15"

 

Day 1: Marmaris

We flew into Dalaman airport the first morning, where we had a transfer van waiting to bring us to the port of Marmaris. Well, most of us did. With guests flying in from California, the UK, Germany, Italy, and Istanbul, it's hardly surprising that there were a few unavoidable delays along the way. Because of a flight mix-up that morning, we got off to a late start on the boat, but it easily could have been a lot worse. Next time around, we'll have our friends meet the night before departure in the port city, to allow more of a buffer zone for possible delays.

What to do while you wait in port? These guys primped.

What to do while you wait in port? These guys primped.

There was a silver lining to having a few hours to kill before we embarked - we were in Marmaris! The boat was docked by Marmaris' old city, which is a charming hillside labyrinth of narrow streets draped in bougainvillea. Some of our group went off in search of peṣtemals - thin Turkish hamam towels. We advise all our friends to bring a couple of these versatile towels to the boat, as they pack easily and ensure you'll always have a dry towel on hand. The rest of us went to pick up some floaty beds and noodles (also the floaty kind, not pasta.) Sometimes the boat already has noodles, but as the sea water destroys them very quickly and they cost about 2 lira per noodle, we like to stock up anyway.

Backstreets of Marmaris

Backstreets of Marmaris

By the early afternoon we had assembled our entire group of 12 on the boat and were more than ready to get the show on the road. There was one last thing to do, however, and that was to go through customs. The route we planned this year took us from Marmaris and the coast of Turkey on the first night straight to Rhodes the following morning, so we needed to officially exit Turkey before we left the port. This is not generally a long or arduous process, but if you do plan a Blue Cruise that takes you between Turkey and the Greek islands, be prepared to spend some time and money paying for the right to cross borders. It is definitely worth it. But by this point on our first day, having already been delayed, we were itching to swim!

Finally, mid-afternoon, customs completed, we were on our way. It was glorious.

We stopped for the night in Kadırga Koyu, which is a beautiful cove, but still quite close to Marmaris. There were already several boats moored there (we were a bit late to the party), but it was the first and last cove we anchored in that was even remotely "crowded." But nothing mattered by that point. We swam, we had wine, there was fish on the grill.

I will take this moment to tell you generally about the food we ate on board, because I can't possibly remember the precise menus for each meal, nor would that be interesting to read. The first night was pretty special though, because we had mountains of seafood. They served us octopus salad, fried calamari, shrimps sautéed in butter, and whole grilled sea breams. Along side all that came various salads and vegetable dishes. We had a seafood feast one other night during the trip, but they also served us mouthwatering grilled chicken, pasta with freshly made tomato and olive sauce, cauliflower salad with yogurt, mücver (zucchini fritters), eggplant and potato salad with tomato sauce, haydari (strained yogurt with fresh herbs) and lots more. I wish I had pictures of our meals for this blog, but the honest truth is that we demolished all of it as soon as the plate hit the table. So you'll just have to imagine it: it was simple, healthy, gorgeous Mediterranean fare. Breakfast was always a traditional Turkish spread: tomatoes and cucumbers, olives, feta and kaṣar cheeses, honey, jams, nutella, fresh fruit, some kind of egg dish or french toast, sometimes sucuk (Turkish sausage), tea and coffee.

After feasting like kings some of us collapsed from travel exhaustion and others went night swimming. It had been a long day but overall, a successful one.

Day 2: Rhodes

The sun was rising as we left the Turkish coast

The sun was rising as we left the Turkish coast

The Aegean is the calmest in the early morning hours, so we were off to Rhodes at dawn. Three or so hours later we arrived at port and were served breakfast while the handler came to take our passports to the border office. By late morning we had completed the customs process and received our guest cards that would allow us to enter and exit the port freely.

The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes

The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes

Rhodes Old Town is a medieval walled city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We split into smaller groups and set off to get lost in the back streets, to shop, sightsee, and idle in the cafes. In the mid-afternoon we reconvened on the boat for lunch, and then some of us headed out for a swim while others napped or read. The public beach right next to the port in Rhodes has startlingly clean, clear water, so we didn't have to go far to swim, but some of our group took a walk to another beach with beds and umbrellas.

Getting lost in the Old Town

Getting lost in the Old Town

After swimming and showering, we headed back into the medieval city for dinner. We had a reservation at Marco Polo Restaurant, set in the garden of the boutique hotel Marco Polo Mansion. It was an incredible meal in an even more incredible setting, and ended up costing far less than we had anticipated for a group of 12. We would not hesitate to recommend it (or to go back!)

