The best place for a family holiday with teens. I spent a few hours over the weekend wrapping up the final details of our main summer holiday as the sleet hammered down outside. I think I’ve already mentioned that we’ve decided to go back to Kalkan, our favourite spot in Turkey. We’re aware that our days of school summer holidays are numbered. In fact we only have two more years after this one when we will be tied to the six peak weeks. After that, the boys will be fully immersed in their own lives – they may want to come away with us or… they may not. And equally we may invite them to join us… or we may calculate just how far the two of us could travel on a budget that covers five adults and decide against inviting them at all. Who knows?! Anyway because the times we have left are important ones we have agreed that we will return to the place where we are all at our happiest and that is always Kalkan.
I am asked lots of questions each time we return and so last year, I promised to write a post on it in prime holiday booking season – which is now. It is so difficult to find a place that works well for families with teens and so it makes sense to share it with you. I am also keen to support the Kalkan people who have become our friends over the years. Footfall to Turkey has been significantly down over the last few seasons and life is becoming a struggle for them. There are various reasons for the fall in tourists, some of them understandable, some of them less so, but let’s address them. They include:
- Fears surrounding Turkey’s proximity to the Syrian border. Turkey is a huge country and the resorts are nowhere near the Syrian border.
- Fears surrounding the belief that migrants are washing up on every beach. Tragically this has been known to happen further around the coast in the Bodrum area which is 300 miles away but not in Kalkan.
- Fears that terrorism is rife. Destinations in mainland Europe such as France, Spain and the UK have been targeted far more than Turkey.
- The government is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Now this last one I have sympathy with. However the people who are suffering from the drop in tourism are the small businesses in the seaside towns and villages. They are a long way from Ankara and the decisions that are made there. They openly despair of the political situation but the native populations of these outlying places are too small to sway an election.
Because we know these people and have done for nearly twenty years now, we continue to support them at a local level by going to Kalkan. By visiting their shops and restaurants we are helping them to maintain their livelihood. In my view, if there is a risk that a country could become more sectarian, it starts to be more important than ever that as Europeans, we keep on travelling there. We are a visible reminder of the relatively libertarian culture that Turkey has always enjoyed.
Now I know some of you may disagree and that’s fine, I’m happy for you to express your views in the comments section. As intelligent women, it’s good for us to talk about these things. In the meantime I’m going to go on and tell you a little bit about why we find Turkey (and Kalkan in particular) to be the best place for a family holiday with teens.
Kalkan – what kind of place is it?
Kalkan is a large village set on the Turquoise coast which is also known as the Turkish Riviera. It nestles in a small Mediterranean bay at the foot of the Taurus mountains. Long ago it was an important trading port but its harbour now is mostly filled with small fishing vessels and pleasure boats. It has a resident population of circa 3,000 which doubles in the peak summer months.
The nearest airport is Dalaman and the onward journey to Kalkan takes about 90 minutes. It’s worth the journey to get off the beaten track of the large tour operators. You can either arrange to hire a car which you pick up from the airport or book a taxi transfer which costs roughly £80 return.
We first visited Kalkan in 2000 and have seen it grow, although development has been controlled and sympathetic. It used to be a very middle class British resort (Boden-on-Sea we called it). That has changed over the years and I would say that there is a better balance. Turkish families, mostly from Istanbul, now make up about 20% of the visitor mix. It can be really interesting to sit and chat to them about their lives and how they see them changing.
Why would I go there?
For me, the principal reason is quite simply that it is the best place for a family holiday with teens. The steep paths into the village mean that it tends not to attract families with small children (we remember only too well our first visit there when the eldest was three and we had to push a buggy and all of his clobber back up the hills in stifling heat). Everywhere you look, you see older families relaxing and having fun together. This means that in turn, your own teens relax because they don’t feel awkward about being with their parents. For me, this is priceless and I really enjoy looking around the restaurants at night and seeing families laughing together, chatting or just playing cards. It really is quite unique.
What makes Kalkan special?
Kalkan is renowned for its restaurants. Even though it is small, on TripAdvisor alone there are reviews for 142 restaurants so you could easily dine somewhere different for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you have the budget. Obviously prices vary depending on which restaurant you choose and how close to the harbour you are but we find that a meal for five in one of the more expensive restaurants is usually about £100 for two courses and wine. If you go up to the top of the hill, it can be less than £50.
I am at my happiest when I am surrounded by mountains, trees and sea and you have all of those in abundance. Kalkan sits at the bottom of dramatic pine clad mountains and as you wander round, you will see trees of every kind – banana, fig, pomegranate, olive, walnut, limes and oranges… often groaning with fruit.
The locals are so friendly and they love to spend time getting to know you. You will find that they recognise you year after year, remembering your family stories, birthdays or your favourite drinks. They are warm and sincere and this is why I am keen to support them.
