The Blue Cruise
There are four airports serving the Blue Cruise, the northernmost at Izmir near Kusadasi, the others at Bodrum, Dalaman (near Gocek), and Antalya. Each is served by Turkish Airlines and by numerous air charter companies. Each is also served by one or more start-up carriers operating scheduled flights mostly from Istanbul, while Izmir and Antalya are served by a number of European scheduled carriers. The following Blue Cruise Itinerary along the west coast of Turkey and among neighboring Greek islands and thereafter along Turkey's SW Turquoise Coast begins at Kusadasi, the northwest terminus, and concludes at Antalya, the southeast terminus, a three or four week undertaking. Most visitors do only a part of the total journey at any one time, some sailing southeast and others sailing northwest.
Kusadasi Twelve road miles south of Ephesus. While little remains of Greek Ephesus or of the Seventh Wonder Temple of Artemis, Roman Ephesus is undergoing continuous excavation. Including a 25,000-seat theater, marble streets, and library, this visual repository of history attracts more visitors today than any other monument site. Kusadasi, a somewhat newer port succeeding Ephesus's silted harbor, has a tourist bazaar, fine seafood restaurants, and unprincipled rug merchants. Port of Entry.
Pythagorion, Samos Twenty-two miles west of Kusadasi. Pine-covered hills where there are tavernas without tourists. Buy at artist-factories producing uniquely local ceramics. See the Temple of Hera. Explore the Eupalinus Tunnel. Pythagoras, by the way, was born here but did his theorizing in Crotone, Italy. Greek cuisine on the beach at Trata Taverna 50 yards beyond the last caique. Port of Entry.
Trogyllium Four sea miles southeast of Pythagorion and once a refuge for Saint Paul en route from Philippi in Macedonia to Jerusalem, this anchorage and delightful swim stop is also proximate to ancient Priene and to several fine seafood restaurants.
Agios Yiorgos, Agathonisi A 14-mile run south of Trogyllium and a 411 BC base for Alcibiades Athenian fleet besieging Spartan Miletus during the Peloponnesian War. Dine at George's Taverna and the Seagull Taverna, both excellent and both on the waterfront. Hike hundreds of feet up to the Greek blue and white of Megalo Horio. Fine beaches. Crystal-clear seawater. Idyllic.
Skrophes Bay Twenty miles east of Agathonisi, this is a boardwalk town with a carnival atmosphere, including costumed vendors serving ice cream in elaborate ceremonies. Three miles by taxi from Ionian Didyma and its Temple of Apollo. Erected in the third century BC by Seleucus, a Macedonian from Syria, this temple is the largest single Hellenistic edifice outside of Athens. Skrophes Bay is also a mere fifteen miles from Miletus and its 15,000 seat Greco-Roman theater. See as well a Byzantine castle on the hill above Miletus. Great ice cream and enterprising rug merchants.
Kurin Fifteen miles SE of Skrophes Bay and the port of ancient Iasus. Memorialized in the coinage of Iasus is the association of boy and dolphin, an association interrupted when the Spartan Lysander sacked the city in 405 BC, leaving no boy, or any other human. The dolphins remain in considerable number, however, cavorting in the white water of the Gulf of Gulluk. Extensive ruins off the beaten path. Fine seafood (the fresh seafood, not the farmed seafood).
Gumusluk Twenty-four miles SW of Kurin, Gumusluk is within walking distance of "new" Myndos, a Carian town founded by Mausolus of Halikarnassus in the 4th century BC. The harbor here sheltered an Egyptian fleet throughout the following century and, in 44 BC, proved a brief haven for ships of Gaius Cassius Longinus, one of Julius Caesar's assassins. "Old" Myndos, a Lelegian town, is two miles to the SE. Gumusluk itself is whitewash, bougainvillea, and rustic dining. Cagey rug merchants abound.
Bodrum Ancient Halikarnassus and birthplace of Herodotus, this whitewashed town is striking from the sea and interesting once ashore. The Hospitaller castle commands the port in which Artemisia the Younger trapped the Rhodian fleet in 352 BC. Having suffered modest damage (from the French navy) only during World War I, the castle remains in excellent condition. It also encloses several fascinating museums within walls partially constructed of green stone once a part of the Seven Wonders tomb (c353 BC) of Mausolus, Artemisia's brother and husband. Bodrum's bazaar has a lot of variety, and there is a broad selection of restaurants.
