- Middle east
Hiking The Butterfly Valley and Kabak, Turkey
The Butterfly Valley and the surrounding areas have got to be the best place in Turkey, hands down. When I was in Antalya, I was unable to find day hikes I could do so I decided to backtrack my way to Fethiye and hopped on a cruise to the Butterfly Valley. Who would have thought that I would find my favorite place in Turkey at the destination I did not initially plan to go.
Don't get me wrong, it's not the people at the beach that I liked but it was the Lycian Way and the people it attracts. Initially, I planned to camp in Faralya (the village above the Butterfly Valley) for a day before heading to Kabak beach, but the Butterfly Valley was so magnificent, I ended up camping there for 3 nights. Yes, it was that amazing and for great reasons.
Spending a Day in Antalya
Antalya is the biggest city in the area and it has a lot to offer for city dwellers and vacation goers but not much in terms of adventure and nature. I did not realize this until I arrived and found out that I won't find any day hike from the city. My roomate in Antalya told me that in order to hike parts of the Lycian Way, a good starting point for information was Fethiye.
I did not want my time in Antalya to go to waste so I decided to go for a stroll in the old town. The old town district is really where the action happens in this city. There were countless shopping stalls, restaurants, bars and street performances for you to enjoy. This would be the perfect place to rest, but I was not there to rest.
Through the old town, you would find a coastline where many locals hang out. If you are looking for a good place to watch the sunset in Antalya, this is it.
Getting to Fethiye
The next day, I took the afternoon bus from Antalya to Fethiye and right off the gate, I was surrounded by 5 aussies. They really do hang out a lot around beaches.
After putting all my things at the hostel, I went in search for a good spot for sunset. You are probably wondering why I'm so obsessed about sunset. Well, it was a nice clear day and New Zealand had taught me the importance of clear days and how it won't last.
I found this tomb carved on the side of a mountain and made it my sunset spot. It was as breathtaking as the first time I saw the sun set. Magical!
I climbed down from the tomb and went back to the hostel. The hostel I stayed, the Fethiye Guesthouse, had a BBQ party that night and joined me was 5 Aussies, 1 Finnish, 1 American and 1 Columbian as we shared our opinion about the politics in Turkey and in the area. Let just say, it did not went well as people started to argue among each other. This is why I don't talk politics when I'm traveling..
Where to Stay in Fethiye
Fethiye - Fethiye Guesthouse - 14.85 USD/Night
Getting to the Butterfly Valley
Early in the morning, I took a dolmus from Fethiye to Olundeniz and got on the 10:30 AM cruise to the Butterfly Valley. Usually, they sell 2 ways tickets for 20 Liras, but since I did not plan to come back, I was able to get the price down to 10.
It was a big cruise with 2 stories and a bar serving alcohols and blasting music like there's no tomorrow. They are clearly catered to party goers who wanted to do a day trip around the area and that was definitely NOT what I was looking for. Thank god I only had to wait for them to drop me off at the valley and we went separate ways.
One of the first stop before the Valley was the Emerald Cave. The cave itself was quite ordinary but the colors of the water and the rock formation that made up the cave almost made it impossible to resist jumping in. If only there were less people and more time. They only gave us 15 minutes.
And right around the corner, there was the Butterly Valley. It was named the butterfly valley because of all the variations of butterfly species in the area. It's all gone now though after tourists discovered this paradise. There was a sign clearly stated that the loud noises would drive the butterflies away but these daily cruises still blasted their music away. What a shame..
I could not get off the cruise fast enough. Upon arriving at the beach, I went straight to the cliff and started climbing. At first I did not know how steep it would be and that I was not suppose to climb the cliff with my big backpack.
Upon my first interaction with the first steep section, I realized that I had made a huge mistake climbing the cliff with my 15kg backpack and with TOMS shoe. There were several steep sections that required me to climb ropes on narrow trails. One misstep and I would tumbled down the cliff and died.
With my heavy backpack and slippery shoes, I managed to climb to the top and I was able to have time to reflect on how stupid it was to do so. It was one of the few moments of my life that I realized how short life is and how it could end in one slip. If you are not a skill mountaineer, DO NOT climb the cliff with your full backpack!
Where to Stay in Faralya
Nevertheless I survived and the view was breathtaking! So much so that I decided to scrap my plan to go to Kabak beach and stayed at George's guesthouse in Faralya instead.
They were generous enough to lend me a tent and a sleeping mat. The guesthouse was perfectly situated at the top of the cliff with the view of the valley and the ocean.
