Turkey: Lycia

From Anatayla we were carless, which meant we would be on the turkish bus system for our remaining time in Turkey. Our first taste was a journey to Olympos. This was in the heart of the Lycian region, which encompasses some of the southern coast of Turkey. Like the Olympics, Olympos has been ‘hosted’ by many ancient empires of its time. Persian, Roman, Hellenes, Macedonians etc.

Olympos beach

As a modern nation Turkey went through a lot of development of roads and industries in the 1960s under a lot of guidance from Germany. After the 1990s tourism took off. In 2019 51 million people went to turkey. (for reference NZ has 4 million arrive a year). This had led to the coastline being absolutely bombarded with hotels and resorts. Olympos is marketed to tourists as a remedy to this. It is a quiet town located on the coast with none of the major developments of say Antayala.

Beer courtesy of a man with a chilly bin for a backpack, belly courtesy of the beer.

We spent three nights here, mostly hanging out on the beach and checking out some of the surroundings. One of the natural highlights was the Chimaera flames.

Chiamera flames

These methane fuelled open flames have been burning since forever ago. Used as ancient lighthouses for the greeks and allegedly the inspiration for the chimera myth (Homer). It seems the chimera has been tamed by tourists as the ‘fire breathing, mythical beast with the body and head of a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that ended in a snake’s head’ now spends its days toasting everyone’s marshmallows.

Chimeramallows, hand of a human, arm of tree, blood of sugarcane

From Olympos, another bus. Complete with a complimentary (it was for free) cup of tea. We arrived in Kaş (ş = sh). This is a small seaside town surrounded by massive mountains and Greek islands.

Looking back toward Kaş
One of the beaches on the Kaş peninsula

During our time in Kaş we went on a boat trip. This was a relaxing way to spend a day. The tour took us through some of the nearby islands and stopped several times for a swim.

Issy had the camera, sorry viewers

We cruised past Simena, another ancient Lycian town. Simena had the added interest of being a sunken city. The clear waters allowed for incredible views of houses, docks and buildings which had been submerged since an earthquake in the 2nd century.

Simena

From here we climbed to the top of the island into an old fortress in Kekova. The boat decided to forgo chairs in lieu of mattresses which made it extremely comfortable to chill out. After a few more swims in the incredibly salty Mediterranean we called it a day.

Looking down from Kekova fortress

Our second day in Kaş involved a scooter hire. We drove around and had a thoroughly enjoyable day. Due to an overaggressive grip at the petrol pump we had an excess of gas in the tank. Kas peninsula has a loop road about 4km around. We thought we would host our own ‘Isle of Mann’ to get rid of the extra gas. We spent around 2 hours driving this loop having a great time.

One more bus, destination Fethiye. From Fethiye (Fet – E – ye) we decided to go on a walk. This would prove to be more difficult than we had anticipated. Our map was somewhere between suboptimal and woefully inadequate.

Photo captured by a cctv camera on a local water tap.
Issy making the most of usufruct
Looking down at Oludeniz

We spent 3 hours bush bashing up a hill in the middle of the Turkish summer. Despite the odds, we made it to the top only to find a road which we could have taken. We continued onwards and enjoyed the views. We spent the night in our trusty tent in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t have any sleeping bags or blankets, so it was a bit of a chilly night under our clothes. The next day we continued on to butterfly cove. This was pretty spectacular. We thought we might be able to climb down, but without ropes it was a bit much to consider.

Butterfly Cove

We caught a bus back to Oludeniz, where we were surprised to find ourselves in an English town. We had to do a double take but right there was George, a sunburnt Englishman eating an English breakfast in a pub yelling at the cricket, whilst holding a 10 quid note out to the waiter. The entire town was copies of this, the only changing being the sport, the accent, and the maximum size of the t shirts in the shirts next door. The largest we saw was XXXXXXXXL, not even kidding. I’m pretty sure it was a repurposed sail. For reference, Oludeniz is a small town outside Fethiye, with a great beach and paragliding, it is particularly popular with the English.

Fethiye harbour

After being talked out of trying on the t-shirt (white’s not my colour), we took a quick bus to an abandoned town named Kayaköy. In the 1920’s parts of this area of turkey were inhabited by Greeks. A massive repopulation of 1.6 million people post WWI due to the Ottoman collapse, rise of Turkey and numerous other political happenings occurred.

Looking down from the high point of Kayaköy

Turks from Greece and Greeks from Turkey swapped towns wholesale. The Turks who were moved to mainland Turkey refused to live in buildings which had been inhabited by Christians. As a result the town was abandoned.

It’s interesting walking around ruins of this age, as they are in much better condition than the older towns around. I was reminded of looking at Italian renaissance paintings and how the buildings look in much better nick than today barring the restored stuff. After a reflecting (read: pretentious) walk up here we returned to Oludeniz, where we went out partying. The next morning we had a delicious English breakfast.