Kos An eleven-mile dogleg reach from Bodrum, Kos Town is the birthplace of Hippocrates. The Asclepion (school of medicine) founded in his memory is a must-see, while the Hospitaller fortress and ancient agora are also remarkable. Port of Entry bounded in the Spring by hibiscus and rose laurel. Fine dining on the beach at Taverna Mezzaluna 100 meters west of Kos Island Marina.
Ceramus A thirty-four mile run from Kos, Ceramus is a Carian town founded during the Archaic period (seventh and sixth centuries BC) remains of which still stand. Though considerably silted by the Koca River flowing down from Kiran Dag, there are walls, temple foundations, and tombs worthy of inspection.
Cedreae Eleven miles east of Ceramus, Cedreae's walls, temple, and theater mark the site of a Carian settlement the citizens of which were sold into slavery by the Spartan Lysander. Later the site of a considerable Rhodian deme (administrative unit), and still later a deme in which Cleopatra dawdled awaiting Antony's import of beach sand from Libya.
Amnistus Four miles southwest of Cedreae, Amnistus, or Sogut, was an incorporated part of Rhodes. Fortress and quai walls survive. Also called Honey Water Bay, Amnistus was and is renowned for the purity of its spring water.
Knidos Sounds Greek but is Turkish, a clear-water cove at the tip of the Doric Peninsula forty-five miles WSW of Amnistus. Triopian cliffs seasonally flush in rosemary and myrtle. Ancient mall and theater at the water's edge. See Temple of Aphrodite once housing Praxitele's first nude. Great swimming.
Kalaboshi Twelve miles from Knidos, Kalaboshi is twin coves beneath green slopes with a hamlet for thirty-eight residents. It is also a launch pad from which to visit ancient Triopium. A fine restaurant (Ogun's Place).
Datca Ten miles from Kalaboshi, Datca was Knidos before Knidos moved to the Triopian cliffs. A commercial and resort town where rug merchants are somewhat reasonable if still cunning. Port of Entry.
Simi Ten miles from Datca, Simi Town has a special charm in a striking island setting. Beaches, hiking paths, and more. From the heights above Simi Town see the straits in which the Spartan fleet in 411 BC trapped the Athenian fleet, beginning the end of Athenian naval supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean. See as well remains of the tropaion erected to celebrate the victory. In Simi Town they do more with Greek cuisine than on other islands, especially at Meraklis one block south of the harbor. Port of Entry.
Selimiye An idyllic retreat fifteen downwind miles from Simi Town by way of an inland passage, Selimiye (ancient Hyda) and its bay are notable as a swimming and kayaking respite, but a respite featuring fine ambient dining under a mulberry tree at the water's edge. A Byzantine castle dominates the backdrop while the restaurant (Aurora) itself is partly constructed of Hellenistic blocks.
Keci Buku Five miles from Selimiye and fjord-like, Keci Buku is one of the prettier anchorages in Turkey. Good swimming and exploring, including the ruins of Bybassos, another part of ancient Caria. The Carians, it may be noted, were allies of the Trojans, and while Homer said they were barbarous of speech, it had nothing to do with their hospitality.
Loryma A Rhodian outpost twenty-five miles from Keci Buku, the fortress here dates from the third century BC while the two acropolei are even older. The necropolis is also worthy of investigation. The anchorage in 394 BC harbored the Persian fleet of Conon the Athenian while it prepared to end two decades of Spartan sea supremacy in a battle fought off Datca.
Rhodes Some believe the Colossus once straddled the smaller of Rhodes Town's three harbors thirteen miles off the wind from Loryma, but it is certain this is the port from which Hospitaller knights sallied forth in fast galleys to ravage infidel shipping and coastal towns, until 1523 when the infidels threw them out. The Hospitaller castle remains, however, and is a major attraction as is the old town surrounding it. A variety of cuisine which changes from year to year, but Ta Kioupia in Iallisos is long established and highly regarded. Port of Entry.
