Sailing in the Aegean - relaxation taken to the extreme

When Diane Kenwood looked around for a relaxing holiday to spend with her oldest friend, a week's sailing along the Turkish coast caught their eye.

A week on a Turkish gulet sailing the Aegean sea. The perfect post-lockdown holiday
A week on a Turkish gulet sailing the Aegean sea. The perfect post-lockdown holiday
Relaxation on board is not just obligatory, it’s unavoidable
Relaxation on board is not just obligatory, it’s unavoidable

I think I may have discovered a new form of extreme activity. Forget the effort of white water rafting or the adrenaline rush (aka terror) of bungee jumping. This is extreme relaxing. The sort of total, stress-relieving relaxation that makes you ponder whether even hauling yourself upright is worth the effort.

And best of all, the way of achieving this sublime state is not only totally legal, it’s available to anyone. Just climb aboard a Turkish ketch, watch a well-drilled crew hoist a trio of huge sails and then lie back and revel in the delight of the wind propelling you over the glittering, blue Aegean sea, whilst you drink in the spectacular landscape of the dramatic Turkish coastline and drink up whatever beverage the aforementioned crew have re-filled your only just half-empty glass with.

Better still. Do it for a whole week. With your oldest friend.

And whilst you’re at it, toss in three delicious, freshly prepared meals a day (to be eaten out on the sunny or starlit deck, whilst the boat is moored in yet another impossibly picturesque bay), drinks and canapés at dusk each evening, a selection of comfy cushion-covered couches and sunbeds to recline on and the delightful company of more than a dozen fellow voyagers. Voila! Extreme relaxation served up Turkish style, courtesy of Dutch/English company SCIC Sailing.

There are endless beautiful coves where the boats anchor for lunch and overnight
There are endless beautiful coves where the boats anchor for lunch and overnight

Life on board

Of course, there’s more to the week’s trip than just (just?) that, but each extra experience only adds to the overall pleasure of the holiday.

From the compact but comfortable, wood-clad, en-suite cabins, cleaned to gleaming perfection each day, to the spectacular evening barbecue on the beach when not only are tables and cushions transported from the boat and laid out under the candlelit trees, but crockery and glass as well!, no detail is missed in the four-man crew’s attention to your comfort and enjoyment.

Each morning the captain spreads out his sea chart and maps out the itinerary for the day. SCIC offer 15 different core itineraries, but they’re all open to change depending on the wishes of the passengers and the practicalities of the wind and sea conditions. Unlike the majority of the companies whose boats ply this south-west coast of Turkey, SCIC only uses motor power when absolutely necessary.

Land ahoy

Excursions and some activities are also at the choice and request of the passengers. The all-inclusive price covers swimming, snorkelling and kayaking from the boat. There’s a small extra charge for windsurfing, laser sailing and waterskiing, and excursions range in price depending on their length and the number of people taking part. You can remain on board for the entire week if you choose – there’s no pressure to do anything other than rest, eat and enjoy the views.

But it would be a shame not to drag yourself away from the indulgent pleasures of life on board and explore the landscape and lives of the people of this fascinating part of the Turkish mainland.

History all around

Turkey is a country quite literally built on its history. There are 100s of archaeological sites throughout this spectacularly mountainous nation. Among the more impressive in this region is the temple of Zeus at Euromos, which dates from the 2nd century AD and is one of the most complete temple remains in Turkey. Its roofless Corinthian columns have survived the centuries, and the occasional earthquake to which Turkey is prone, impressively well, though the few boulders that balance on top of them look remarkably precarious.

The 2nd century AD Temple of Zeus at Euromos
The 2nd century AD Temple of Zeus at Euromos

The Turks live with the remnants and reminders of their history all around them, as a visit to the ancient city of Herakleia on the shores of Lake Bafa clearly shows. Donkeys are still used for transport and the simple homes of the residents, who make their megre living farming the surrounding land, are built in and around the ruins of ancient towers and temples and the landscape is dotted with hundreds of ancient tombs where priests were buried.

Wander the walls and remains of the original city and it’s easy to picture it as the thriving port it once was, when Lake Bafa was a part of the Aegean Sea, before the channel connecting the two was cut off by silt carried down from the surrounding Latmos mountains by the winding river Maiandros (hence the term, meander). Now persistent clusters of sun-wrinkled women in brightly coloured skirts and scarves proffer their locally made jewellery, scarves and hamam towels to visitors, whilst local men gather in the shady cafes.

Ancient and modern

Hailacarnassus is another ancient Turkish city dating back almost 2500 years, though today it’s better known as the bustling, modern port of Bodrum. The entrance to the teeming harbour is dominated by the Castle of St Peter – a mere 600 years old – its five towers representing the nationalities of its former inhabitants – French, Italian, Spanish, English, and German. Innovatively restored, it houses spectacular collections of the undersea treasures found around the Turkish coast and affords glorious views of the city and coastline.

The Castle of St Peter’s at the entrance to the bustling harbour of Bodrum
The Castle of St Peter’s at the entrance to the bustling harbour of Bodrum

Bodrum is also home to the remains of the burial chamber of King Maussollos – the original Mausoleum – once one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There’s very little of the enormous structure still remaining and it‘s typical that the site is tucked away in a quiet suburban street.

And when you grow weary of the realities of ancient history, Bodrum offers a less authentic but much more modern diversion. The shops that line the bustling, vehicle-free streets along the harbour front are filled with designer bags, shoes, glasses and watches, all convincing fakes. Haggling is expected, so don’t be shy!

Back on board ship, Loes Douze, the dynamic mastermind behind SCIC sailing, talks of the spirit of adventure that she finds is common to ‘her’ passengers, who travel either in large groups (some take over the whole boat) or, more often, in pairs or singly.

Clearly whatever the make-up of the groups, there is a magical alchemy about the mix of sea, sailing, service and serenity that is impossible to resist. I’m not in the least surprised to learn that 70% of SCIC’s passengers are repeat bookings. We fully intend to be two of them.

Each of the SCIC fleet are beautifully restored and maintained

By Diane Kenwood

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