The best thing about camping is that you can choose where you sleep, so I chose the best seat in the valley!
George Guesthouse allows people to camp for free but if only they pay for breakfast and dinner. I did not mind that as long as I had a place to camp, so I decided to stay with them. Also, there were not many options in terms of restaurants in Faralya anyway so it made sense.
This is one of the reason why I considered this place to be the best place to visit in Turkey. Sleeping in a tent is the best accomodation you could get!
Right before dinner, I met 2 hikers that were tackling the Lycian Way. They shared the obsession of watching sunset as I did so they joined me at my camp and watched the sun set together. After a few minutes of conversing with them, I had the feeling that they were one of the happiest people in the world. They laughed, they smiled, they carried the conversation, it was one of those random encounters that I wish it lasted a little longer. I hope I will meet them somewhere in the world.
After dinner, I washed up, brushed my teeth and instead of going to bed right away, I decided to find a brick, put it in front of my tent, put my head out and looked up at the stars while my body was zipped up nicely in the tent. I had always wanted to do that.. slept under the stars.
Hiking to Kabak beach from Faralya
At the dinner table the day before, I met Elissa, a french woman who was going to hike to Kabak the next day and Kat, who was helping George guesthouse guide people around the area. Elissa and me decided to tag along and did the hike together while Kat had to guide a group of Australians in the same direction but only halfway.
Kat led the Australians a few minutes before we followed. Me and Elissa wasn't very good at finding our ways and so we got lost in no time. The funny thing was that we were walking in circles inside a campground for almost 15 minutes.
We eventually found our way out of that maze and made our ways through the jungle. It was an easy hike with no notable steep climb and it only took us an hour to catch up with Kat and her group as they were resting and swimming at one of the rest stop
The day was still young so we joined the them and jumped into the ocean. Kat, who, for some reason, loves jumping off a rock, led us to this huge boulder and saw to it that we both jump as well. It was pretty awesome.
After a swim and a coffee break (where we forgot to pay), me and Elissa continued toward Kabak while Kat led the Australians back to the campsite.
This was not actually the actual Lycian way, but an indirect coastal trail that passed through some of the most beautiful beaches and coasts and eventually connects back to the Lycian Way.
The water was ridiculously blue. I told you many times that I was born in Thailand and I'd seen some nice beaches in my life but the beaches in the Butterfly Valley and along the coastline of Turkey are among the top ones for sure.
We were getting closer and closer as the day was getting hotter and hotter every minute. Shades were difficult to find and we were running out of water.
The moment we realized we were close was when the trail diverted away from the coastline and went straight through the forest and out in the open. We walked passed through a small village and found a way down from the mountain to the beach.
Kabak beach was a disappointment. From the research I did online (Wikitravel, I'm looking at you!), Kabak was suppose to be a safe haven for hippies and people who wanted to avoid tourists but as we arrived at the beach we were surprised to see more tourists at Kabak than in the Butterfly Valley. It was insane.
There was so many people, we were unable to find an unoccupied space under a shade, so we had to climb a little further to find a quiet spot.
Once we found a spot we decided to relax for the rest of the afternoon, reading and napping under a shade. It had been a long productive day.
Instead of walking back, we decided to hop on a jeep that dropped us off at the top and we took a dolmus back to Faralya. All was well until I realized I left my wallet on the dolmus. The worst part was that I realized right after I stepped off the minibus and the bus drove away as I started shouting to no avail.
It would have been a disaster if it were not because of the kindness of the Turkish people and the well-developed security of the bus system in Turkey. Since there were at least 15 bus companies running that day, it was almost impossible to get a hold of the driver. The guesthouse staff decided to call the main bus station and asked them to check the security footage on the minibus (yes, they have one!) and they were able to confirm that no one took it and delivered it back to the guesthouse in a matter of hours. Faith in humanity restored!
At dinner table that night, me, Elissa, and Kat decided to go on another hike the next day to the "Paradise" beach. Kat planned out all the route and managed all the transportations and we could only agree and nodded since she was the only one who knows her way around here. Plus, me and Elissa get lost all the time!
Hiking Parts of the Lycian Trail to the Paradise Beach, a True Hidden Gem
We started off early in morning to avoid the afternoon heat. Joined us were John, who was staying at the guesthouse and Helen, a Yoga instructor that works in Faralya. The trail began in Kabak and continued toward the east along the coast.
After a few steep climbs, we stopped for a little fresh air. This was Kat leading the way to the secret Paradise Beach where few tourists had set foot on.
