Patara has it all. A 12km stretch of soft white sand – a major breeding ground for Caretta Caretta, the loggerhead turtle – backed by dramatic dunes and pine forests; an ancient city dating back to the 6th Century BC; fabulous walks through forests and meadows, following the route of a Byzantian aqueduct; and today’s quirky little village of Gelemiş, where you can relax with a cold beer or even stay a few nights to make the most of everything Patara has to offer.
We visit Patara more than any other place around us. Just half an hour’s drive, we walk in the hills and dunes at least once a week during the winter and make the most of the beautiful beach at the beginning and end of the summer. Even in July and August, only the small area around the beach cafe is mobbed – walk for five minutes to the west and you will have peace and quiet – bring your waterproof shoes though – the sand is way too hot to stand on.
When the weather is not too hot, you can take a couple of hours to poke about in the ruins – the Byzantian amphitheatre, basilica, senate building and main street with its triumphal arch jostle side by side with ancient Lycian tombs. A short walk will take you to the remains of a Byzantian lighthouse – Patara was once one of Lycia’s most important ports, though the port has long since silted up. Byzantian grain stores can also still be seen at the side of the ancient port.
Apart from during the very hot summer weather, the walk from Delikkemer (just outside Kalkan) to Patara is a lovely way to pass part of the day. It takes around three hours and the trail is well-marked. The walk begins at the Roman aqueduct, the remains of which you follow all the way to Patara.
Where a section of the aqueduct has collapsed, it is possible to see the ingenious syphon system, which dealt with the problem of getting the water uphill.
(All aqueduct photos: Alexander van Loon)
From May to October, the beach is closed from sunset to allow the loggerhead turtles (caretta caretta) to lay their eggs and hatch their young in peace. At peak hatching time, a group of volunteers from Akdeniz University are on the beach each evening to help any confused newly-hatched turtles find their way to the sea for their first swim.
There are many loggerhead turtles in the waters around Kaş and they even come right into the harbour at times. They surface for only a few seconds, so you need to keep your eyes peeled when you are on the beach or out on a boat, but they are completely unperturbed by snorkelling humans – if you spot one, feel free to stay with it and observe it feeding on the sandy sea bed. They can live for up to 70 years, so some of the grand-daddies are impressively large.