Kumlu Buku Ancient Amos eighteen miles north of Rhodes Town. Ruins a short climb above the beach, including well-preserved walls and an early Hellenistic theater with a commanding view of Marmaris Bay. Behind the beach below is a $30 million Taj Mahal carried at full value on the books of one of Turkey's leading banks. Further along the beach is a fine restaurant featuring superb Beijing cuisine.
Marmaris Ancient Physcus 7 miles north of Kumlu Buku. Bazaar town full of crafty rug merchants, beach tourists, and waterfront restaurants. Wonderful pizza at La Vita Bella Ristorante on the waterfront. Yacht-voyeurism, like Donald's "Marla" (present name unknown) and Ted Koppel's Gibraltar-registered ketch, all 120-feet of it. In 480 BC, however, voyeurs watched Artemisia the Elder outfit galleys for the Persian Xerxes, each about 128' in length and propelled by 170 Carian oarsmen.
Ekincik Twenty miles east of Marmaris, Ekincik is like, well, a mountain lake plopped down with its own pine trees against the red buttes of Sedona, Arizona. And does it have a restaurant! Fresh seafood. Wonderful grilled octopus. River boat to ancient Caunos. Or, for the spirited, a hike through pine forest and olive groves past an isolated monumental tomb will get you there. You can read about Caunos in Herodotus's History, and enough of it remains to get the picture. Dramatic rock tombs further up river near Dalyan and its fresh-water lake.
Cleopatra's Bay Twenty-seven miles from Ekincik. Another exquisite setting with thick pine to the water's edge. Byzantine monastery ruins half submerged attract the curious. Also called Ruin Bay, a 55-minute hike reaches ancient Lydae. Off the beaten path and rarely visited, Lydae features mausolea, marble torso, cisterns, Corinthian columns, and inscribed pedestals from the Roman and Byzantine periods. Cleopatra, by the way, was here twice, once with Marc Antony. He, Antony, was en route to Actium. She, Cleopatra, was en route to an extended gala at Samos. Recep, the afloat restaurateur, bends any bendable ear while pouring cold beer or hot tea.
Wall Bay A quarter-mile from Cleopatra's Bay, Wall Bay deserves the adjective idyllic because it is serenely beautiful. The wall giving the bay its name crosses the Lydae peninsula and formed the defensive perimeter on the land side for both Lydae and its satellite Arymaxa. Great swimming and kayaking. Enough said except that Yuksel and Mehmet, the local restaurateurs, are not only fine cooks but offer an after-dinner campfire camaraderie difficult to duplicate.
Tomb Bay Three miles from Wall Bay, Tomb Bay is delightful for dining, swimming, or boat drive-by below Carian rock tombs (porticoed temple, house, and pigeon-hole tombs) and a Byzantine vaulted tomb. The ancient city of Crya is still evident among the olive trees and oleander, while its acropolis is a short climb above a seaside restaurant. Lycians, Herodotus believed, were Cretans driven from Crete by Minos of Knossos. Carians, he believed, were native to Asia Minor.
Gocek Six miles north of Tomb Bay and twenty-five minutes from Dalaman International Airport, Gocek has charm as a blossoming second-home destination and yacht rendezvous. Two fine restaurants, Limon on the waterfront and Can at Skopea Marina. Mini-buses from Gocek take the venturesome to ancient Cadyanda, and from there up into the foothills of the Taurus Mountains to lunch on fresh trout. Nearer to hand is ancient Daedala above neighboring Inlice.
Fethiye Twelve miles from Gocek, Fethiye is ancient Telmessos and site of several of the finer rock tombs in Turkey, some featuring Ionic porticoes. There is also a hilltop fortress improved, some say, by the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, and a Roman theater partly re-excavated. Covered markets and lots of other shopping, particularly on Tuesdays. Several excellent restaurants. Port of Entry.
St. Nicholas Island Fourteen miles from Fethiye. Once home to Lycian and Byzantine pirates, the remains of an entire village are there to be explored, from pirate-ship parking to covered passage to basilica. A wonderful place to swim and snorkel, and an equally wonderful place to take in a hilltop sunset with a bottle of wine.
Cold Water Bay An idyllic cove named for its under-water springs. Less than a mile from St. Nicholas Island, it is a convenient point from which to hike to the near-by ghost town of Kaya emptied of its Greek population in 1918. Ali Tuna, the resident restaurateur, is a genial host who entertains with campfire and conversation.
