Until 1923, KAŞ was a small, Greek-populated shipping port, dwarfed by the cliffs, riddled with rock-cut tombs that tower behind it, and with views out to sea dominated by the nearby Greek island of Kastellórizo (Meis). Today, despite the fact that tourism has made inexorable inroads, with new development sprawling up every slope that’s short of being totally precipitous, and the sleepy winter-time population of around eight thousand multiplying manyfold in summer, Kaş remains at heart a small town. The tombs, cliffs and views out to sea remain as lovely as ever as well, though the Greek Christians who once admired them were replaced after the 1923 population exchanges by Muslim Turks.
The fact that the local beaches are hardly stellar, along with the lack of a really convenient airport, has spared Kaş the full impact of modern tourism. However, it gets lively at night, since shops stay open until 1am in season, and bars much later still. The modern town is built atop ancient Antiphellos, whose remaining ruins speckle the streets and cover the base of the Çukurbağ peninsula. A handy base from which to reach Kekova and nearby Patara, Kaş has also become the “adventure capital” of the southwest Turkish coast, offering all sorts of sea- and mountain-based outdoor activities.
Kaş being a major stop on “Blue Cruise” itineraries, yacht and gulet culture is as important here as at Kalkan. Day-trips are available for the less well-heeled, while there’s a new yacht marina at Bucak Limanı (formerly Vathy), the long fjord west of town, wedged between Highway 400 and the Çukurbağ peninsula, which extends 5km southwest of Kaş.
Most canyoning outings from Kaş focus on one of two stream canyons: Hacıoğlan Çayı or Kıbrıs Çayı. The former traverse, starting near Hacıoğlan village east of Bezirgan, makes a good beginners’ spring expedition of 6hr, finishing at Dereköy, with plenty of easy slides and long swims as well as one 6m abseil about two-thirds of the way along. In summer the action shifts to Kıbrıs Çayı, which retains water all year and, while shorter, takes the same time to emerge at Beldibi, with two abseils and two zip-wire transits. Days out typically cost €50 with the recommended agencies.
The Mediterranean around Kaş offers arguably the best visibility (up to 30m) and greatest range of sea life along the entire Turkish coast. Fish you’re likely to see – especially in spring or late summer – include grouper, barracuda, amberjack, garfish and ray; smaller common species include cardinal fish, damselfish, parrotfish, flying fish, ornate wrasse, breams and pandora.
Kaş notionally holds around ten dive operators, many operating out of Küçük Çakıl hotel basements, but in terms of boat comfort, safety standards, equipment condition and thorough instruction, only three stand out: Sun Diving, inside Kaş Camping (t0242 836 2637, wwww.samosdiving.com), Anemone, Uzun Çarsı Sok 16 (t0242 836 3651, wanemonedc-kas.com), and BT Diving, Çukurbağlı Cad 10 (t0242 836 3737, wbt-turkey.com).
It’s quite common to dive only in the morning or afternoon, so prices are per dive rather than per day. The recommended operators advertise single dives at about €25, making Kaş the least expensive place to dive in Turkey. A PADI Open Water course costs €260, plus €42 for course materials, and advanced Open Water €200, plus €35 for course materials.
There are nearly sixty dive sites in the area, many along the Çukurbağ peninsula, with most others around the islets at the marine frontier with Kastellórizo. Beginners visit a tunnel at 15m and a shoreline cave fed by an icy freshwater spring in Bayındır Limanı, or “Stone Edge” or Güvercin Adası off the Çukurbağ peninsula. Moderately experienced divers are taken to “Canyon”, where they drop through the namesake formation past a reasonably intact Greek cotton-carrying freighter that ran aground in the 1960s. This was later dynamited to remove the navigational hazard, so its stern lies in 35m of water. Next there’s a traverse of a big-wall dropoff, and then a return north with prevailing currents via a tunnel system. Only advanced divers can visit a wrecked World War II bomber shot down between Kaş and Kastellórizo, resting nearly intact in 65m of water at “Flying Fish”, just beyond “Canyon”.