Kas Antalya and surrounds

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My special place in Kas, 2003

The very first time I went to Kas Antalya was in 1990. I remember going for a swim at Küçük Çakıl beach. At that time there was only a ramshackle tea house on the cliffs above the little inlet and the eucalypt lined council run tea gardens down the hill did a steady trade in Turkish ice cream. Local fishermen supplemented their income by taking passengers across the water to Limanağzı. Back then fish caught on the trip over wound up on a mangal set up by the inhabitants of the only house there. Days were spent in and by the water and after dinner everyone headed for Cumhuriyet Meydan in the town centre. Families snacked on almonds cooled on ice, young couples dawdled in the shadows of the trees and old men played backgammon. All the while kids darted amongst them playing endless complex games of chasings around the statue of Atatürk.

Cumhuriyet Meydan in Kas, 2011

Since then I’ve gone back more than twenty times and counting. Küçük Çakıl is now lined with beach restaurants, bars and cafes, pumping out music until late into the night. The tea gardens are still there but now you can get double espresso and macchiatos too. Istanbul residents who first escaped here back in the early 1980s have been joined by a more recent, hipper crowd, keen to bask in the sun and the feel of an endless summer. Despite this influx, Kaş maintains its small town charm. Daylight hours are still marked by community announcements over the loudspeakers, the call to prayer rings out across the bay five times a day, every morning boats depart the harbour for day trips around the peninsula and water taxis regularly set off for Inceboğaz and other popular beaches. Recent years have seen a previously overlooked coastal path become home to more upmarket bars and restaurants offering Greek inspired menus. Nonetheless at night everyone always heads to the square after dinner. Friends and families gawp as they watch tava dondurma (the latest fad in ice cream) being made, yet the almond seller still works from his original spot. Lovers snuggle up close under the same trees while kids continue to wreak havoc by playing football amongst it all, somehow managing to avoid running into sleeping dogs, Atatürk’s statue and all the people enjoying the balmy night air.

For me the appeal of Kas Antalya lies in its egalitarian nature. No matter where we come from or how much we spend, we all swim in the same sea and share the same world.

Abandoned tomb in Kas, 2020.

History & landscape
Kas Antalya was originally established as an important port for the ancient city of Antiphellos, part of the Lycian civilization. Water was supplied to the inhabitants using a system of cisterns. Only two of Antiphellos’ many cisterns from the Hellenistic and Roman periods have survived in Kas, and one of them is housed in the Echo Bar. Down a flight of steps seven columns carved out of bedrock form the structure of the cistern. It’s open for visitors to visit during the day.

The pretty outdoor theatre dating to the Hellenistic period is worth the walk. It’s made from local cut limestone and holds 3000 people. It was originally surrounded by a necropolis and there’s still a dor-type tomb carved into the bedrock called the Akdam Dor Tomb. Inside there are carved figures of women holding hands in a style not found anywhere else in Lycia. Unfortunately the decorations have been covered with soot from fires being lit inside and are not currently visible. The theatre was restored in 2008 and is a popular spot for watching the sunset. Concerts are held here over summer.

Ancient history is everywhere in Kas Antalya. Tombs are scattered across the landscape as well as in the town itself. A huge stone sarcophagus called the King’s Tomb sits at the top of Uzun Çarşı, a steep cobblestoned pedestrian street lined with old Greek houses. Many of the Greek houses were built by families who came across from Meis, the island off the Turkish coast, at the end of the 19th century.

Cukurabağ Yarim Adasi, otherwise known as the peninsula, was once completely covered in olive groves. The residents of Cukurbağ village used to grow their olives there, then someone came from and Istanbul saw how lovely it was. According to one story he built a house at the very end and it went from there.

View from the mountain side of the peninsula. Kas, 2020.

Looking back up the rocky hill that provides a dramatic backdrop for Kas you’ll see the geological formation known as The Sleeping Giant. It’s a tough climb but if you have the stamina you’ll see two ancient rock tombs dating to the early period of Antiphellos as well as enjoy an incredible view.

Where to stay
For as long as I’ve been coming to Kas Antalya, accommodation has been divided between three main areas depending on where it is in relation to Atatürk Boulevard, the main street. The area west of the boulevard, along Necipbey Caddesi (referred to as Old Hospital Road), has always offered simple, clean family run pensions and apart hotels as well as select boutique hotels. Fully furnished apartments and luxury upmarket hotels catering to couples are located in the area above Küçük Çakıl beach. People wanting to stay in a villa with access to a pool head for the peninsula.

