The former Greek fishing village of Kalkan is today a very popular and slightly upmarket resort. Its population of four thousand includes some 1500 expats, two-thirds of whom are British, and most of the small boutique hotels that used to be Kalkan’s lifeblood have been converted into apartments and second homes. The surviving package-holiday trade dominates the remaining short-stay accommodation, and ensures that Kalkan remains more exclusive than nearby Kaş. Once you accept the resort’s pervasive social profile, lack of a sandy beach and the fact that restaurants, though good, are uniformly overpriced, Kalkan makes a good base for exploring Patara and the Xanthos valley, while excursions east or inland might occupy another day or so.
Despite the rash of new villas and apartments spreading over the hillsides around, the compact centre has retained many of its nineteenth-century Greek houses, many now serving as restaurants and bars, and thus at least some of its charm. Tourism and property sales, now the town’s raison d’être, are fairly new phenomena: until the late 1970s both Kalkan and neighbouring Kaş eked out a living from charcoal burning and olives. It’s hard today to imagine it as it was in the 1980s, when its rather bohemian atmosphere contrasted starkly with the often oppressive conditions prevailing in Turkish cities after the 1980 coup.
The artificially supplemented pebble beach called Kömürlük, at the east edge of Kalkan, is pleasant enough, with reasonably clean water that’s chilled by freshwater seeps. Although larger than it looks from afar, it still gets hopelessly full in summer, when the sunbeds (TL7 for two beds and an umbrella) are at a premium.
One alternative is to use the swimming platforms or lidos that flank the bay, accessible on well-priced shuttle boats. The only other bona fide beach within walking distance is a coarse-pebble one well southwest on the coast, visited by the Lycian Way on its way to Gelemiş.
Most of the twenty-odd dive sites near Kalkan are 25–40min away by boat, with many located around the islets at the mouth of the bay. Of these, beginners dive the shallows at the north tip of Yılan Adası (Snake Island), and almost the entire perimeter of the remoter Heybeli; another excellent novice or second-dive-of-day venue is Frank Wall on the east side of the bay, with spectacular rock pinnacles and plenty of fish. More advanced divers are taken to an even more dramatic wall between 20m and 50m at the south tip of “Snake”, alive with barracuda, grouper and myriad smaller fish; to reefs off Heybeli and Öksüz; or to sand-bottom caves on the mainland with their entrances at 25m.
The most spectacular calm-weather dive site, for intermediate and advanced divers, is Sakarya Reef, southeast of Kalkan off İnce Burun. Here, the mangled remains of the Duchess of York, a North Sea trawler built in Hull in 1893 and apparently scuttled for an insurance payout sometime after 1930, lie in 15m of water. However, more interesting is the newer, larger Turkish-built Sakarya nearby, wrecked in the 1940s, broken into three sections at depths of 35–60m, retaining teak-plank decking, intact winches and a vast cargo of lead ballast.
Except in the caves, fed by chilly fresh water, water temperatures are a comfortable 18–30°C; the sea warms up abruptly in late May or early June with a current change, and stays warm into November. Visibility is typically 25–30m.
The two local dive operators are Dolphin Scuba Team, working off its boat in Kalkan’s main port (t0242 844 2242 or t0542 627 9757, wdolphinscubateam.com), and Kalkan Diving/Aquasports, at the Kalamar Beach Club (t0242 844 2361 or t0532 553 2006, wkalkandiving.com). Prices are competitive, with two-dive mornings from £35/€43, and a PADI Open Water course from £180/€260.