After dinner we wandered a bit, and, by happy chance, came across a live music performance in an open air bar. I don't know how to describe it any other way than this: SO. MUCH. FUN. When the band finished we were legitimately bummed.

We headed back to the boat to sleep, but the port was unfortunately quite loud, so many of us slept below deck. Of course it's not unusual to sleep in the cabins, but we often choose to sleep outside under the stars, so nights spent in port can be less picturesque.

 

Day 3: Symi's Coves

Time to get down to business.

Time to get down to business.

Symi already had a spot at the top of our list of favorite Greek islands, but after this trip it might have reached the pinnacle. We came from a different direction than we had in years past, and so explored a side of the island we hadn't yet seen - and it was seriously breathtaking. Our first stop was Nanou Bay, a sliver of beach surrounded by steep hills on either side. It was very windy when we first arrived, but we were able to moor behind a rock wall that protected us, and it was PARADISE. We were surrounded by the type of scenery that epitomizes the Blue Cruise: jagged coastline, pristine water glittering under the sun, and the feeling that you're a million miles from nowhere. It was the first full day we spent in typical Blue Cruise fashion - swimming, reading, eating, drinking, laughing.

Another view of Nanou Bay

Another view of Nanou Bay

The water was chilly for a only a moment. Some off us set off with noodles and snorkel gear to scout locations for cliff jumping, and a few of us jumped. Later on, a group left on a long swim to find a hidden beach described to us by the captain. After some genuine exercise, we were ready for lunch. In the afternoon we had a short cruise to the next spot, Agios Giorgios, which (can it be possible?) was even more striking than the last. Towering cliffs flanked a beach populated only by goats and a few intruding campers. A tiny church was the only building. And so we spent the remainder of the day swimming and dining with possibly the most spectacular backdrop of the entire trip.

Was better in real life, though.

Was better in real life, though.

Sheer cliffs at Agios Giorgios

Sheer cliffs at Agios Giorgios

Day 4: Symi's Port

Devoting some time to general floating

Devoting some time to general floating

In the morning we cruised out of Agios Giorgios and headed to a spot closer to the main port of Symi. Once again the water was exquisite so we spent a good part of the day jumping into it, over and over. The other part we spent floating in it. Then we climbed some craggy rocks and jumped some more.

After lunch we headed into Symi's port, which is just downright enchanting. I'm not even going to bother trying to describe it, just - here:

We had to wait a bit for the guy to come gather our passports and fix up our customs paperwork, but then we were off to explore the town. It's a small place, but there's another charming boutique, gallery or cafe on every corner. After some delicious, but small-island-priced ($$) cocktails by the marina, we went back to our boat for another excellent dinner. But still we weren't finished. Symi is not like Rhodes - at the end of the gangplank there's no port security or city walls between you and the town, you're already there. So we walked a few minutes to a square overflowing with people and music, and we danced..

Beautiful Symi

Beautiful Symi

Day 5: The Bozburun Peninsula

Sleeping in Symi's port was not loud like Rhodes, or maybe we were worn out from dancing... but we slept well! At dawn we headed back to the Turkish coast. For breakfast we stopped at Tavṣan Bükü, with a direct view back to Symi on the horizon and the sea shimmering in infinite shades of blue. After spending the morning reviving ourselves in the water, we cruised into Bozburun's port to officially enter Turkey through the border office. While they were handling our paperwork, we wandered around town, unwittingly walked through a film set, and did some shopping.

Shallow waters made for a slow and scenic cruise into Bozburun

Shallow waters made for a slow and scenic cruise into Bozburun

Back on the boat we set off for Çöpçalık Koyu, a magical place heretofore unknown to us. This cove had everything: dazzling water, total privacy, sandy shallows that allowed for lounging in the water with glasses of wine, little islands to climb over, miniature caves to explore, goats that appreciated sunsets, craggy cliffs to jump off from, and ancient pottery scraps to collect, or lick, if that's your bag. We held it to a vote and decided, on our own authority, that it was the best cove ever.

There was another seafood feast, a beautiful sunset, and it was good.

Day 6: We Don't Want to Leave

It's deeper than it looks.

It's deeper than it looks.

The water in Çöpçalık Koyu was so clear in the morning it looked about 6 inches deep. It was our last day, and the crew offered us the option to stay or to leave Çöpçalık and explore other coves. No, we said unequivocally, we want to live in this cove for the rest of our lives.

