Tour the Aegean by gulet or risk missing its archaeological treasures

Skippered sailing tours let you explore Turkey's south coast in traditional style, discovers Adrian Mourby

The ruins at Knidos are compact: an agora, amphitheatre, odium, a few temples. It's good that they're not spread too widely as it's hot clambering over them. Several of our party opt to swim back to the boat.

This is the advantage of these new gulet tours. Taking a traditional boat down the Aegean along the Lycian coast, you arrive effortlessly at each ancient city, temple or fort. Getting to Knidos by road would have taken hours overland. We, however, just sail in. Captain Bekir drops anchor and Big Mustapha launches the motorboat. Within 15 minutes, all 16 of us have been ferried to this forgotten city state, which in the sixth century BC was part of the Dorian Hexapolis, one of six powerful Greek colonies in what we now call Turkey.

I've been taking photos so can't join the swimmers. My camera and I return in the motorboat with the others' clothes. As we board the gulet, Big Mustapha leans over and asks me whether I think my wife would like a gin and tonic before lunch. I laugh. I'm sure she would. The next thing I know, Mustapha has mixed one and is taking it back in the motorboat to where Kate is making a graceful progress across the bay. Now that's what I call service.

During lunch under a broad blue canopy, we discuss what we've just seen and try to recall exactly who the Dorians were. My mother-in-law and stepmother-in-law both ask for the recipe for the stuffed peppers we're eating and are delighted when Osman, the chef, offers to run a masterclass that afternoon. It's nice, if rather spooky, to see how well my wife's mum and stepmum get on, but this cruise is proving to be a big social success generally. We booked the whole boat and invited friends and relatives to join us. No one person knew everybody on board when we set sail but now, it seems, we're all great friends.

This type of two-masted gulet has plied the southwest coast of Turkey for centuries. Recently they've started being built for luxury and they tend to rely on diesel motors, but as three members of our party were ex-navy men, they eventually charmed Captain Bekir into switching off the engines and raising the great blue and white sails. Big Mustapha hustled around the deck to make sure everything was ready for the moment went they went up. A 90ft boat moving along in the wind is a truly impressive sight and eerily quiet.

In the afternoon, we sail to Palamut Buku, a beach with a mosque and one shop where Captain Bekir goes to get supplies (we're getting through a lot of wine), while the rest of us leap overboard to cool off. Evening brings us to a tiny, empty, circular bay called Kargi Koyu where we moor. We seem to have all this ancient history to ourselves.

Of all our landings so far, the favourite was Loryma, a coastal fort built by the Rhodians in 411BC, which saw action in the wars after Alexander the Great's death. It was a steep climb up but again we had the place to ourselves. The view from the top across the serene, blue Aegean made all the scrambling worthwhile, and we had our luxurious air-conditioned berth to return to as soon as we were ready. Mustapha had given my sister-in-law a walkie-talkie and we summoned him as soon as we'd had enough of leaping over ancient masonry.

The following day we moored off a little wooded beach called Arymaxa, which was beneath the ancient Carian settlement of Lydae. Five of us went ashore to climb to the top where there were the remains of some Roman buildings dating from the third century. Much of the route was under the cover of some very hardy pines, and round one corner we met a group of donkeys sheltering from the heat. At the top of the path in a saddle between two big hills, we found two ruined mausoleums, the earliest known examples in Turkey of the Byzantine arch.

These were all hidden delights, places we only ever seem to share with the local flora and fauna. Our next stop, Kaunos, however, was much busier. We transferred to a shallow boat that took us upriver into what looked like the Mekong Delta. After half an hour we made out a 500ft crag on top of which rest the ruins of the Kaunos acropolis founded in the 10th century BC. Elaborate tombs were cut into the rock below. It was too hot to do the acropolis straight away so we spent the afternoon in the mudbaths of nearby Dalyan. In the bar is a photo of a rather bemused Dustin Hoffman, who must have come here to get away from it all and found himself recognised.

So far, that's the only day we've seen other people. The rest of the time it's just been us, the sea, a lot of history and even more Turkish wine.

COMPACT FACTS

How to get there

Westminster Classic Tours (020-8286 7842; westminsterclassictours.com) organises Origins of Western Thought, a two-week gulet cruise of the Aegean for £2,231 per person, all inclusive, based on two sharing. Flights can be arranged for an additional £333 return, from Heathrow to Dalaman with Turkish Airlines (0844 800 6666; thy.com).



Further information

Turkish Culture and Tourism Office (020-7839 7778; gototurkey.co.uk)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker