Exploring Bafa Lake and the Latmos Mountains
Hiking, History and Culture
Bafa Lake and the extraordinarily craggy Latmos Mountain range rising steeply from its northern shore are unforgettable examples of the deepest rural Turkey surviving within an hour’s drive of mass tourism destinations Bodrum and Kușadası. For those that venture this far off the beaten path, turning off the highway at the vast expanse of water that is Bafa Lake is well worth your while. Day-hikers, walking clubs, overnight trekkers, outdoor enthusiasts and naturalists of all varieties will immediately recognize the immense value of the beautiful surroundings and this unspoiled taste of village culture. Tread the same paths as 8th century hermits and Byzantine monks as you wander the boulder-strewn mountain slopes between monastic ruins and caves concealing prehistoric rock paintings.
In antiquity, Bafa Lake was a bay in the Aegaen Sea, but silt deposited by the Büyük Menderes (Meander River) landlocked the gulf over time, and transformed it into the 15 km by 5 km wide lake it is today. Due to its formation history it is home to both salt and freshwater species, the water retaining a degree of salinity. Since it is an extensive nature preserve, the area has remained relatively unaffected by tourism. Although there are many highly frequented historic sites and sightseeing destinations nearby, most visitors will ﬁnd staying in the only populated settlement on the lake – tiny, 300-strong Kapıkırı village – a welcome change.
Look forward to
Boat trips are a wonderful way to explore the rich wildlife and historic ruins sprinkling the shores and islands of the lake. Ornithologists can observe a plethora of different bird species native to the lake, including pelicans, grebes, egrets, herons, storks, ﬂamingos, hawks and partridges. Botanists can identify up to twenty endemic orchid varieties on the slopes of the Latmos Mountains. Rock climbers can challenge themselves on an abundance of colossal boulders that enliven the hilly landscape.
- Hike through bizarre rock formations and follow antique cobbled roads
- Picnic in centuries-old olive groves
- Explore the ancient cities of Didyma, Milet & Priene
- Visit mountain villages where time has stood still
- Visit the nearby city of Milas and its vibrant farmer’s market
- A trip for young and old alike! Average walking time 3-5 hours a day
Welcome to Turkey! Arrival in Izmir or Bodrum, airport pick-up and transfer to Bafa Lake and the Agora Guesthouse in Kapıkırı Village (ancient Heraclea). Welcome dinner and orientation session at the guesthouse.
Wake-up to an amazing homemade Turkish breakfast. Today’s hike will serve as a warm up and help you get a lay of the land. Set off on foot with our local guide to explore the ruins of the ancient city of Heraclea, upon which the village is built. We will follow the old city wall for 6.5 kilometers and climb to 500 m to the upper watchtower to enjoy the view over Bafa Lake. Picnic lunch with a view over Bafa Lake. After continuing along the trail through bizarre rock formations to the even older historical settlement of Latmos we will loop back along the lake and return to the guesthouse. Free time to explore the village until dinner.
After breakfast we will transfer by minibus to nearby Karahayıt village, the starting point of today’s hike. Total walking time will be 3-5 hours. We ﬁrst set off to visit the prehistoric rock paintings of Balık taș. Over 170 cave paintings have been found in the area over the past two decades, mainly on the surfaces underneath collapsed slabs of rock or on overhangs. The paintings at Balıktaș are of particular signiﬁcance, because they are the only example of the use of two colours: yellow in addition to the ubiquitous red. We backtrack and pass through Karahayıt and continue in the direction of Gölyaka to the rock paintings of Kerdemlik. Then we follow parts of the Carian Trail leading us to the imposing ruins of the Seven Brothers (Yediler) Monastery perched high on a cliff with its well-preserved Byzantine fresco gracing an overhang. We end our day in Gölyaka village in the mountains. Minibus transfer to guesthouse. For those who want to rest their weary legs, the use of the guesthouse’s hamam (Turkish bath) can be organized.
After breakfast we will leave by minibus on an excursion to the nearby city of Milas, which has a vibrant weekly market day that is not to be missed! From the direct sale of fresh fruits and vegetables by local farmers to household items and clothing, everything the locals need for their daily lives is on offer here.
Depending on the interest of the group, we offer the option to visit a school classroom in Milas. We will have a lunch of Turkish pide in town. Lazy afternoon at the guesthouse – opportunity to explore the guesthouse’s extensive library, or curl up in a hammock. Another amazing dinner with local specialities by the women of the family.
We set off this morning along the gravel road leading to the village of Kapıkırı’s former summer settlement (yayla) up on a plateau above the lake, then continue along an antique trail which we follow over the low hills down to the lakeshore to the Twin Islands (Ikizce Adaları). This walk allows us an unrestricted view of the lake the whole morning. The bigger of the islands is connected to the shore by a sandbank, allowing us to cross and explore the ruins of the massive defence walls of the Byzantine cloister found here. This is also an opportunity for a relaxed swim before our route takes us westward to Menet Island, or Bird Island, where you can watch cormorants, herons, pelicans, and Ruddy Shelducks, amongst many others, through our binoculars. Dinner at the guesthouse.
Today we will depart on an excursion day to the antique cities of Didyma, with its imposing Temple of Apollo; Miletus, with its spectacular 15-000 seat theatre; and dramatic Priene, isolated and windswept, situated high above the Büyük Menderes river delta. Dinner at the guesthouse.
For our last day we will head back into the mountains to end this week in the middle of nature. A varied hike on antique trails with differing character awaits us. Walking time is 3-5 hours today with breaks. With a view of the Latmos Mountains (Beșparmak Dağlar) our constant guide to the north, we stop first at a nomad’s hut near the hamlet of Pınarcılar. Here we take the time for a well-earned tea break and sample some local delicacies before we hit the path again for our last destination, the famous Neolithic cave paintings of Karadere (black valley). A fallen boulder forms a natural sanctuary for what was conceivably a place of cultic significance in prehistoric times. This walk is especially rewarding in springtime, when wild lavender, orchids, anemones and countless other flowers line the path. For our last evening, the team will prepare an extravagant barbeque. A local musician will accompany the dinner on his saz and serenade guests late into the night.
Return day and transfer to Izmir or Bodrum airport. Farewell!
Included in the Price
- airport transfers on arrival and departure days
- three meals a day (breakfast, lunch & dinner); water, coffee & tea included
- English-speaking, local guide
- all entrance fees to visited sites
- 7 nights at the Agora Guesthouse, based on double occupancy with your own facilities
- Children and infants 0-6 years old are free, children 7-12 years old receive a 50% discount
Excluded: return ﬂights to Izmir or Bodrum, personal expenses & drinks
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