Not quite ready to let go...

Not quite ready to let go...

In the afternoon, those who were not napping off lunchtime wine took the dinghy out for a cliff jumping excursion. But mostly the day was spent relishing every moment we had left in this, the cove to end all coves.

Our very fancy swim-up bar

Our very fancy swim-up bar

We had a lot of cliff jumping enthusiasts this trip, did you notice?

We had a lot of cliff jumping enthusiasts this trip, did you notice?

The last evening was the most beautiful. There was another delicious meal and a captivating sunset, yes, but it was special also because we knew we had reached the end. Our group, which started as a motley assortment of near-strangers, were now friends celebrating a successful joint adventure, the shared memories that will last a lifetime, and making plans to meet again.

Best vantage point to watch the sunset? Sitting on your noodle chair in the sea, with your camera in one hand and a tumbler of whiskey in the other.

Best vantage point to watch the sunset? Sitting on your noodle chair in the sea, with your camera in one hand and a tumbler of whiskey in the other.

For those friends of ours who want to join us next year, we are thinking of doing a similar route, but perhaps including another small island instead of Rhodes. Having been to Rhodes multiple times, we prefer to stay in quieter ports (or even better, silent coves) on our personal cruises. So far, though, this was the best route we've done yet!

If you're interested in organizing your own Blue Cruise, don't hesitate to contact us. This trip cost €770 per person for 6 nights, all meals, unlimited drinks, and all port and customs fees.

For good measure: The glassy water of Çöpçalık Koyu in the morning

For good measure: The glassy water of Çöpçalık Koyu in the morning

10 Reasons a Blue Cruise is the Best Vacation Ever

Typical Blue Cruise scenery. YEP.

Typical Blue Cruise scenery. YEP.

There are a lot of good vacations to be had. Beach resorts are good. Cities rich with history and culture, distinct architecture and culinary talent: great stuff. Adventure travel, seeking out the remote natural wonders of the world—also good!

But while I don't plan to stop traveling as far and as often as possible, there's one vacation that trumps the rest: the Blue Cruise. The Blue Cruise, or Blue Voyage, is the tradition of exploring the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts of Turkey and Greece in a crewed wooden gulet.

"Sure, boats, cool," you're thinking.

No. Listen to me.

It involves so many elements of a perfect vacation that it makes other holidays look one-dimensional.

Now, since we read nothing on the Internet if it's not in the form of a list, and without the structure of a list I may just end up shouting incoherently about this, my most beloved holiday on Earth, without further ado:

10 Reasons a Blue Cruise is the BEST VACATION EVER

 

1. No obligations. 

I mean this in a very literal sense, like you aren't even obligated to remember to eat. Once you board the boat, you can rest assured that everything will be taken care of until you disembark. Unlike, say, a city trip, where you might have to organize your time in order to get to the sights, find the best restaurants, or decode the public transportation system, you can experience all the pleasures of a Blue Cruise without lifting a finger in effort. You'll know when breakfast is ready; the crew will ring a bell. Each day will just unfold around you like the ever-changing landscape. This is especially gratifying because a Blue Cruise is typically a group vacation, and coordinating the needs and wishes of everyone on a group trip can take all the pleasure out of the trip itself. So grab your book, claim a sunbed, and you'll be on your way to the next cove.

Dibs on the sofa, and bring me some wine please

Dibs on the sofa, and bring me some wine please

2. It's remarkably affordable.

This is the part, no matter how many times I explain it to my friends, that still surprises them when it comes time to break down the cost.

So let's break it down again. Let's say, for example, you choose a standard gulet with 5 cabins that costs 720 euros a night, and you round up 9 of your friends. For the 10 of you splitting the boat, it will cost 72 euros each. Meals are usually priced at about 30 euros per person per day, so that brings it to 102 euros per day, all meals included.

I'm using real prices in my break down, from this boat. And mid-season prices, not even the lowest.

I'm using real prices in my break down, from this boat. And mid-season prices, not even the lowest.

Now, consider if you came over to the south of Turkey or Greece for the sun and the sea, but booked a hotel by the beach. You might find a decent hotel for 100 euros (likely you'll pay more), but once you add restaurants, activities and incidentals to the mix, it will end up costing you more than a private boat.

Another shot of the example boat from the cost break down. Any takers?

Another shot of the example boat from the cost break down. Any takers?

Of course, you don't have to take 10 friends to make it affordable. There are boats that sleep 4 guests that can be chartered for as low as 420 euros a night.

