Sunday, 13 February 2011

Trekking Around Kayaköy: Af Kule Monastery




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. 
Flowers on the trek to Af Kule
Wild flowers in the Kayaköy countryside
In 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.
Scenes on the trek to Af Kule near Kayaköy
It's a short, gradual ascent through the forest towards Af Kule
About 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.

The Descent to Af Kule Monastery
Your first peak of Af Kule and the open Mediterranean Sea
The 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. 
Ruins at Af Kule near Kayaköy
 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...
The View From Af Kule Monastery
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. 
Af Kule Monastery
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. 

50 comments:

Beautiful photos, and great information for next time I'm there. I've been to Kayakoy but completely missed out on the monastery! We walked up through the village right to the top and the view was magnificent though.

@ Lilli: Thanks. If you come in summer, just tell the dolmus driver where you're going and he'll drop you off at the junction.

The views from the top of the hill in Kaya are beautiful aren't they. I always forget it's so close to the coast.

How fortunate that you commented on my blog. I have only just decided that I have to begin planning a trip to Turkey. I have always been drawn to the cuisine and now to the country.

Yes, I took discovered my fear of sheer drops when I came to Turkey. I think it is the Turkish lack of safety barriers that add to it.! Lovely pictures though. Well done1

@ Rob: Thanks. You'll ahve to do the walk when you come out! :)

@ Bellini Valli: That was lucky! The cuisine is as fantastic as the country - but we are biased. :)

@ Natalie: It's not a nice feeling is it? Yes, a most definite lack of barriers around a lot of places in this area. :)

Great pics, great advice. I'm terrified of heights, so this is just the place for me.

Lovely photos guys - you make me miss it all even more than I already do!

Just out of curiosity Julia, what camera do you have?

@ DCAllen: As in somewhere to conquer your fears? It succeeded in raising mine! :)

@ the world is waiting: Thanks - and sorry for making you miss the Fethiye area more. :)

@ Matt: Hope you're asking this because you like the pics? :) It's getting on a bit now my camera. 3 years old! It's a Fujifilm Finepix S5700 and I love it. It wasn't expensive. Did loads of research before I bought it. Saving up for a new camera now and I'm gonna get Fujifilm again. I knew which model I wanted but I've already forgot! (I don't do tech!)

There is so much beauty in Turkey, from wild flowers to ahhhhh sheer drops!! Got vertigo from your description alone, Julia. Which just goes to show how well you can paint with words.(not to mention the beautiful pictures)

Beautiful pictures. And with minus 20 degrees up here, I'm now wondering why I don't move to Turkey.

That walk looks amazing.
What a shame you're scared of drops. It looks like you missed the best view!
I'm also insanely jealous that you can just go for a hike on a Thursday. I hope to be that carefree soon.

@ Inka: Ohhhh, sheer drops. They're not great! I'm pretty convinced these photos don't convey the drop - but maybe that's just me picturing something worse in my head! :)

@ Sophie: The more the merrier - although I bet it's beautiful where you are.

@ The Dropout: It's amazing because it's so short, too. And not many people know about it. I've actually climbed up into the hermitage in the past - which confirmed I don't want to do it again. :)
I know, we're very lucky to be able to pick and choose. Hope you can, soon!

Gorgeous views! I can see how that would be both tranquil and terrifying!

@ Rease: Beautiful views at Af Kule. And yes, both tranquil and terrifying. :)

oh Julia, how beautiful it looks, as if spring is just round the corner. That blue ...
How long have you lived in Fethiye?

Claudia

This looks like a wonderful (and adventurous) place to hike. Gorgeous scenery. I'm like you about the flowers -- I love to take pictures of them, but I'm very limited in my knowledge of types and varieties.

We loved the coast in Turkey, but I wish we had been able to hike here. I guess we'll be going back. Thanks for posting directions as well, we were hiking a little bit in Turkey and I felt like the signs were always hard to find/follow!

THat would be my kind of walk! Fantastic - with lasting memories of Barry and the Lens Cap!!

Turkey is blessed with some of the world's most beautiful seaside!
The purple flowers (Top left and bottom right) look a bit like cosmos.

I'm not a religious person but for some reason religious spots like this are my favorite to visit. Monetaries, churches, old temple sites ... they just activate my imagination and make me feel peaceful.

Beautiful photos!

@ Claudia: It does look as though Spring is just around the corner doesn't it? The sea is beautiful tound there. We've been here, on and off, for 7 years.

@ Cathy: Very adventurous for me! Yeah, wish we had a better knowledge of what's growing around us. :)

@ Jillian: Yes, directions are not the best - on purpose I think as maps are owned by the military. We only do treks that friends have told us about or along the Lycian Way.

@ John in France: Yes! He's very techy - except with cameras! :)

@ London Caller: Thank you. I was hoping someone would be able to tell us what sort some of the flowers are.

@ Amy: Same here! :) Why is that? You wouldn't believe how quiet it is up there. Gorgeous.

This looks like such an excellent, peaceful walk. Turkey has so many gorgeous places to trek; I can't wait to get there someday.