Everyone has different tastes, standards and budgets but I adore Sardunya Hotel. I’ve been dining at their restaurant and swimming from their terrace on and off for the last twenty years and the quality has always be wonderful. Now I’m all grown up (well, relatively) I stay there too. They have well-appointed rooms, a beautiful garden and best of all, direct access to the sea. If you do stay there please say hello to Serkan who runs the hotel, and Mehmet, the owner. Tell them Lisa and Kim sent you.

Things to do

Looking down on Buyuk Cakil beach, Kas, 2014.

Go swimming

  • take a boat taxi out to Limanağzı
  • claim your spot and swim at Küçük Çakıl Beach
  • walk to the council run Inceboğaz and Kaş Halk beaches on the peninsula. There’s a ladies only beach too.
  • walk or take a taxi to Büyük Çakıl Beach
  • catch a minibus to Patara Beach

Enjoy a daily boat trip to Kekova or go kayaking over Simena sunken city.
Visit Saklıkent Gorge and Patara and Kaputaş.
Go overseas by taking a day trip across to the Greek island of Meis.
Get even further away from it all on a gület boat tour.

Cheers from my Dad enjoying a beer in Kas, 2007.

Where to eat
The following is a list and brief description of some of the restaurants and cafes we went to during our most recent visits to Kaş, in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Over the years I’ve been to many more than the ones listed here, but these are the ones I am happy to revisit. Do be aware things change, and all of us have different likes and dislikes. Please note you should always check the menu and confirm the price of seafood, sold by portion or weight, before you order.

Part of the gardens in Sardunya Hotel and Restuarant, 2003.

Sardunya  – I’ve been coming here for years for their extensive menu, daily fresh fish selection, attentive service and unbeatable romantic garden setting overlooking the sea. It’s the perfect place to linger over dinner or for a special occasion.

Kervan Pide  has really nice pide and good prices
Öz Nazilli – They do a selection of precooked stews and soups, tasty grills and crunchy lahmacun. The service is very good and the staff friendly. I call this the place with the tree because the outdoor eating area is built around a tree.

2000 Restaurant  – enjoy tasty döner in this inexpensive, basic, workmanlike restaurant.
Yeşil Restaurant  – their home cooked food, called suyu ev yemek, is very good. Generous serves and friendly people.

Zoka Street Food – fabulous experimental tastes and food combinations by a talented young chef.

Coffee and Snacks
Pika Coffee – I am incredibly fussy about my coffee, so much so I am known to travel with my own espresso pot and bag of ground beans. However I don’t need to when it comes to Kas, I just head to Pika Coffee at their new location on the corner above Küçük Çakıl beach and I’m in caffeine heaven. The staff know how to make good coffee and their cakes are pretty wicked too, with vegans catered for. They now serve alcoholic beverages including craft beers and cocktails perfect for balmy summer nights.

Nur Pastanesi – I tried their famous goat’s milk burnt ice cream and thought it just tasted burnt and a bit odd, but then I’m not an expert. That said, their caramel and chocolate ice creams were divine. They’d run out of banana and I can’t wait to try it next time.

Naturel Ünlü Mammuler & Cafe opened recently selling healthy sourdough loaves, tahini snails, sweet biscuits and other nice treats. On the main street just up from LC Waikiki.

Aysun Pastanesi  – they’re located in the 2nd square up from the harbour, behind the tea gardens. I know this place from 1996 when the owner would insist we paid him the next day whenever he didn’t have change. They make lovely poğaca and fruit tarts which go well with their rich, cleanly brewed Turkish tea.

Entertainment
I am generally too tired (or just lazy) after a hard day’s swimming and eating to do much more than promenade along the harbour after dinner so I haven’t actually been to any of these venues in person. I plan to do so on my next visit, but as a non-smoker, whether I go more than once will depend on whether I can enjoy the music without getting smoked out (hint, hint).

Hi Jazz – as name suggests, this is the place to listen to jazz.
Echo Bar – Formerly a cavernous disco now featuring jazz and some blues acts
Oxygen Pub – newer venue for blues artists over in the new marina complex.
Yelken Lounge Bar – Has live music (blues) some nights, harbour road

Kas Friday markets, 2013.