Naturally, if you are not totally constrained by budget, there are some magnificent boats to be had! But I find the affordability of the Blue Cruise a very salient detail, because it is all too often that people mistake my Instagram snaps of the sparkling Aegean as indicative of some kind of yachting lifestyle. Nope. Plan ahead and it is not out of reach. And whether you're on a standard, superior, or a deluxe boat, the other pleasures of the Blue Cruise remain unchanged.

I'm not knocking the deluxe boats...

I'm not knocking the deluxe boats...

3. The Turquoise Coast.

Oludeniz.

Oludeniz.

It's not for nothing that the Aegean and Mediterranean regions have played such a central role in the history of Western civilization—this place is awe-inspiring. The stretch of coastline you'll meander on a Blue Cruise is nothing short of spectacular. What's more, you'll be in remote and uninhabited corners of the coast that are otherwise unreachable, whether by land transport or commercial cruise ship. One secluded, deserted cove at a time, you'll wend your way past steep pine forests, rocky islets jutting from the waves, and sheer cliffs dropping into the sea.

The Gulf of Hisaronu

The Gulf of Hisaronu

And the sea! There's nothing like plunging into the Aegean sea right after waking up in the morning. In each cove the water is a little different—sometimes a perfect turquoise, sometimes jade, sometimes clear to a sandy bottom, sometimes dark from the depth—but always pristine. Words and even pictures don't really do it justice, so I won't go on, but I will say this: it's one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world, and the view changes constantly on the boat. Needless to say, it never gets old.

Irresistible spot for a swim.

Irresistible spot for a swim.

4. History and culture!

First of all, the Blue Cruise is a Turkish tradition, established by a group of artists and intellectuals in the mid-20th century. It was not invented by the tourism industry to draw foreigners to the region. So by taking a Blue Cruise you're already getting a taste of Turkish/Aegean culture, in a far more authentic way than if you rolled through on a giant cruise ship.

But it doesn't end there. From the fresh local ingredients used in your meals, to the hospitality of the crew, to the small fishing villages you'll visit along the way, you will experience the essence of Aegean culture.

View of the bay from the ruins of Loryma, now known as Bozukkale, "Broken Castle"

View of the bay from the ruins of Loryma, now known as Bozukkale, "Broken Castle"

And seriously, you can't take two steps without tripping over an ancient city. Many civilizations have risen and fallen throughout Anatolia and Greece, and all have left remnants scattered throughout the region. Some sites, like Ephesus, attract visitors from around the world, but the ruins you will come across on a Blue Cruise are often desolate, unattended. You can freely climb the walls of the ancient city of Loryma to gaze at Rhodes in the distance, or hike to the deserted ruins of the city of Lydae. No matter which route you choose on  Blue Cruise, you will discover some reminder of past civilizations, while enjoying the culture of the present one.

The amphitheater of Kaunos, at Dalyan. With some goats.

The amphitheater of Kaunos, at Dalyan. With some goats.

5. Solid, quality time spent with people you love.

We're sitting on noodles. The floaty bed is basically a table for drinks.

We're sitting on noodles. The floaty bed is basically a table for drinks.

For me, a Blue Cruise presents the perfect opportunity to round up friends and family whom I never see enough of and trap them on a boat with me for a week. Yes, sometimes travel is about getting away from everyone and everything. But in this age when families and friendships often span continents, travel can also be about reconnecting. I think it's fair to say that most of us have people in our lives we wish we saw more often, and not just on the Facebook feed. And this is an infinitely better option than crashing on each other's couches—no one has to host, no one has to play guest. And you'll create more than enough memories to last you to the next reunion. Which brings us to the next point...

6. Anyone and everyone will enjoy a Blue Cruise.

As a youngish person with no kids, my travel plans don't usually involve googling "family-friendly." But here's the thing: there is genuinely no age at which a Blue Cruise isn't awesome. (Unless you're like 200, I don't know, or a week old. I can't speak for them.)

Here are some examples of groups for which a Blue Cruise would be a great, nay, perfect option:

  • An extended family with young kids, all the cousins and aunts and uncles.
  • A squad of 22-year-old recent college grads, pumped to celebrate graduation by chugging a beer on a noodle.
  • Our regular crew: a mixed bag of friends and siblings in their 20s and 30s.
  • A family with grown or almost-grown kids, enjoying what time remains before the nest empties.
  • Retirees.

In fact, many of the people you'll see on neighboring boats during a Blue Cruise will be retirees or retirement-age. Why? Because they know what's good. They don't mess around.

