Hunting Rare Orchids and Ancient Tombs on the Turquoise Coast
One of the most under-rated attractions of this part of the world is that just a short hop away from a bustling town like Fethiye, you can find a completely unspoiled landscape like Kapidag. This is an island (well almost - except for a narrow isthmus) with no roads or vehicle access, no settlements - in fact hardly any signs of the modern world at all!
The only access to this untouched wilderness of steep bays and wooded slopes is by boat, so the profusion of wildlife, rare flowers and butterflies is quite stunning. We spent just four days here exploring the area. We could have spent four weeks and still not have seen half of the exquisite natual beauty the island has to offer.
In ancient times, the island was quite heavily populated, prospering from its sheltered habour on a busy coastal trading route, available water and also from the fertility of its farms on the warm slopes and shallow valleys of the interior. Here we are taking a break in the ruins of a temple complex surrounded by Lycian-style tombs overlooking the bay where we arrived.
One of the highlights of the trip was discovering the great profusion of wild flowers on every part of the island. Not many people visit this area, and even fewer visit the interior - that, plus the lack of goats, keeps the flora almost untouched. This makes it an ideal location for orchid hunting.
The expedition was well supported by expert guidance, who planned our daily walks across the island with military precision!
We were lucky to be invited along with a group that included a Professor of Archaeology from Akdeniz University at Antalya who was planning the visits to the many ancient sites, as well as Turkey's leading expert on orchids, Nejdet Bozkurt, who had a marvellously well developed eye for spotting a rare orchid at a hundred paces.
The island was well settled from earliest times to the early Byzantine era. It seems to have lost its population sometime around the middle of the first millenium AD, probably as a result of the devastating pressure on setlements and trade from pirate raids which became endemic along the coast around this period. The population never returned, leaving their remains untouched for the last 1500 years.
The ruins of their settlements are found scattered across the island, with many beautiful tombs ranging in styles from Lycian, through Archaic Greek to Hellenistic and Roman Empire. The picture here shows a classical Lycian tomb overlooking a view to die for . . .