Enchanting Datça Peninsula
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
WITH A GREEN COASTLINE AND TURQUOISE WATERS ALL SUMMER LONG, THE DATÇA PENINSULA POINTS LIKE A FINGER FROM ANCIENT TIMES TO OUR DAY.
Once the heart of Reşadiye Peninsula, Old Datça today is just another quarter of the town, but a quarter where giant bougainvillea adorn the doorways of the one and two-story stone houses. The cobblestone streets that open onto a tiny square give visitors a taste of Mediterranean warmth. When you set out from here to visit the neighboring villages, diminutive rustic coffeehouses will greet you along the way, tranquil with blue window casings...
A series of inlets called ‘bük’ line the road from Datça to Knidos. Nestled like blue beads between the green hills, some of these coves are accessible only by water. Coasts like delicate lace encircle this peninsula, known for its dry air and turquoise waters, that joins the Aegean and the Mediterranean. And the locals are very friendly to boot.
The village of Yaka is the last settlement before Knidos at the western tip of Datça peninsula. The coffeehouses along the road are virtual passages to tranquility. If you have tasted fig and almond dessert, then Knidos is ready to welcome you. Just sitting here at the seashore and watching the boats go by is enough to make a person happy. For Knidos offers visitors moments to remember beyond being an ancient settlement.
The Datça Peninsula shows us both the Aegean and the Mediterranean at once. The peninsula looks as if it’s just about to snap off from the Anatolian mainland at Balıkaşıran, where the separation between the two seas is only 800 meters. That is the reason why poets have compared it to Anatolia’s long giraffe neck. Winds off the two seas nourish both air and soil at Datça. Herbs and flowers are man’s medicine chest, and it’s not for nothing that the ancient historian Strabo said, “If God wanted man to live long, he would have left him in Datça!” Designated one of a hundred important regions on earth by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Datça is also the coast of tranquility. The crowds that pack these shores in summer are not seen in spring when Datça is left to its true residents. People who take picnic basket in hand head for the thyme-scented hills. As writer Okay Sönmez puts it, “Wild thyme is remembered like the smell of one’s mother at Datça,” where nature’s song meets the glint of the sea. Olive and almond, mountain and sea, wind and mill go hand in hand here, where giant mills enjoy the pleasures of retirement, proud of having turned wheat into flour for centuries. Datça is a true home to the wind as well. When summer’s heat scorches the coast, gentle breezes blow at Datça where gulets making the Blue Cruise sweep the coasts like colorful swans. For yachts, the shores of this town with twin harbors are like mermaids sleeping on the water. When you set out from Datça and head for Mesudiye, the sea stains the pupils of your eyes dark blue. Directly below lies Hayıtbükü, and next door neighbor Palamutbükü is just 25 kilometers away. Every footpath on this peninsula between the bays of Gökova and Hisarönü ends in an enchanting cove. Green and blue, they follow one after the other: Akvaryum, Kızılbük, Kargı, Karaincir, Sarı Liman, Çiftlik, Kurucabük... Exactly 52 of them, known to the locals as ‘bük’, gleaming like blue beads in the summer sun. In the harbor, yachts await guests from spring to the end of fall, ready to ferry those keen to see the peninsula’s coves. Day tours usually go as far as Knidos. Cevat Şakir, the Fisherman of Halicarnassus, likened this ancient city at the tip of the peninsula to the voice of Anatolia. Its white cylinder rising from the dry scrubby hills, Deveboynu Lighthouse presages Knidus, a 2,500-year-old city where you will feel you’ve come to the edge of the world. It was home to numerous wise men from Sostratos, architect of the Alexandria Lighthouse, one of the wonders of the ancient world, to the mathematician Eudoxos and the earliest astronomers. History at Datça gazes on the sea. Who all has this land not welcomed? The Carians, the Myceneans, the Dorians, the Persians, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Ottomans. The peninsula was renamed Reşadiye in 1909. Meanwhile, far from the sea, Ancient Datça is a passion for all those who know this place. The honey-colored stone houses of this magical village that preserves the warmth of the past in its cobblestone streets adorn the area around the square. Flowerpots burst with bloom at door fronts festooned with oleander and bougainvillea. And the handmade labors of love produced in local workshops are creations of the artists’ very souls. Another of Datça’s surprises is Lake Ilıca and its water mill. The waters of this lake, aka the Byzantine Pool, are believed to be therapeutic. A little further on, the Yacht Harbor is the heart of this town with its tiny bay. Sampling the area’s fresh fish and seafood is a must at the restaurants around the harbor. The amphitheater overlooking the sea comes alive with concerts and shows. But the villages of the 70-kilometer-long Datça Peninsula are of another beauty entirely: Kızlan, worth seeing for its historic wind mills, Çatal (Fork) Cave, once used as a chapel, the Seljuk period Hızırshah Mosque, the rock tombs at Sındı, the castle at Alavara, and Reşadiye Mosque. Finally, the remains of Emecik and Burgaz await those eager to trace the history of this area, where the olive trees grow right down to the coast. These magical trees, which nourished numerous civilizations, have stood here for years between two scents: thyme and the sea.
You may find accommodation in the area’s unique stone houses which have been converted into boutique hotels in Old Datça. For those who prefer the seashore, we recommend the Datça coves, especially Hayıtbükü and Palamutbükü.
The Datça market set up on Saturdays is a virtual country fair. Honey, almonds, olive oil soap, stick cinnamon, blue beads, rustyback fern, basil, rock samphire, gherkins, pummelo, curd cheese… All fresh, all delightfully colorful.
Sun-dried tomatoes in thyme-flavored olive oil, roasted nettles, salad dressed with the juice of unripened grapes, pickled capers, marsh samphire, squash flower dolma and seafood are the sine qua non’s of Datça cuisine.
Swimmers ply back and forth between Datça and the Greek island of Symi on World Peace Day, September 21, when concerts, visits, and the zeybek and sirtaki dances all pay honor to friendship.
You can drink healing infusions you’ve never even heard of at Datça. Wild mint, thyme, sage, buckwheat, ‘garağan’, marjoram, ‘elmascık’, watermelon… Really, which one would you like?
The airport nearest to Datça is at Dalaman. Turkish Airlines have direct and indirect flights daily from İstanbul and Ankara.
The Datça Peninsula is a garden of delight for nature sports enthusiasts. The Datça-Knidos road is a great trail for hiking and bicycling. And the coves are ideal for swimming, sailing, surfing, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Decked in the pure white blossoms of the almond tree, the Datça Peninsula is like a fetching bride in spring. The Datça almond, which leaves an unforgettable taste in the mouth, comes in several varieties: known by names like ak, kaba, sıra, diş, yazı and tüylü, the almond’s most sought-after variety is the nurlu whose outer shell is green. Known as çağla when fresh, it is Turkey’s tastiest almond and is used in everything from oil to sweets.
Gebekum on the south coast of Kocadağ is a 6 million-year-old fossil cumulus. More than 100 plant species, five of them endemic, are found on this 6-kilometer-long beach.
The Datça date is distinguished by its bluish leaves. The trees in the cove between Kurucabük and Balıkaşıran are only accessible by sea.
In addition to the summer-long surfing competitions at Datça, the Golden Almond Cinema and Culture Festival takes place September 4 to 6.
The raising of silkworms is being reborn after a hiatus of half a century. Silk production commences with the ‘Gelep’ Festival at the beginning of summer when the raw silk filaments from the cocoons are reeled into skeins by the local women.
Did you Know? The majority of the 154 species of wild orchid in Turkey are found on the Datça Peninsula. Some species noteworthy for their color and appearance have no counterparts on earth.