About Oludeniz beaches
Not that long ago, there was nothing here but the most idyllic lagoon in the world, fringed by golden sand and pine-clad mountains. Then the developers moved in. Just in time, national park status protected much of the lagoon leaving the low-rise village of Oludeniz, mainly smaller hotels and apartment blocks, climbing the valley behind. What people now call Oludeniz in travel brochures is actually made up of three small towns – Oludeniz itself, Ovacik, which is slightly bigger and noisier, and Hisaronu, which is where all the larger hotels and the clubs hang out. Hisaronu and Ovacik are both up on the plateau, about 4km (2.5 miles) from the beach. Check which one you are booking into.
The whole lagoon is lined by shallow sloping golden sand and almost still water. The sand is a little gritty, but other than that, it is the absolutely perfect beach for small children. If you go round to the forested side, there’s even room to camp out in the shade under the pines and protect fair northern skins. You will be sharing the beach with various watersports enthusiasts so will need to keep an eye open for collisions. On the far side of the sand spit, facing the open sea, Belcekiz Beach drops away steeply and has no shade, so is generally colonised by grown-up sun-worshippers. Quieter Kidrak Beach is a couple of kilometres away to the east.
Beyond the beach:
Oludeniz itself really has very little beyond the beach, but you don’t have to go far to entertain yourself. Just up the hill, near Hisaronu, Kaya Köy is a haunting deserted village abandoned by the Greeks thrown out of Turkey in 1924. Turks coming back from Greece thought it cursed and refused to move in and only now are the first few houses being restored. Take to a boat for a trip along to Butterfly Valley, a hidden Shangri La with a delightful beach and walks up through butterfly-rich meadows to a waterfall. Or head into the local market town of Fethiye for some retail therapy and a Turkish bath. There are dive sites off the coast and Babadag, the mountain above Oludeniz has become one of the world’s great para-gliding centres – you can do a course and go solo, or take a tandem flight, landing on the beach. The great Lycian Way trekking route goes past the door.
This is family holiday territory. Most of the hotels in the area are very child-friendly and some of the larger resorts run kids’ clubs. There are gentler watersports such as banana boats on offer on the lagoon and boat trips with snorkelling. Older teenagers could take a PADI diving course or learn to paraglide. The hills behind the resort are filled with wonderful walks and hikes, wild flowers and birds, and there are places to hire mountain bikes, ride horses, go canoeing or white-water rafting or take a jeep safari. Ruins are good for scrambling as well as history.
Oludeniz sits in the middle of a ring of magnificent ancient ruined cities of which the finest is undoubtedly Xanthos (67km/42 miles), capital of the Lycian Federation, whose population committed mass suicide three times rather than admit defeat. Nearby the Letoön is a charming temple complex now largely taken over by frogs. Combine a trip to the smaller sites of Tlos and Pinara with an afternoon in the shady depths of the canyon at Saklikent (45km/30 miles) where an icy river tumbles through the steep rock walls. Or visit the dune-swept Patara, where the half-buried city leads onto a magnificent 18km (12 mile) white sand beach. It was here that St Nicholas (aka Father Christmas) was born in the fourth century AD. Finally, back near the airport at Dalaman, take a boat through the reed beds to ancient Kaunos or upstream through Koycegiz Lake to the mud baths where you can wallow to the delight of your inner child and your skin.
Within the resort, the best food is a little hard to find, tucked down a side alley in the Secret Garden, but for a real celebration, the place to go is the Beyaz Yunus (www.beyazyunus.com), which sits on its own on a clifftop at the end of Belcekiz Beach, a wonderfully romantic seafront fish restaurant, home to some A-list celebrity spotting including George Bush and Prince Charles, and prices suitable for special occasions (free shuttle from your hotel). Cin Bal is a jolly grill restaurant in Kayaköy that oozes atmosphere, with wandering gipsy musicians and crowds of locals who sing ever louder as the evening and the raki wear on. Some way out of town, Yaka Park, Yaka Köyü near Saklikent (www.tlosyakapark.com), is probably a place for a lingering lunch – is actually a trout farm where your food virtually swims onto your plate, complete with chips and a lovely mountain view.