Practical Information
There are numerous ATMs in Kaş. The weekly markets are held on Fridays adjacent to the Otogar, and you can buy groceries in Migros, BIM and other supermarkets in town.

Getting there and away
I live on the Asian side of Istanbul so I fly from Sabiha Gökçen Airport to Dalaman Airport. If you’re flying from the European side you’ll leave from Istanbul Airport. From Dalaman the easiest way to get to Kaş is to use a transfer service, shared or private. You need to pre-book and as of June 2022 the cost per person in a shared shuttle service was 250tl per person (but this can be subject to change). It is possible to get to Kaş by catching a Havabus to Fethiye and then the Bati Antalya minibus service from there but it takes at least four hours, provided you make the connection. The Bati Antalya service is very busy in summer so unless you pre-book you could arrive in Fethiye only to find the next bus is full. The trip in a shared or private transfer vehicle takes a bit over 2 hours and includes a 15 minute break to stretch your legs and use the loo.

Two of the companies I’ve used that offer shared shuttle services between Dalaman Airport and Kaş are Kas Transfer and Kas Gumus Travel.

However you get to Kaş and no matter how long you stay, I know your first visit won’t be your last. Iyi tatillar!

Looking back at Kas from boat, 2007.

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However you travel, stay safe and have fun! Iyi yolculuklar.

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6 Comments

  1. I agree with everything the former commentator makes. Love Kas but regret many of the changes. We shouldn’t, because these changes usually mean that the locals are getting better paid, more work etc. – the same happens in most countries and towns where tourists congregate – but it’s hard not to remember with nostalgia one’s earlier visits.

    1. Change is inevitable unfortunately. In the future I hope it will be done sustainably and greed doesn’t overtake working with local groups to guarantee their livelihoods and to protect the environment.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Have you ever been to Kas? If not, you absolutely should go, at least once.

      1. So many places, so little time. I have been all around Kas, but have never been there. Two years ago I went to Bodrum and Fethiye just for fun. After 40+ years away, I was so disappointed at the change. Same with Istanbul of course. As you mentioned in your article, similar changes have occurred in Kas. In the “olden days” there were no big hotels. You could get a room in a family run pansiyon in these costal cities right on the beach for $10/night. Your room was literally steps from the beach. The little shops along in the older part of Bodrum were full of locally grown food and individually made crafts. Now, much is made in China. The negative affect of globalism is that you can buy the same tourist junk in Siam Reap (cheaper) as you can find in Bodrum these days. Bodrum is still worth the visit today, it is just not the sleepy fishing village that it used to be. What I loved about your article on Kas is that is sounded like it was still the kind of place you could visit as a foreigner and enjoy a kind of intimacy with people who live there. To me, that is heaven. For me, I don’t want to just observe. I would prefer to engage.
        One more minor point: I understand that my experience may be different than many because I can still manage some level of communication in Turkish. However, one thing I have experienced over the years is that speaking Turkish can actually be a deterrent to communication as it somehow makes you seem less of a foreigner. My experience has been that many Turks would rather speak with a “real” foreigner, especially if they speak your language. Some how, when you speak Turkish, you are not only treated more like a Turk, but you also somehow give up the “privileges” you enjoy as a foreigner. Point is, even if you don’t speak Turkish, maybe especially if you don’t speak Turkish, you will be welcomed by Turks who are as curious about you as you are of them, especially families.

        1. I’ve been to Bodrum several times and apart from the beach at Torba, really don’t see the appeal. As of a few years ago only 15kms of the whole coastline there was undeveloped so it was a lot like being in Istanbul, only lower rise. Kas has grown a lot, and this year (we arrived yesterday) there are a lot of Istanbullu sporting flashy watches, driving expensive 4x4s nd clogging up the main street. That said, the farmers at the weekly market and the people at the family run restaurants are warm and welcoming. When I first came to Turkey more than 30 years ago not speaking much Turkish has limited the degree to which I was able to talk to and get to know people, unless of course they were highly educated, city born Turks. I’ve had the funniest and most enlightening conversations with ladies on trains and older taxi drivers wearing takke, that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t know the language. It allowed them to learn about the cost of living, marriage, jobs for women etc in my country they couldn’t have found out about otherwise. It really depends who you meet and their background as to how much you can learn about one another. However no matter how little or how much Turkish you speak, the welcome is always the same.

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