Beer 3 of a few.
Paraglider, the sky was never empty while we were walking

Next bus: Pamukkale

Backpacking Iran: Yadz

We arrived at 6.30am on our bus from Shiraz and our kind bus driver helped our half asleep selves to get a taxi taking us to hostel in old quarter to our hostel. The hostel we stayed in was another absolute jackpot- it was beautiful with the rooms situated around a main courtyard, and we got a private room for only $10 USD including a buffet persian breakfast every morning, including carrot jam (I have no self control around buffet breakfasts, I was in heaven). After breakfast we went on a walking tour organised by a local hotel which showed us around the old quarter of the city and gave us some insight into Yadz.

Yazd is a city of the desert with its old quarter being a labyrinth of winding lanes, mud-brick houses all joined at their roofs to make it possible for a quick get-away from an enemy.

Yadz is recognised by UNESCO as one of the oldest towns on earth originally settled 5000 years ago, and was once an important stop on the Silk Road- Marco Polo once stopped in Yadz around 1270AD called it “good and noble city”. Remnants of its past as a silk road stop can be seen in multiple features of the city, for example, in the minarets adjoining the mosques where they used to light fires in the large balconies to guide travellers towards them for food and shelter.

We explored a beautiful local mosque in the late afternoon, after sheltering from the 45 degree midday sun in our hostel (in front of the air conditioner!).

Our next day, after another buffet breakfast, we sluggishly headed out to one of the top tripadvisor sights for Yadz- the water museum. It sounds like a strange place to go to but we could not work out how this city in the middle of the desert survived for 5000 years with no nearby river or lakes. I won’t go into all the details but in summary it involved a complex underground aquaduct system moving water from mountains afar to the city which they think were first built 2000 years ago (now modern water systems are in place). We learnt that now Yadz is running out of water, the rivers that once supplied that city have gone almost dry and the city is having to get water from far away cities to supply its population.

Another amazing sight in Yadz, you can see the minarets in the back and the balconies at the top were they would light the fires to guide silk road travellers

We walked (foolishly) in the midday heat to a Zoroastrian fire temple about 3 km from the centre of town. The brick temple contains a fire that has burned for more than 1,500 years. The ancient flame has been kept alive since and relocations, and continues to burn today. The fire was first lit in 470 and has had two other cities as its home before settling where it is today.

About the Zoroastrian symbol
Chris and the very old fire (kept behind glass inside the temple)

We just about passed out from the heat on the way back only to be saved by copious water and the humble soft serve ice cream sold to us by a nice man on the street. We probably could have called it a day then but we had one more sight in Yadz we had to see- The Towers of Silence.

The towers of silence are the two building you can see on the hills in the background

The Towers of Silence, built more than a millenia ago, is the old Zoroastrian cemetery where until 1960s the bodies of the deceased were transported to their final resting place and left to the vultures. In the Zoroastrian belief contaminating the elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water) with decaying matter such as a corpse is considered sacrilege. Sky burial is considered a clean death because it prevents putrefaction—bodies are exposed to the sun and birds of prey such as vultures can eat a body down to the bones in just a few hours. To me it sounds like a gruesome way to go having grown up in a different belief system, however I can see how it fits in within the Zoroastrian religion. Information at the sight also stated that this way of handling the deceased helped for sanitation “it is said that in case of spreading diseases such as cholera, typhoid, plague, or when large wars broke out, a large number of people were killed in one day and burying the corpses were a big challenge so they used sky burial to prevent disease from spreading.

Since it was disused as a burial site (less than 50 years ago) it has become a local and international tourist spot.

Inside the tower
I did not like being in the towers, I just got a yuck feeling and I left pretty quickly out of them
View from the hill one of the towers is on of Yadz, the towers used to be far out of town but now with the expanding city it is much closer

That evening we had dinner above the city in one of the rooftop restaurants with an amazing view.

The next day we did a tour to Kharanaq, Chak Chak, and Meybod.

We first visited the crumbling mud-brick village of Kharanaq. The site has been occupied for approximately 4,000 years, while the rundown adobe buildings that draw foreigners from around the world date back around 1,000 years.  

The village of Chak Chak, also known as Pir’e Sabz, consists of a Zoroastrian Fire Temple perched beneath a towering cliff face in the desert out of Yadz.

We were a little disappointed at the tea lights supposed to be the fire shire in the temple after slogging up the hill in 40 degree heat

Finally we hit Meybod village where we saw an old castle ruin, a caravanserai dating back to the silk road, and the ice house which was definiately the best part. The ice house is a domed, thick wall structure where ice was stored during the winter months and enjoyed during the hot summers, basically it was a massive freezer.

empty pool outside the ice house, in winter these were filled every day with water and then the ice from the frozen pool was cut up and stored inside the ice house for summer
in the ice house

That afternoon we took a 5 hour bus north to our next destination- Isfahan…

Highlights of Yadz:

  • Free walking tour
  • Walking through the old quarter
  • The beautiful mosques
  • The water museum
  • Zoroastrian fire temple
  • Temple of Silence
  • Meybod Ice house