Cheers from Bozukkale!

Cheers from Bozukkale!

7. The FOOD. 

When eating on a Blue Cruise you may find yourself wondering, "How is this food so freaking good?"

"It came out of that tiny kitchen! It's not complicated, or even something I haven't had before! What is this sorcery?"

Grilling fish on the boat. In the moonlight.

Grilling fish on the boat. In the moonlight.

I've thought about this over the years and I think it's a combination of things. First and foremost, fresh, local ingredients. It's become a cliche in recent years, like every grocery store in Brooklyn only sells fresh local produce grown out back in the alley. But now you're on a boat in the Aegean. "Fresh and local" is how they live.

Another thing: the crew is also eating the food they're serving you. They eat amazing Aegean cuisine (which involves abundant greens, vegetables, yogurt, fruit, and fish, alongside the other food groups) everyday in their regular lives. They don't want to eat mediocre food at work, so they won't be serving it to you.

A Turkish meze tray. *This was in a restaurant, not on a boat. Still, it was delicious.

A Turkish meze tray. *This was in a restaurant, not on a boat. Still, it was delicious.

Also, nothing works up an appetite like swimming and climbing around on rocks and soaking up the sun all day. By the time the bell rings for lunch, you will want to eat everything. This is not to say that there's not enough food or it's not served often enough! Every meal is absolutely satisfying. It's just something about being outside on the sea all day—everything tastes better.

Which brings me to the second part of Reason No. 7. This combination of delicious Aegean food, fresh air, and sea water is exceptionally invigorating. After every Blue Cruise I've taken, I've felt healthier than when I began. Believe me, I wasn't swimming to shore to run on the beach; it was through no effort on my part. Even our first Blue Cruise, when the average age skewed younger, and we drank more than is advisable, no hangover survived past the initial morning dive into the sea.

8. A complete escape from reality.

Nothing to watch tonight but the moon rising.

Nothing to watch tonight but the moon rising.

Earlier I mentioned that travel can (or should) sometimes be about reconnecting. For me, the perfect vacation involves both connecting and disconnecting. Reconnecting with family, or connecting with new friends, is an essential part of the travel experience. In the same vein, it often takes disconnecting—from social media, television, the 24 hour news cycle—to genuinely connect with those around us. The Blue Cruise makes this effortless. You'll find yourself in places that seem so removed from civilization, it's easy to let go of all the noise. It's easy to let your phone battery die for two days without realizing it. Of course, you can charter a boat that has WiFi and flat screens in every cabin, but I've never missed those things during a cruise. And I've enjoyed the times when we found ourselves outside the range of cell service, with nothing left to do but be together at the edge of the world.

9. Mediterranean hospitality.

I can't count the times I was completely blown away by the hospitality of the people I've met in Turkey. I say "Mediterranean" hospitality because I think it's the same in many other parts of the region, but my experience has mainly been focused in Turkey and the Aegean region in particular.

These people. Are so, so nice. They are so generous in sharing their culture, their customs, and SO MUCH of their food. (I have also been overfed too many times to count.)

On a Blue Cruise you will be taken care of so very, very well by your crew. They'll make you feel totally at home. We had such a great experience with our crew that we've come back to the same boat every year since, and I believe that this is quite common.

I'm not promising that everyone you meet on your travels throughout the entire Mediterranean region will be an actual angel, but chances are they will be warm and welcoming, and happy to have you.

10. The places you'll pass through.

Bodrum looking shiny.

Bodrum looking shiny.

Before you can embark on your Blue Cruise, you'll have to get to the boat. Conveniently, the boats are moored in gorgeous ports along the Turquoise Coast. You'll have to come through places like Bodrum, Fethiye, Marmaris, Gocek, or Bozburun on both the front and back ends of the cruise, and if you have to overnight there for one reason or another, it's just an added bonus.

Never change, Symi.

Never change, Symi.

And let's not forget the other glittering cities and sights along the route! Rhodes medieval city is certainly something to behold, as is the utterly charming port of Symi. Oludeniz and Dalyan are two of many stops along the Turkish coast well worth a detour.

On a Blue Cruise you're not stuck next to the same hotel pool for a week—you're traveling. You can start in one port and end in another, even stop on an island in between. And the next time around, choose a different route, and explore even further.

I want this door in Rhodes. Top of my door wish list.

I want this door in Rhodes. Top of my door wish list.

