Dos and don'ts for sailing Turkey's Mediterranean coast

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The Turquoise Coast is a glistening stretch of clear blue sea where gods once played in sublime pebble coves and now spectacular ruins abound. By far the most dramatic way to see this stretch of coastline is by skimming through the crystal waters aboard a gület (traditional wooden yacht) where you can party till it’s every man and woman overboard, or plain relax with the salt between your toes.


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For many travellers a four-day, three-night cruise on a gület between Fethiye and Kale (Demre) is the highlight of their trip to Turkey. Usually advertised as a Fethiye to Olympos voyage, the boats actually start or stop at Kale and the trip to/from Olympos (1¼ hours) is by bus.

From Fethiye, boats call in at Ölüdeniz and Butterfly Valley and stop at Kaş, Kalkan and Kekova, with the final night at Gökkaya Bay. A less common route is between Marmaris and Fethiye, also taking four days and three nights. Aficionados say this is a much prettier route, but for some reason it’s not as popular.

Food and water is usually included in the price, but you have to buy your booze on the boat. All boats are equipped with showers, toilets and smallish but comfortable double cabins (usually six to eight of them). This might make a single person uneasy if they have to share with a stranger, but in practice most people sleep on mattresses on deck as the boats are without air-conditioning. Be savvy and demanding when booking your trip – there are many shoddy operators working the waters and your wallet.

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Here are some of our suggestions to avoid getting fleeced:

DOs

  • Ask for recommendations from other travellers
  • Bargain, but don’t necessarily go for the cheapest option because the crew will skimp on food and alcohol
  • Check out your boat (if you are in Fethiye) and ask to see the guest list
  • Ask whether your captain and crew speak English
  • Confirm whether the boat actually uses the sails, rather than relying on a noisy diesel engine
  • Trust your gut – if instinct tells you that three days at sea in this boat sounds horrible, then trust yourself!
  • Book well ahead for July and August in order to be sure of getting on a cruise

DON'Ts

  • Don’t pay until the day you leave, just in case the weather turns foul
  • Don’t go for gimmicks such as free water sports. They often prove to be empty promises and boats rarely have insurance for them in case of accidents.
  • Don’t buy your ticket in İstanbul, as pensions and commission agents take a healthy cut
  • Don’t take a boat just because it is leaving today

We recommend the owner-operated outfits because they run a much tighter ship.

Boats come and go just about every day of the week between late April and October (the Marmaris boats usually run twice a week from mid-May to the end of September).

This is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's guide to Turkey.