Exploring Butterfly Valley
A nature lover's paradise is located at Butterfly Valley, an untouched beachfront parcel named for the rare Tiger Butterfly which breaks from its cocoon in April and May and turns the skies bright red. The colorful creatures are drawn to the smells of mint, jasmine, laurel, eucalyptus, and thyme emanating from the rich vegetation. A 45-minute hike away from the beach leads to a refreshing waterfall. Happily the valley is a First Degree Preservation Site, a designation intended to prevent the arrival of mass tourism into this isolated and pristine ecosystem.
In 2008, taxi boats left from Ölüdeniz three times a day and in 2009 this number doubled, so plan ahead to make sure you've got the most current schedule (June-early Sept; 15TL round-trip, 30 min.). An alternative for the adventurous and well-shod hiker is to follow the very steep and rocky slope down from the upper rim of the valley, following the footpath from in front of "George House" pension, on the road to Faralya/Kabak (gauge about 30 min.). For those who miss the last boat out, or for "The Beach" wannabes looking for the best campsite this side of the Himalayas (says me), the spare bungalows, platform huts, and tents of the on-site Butterfly Valley "pension" (no phone; www.butterflyvalley.com) are your only alternatives. One night in a bungalow with breakfast and dinner ranges from 30TL to 45TL, depending on the season (closed Oct-Mar). Bathrooms and shower blocks are communal, and hot water is "available." For day-trippers, there's a basic snack bar offering the usual sparse selection of cold drinks, meatballs, and tea.
Hiking (or Wading) Saklikent Gorge
Also known as the Canyon of the Hidden Valley, Saklikent Gorge is a wonder of nature carved 480m (1,575 ft.) down into the canyon by the constant force of the waters flowing down from Akdag (Ak Mt.). The water still flows, and boy, is it cold. The entrance to the gorge is down an incline off the main road, surrounded by a parking lot, ticket booth, merchant stalls, and enough tour buses to make you want to turn back.
A sturdy catwalk attached to the cliff wall leads you upstream for about 150m (492 ft.) to landfall, where the gushing waters of the Gökçesu and Ulupinar springs flow down from Babadag into the gorge. The air is unexpectedly cold at this juncture thanks to the constant roar of the icy waters, and some clever businessman knew just how to take advantage. The Saklikent Gorge River Restaurant (tel. 0252/659-0074; www.saklikentgorge.net) is a series of cozy wooden platforms constructed over the torrents for optimal enjoyment of a meal prepared in the stone ovens and a respite from the relentless heat. The same establishment also has a River Bar and a handful of newly constructed treehouses (30€ B&B) that could give reluctant traveling kids an experience to remember.
A hike up the gorge through the sometimes thigh-high waters is the highlight of the trip. Enter the gorge above where the springs gush into the creek, but be prepared for the shock of water so cold you just might have gone skiing that day. Your legs will be so numb that you won't even notice that the temperature of the water stabilizes the farther away from the spring source you get. The rock face has been sanded to a silky smoothness, creating slippery slides for kids of all ages. River shoes are advisable, especially if you plan on going the full distance of 18km (11 miles).
Small group tours by minibus or jeep safari leave for Saklikent Gorge daily in season for around £25 to £30, including a stop at the ancient city of Tlos and lunch at Yaka Park or at the Saklikent Gorge Restaurant. You can also get to the gorge, located about 40km (25 miles) southeast of Fethiye (about 1 hr.), by picking up a dolmus at the main terminal or flagging one down on the Fethiye/Antalya road out of town. By car, follow the Fethiye/Antalya road and turn left at the road for Kemer, turn left again past Tlos and follow signs for Saklikent. Entrance to the gorge is 8TL; parking is free.
