All last week, the weather in Fethiye was fantastic - perfect for trekking. So, on Thursday, we finally managed to meet up with one of our readers (one of those meetings that have been attempted a few times but never quite come off) and we caught the dolmuş to Kayaköy so we could do the short walk to the dramatic setting of Af Kule Monastery.
Wild flowers in the Kayaköy countrysideIn the winter months, the dolmuş goes through Kayaköy, towards Gemiler but it terminates in the small hamlet of Kınalı. We got off here and strolled along the pleasant and rarely used country road towards Gemiler and the Af Kule Monastery turn off. At this time of year around Kayaköy, wild flowers peep through between rocks and rubble along the roadside and in the forest, so this meant I was soon quite a way behind my walking companions. Our botanical knowledge is practically non-existent but I love to take photos of the flowers - one day, we might be able to identify them.
It's a short, gradual ascent through the forest towards Af KuleAbout 1 km along the Gemiler road, you'll see a junction and signposts pointing towards Af Kule Monastery and Gemiler. You may be able to make out '2 km' scratched into the Af Kule sign. It's more like 3 km. Still a short stroll, but you will be truly amazed by your reward as the forest path gives no clues as to what is waiting for you at the end.
When you reach a clearing (maybe 1 km up the wide forest track) you need to bear right and you begin to make a short ascent along a rubble donkey track. There are red and yellow striped paint marks guiding the way. Most of this stretch is shaded by pine trees but keep your eyes peeled as you do get the occasional vista of Babadağ (Father Mountain) behind in the distance.
Eventually, you will reach the top of the track and, although you're aware of a massive drop below you, your view is obscured by ancient trees growing from the mountainside. A feeling of standing on the edge of the world - at this point, the butterflies in my tummy begin to flutter in rapid fashion. Af Kule Monastery is right below you, out of sight for the moment. Zigzag your way down the very steep footpath - there are steps in places - and after a couple of minutes, a section of Af Kule and its amazing setting reveals itself.
Your first peak of Af Kule and the open Mediterranean SeaThe steep descent from the top of the hill to the grassy clearing from where you can admire Af Kule is around 150 metres. Once you get there, take out your camera, picnic, book and take in the drama of your surroundings. It's a humbling setting.
From Af Kule, you can see the curve of the earth on the horizon.I'll be honest here and admit that my first ever visit to Af Kule Monastery revealed my previously unknown fear of sheer drops and, for a while, I didn't return, leaving Barry to take friends there alone. A few visits later and I now find the place a beautiful and tranquil place to be. I was brave enough to walk to the edge to take this photo but as for the hermitage, carved into the rock face behind me...
Those brave enough can climb up into the Af Kule hermitage and take in the views from the top window. It's possible to see the Greek island of Rhodes on a very clear day.It's possible to climb these rugged steps and enter the hermitage. I was happy to take a photo of the steps - but then handed the camera to Barry (this is a first!) so he could climb up and take a couple of photos through the top window.
View from the top window of Af Kule hermitage - and me waiting at the bottom!And he didn't do a bad job - once he'd shouted down to me that everything just looked black and I suggested removing the lens cap.
The return walk from Af Kule is back the way you came. We walked back into Kayaköy and managed to fit in a well-deserved, refreshing Efes Pilsen while we waited for the dolmuş back to Fethiye.
- From getting off the dolmuş in Kınalı and walking to Af Kule and back up to Kayaköy, the whole walk took 3 hours.
- Although this is a short walk, sturdy footwear and a bottle of water is a must. During the winter months, your nearest refreshment is back in Kayaköy. In summer, there are a couple of places open in nearby Kınalı.
- During winter, the dolmuş between Kayaköy and Fethiye is every hour, on the hour.
- In summer, this changes to every half hour. Some dolmuşes will go all the way down to Gemiler Bay, meaning you can get off at the Af Kule / Gemiler junction to begin your walk to Af Kule. On return, you could even make your way down to Gemiler Beach (about 40 mins walk) and have a refreshing swim before getting the dolmuş back towards Fethiye. There's also a snack bar (open all year) at Gemiler.
- Those looking for a longer trek could skip the dolmuş and walk from Fethiye to Kayaköy before continuing to Af Kule.