Now, if you are a person who loves traveling and also has any sense, you're mentally checking your calendar for vacation days and compiling a list of your best travel buddies. I've made it easy for you—just forward them this list. Then you can swing on over to our fleet and check out some boats. The only thing that might be stressful about a Blue Cruise is organizing the details, but for that part, we've got you covered.

Hurry up and jump in already.

Hurry up and jump in already.

Five of our favorite small towns in Turkey

Some of Turkey's most alluring charms are hidden away in her small towns and villages. It is in these small corners of Turkey that you will experience the full warmth of Turkish hospitality, which overwhelms any cultural, political or religious differences. The pace of village life is also the perfect antidote to the bustle of Istanbul, so spending time in these quiet corners of the countryside is essential for us to maintain our sanity. They also have the ability to make you feel transported back in time, as village life maintains many customs and routines long since forgotten in cities. This short list includes some of our favorites, but is by no means comprehensive. Not all of these towns are even particularly obscure—but they have a character, an atmosphere, that keep us coming back for more.

 

Şirince

Houses of Sirince

Houses of Sirince

Şirince is sheer magic. The first time we ever arrived in this hilltop village of 600 was at the end of a long and sweaty day of travel. We were greeted with chilled elderflower juice in the private courtyard garden of our hotel. We were in love.

Yes please more elderflower juice please.

Yes please more elderflower juice please.

But when I say hotel, don't imagine long carpeted hallways, key cards, and ice machines. A hotel in Şirince is more likely to be an old Greek house, restored to reflect its history, but with more perks, like a hamam-style bathroom.

A restored Greek house

A restored Greek house

Şirince, situated inland in the hills above Selcuk and about an hour south of Izmir, was historically a Greek village. This heritage is apparent in the traditional architecture and churches that lend the village it's characteristic charm. Though tourism has an important role in Şirince's economy, many of the villagers still make a living from producing and selling local products, including olive oil, fruit preserves, fruit wine, natural soaps, and hand-crafted jewelry. What's more, these local jams and olives and honeys are an absolute treasure—one terrace breakfast laid out with homemade fig, peach, or quince jam will be enough to send you home with a few jars in your suitcase. Just be sure they don't break all over the leather jacket in which you've packed them so carefully, ahem.

A local breakfast spread

A local breakfast spread

Hey, whatcha makin'?

Hey, whatcha makin'?

Şirince is also a mere 20 minute drive from the ancient city of Ephesus, one of the most magnificent archeological sites in the world. For this and the many magical moments we have spent there, we encourage all our friends and family to make a stop in Şirince on their travels through Turkey. Though it is the only inland village on our list, it may be our favorite of all.

 

Kaş

The pretty shops of Kas

The pretty shops of Kas

Kaş is a dream—because it is a perfect little seaside escape, yes, but also in that it is our actual dream to own a summer house there in the future.

Kaş is situated right on the corner of Turkey where the Aegean coast becomes the Mediterranean, and vice versa. Though tourism has surpassed fishing as the main industry in town, it has not been overdeveloped, and presents a much quieter alternative to the crowds of Bodrum in the summer months. Maybe Kaş remains unspoiled because it is harder to get to than other seaside towns, with a two and a half hour drive between it and the nearest airport. Whatever the reason, Kaş is an absolute stunner, and I'd try to get there every summer even if the only way too reach it was by donkey.

Kaputas Beach near Kas

Kaputas Beach near Kas

Kaş was settled by the Lycians, and the archeological traces of past civilizations can be found throughout the region. It's also a popular center for scuba diving in Turkey, and presents opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and canyoning. The Greek island of Kastelorizo, only 6 km ferry ride away, makes for a perfect day trip. For a place that feels so remote, so disconnected from the rest of the world, there's plenty to do!

A carpet shop in Kas

A carpet shop in Kas

But for us, the allure of Kaş is in the gentle pace of life. At the height of the day we're afloat in the sea. As the sun lowers we meander the streets, lazily perusing the many charming boutiques. And as the moon rises, we sit in the square with the rest of the town and the street dogs, sipping raki with cheese and melon. For us, a stay in Kaş epitomizes the Italian phrase, "il dolce far niente." The sweetness of doing nothing is what keeps us coming back for more.

Perfect spot for a swim on the side of the road

Perfect spot for a swim on the side of the road

Gümüşlük

Restaurant in Gumusluk

Restaurant in Gumusluk

Gümüşlük, while not being too far off the beaten track, has a distinct character that attracts a certain crowd and makes converts of them. Return to Gümüşlük a few summers in a row and you'll start to recognize all the regular faces.

