Kalkan is an archetypal Mediterranean harbour town with cobbled alleyways rising up from a picture-postcard seafront.  The name means shield in Turkish, after the large four-sided bay at its heart, complete with inky-blue waters that are fed by mountain springs which keep the sea fresh for swimming and crystal-clear for snorkelling. Strict conservation laws have ensured only sympathetic, low-rise development has taken place within Kalkan and it retains a low-key charm. Surrounding villas and boutique hotels are sensitively built into the natural terrain – sometimes in quite a feat of nature – and blend with the overarching backdrop of pine forest meets turquoise sea.


Small, stylish and sophisticated Kalkan eschews popular misconceptions of Turkey: it is renowned for quality, roof-terrace restaurants and boho beach clubs which attract a sophisticated clientele throughout the season.  The terrace restaurants afford picture-postcard views over the harbour of moored gulets and come alive at night with fine dining against a backdrop of stars, twinkling lights and soft music.   By day, Kalkan’s beach clubs attract a chic crowd who spend time relaxing on waterside platforms or playing at water-sports.


Many an hour can be squandered just behind the seafront wandering the small alleys and pausing to peruse high quality local ceramics, textiles and leather shops. The friendly traders take delight in striking a bargain: enter the spirit of bartering by taking a few customary cups of Turkish tea on course to a purchase. The colourful weekly market is held on Thursdays, with stall holders loudly enticing visitors with their assorted wares from jewellery to clothes and electrical items.  Beyond the immediate foray is a wide selection of fresh seasonal fruit, pungent local herbs and misshapen vegetables.


Beaches and Beach Clubs


Kalkan isn’t an obvious beach resort, which is how it has been able to retain its charm and resist the overtures of mass-tourism. However, those in the know are aware there are a number of superb beaches and beach clubs which make it easy to spend time relaxing by the seafront.


The beach clubs which ring the harbour range from a chic to barefoot vibe. Many offer a waiter-service to loungers and hammocks dotted under the olive trees, with the sea is within stumbling distance for frequent, cooling dips.  The beach club at Hotel Villa Mahal offers a classic waterfront with services (massages, water sports) and quality dining in the far corner of the bay, accessed by water taxi from the main harbour. The Palm Beach and the Indigo Beach Clubs have a younger vibe.  Kalamar Beach club is situated in Kalkan’s second bay with a good reputation for water-sports and diving.


The closest beach is a small stretch of sand next to the harbour which is used as a public beach.  Although it lacks services, it is a great place for a saunter along the sands.  10 minutes away is Kaputaş Beach, one of the most photographed beaches in Turkey, accessed by steep steps it is a picture-postcard bay of white sand shelving into the sea.  Just 15 minutes away are the spectacular golden sands of Patara beach – one of the Mediterranean’s finest, not to mention longest.  A beautiful location (and breeding ground for loggerhead turtles), the 11 miles of undeveloped shoreline has a backdrop of enormous sand dunes and forest to explore and a characterful boardwalk café to enjoy.




Look upwards on Kalkan’s cobbled streets and spy an array of roof terraces which play host to the fine dining scene for which the harbour town is renowned.   Dining under the milky way is a not-to-be-missed Kalkan experience and the relaxed atmosphere, quality cuisine and sea and star views create long-lasting memories.


There is something for everyone here from upmarket, waterfront fish restaurants to simple Mediterranean cuisine in an extraordinary setting.   And more simple still an array of Lokanta (cafés) where sitting on floor cushions is not unusual. Ingredients are fresh and locally sourced: the short journey from field to table makes each plate zing with flavour. Food is usually matched by high quality Turkish wines that are only just beginning to appear on good sommelier’s lists in the UK.


Dining starts with an array of small mezze dishes which are shared between the table. These either constitute just a starter or the entire meal – generally when hot mezze appears it is assumed the main course has begun. Ottoman cuisine is one of the oldest in the world and is surprisingly good: delicately spiced vegetables take centre stage alongside an array of succulent meats flavoured with fresh herbs.


Local Villages


Kalkan dates from Hellenistic times and is surrounded by fertile, agricultural land which is still in evidence today. Traditionally locals would move up to the mountain villages over the summer to cultivate wine and fruit and return harbour-side for the winter months. It is well worth getting away from the coast and exploring the Taurus Mountains, driving nowhere in particular through pine and cedar forests, apple orchards and meadows you will encounter a side of Turkey that few people get to see.


The closest village to Kalkan is Islamlar, with a traditional tea garden, village square and trout restaurants.  Deeper inland still are intriguing settlements such as the rural hamlet of Bezirgan, once a flooded valley, where life has remained unchanged over the centuries.  Follow the mountain road to Gömbe which has an impressive inland lake, and is the starting point for climbing Akdağ mountain (over 3,000 metres).  Continue onwards to the market town of Elmali (which means Apple) and discover a melting pot of cultural influences: go on a Monday to enjoy the weekly market.


The surrounding mountain scenery is spectacularly lush with numerous walking trails that are best enjoyed in the cooler months of May and October.


Cultural Sites


Kalkan is positioned at the heart of an ancient Lycian civilisation whose calling card is the distinctive rock-tombs cut into the sides of cliffs running from Fethiye through to Antayla.   Most of the original six, city-states of Lycia lie as they fell and can be comfortably explored on day trips from Kalkan.


Just behind the stunning beach and dunes in the National Park of Patara lie the classical ruins of amphitheatre, sarcophagi, basilica and triumphal arch – worth a detour in its own right. Even non-classicists will be hard-pushed to ignore the ancient hilltop fort of Xanthos, which has uninterrupted views over the Taurus Mountains.  Another UNESCO World Heritage Site is Letoon, a place of worship for the goddess Leto and her twin children, Apollo and Artemis.  In an equally spectacular mountain setting is Pinara, whose ancient amiptheatre rises out of the trees like the stepped pyramids of the Mayan dynasty. Tlos, like Pinara, is one of the original six cities of Lycia and offers an altogether different take as it was inhabited until the nineteenth century.




Kalkan is within 1 hour and 40 minutes from Dalaman airport.


With its chichi dining and seriously stylish beach clubs, small and sophisticated Kalkan continues to remain at the heart of the low-key fashion set for luxury Mediterranean escapes



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