I have never felt uncomfortable walking around Kalkan and we are always happy for the boys to go off on their own. Sometimes they prefer to walk back to the villa after dinner whilst we stay out for a drink and we never worry about it. This year the elder two have plans to go out together in the evening. We know they’ll be fine and they’ll probably meet some other English teens which will make their holiday even better.
Where to stay in Kalkan
There are lots of privately owned villas and apartments in Kalkan. If you go onto some of the large villa sites, you’ll be spoilt for choice. However with the extra fees that they’re adding, we find that they are getting expensive and we are lucky enough to be able to rent direct from the people who own our villa.
So, I am going to share our special place with you and as I do, I’m aware that we should probably book for next year now because once you go there, you will want to return. We stay at Yellow Villa which is the private holiday home of Sheila and Simon Gibbs and so it is a few leagues above your average holiday rental. They let it out to selected guests and I have assured Sheila that any reader of Midlifechic would treat it with respect.
One of the many good things about Yellow Villa is its location. As Kalkan has expanded, holiday villas have been built further and further up the hill away from the centre. As I have said, the hills are steep and not fun to ascend in the heat. Yellow Villa is on a level with the centre of the village and it is a ten minute walk which makes such a difference to your holiday.
It is a large detached house, set back from the road and surrounded by trees.
I’ve added a new type of gallery for the next series of photos so that you can scroll across which is quicker than scrolling down.
There are lots of shady places to sit in the gardens…
In addition to a generous welcome pack on arrival, the kitchen is always well stocked with condiments, herbs and spices (or you can pick fresh herbs from the garden). There is also an honour system whereby previous guests leave the remains of their duty free bottles for those that follow so you often find yourself inventing new and exciting cocktails with whatever you find in the kitchen.
The accommodation is generous with a huge living room and three large double bedrooms in the main house, each with their own balcony and bathroom (and a particularly spectacular master bedroom and bathroom). There is also a ‘cave room’ by the pool. It has its own entrance and provides an extra bedroom and bathroom which we use when all five of us go.
Outside there is a secluded pool, deep enough for cannonballing and large enough for all five of us to be in at the same time. There are thoughtful extra touches such as a fridge by the pool so that you don’t have to move too far for drinks.
The crowning glory of Yellow Villa has to be its roof terrace. It is a huge space with spectacular views of the sea and the mountains. To one side there are sunbeds and sofas, perfect for a spot of reading or for games after dinner. A lot of our funniest holiday moments seem to happen on this terrace and we base our Perudo battles there. At the other side is a fully equipped kitchen with a dining table, fridge freezer, dishwasher, and large barbecue (there is also a barbecue in the garden downstairs). It’s a great place to pick up the breeze. We tend to alternate our evenings between eating out and cooking at home. There is no better spot to watch the sun set over the sea with a cocktail in hand as the barbecue sizzles.
What else do you need to know about Yellow Villa? All rooms are air conditioned, there is wi-fi (which I am told has been upgraded for this year) and there is a burglar alarm. The pool is cleaned every day and the villa has a light clean once a week with a full clean in between weeks one and two. You can order groceries to be delivered and there are restaurants and a small supermarket less than a five minute walk away. An agent is based around the corner and is on hand if there are any problems.
Sheila and Simon are kindly offering Midlifechic readers 10% off 2018 bookings but dates are starting to fill. If you’re interested, you can find full details and availability here. Just say that you are a Midlifechic reader when you contact them in order to get your discount.
What is there to do in the area?
Spend a day at sea
There are lots of boats at the harbour jostling for trade and we find it’s one of the best ways to spend a day. You putter around the coast, stopping at different places to dive into the sea and perhaps swim to shore. The lunches are always amazing with freshly caught fish, seafood, grilled chicken and lots of different salads. Later in the afternoon there will be another break for tea, cake and endless platters of fresh fruit (last time we counted 15 different varieties).
We always seem to meet really great people, in fact the boys are still in touch with some of the teens they have met on boat trips. Everybody who goes to Kalkan has their favourite provider, ours is Captain Ramazan and his boat Eylul.
Another fantastic option is to go for a sunset cruise. You head out at 7pm, just as the sun is starting to set. It’s magical swimming amongst the phosphorescence and the fish seem to glow in the moonlight. Dinner is usually a simple barbecue on board with freshly grilled fish and chicken – somehow they even manage to cook chips as well as providing bowls full of salad.
Tick off the beach clubs
Kalkan doesn’t have sandy beaches but we find we don’t miss them. There are plenty of beach clubs which have ladders and diving platforms so there is no problem with getting into the sea. They have comfortable sunbeds to lounge on and usually beanbags too.
Waiters are on hand to bring drinks and snacks and there are plenty of water sports for teens (and husbands) who get bored.
We really like going down to the beach clubs for dinner sometimes too…
…it’s lovely to sit right over the water and they tend to be very chilled out places with great cocktails and good music playing.