Situated on the ever-popular and highly trafficked Bodrum peninsula, Gümüşlük is one of many beloved towns along the coast. Each town on the peninsula has it's own particular vibe, and Gümüşlük's is bohemian. As it sits on the remains of the ancient city of Myndos, future developments of Gümüşlük are prohibited.  While other towns on the peninsula grow larger each year and constuct bigger and better luxury hotels, Gümüşlük just chills. You can walk from one end of town to the other in about 15 minutes, along a dirt road that sometimes gets drowned by waves. Summer concerts are staged in outdoor venues or in a 250-year-old church, from diverse genres such as jazz, reggae, classical,  and fasıl, a type of Turkish classical music. Fish restaurants set up tables in the shallow waves on the beach. Most of the spots where you'd sip a cocktail as the sun slips away are not much more than a bar built into the trees and some beach chairs. There is no pretension.

Bar with a view

Bar with a view

While only a half hour drive from Bodrum proper, Gümüşlük feels about a thousand miles away from the St. Tropez-glitz of Turkbuku and the thumping nightclubs of Gumbet. It is as mellow as Bodrum gets. And for that, it is one of our perennial favorites.

An evening in Gumusluk

An evening in Gumusluk

Alaçatı

A typical street in Alacati

A typical street in Alacati

Alaçatı might be the most developed and popular of the towns on our list, as it is a hotspot for well-heeled Istanbullus in the summer months. However, this does not change the fact that it is utterly delightful. (Especially on the edges of the summer season, when the crowds are thin.)

Restaurant in Alacati

Restaurant in Alacati

An hour outside of Izmir, Alaçatı is a maze of narrow lanes and carefully restored, brightly painted stone houses. The center of town is strewn with charismatic boutique hotels and lovely cafes, high-end boutiques and restaurants. A short drive out of town will bring you to myriad beaches, where favorable conditions have been attracting wind-surfers for years.

Alacati in spring - no crowds!

Alacati in spring - no crowds!

Though popular with a certain set of Turks, Alaçatı is not yet well-known among foreign tourists, and so retains the sensibilities and ambiance of Turkish taste-makers. While it's close enough to Izmir and Istanbul to not feel like a total escape, you've got to admire their style.

 A hotel's garden in Alacati

 A hotel's garden in Alacati

Selimiye

Selimiye's calm waters

Selimiye's calm waters

Selimiye is less than an hour's drive from the holiday hub of Marmaris, yet manages to feel worlds away. It is situated on the Bozburun peninsula, a dramatically carved stretch of landscape that is as sparsely populated as it is spectacular. While boutique hotels have begun to crop up in Selimiye in recent years, it remains largely under the radar and is safe-guarded against large-scale construction. As the remnants of the ancient settlement of Hydas are scattered throughout the area, and there are protected breeding grounds for various species of fish in nearby coves, we hope it stays that way.

Seaside dining in Selimiye

Seaside dining in Selimiye

Selimiye sits on a bay as calm as a lake, and the water in surrounding coves is famously clear, so it is a favored stop for Blue Cruisers. But the lush beauty of the region makes Selimiye a perfect getaway year-round, especially in the spring when the landscape turns white from almond blossoms.

Glassy water in Selimiye's port

Glassy water in Selimiye's port

Selimiye is a rare find: beautiful, unpretentious, with superb but reasonably priced accommodations, and so near yet so removed from the industrialized tourism that characterizes parts of Marmaris. And what's more, with so many Blue Cruises starting and finishing in nearby Bozburun and Marmaris, you couldn't find a more convenient spot to extend your vacation by a few precious days.

We have plenty more suggestions for planning a perfect holiday in Turkey! To find out more about us and what we do, contact us.

Turkey's Historical Highlights: Kayakoy

The history of civilization runs very deep in Turkey, and the country has a wealth of  ancient monuments to show for it. Many travelers to Turkey make a point to see the most famous sites, such as Ephesus and Cappadocia; however, there are countless other vestiges of history that are far less visited.

One of the more obscure sites worth visiting is Kayakoy. Just a few kilometers south of Fethiye, and a moderate hike up from the sea, Kayakoy is a ghost town of about five hundred stone houses. It was a primarily Greek Christian village, which had a population of around 6,000 at its height. Kayakoy was completely abandoned by the end of the Greco-Turkish war in 1922. Inhabitants had started fleeing in 1914 as a result of persecution, and many more were forced into exile in 1917-18. An earthquake in 1957 demolished many buildings, and what was left standing remains today a stark reminder of a bleak period in history.

