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Cruising Turkey’s Coast

Explore and Relax Aboard a Fishing Boat

Turkey’s untouristed waters offer views of ruins like this Roman bath.

In Turkish a “gulet” is a traditional wooden fishing boat converted for pleasure cruising. Cruising along the Turquoise Coast of Turkey is relaxation at its very best. The weather is sunny and warm, the water is clear, the coastline is pristine, the towns are charming and quaint, the people you meet along the way are friendly, the food is delicious, the crew is competent and fun, and the price is low. And yet, according to the crew of the gulet we rented for a week, very few Americans vacation this way.

Our cruise began at Marmaris on the west coast of Turkey. Shortly after arriving by minivan from Ephesus we boarded the Seher Yeli, a 58-foot wooden motor sailer, and cast off. Our crew—Captain Cahit, the boat’s owner, Mustapha, and the all-around gofer, Gurcan, certainly knew the waters as we motored our way toward our anchorage at Gocek, with side trips planned to Dalyan and Fetiye.

In-between stops were short trips to quiet coves where we could snorkel, swim, sunbathe, or do nothing. Our boat had four cabins with double beds and private baths, which accommodated the seven people in our group. The amenities were on the Spartan side but certainly acceptable. A large banquette where we ate, or just relaxed and chatted, filled the fantail area. Thick canvas-covered cushions, one for each of us, were scattered on the amidship’s deck; a bimini shaded the area.

The water in this part of the Mediterranean really is a turquoise and incredibly clear—you can see to the bottom in at least 20 feet of water. I tried repeatedly to retrieve a shell while snorkeling in about eight feet of water. Ever-accommodating Gurcan plucked it from the sea’s bottom for me. One of the nicest things about the cruise was the crew. They laughed with us, let us help chart the trip, and for dinner cooked fresh fish that they had caught only hours before.

At Dalyan we hired a shallow-draft to see the facades of what resemble Ionic temples, tombs built by the Carians in the 4th century BC. They are carved into the sheer rock face halfway down the sides of high cliffs.

Happy and relaxed, we ended our cruise in Gocek, a lovely town lined with clean streets and colorful buildings.

The total cost of our cruise for two, including meals, was $700 for the week. This price is based on the number of passengers and included the crew, insurance, the use of snorkels and fins, fishing equipment, and transfers to and from the hotel. Bottled water and drinks were extra. Before we left on the cruise, we stowed sufficient Turkish wine that we had bought in a supermarket in Marmaris.

Travel agencies in Istanbul and other major Turkish cities advertise gulet cruises. Lots of websites feature gulet rentals: just type in "gulet" to reveal a plethora of choices.