Visit the market
Every Thursday there is a market in Kalkan selling leather and cotton goods, silver, Turkish Delight, olives, nuts, DVDs… all kinds of things. It’s hot and hectic but teens especially love it. It’s a great place to learn how to barter.
You will need to hire a car to get to these places. Car hire is reasonable and can usually be arranged when you’re out there although if you want something flash you’ll need to pre-book. Driving is very straightforward and the roads are not busy.
Patara is the next bay along and is a twelve mile long sandy beach. Thanks to the protected ruins of the ancient city of Patara which lie at its entrance and the Loggerhead Turtles that breed there, it is completely undeveloped .You can hire umbrellas and sunbeds and there is one beach café. The beach is off limits between sunset and 8.30am when it is returned to the turtles. (Approx 10 minute drive).
This is a pretty cove at the other side of Kalkan. We have been to it by boat but have never been tempted to access it from the road because there are 170 steps down (and up again). However, you can often find strong waves there which are elusive in this part of the Med. (Approx 10 minute drive).
A pretty town about half an hour’s drive from Kalkan. It has a completely different feel, there are more Turkish tourists and it really comes alive after dark with people promenading in the big square watching the street performers. (Approx 30 minute drive).
From Kas you can take a ferry to the Greek island of Meis (Kastellorizo in Greek). We haven’t been there however I was chatting to a lady on one of our boat trips last year and she said it had been the highlight of her holiday. She told me it felt so completely Greek that it was almost like having two holidays for the price of one. Mr MC and I might branch out and stay there for a night on our own, leaving the boys back at the villa. It’s only 30 minutes by ferry so an easy trip to do in a day if you prefer.
The gorge is a must if you haven’t done it before. It’s a two km trek (or more if you’re brave) through a canyon of icy cold water. Our boys were a bit disappointed last year because it wasn’t as deep as they remembered (partly due to a hot summer and partly because they have grown a bit – as you can see).
Yes, this is the baby who was dipping his toes in…
However it’s still fun. You can hire water shoes on site. Don’t bother to eat at the restaurants there though, they’ve really gone downhill over the last few years. You’re better off driving on to a village location…
Mountain trout restaurants
Carry on from Saklikent into the Taurus mountains and you’ll find lots of trout restaurants along the banks of the icy cold river. It’s generally better to avoid the ones that are located around Saklikent gorge and go off the beaten track. In Beycik you can visit the Rivera Park restaurant which is based on a platform in a tree. Trout is the speciality although they also serve chicken and the usual Turkish dishes.
Tlos is one of the settlements of ancient Lycia, 4 km on from the gorge. It is believed to date back 4000 years and you can see ruins that span a number of different eras.
Fethiye is quite a large seaside town about a 45 minute drive from Kalkan. It’s another of our favourite places and it’s always fun to eat at the fish market there. You go along to a fish stall, choose your fish (not always enthusiastically as you can see from the youngest’s face at the tender age of 7 )…
… they cook it and you sit at one of the many tables scattered though the market – as you can just about see from this old photo.
There are shops to wander around and a much bigger weekly market if you have the stamina. The harbour is pretty and a 15 minute drive further on takes you to…
The famous saltwater lagoon that features on the cover of a thousand holiday brochures. We used to go there every year when the eldest was small. Sadly we returned in 2011 to find that it has become very touristy but if you do go, drive along to Sun City Beach Club and spend the day in the lovely lagoon. I’ve had to go back in time again to find a picture of the lagoon and SunCity but here you go. Happy days.
In Olu Deniz it is also easy to hire a speedboat for a day which is one of my favourite things to do. You simply putter around the coast, stopping to swim when you feel like it and occasionally dropping the anchor near a quiet taverna. The local laws don’t allow it in Kalkan unfortunately.
What to pack?
Well it’s hot so you really don’t need very much. If you’re like me, you’ll spend most days by the water so you’ll need lots of swimsuits and kaftans, a few beach dresses and then clothes for the evening. The vibe in the village at night is relaxed chic and most people dress up a little bit. To make it easy I’ve reattached my ‘hot holiday’ packing list below for you to download.
So there you go, plenty of reasons to visit Kalkan. I hope I’ve done a good enough job to help restore footfall for all of our friends out there who rely on tourism for their income. Of course I haven’t even mentioned the fact that you’re away from the Euro so the exchange rate works very much in your favour. Admittedly you have a higher outlay on flights than you would if you were travelling to somewhere like Spain but once you’re there, accommodation and living is cheaper so it balances out. Of course now I have a fantasy of us creating a Midlifechic resort where we and all of our teens can party together happily. I’ll stop now… they probably wouldn’t thank us… or would they?! I’ll be back on Friday.
Disclosure: The best place for a family holiday with teens is not a sponsored post.
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