Whether the relics of human history give testimony to our achievements or our failures, they are worth our contemplation, and Kayakoy is certainly a sight to behold, and an experience to treasure. In the past few years more visitors have found their way to the village, and there is a fee to enter the part of town preserved as a museum. As the current Turkish government has, unfortunately, plans to develop the area in the future, our advice would be to go as soon as possible! Kayakoy is easily reachable from Blue Voyages that start or finish in Fethiye. 

Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays everyone!

And speaking of holidays, BBC Travel was all about the Turkish coast this December. Two separate travel pieces about Turkey showed up on their website in the past couple weeks, both about spots you can visit on a Blue Voyage.

The one posted on Christmas Eve was about Gemiler Island, near Fethiye. As mentioned on our website's description of the Turquoise Coast, this island was the original resting place of Saint Nicholas, otherwise known as Santa Claus. The article is worth checking out, especially for the gorgeous pictures of the 4th and 5th century church ruins that cover the island.

In mid-December they posted an article about Butterfly Valley, which is also mentioned on the website. A hidden paradise, the valley and its hundreds of species of butterflies are protected from overdevelopment, cultivating a laid-back eco-travel vibe. Take a look at the article and photos - this place will surely go on your bucket list.

We hope you are enjoying your holidays, and can't wait to help you plan your next one!

Yeni yılınız kutlu olsun!

Coast Guide

While I was researching some of the highlights of the Turkish coastline, I came across this amazing reference: Coast Guide TR.  With their interactive maps you can explore even the most remote segments of the coast. While much of the information is geared toward people who may be sailing on bareboat charters, anyone who is planning a Blue Voyage and wants to know more about the region will find much to learn in this guide. And if you're considering a cruise but haven't settled on which stretch of shoreline to focus on, you can use the Coast Guide for inspiration.

Happy travels!

Affordable Luxury

Our friends and family are a diverse group - they are at all stages of life and spread all over the world. But we have been surprisingly successful at enticing them to the south of Turkey for a week on a boat, even if it means flying all the way from California, even when they are fresh out of college and not yet raking it in, and even as they work demanding hours in New York and are using their precious few vacation days.  The reason behind our powers of persuasion is simple: this is an exceptionally gratifying, yet surprisingly economical vacation.

Many of our guests assumed at first that this holiday was a bit out of reach. Whether it was the distance (most of our guests came from the US) or the presumed cost of a private boat, it seemed more like something to add to the bucket list than to go ahead and book.

The sea, the sun, the dramatic and ever-changing landscape, the sense of adventure and discovery, the mouth-watering meals, the warm hospitality of the crew - all these things are combined in a Blue Voyage to spectacular effect. This is why it comes as a surprise to people that on a private charter you'll often pay less than you would for a night in a hotel.

For example, take a look at our collection of 6 cabin boats. If you travel during a low-season month, like May, we have a boat that rents for 600 euros a day. With 12 guests, you'll pay only 50 euros each per day. Menu options average about 30 euros per person per day, so at 10 euros per meal, you'll top out at 80 euros a night. Even if you choose to cruise in August, at the height of the season, the boat will be 83 euros a night per guest, 113 with meals.

We do offer boats of all types, from standard comfort to deluxe. Of our 6 cabin boats, the most expensive tops out at 210 per night per guest, but again, this is not more than a luxury hotel. Meanwhile, your superior sea-view room will have a new vista each morning.

The food is a notable part of the appeal as well! We have never had a meal on a Blue Voyage that was less than stellar. With fresh, local ingredients, they prepare meals that are simply delicious and wholly satisfying. The cruise allows you to avoid one of the most frustrating holiday inevitabilities - finding yourself in the wrong restaurant, the place with mediocre food and exorbitant tourist prices.

So this year, expand your horizons! Get a group of your friends or family together, the ones you always intend to make more time for, and this year, make it happen. This is a priceless experience for an uncommon price, and absolutely worth it. 


Welcome!

Hoşgeldiniz! I thought this absolutely stunning video of Turkey by Leonardo Dalessandri would be a nice way to welcome you to the True Horizon blog. Not only is it beautifully made, it captures many of the small moments that make living (and visiting) in Turkey extraordinary.

Here I hope to keep you (frequently) updated on our travels, adventures, and the work we are doing at True Horizon Travel.

Till next time – kolay gelsin!

xx