@ Andrea: You'll have to put it in your travel itinerary. Loads of trekking to be done here. We've not even touched the surface. :)

Top left and bottom right are Peacock Anemones and bottom left is one of several varieties of Cyclamen that grow in the Kaya Valley. Top right is probably a crocus but it's difficult to tell from the angle of the picture.

To the right of the large window in Af Kule is a hole that you can easily get through which leads out onto a sun terrace. It's not for the faint-hearted though as there is a very low wall and no hand-holds.

If you're thinking of going out to Af Kule to catch the fantastic sunset in the summer make sure that you set-off before 4pm. The sun drops very quickly and far earlier than in the UK and you'll have a treacherous walk back in the dark.

@ Kay Koyu Walker: Thanks for the flower info. Top right didn't look like a crocus - although I'm not sure of the different varieties.

As you said, the other sections of the hermitage are not for the faint-hearted - particularly not me! :)

This has to be one of my most favourite places to visit when I come over to Fethiye. I had a print of Af-Kule put onto canvas where it now proudly sits on my wall.
I'd love to know more about the history of this place and who used to live here etc. If anybody knows where to find this information, please share.

Regards

Steve.

That looks like very beautiful country - great post!

@ Steve: I bet that looks lovely on your wall. There are bits of info if you do a Google search on Af Kule. Apparently, it was built by a monk who wanted a solitary life. There are books around about the Kayakoy area (unfortunately, we own none of them) that would probably have more information.

@ Robin: Thanks. It is a beautiful country. You should come one day! :)

You can get a lot of local information on

http://www.kayakoy.net/kayakoy.html

Beautiful views. Just so happened that we visited a monastary (St. John of the Desert) this weekend as well, but the views from yours- well it can't compare. That is a cyclamen in the top picture btw. It's a protected flower in Israel so I never pick it but it is edible only after it is boiled (the water discarded). Otherwise it is full of saponins.

@ Kaya Koyu Walker: Thanks for that. Hopefully, Steve will see it. I think that might have been the site I came across on Google the other day.

@ Sarah: Having just read your blog post, I now know that the flower in the photo is a cyclamen and that it's leaves must be boiled before eating. :) I never pick the wild flowers just because I think they look so pretty exactly where they are.

Yeah, Af Kule would be good in a game of Top Trumps for views!

Nice, looks like a great little hike. The views at the end are just amazing!

@ Adam: Compared to the stuff you're writing about, this is a very little hike! :) But great for a day out - because of the amazing views.

I was just curious as I'm really getting into photography myself and hopefully my mum's going to buy me a new camera for my birthday :)

@ Matt: Ha ha. :) I bought mine because I wasn't sure about a DSLR (lenses are expensive and you have to carry them around etc.) The S series Fujifilm Finepix are bridging cameras - in between a point and shoot and a DSLR. Good for getting used to all the functions. Here's a link to the new camera I want (I THINK it's this one. Not sure.) But the S series in general is really good if you're learning photography...or you can just go all out for the Canon DSLR posh stuff. I don't think your mum'll be chuffed with the prices though! :)
http://www.fujifilm.com/products/digital_cameras/s/finepix_hs20exr/

Gorgeous places, I soooo want to go trekking somewhere. Might need to wait some time now, but I'm already pondering some destinations. It won't be Turkey for the moment unfortunately, but it's only postponed ;)

@ Angela: Ohh, looking forward to finding out where you're thinking of. Shame it's not Turkey. :)

@ Mad Dog McClane: Thanks. It makes it easier when the scenery's great. :)

Thanks Julia for revealing a very interesting ruin in Turkey. Loved it.

@ Jim: It's really interesting and beautiful place to sit, whiling away a few hours. You can see why the monk would choose here to live in solitary.

Hahaha It's a Canon 550d or 600d that I'm interested in, and no, she isn't happy with the pirce :D

You ask what the flowers are and I see no-one has answered, so;
top left: Anemone coronaria (Crown Anemone)comes in multitude of colours and shades.
top right: Romulea tempskyana (sometimes called Sand Crocus but not a crocus).
bottom left: Cyclamen trochopteranthum (sub species only found in southern half of Mugla and western Antalya)
Hope this adds to your obvious enjoyment. Best, Alan http://archersofokcular.com

ps it's a lovely walk, do you have Paul Hope's book 'Walking and Birdwatching in SW Turkey'?

@ Alan: Ohhh, thank you so much for that information. I can relabel my photos now then I can start to recognise some flowers. We've heard about that book but we've not got it. Might have to try and get our hands on a copy. Thanks again.

I hold Paul's stock here in Turkey TL30 post free

Thanks so much for this blog- did the walk last week and views and stair climbing exhillarating - if possible photos do not do justice, good as they are. We walked back to Gemeler to finish with late afternoon swim to round off great trip- stroll took betwee 50 mins - hour. not 40 as advised but your blog much appreciated for trip that will live long in memory, thanks again

@ viny gill: Thank you for your comment. Always good that photos don't do a place justice - it wouldn't be worth doing the walk otherwise. ;) Maybe we march rather than walk when we go to Gemiler. As long as you got there okay though. So glad you found the trip memorable and enjoyed it.

Related Posts with Thumbnails