Saturday, January 13, 2018

A short hike through Turkey’s Saklikent Gorge

Turkey is a treasure trove of sights to behold — the mosques of Istanbul, the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, the ancient ruins of Ephesus and the white travertine terraces of Pamukkale among them.

But it was a place previously unknown to me before I decided to travel to the country that straddles Europe and Asia last summer that turned out to be one of my favourites: Saklikent Gorge — the longest and deepest in Turkey.

Saklikent National Park opened in 1996 and is located approximately 50 kilometres from Fethiye, a port city and tourism centre in the southwestern part of Turkey. Lovely low mountain vistas accompany the drive to the gorge, which was formed through geological cracks that separated Mount Akdag into two parts thousands of years ago.

The admission fee to Saklikent Gorge is just six Turkish lira ($2 Canadian), which is a bargain at multiples of that figure. While the canyon is 18 kilometres long, just the first four are generally accessible. The first two are relatively easily walkable for those of decent fitness and mobility levels, though you’ll sometimes have to negotiate your way over or around rocks through much of the journey.

The hike begins by taking a catwalk attached to the gorge's western wall for a few hundred metres before you’re forced to wade through the foaming, cold, waist deep water of Karacay Creek (which can be seen in the 2014 Russell Crowe film, The Water Diviner) with the assistance of a rope that’s strung across it. From here on in, the pebble-bottomed creek ranges from ankle to hip deep and from calm to fairly fast-flowing.

Saklikent Gorge ranges in width from 20 to 30 metres, while the cliff walls soar 200 metres above you. Rock formations, in combination with the water and varying degrees of sunlight that make their way to the bottom of the canyon, make for stunning views and photo opportunities. Just be sure to keep focused on keeping your camera out of the water.

You must return the same way you entered, but that gives you the opportunity to soak in things you might have missed the first time when travelling in the opposite direction. You may encounter a few bats, and I saw a dead snake, but this hike is about geological wonders and not wildlife spotting.

Once you get back to the main entrance, there are more entertainment options if you have time to take advantage of them. There’s rafting and tubing going in the other direction on Karacay Creek, as well as zip-lining and jeep safaris. The less adventurous can indulge in a mud bath, check out gift shops, fill up on fresh trout at restaurants or just lie back and relax.

Saklikent Gorge is open from the beginning of April to the end of September and makes for a great day trip. As long as you have transportation, you can also spend part of the day there and the remainder in the nearby beach resort town of Oludeniz, which is surrounded by small mountains and is a popular place for paragliding.

Montana Pine Resort Hotel & Spa
My accommodations in this part of Turkey were at the four-star, all-inclusive Montana Pine Resort Hotel & Spa, which is scenically nestled in a pine forest on the side of Mount Badabag at the beginning of the historic and breathtaking, 540-kilometre Lycian Way hiking trail, which I partook of for four hours as temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius. 

The 159-room hotel offers great views, multiple restaurants and bars, three swimming pools, two children’s pools, live music and entertainment, tennis, volleyball, miniature golf, archery, a children’s playground and gift shop among its amenities.

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