One tip I can give you is that do look for the yellow and red paints along the trail and follow them. Some are pretty easy to miss so do keep an eye out for it.
After walking up and down mountains for 2 hours, we were starting to see a glimpse of what the beach looked like. Behind this hill, lies the Paradise beach.
Everyday is an adventure in Faralya. I stayed 3 nights and there were no days that I did not know what to do. The number of hiking trails in the area, both well-travelled and off-the-beaten-track was ridiculous. Faralya and the Butterfly Valley is a no-brainer for nature lover.
This is a good photo to show how removed we were from civilization. There were nothing but the forest and the ocean from this point on.
We eventually found our way down to the beach, and man, I almost cry seeing the beach without anyone else but us. This is the true definition of paradise!
There was a shelter where we put all our things together and jumped in the ocean. It was so rewarding to be able to jump into an ocean after a long hike like that. We saved the best beach for the last.
Helen said that there was supposed to be a boulder we could jump off from and Kat was determined to find it. We found the boulder and we tried going straight up but the tide was too low and the rocks were too slippery to climb so we had to abandon our plan. It would have been fun but safety comes first.
After swimming in the ocean, we washed ourselves with a waterpump someone installed near the shelter and got on a speed boat to another secret spot a little further along the coast.
We stopped the boat at this Lycian ruin and swam around a section of rocks nearby. Of course, Kat found a rock high enough for her to jump off it.
We took the boat back to Kabak, hopped on the dolmus again and headed back to George Guesthouse and rested for the rest of the day.
That night Kat and Elissa were planning to do another hike the next day, but unfortunately I had to turn it down as I decided to leave in the morning because I had already overstayed in Faralya and I fear that I might not make it to the east and cross the border to Georgia in time that my visa allowed. I also fear that I might stay there forever and not leave.
The nature, the ocean and the great people I met on the Lycian Way were the reasons why I picked the Butterfly Valley to be my most favorite place in Turkey. If you are a nature lover and love hiking, the Butterfly Valley is a must for you.
Next up, we will explore the alien landscape that is Cappadocia both by foot and by a hot air balloon while we watch the sunrise from 1 kilometer above the ground. Stay tuned for the next entry of the Solo Traveler's Journal.
Further Reading for Turkey
Turkey is a country that stands in the middle of Europe and Asia. Empires after empires rose and fall on this land and in order to see Turkey as a whole, you will have to go further than just Istanbul.
Here is a selection of articles and travel guides that you might need to further plan your trip to Turkey:
- Looking for a complete itinerary and travel guide for Turkey? One Month Itinerary for Turkey.
- You will likely be flying into Istanbul when you are traveling to Turkey. Check out my 4 days itinerary for Istanbul.
- A lot of Roman-influenced can be seen throughout Turkey. One of the big ones is Ephesus, a Roman ruin near Selcuk, south of Istanbul. Here’s a quick guide on how to get to Selcuk and visit Ephesus.
- Pamukkale is a popular tourist attraction since the ancient time. People from all over come to bath in these white salt pools along the cascade. It is an incredible sight to behold and if you want to visit, check out my One Day Travel Guide to Pamukkale.
- Cappadocia is a big area full of amazing things to do, from hot air balloon to hiking the valleys. Here’s a complete guide on how to spend 4 days in Cappadocia, Turkey.
- Mt. Nemrut and a collection of stone heads of gods atop the mountain are not easy to visit. The question has to be asked, Is Mt. Nemrut really worth visiting? We have the answer.
- It’s time to go off the beaten path with a visit to Van, a city in Eastern Turkey known for its massive breakfast and an Armenian temple on an island. Here’s a travel guide on how to visit Van, Turkey.
- The Northern coast of Turkey, below the Black Sea is also a great place to go off-the-beaten-path. Trabzon is an important ancient port city full of history waiting for you to explore. Check out my travel guide on how to visit Sumela Monastery in Trabzon.
- Kars is a city located on the easternmost part of Turkey and along the border with Armenia, there’s an ancient Armenian ruin called Ani that will blow your mind away. Here is a complete guide on how to visit Ani from Kars, Turkey.
- Not convinced by my words? Maybe these photos of Turkey will help! 45 Photos that will inspire you to travel to Turkey.
- Since you are already all the way east, why not cross the border from Turkey to Georgia and make your way to Tbilisi, a vibrant capital city of Georgia. Check out my Georgia Travel Guide to plan your next trip to Georgia.
- For all articles about Turkey, visit Turkey Travel Guide page.
- Looking for more travel guides for the Middle East? You can find more on my Middle East Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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