If you haven’t read part one yet, which is all about the fantastic climbing on offer in Turkey, you can read it here.
This article is going to be about the culture, activities and traditions you can enjoy whilst you’re taking a rest from climbing. Much like the climbing on our trip, this will focus mainly on the Antalya area. However, there are places we visited further a field, all of which are worth the journey.
The ancient cities
We were completely amazed by the ancient ruins on offer in Turkey. The abundance and quality of the ruins here is remarkable and something that should not be missed. There are several areas in the Antalya region you can visit so we will just list a few of our recommendations. The Ancient city of Termessos was our favourite, a totally captivating place to be.
Around an hours drive from the climbing area at Geyikbayiri. The city is large, has lots to see and best of all you are allow to roam about freely. There are no barriers and fences keeping you away from the best bits. Thankfully this appears to have been respected and we didn’t see any litter or vandalism.
Perge is a nearby ancient city. This is much bigger than Termessos but in a less dramatic location. We spent a long time wandering around and soaking in the atmosphere. It does feel more like a tourist attraction than Termessos and this city is much busier so it advisable to visit at quieter times.
Trebenna is the closest to Geyikbayiri and quietest ancient city we visited. This is behind the climbing sector of the same name and is a pleasant thirty minute walk from the river. Trebenna has a great atmosphere and feels like nobody has been there for a thousand years. It is an unspoilt location with great views looking out to the climbing at upper tier and lots to explore and see.
The Eternal Flame (Chimaera), Olympos
Not far from the climbing at Olympos lies the eternal flame known as the Chimaera or historically as Yanartas. After a short walk uphill you arrive at a sheet of bedrock, out of which several flames appear. The flames have been burning constantly for thousands of years, there are some small ancient ruins nearby. The phenomenon is thought to be caused by natural methane escaping, under pressure, from underground. There are around a dozen flames of varying sizes and it is a truly unique sight. It is not hard to imagine that, without scientific explanation, so much myth surrounded the Chimaera. Definitely a must see in the area and easily combined with a day climbing in Olympos, remember your marshmallows! There is also a wonderful ancient city at Olympos, right near the crag Cennet, well worth visiting after a days climbing followed by a swim in the sea.
Cappadocia is such a vast, interesting area it really deserves an article all of its own. These few paragraphs will only touch the surface and hopefully inspire a visit of your own. It takes almost a full day of driving to get there from Antalya and you need to spend at least three whole days there to make it worth the journey. We spent three months in Turkey and including Cappadocia was one of the best decisions we made. It is very highly recommended – although it would be impractical for someone on a week long trip to Geyikbayiri.
Once you have arrived a whole world of intrigue and excitement await you. Famous for the hot air balloons at sunrise, this is actually only a small part of what makes Cappadocia interesting. The landscape is in relief, with valleys sinking away into an enormous plateau. Within the valleys are many amazing natural towers and chimneys. These are made out of volcanic ash which has been compressed over millennia to form tuff. Humans have subsequently carved out this soft rock, creating churches, houses, castles and underground cities. It is often, and rightly, described as a ‘moonscape’. You can’t walk for a minute without seeing something interesting, there is almost too much to see.
Many of the valleys and buildings are free to explore, however, some of the most intricate buildings are protected and you must pay to enter. This was worth the cost, as places like the Dark Church are spectacular. Rules varied from no photography at all, no flash photography or do as you please. This was a bit odd but didn’t detract from the experience of visiting. The underground cities and Ihlara valley are equally fantastic and worth the trip away from Göreme.
After initially being sceptical, we did go for a ride in a hot air balloon and it was a great experience. We were there in February so got a ride for €45 per person, significantly cheaper than at peak times. At this price it was awesome and well worth the money. Seeing the area from above was breathtaking and definitely added to the trip. The weather in winter can often be bad and people leave disappointed as the balloons don’t fly. Our gamble payed off, but maybe later in the year would be a safer bet.
For accommodation in the area the most sought after place to stay is in a cave hotel. The rooms of which are carved entirely out of stone and have a unique feel to them. They can be very expensive, but in the off season we stayed in a great cave suite, found on airbnb, for €20/night. Göreme is the heart and soul of the area and is the most convenient place to stay.