Other Sports & Outdoor Activities
Hiking -- The best of Fethiye's goat paths, dirt tracks, and roadways winding their way through the forests, Mediterranean brush, and along the seacoast comprise a section of the Lycian Way, a hiking trail that maximizes the magnificence of this corner of Turkey. At the end of the road from Ölüdeniz to Faralya is The Olive Garden (www.olivegardenkabak.com; tel. 0252/642-1083), a rural paradise that combines a campground, a restaurant, and a bar with cushioned, canopied Oriental-style casual "beds" for sitting -- all from a spectacular site above a stunning bay. It's a steep stone path down to the Olive Garden from the road, and another 15-minute trek straight down the steep mountainside to the pristine beach (more to get back up, if you actually don't have a heart attack trying).
Horseback Riding -- Enjoy the scenic pine forests and mountain paths on horseback. Activities Unlimited (tel. 0252/617-0601) and Aventura (in the Club Belcekiz Beach; tel. 0252/617-0077) offer daily half-day tours, with a pickup at your hotel, for around £15. You can also arrange your own outing by going directly to a stable in Kayaköy. The arrival of Perma Ranch, Kaya Yolu (tel./fax 0252/618-0182; www.permaranch.co.uk), several years ago added two horsy Brits from Gloucestershire to the list of British expats in the area. They offer horse-riding holidays (even for travelers with limited mobility!) for £550 per person per week. Ask to see if they are running their 3-hour excursion on horseback, which includes 2 hours of riding through the valley and mountains and a short stopover in the village neighborhood of Kinali. The horses and tacking are in excellent shape, and use a sturdy English saddle. (Note that a couple of local travel agencies run horseback riding day excursions, but over in Patara instead of in the Fethiye area.)
Paragliding -- Thanks to the 1,950m (6,398-ft.) drop-off of Babadag over an open body of water, and to the gentle sea breezes and stable winds, Ölüdeniz is one of the foremost sites in the world for paragliding. Professionals come from all over to prepare for international flying competitions, an experience that is now available to the daring -- and strong-stomached, as there's really nothing like puking in midair. (If you're the type to get seasick, you may want to take a pill beforehand, or carry a Ziploc bag, just in case; take it from one who thought she had a sturdy stomach.) Flying tandem with an experienced pilot, all of whom are certified professionals, provides a safe and easy introduction to an otherwise extreme sport.
Skysports Paragliding, located on the beach (tel. 0252/617-0511; www.skysports-turkey.com), is the most reputable of the dozen or so outfitters touting their flights (although I'm told that pilots rotate among the companies regularly). They run five daily departures in high season, leaving by jeep at 9 and 11:30am, and 2, 4, and 6pm for the hour climb up to the summit. A 2-hour flight excursion costs 180TL a head; because of limited space, book at least 1 day in advance. Other reputable organizers of paragliding jumps are Extreme Paragliding (tel. 0252/313-0722; www.paraglide.netfirms.com/paragliding.html), which charges $105), and Easy Riders (tel. 0252/617-0114; www.easyriderstravel.8m.com). Prices are fixed among the various companies, so don't bother trying to negotiate. Be forewarned, however, human error has been known to result in fatalities, but then again, the same is true of driving a car.
Scuba Diving -- Spontaneous discovery of sunken ruins awaits you in the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Fethiye, one of the best dive sites for exploring underwater caves. The best outfitter in the area, with branches in Antalya, Bodrum, Kas, Marmaris, and Dalyan, is the professionally run European Diving Centre, Fevzi Cakmak Cad. 53 (tel. 0252/614-9771; www.europeandivingcentre.com), offering single or multiday "dive packs" for up to £53 per day (prices go down the more days you dive). Day packs include three dives, lunch, guide, tanks, weights, and weight belt. The dive center also has a 1-day "discover scuba" course, a full-day snorkel trip, and a 3-day PADI course for £270.
White-Water Rafting & Kayaking -- Outdoor enthusiasts may have already zeroed in on the Dalaman River rapids. But if you've chosen Fethiye as your base, it would be terribly remiss to ignore the paddling opportunities of this pristine and rugged coastline. From their new perch up in Kayaköy, 7 Capes (Kinali Mah. 140, Kayaköy; tel. 0252/618-0390; www.sevencapes.com) launches daytime and moonlight kayaking trips that take advantage of the area's most scenic points. Tours cost from 35€ to 50€, depending on the length and location of the trip.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.