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 and crystal-clear.
Strict conservation laws have ensured only sympathetic, low-rise development has taken place on the boundaries of Kalkan and the old village itself remains entirely untouched, with the entire region retaining 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 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.
Kalkan dates from Hellenistic times and is surrounded by fertile, agricultural land. 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, indeed we recommend it as a ‘must-do’ experience, 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 the main produce of the area) 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.