Cappadocia is a unique and fascinating place, one of Turkey’s many gems. Although there are some climbing areas you could visit en route, such as Aladaglar, Cappadocia is an isolated part of the country. However, the scale and quality of the region more than makes up for the journey to get there. If you have the time to make a trip there, it will not disappoint you.
Pamukkale is another of Turkey’s star attractions and is around three and a half hours drive from Geyikbayiri. At Pamukkale you will find a vast expanse of travertine, deposited on the hillside by mineral rich thermal springs. The thermal springs have created a number of terraces and pools as the water has cascaded down the hillside. It is a truly stunning spectacle. What makes the area extra special is the vast ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis. In the Ancient city you will find everything from an amphitheatre to tombs and mausoleums. The ruins are high quality and really give an insight to what life was like here in times gone by.
When you arrive you are told to remove your shoes and socks, as they can damage the delicate formations. As you walk around your feet get a massage from the minerals and the warm thermal waters relax your muscles. A while ago it was free to walk everywhere, but now there are more limitations to protect the formations. There is a designated pool you can pay to go in, which is heated by the thermal springs. We asked, as it was quiet, if we could go in a natural heated pool. We were lucky and got to bathe in a pool and had stunning views of the travertine terraces. It is important to protect this beautiful area so only walk on permitted areas or ask permission if you are unsure.
One day is sufficient to see Pammukale, arrive early and spend the full day there. Bring your swimming kit and a packed lunch to make the most of it. Pammukale is a stunning place and deserves its reputation and fame. It would also be possible to do a detour route, going from Geyikbayiri to Pammukale and then on to Datça for climbing. This would be slower than going direct but would allow you to see one of Turkey’s many beautiful historical sites along the way.
Another joy of visiting Turkey is enjoying all the wonderful food and drink they have to offer. Much like Cappadocia, the food in Turkey really deserves an entire article of its own! Most people know of Kebab, Pide or Lokum (Turkish delight), which are all delicious, but there is much more to enjoy than just that.
No trip to Turkey would be complete without Çay (tea in Turkish) and Simit. Turkey consumes the most tea per capita in the world, the people on the market will happily serve you a glass or two along with their food. Traditional Çay is black tea served in a small tulip shaped glass, with the option of adding sugar. Nobody adds milk and locals drink black Çay not the brightly coloured apple tea found in tourist areas. Simit is a great accompaniment and you will always be able to find a freshly baked Simit wherever you are.
Some other Turkish foods that we enjoyed include: Gözleme, Bazlama, Kahvalti, kahve Maras Dondurma, Köfte and Baklava. For more adventurous tastebuds something like Kokoreç or Balik Ekmek will be perfect. There is no way of describing how delicious Turkish food is, you simply have to try it for yourself.
Turkey has lots of markets selling a plethora of fresh produce. The climate in Turkey is perfect for growing fruit and vegetables so there is always something fresh, interesting and tasty available. The market at Akdamlar is the closest to Geyikbayiri and has locals selling their fresh fruit, vegetables, honey, eggs from their gardens as well as some restaurants and gözleme places that make food fresh to order. We also visited a larger market on boǧaçay street towards Antalya that sold absolutely everything you could think of. This is where you should go and try proper traditional lokum, where the market owners will cut you bits off to try before you buy.
For drinks, Turkey’s best known alcohol is Raki. Raki is a grape brandy flavoured with aniseed, which is clear when neat but turns white when water is added. This colour change has earned it the nickname of lion’s milk. Salep is an unusual winter drink you can enjoy in Turkey, it can’t be exported so it’s worth trying whilst in Turkey. Turkish beer is also very tasty and is just perfect for post climb relaxation.
We hope that this article has given a bit of inspiration and information for your trip to Turkey. This merely gives a snapshot of what’s on offer in Turkey, there is a lifetimes worth of enjoyment to find there. The climbing is fantastic and so it the culture. We had heard so much about Geyikbayiri before we went, and it more than lived up to the hype. Thank you for reading, we hope you enjoyed these articles.
You can read part one here.
Relevant links and resources