Olu Deniz Two miles from Cold Water Bay, Olu Deniz is the most photographed and picture-postcarded of any beach in the eastern Mediterranean. Photos are best taken during a 30-minute paraglide down from Baba Dag (Father Mountain). The lagoon at Olu Deniz in 67 BC harbored the Roman galleys of Pompey the Great, there to eject Greek-speaking Lycian pirates from St. Nicholas, then known as Lebissos.
Butterfly Valley Two miles from Olu Deniz and inaccessible except by sea, this striking spot is backed by almost sheer mountain from which water falls. Even the beach is bounded left and right by vertical rock promoting a unique privacy for more than one hundred varieties of butterfly.
Kalkan Twenty-seven miles from Butterfly Valley, Kalkan is sun-washed, quaint, and hub for taxis to ancient Letoon, Patara, and Xanthos, the latter source of the British Museum's Horse Tomb and Nereid Monument. Good silver shopping. Two excellent restaurants (Trio at the harbor and The Olive Garden up the hill). A picnic lunch on Patara beach can also be memorable, not because Patara was the port from which forty Lycian triremes under Xerxes sailed to an unfortunate end at Salamis in 480 BC, but because the sea at Patara is such an extraordinary color.
Kas Fifteen miles from Kalkan, Kas is home to off-beats frequenting chic shops and cafes. All-night tavernas trumpet music you thought you'd forgotten. Ancient Antiphellos (the port of Lycian Phellos), it now features a sarcophagus in the middle of the principal shopping street and a theater in the Greek style.
Kastellorizon Four miles from Kas. Idyllic Greek island locale for 1991's Academy Award (best foreign film) winning Mediterraneo. Doric acropolis dating from the ninth century BC. Blue grotto rivaling that at Capri. Taverna dining in the Greek flavor. And a claim to being part of Europe.
Kale Sixteen miles from Kastellorizon, medieval ruins may be seen on Kekova Island or under clear water just offshore. On the opposite shore facile rug merchants surround and a Byzantine fortress crowns the hill on which Kale (ancient Sinema) sits. Spectacular photographs of Kekova Roads from the fortress. The neighboring village of Ucagiz (ancient Teimiussa) features ruins of its own.
Andriake Four miles from Ucagiz, this is the shallow-water port serving Myra, the bishopric of Saint Nicholas. Of the several Saints Nicholas, this one is the patron of Greece and Russia sometimes called Santa Claus. Myra's most striking feature, however, is not his basilica but rather the conjunction of Lycian and Roman architecture. Here Lycian rock tombs feature elaborate friezes wishing those souls once within Godspeed in their trip by winged angel, while the Roman theater is remarkably well preserved. Andriake itself is distinguished by an eight-chamber granary completed during the 2nd century AD reign of Emperor Hadrian as well as by a contemporary vaulted cistern.
Finike Thirteen miles ENE of Andriake, Finike is a safe harbor from which to visit ancient Limyra ten minutes distant by taxi. Limyra, dating from the fifth century, is the vantage point from which Rhodian Romans under Eudamus were observed reversing Syrian adventurism under Hannibal (he of the Punic Wars; Carthage had succumbed, but not Hannibal) in a naval battle of six and seven-banked galleys.
Cavus Thirty miles from Finike, Cavus is the anchorage for Mount Olympos, home both of an eternal flame and of the Lycian pirate Zeniketes, until 79 BC when the latter was extinguished by a young Julius Caesar. Zeniketes hid his vessel not here, however, but in an ancient harbor at Phaselis which has since silted. Cavus itself is a pretty spot.
Phaselis Ten miles north of Cavus, Phaselis was the terminus for Alcibiades' 411 BC and Freya Stark's AD 1952 sails along The Lycian Shore. Sometimes Lycian and sometimes not, Phaselis was founded by Rhodians in 690 BC, and for much of its history was a maritime waypoint on trade routes to and from Phoenicia. Alcibiades was there to turn back a Phoenician fleet allied with Sparta, Freya Stark to retrace Alexander's Path. There is much to be seen by the patient, and great swimming for the impatient.
Antalya Twenty miles north of Phaselis and a modest metropolis, Antalya is the jumping off point for the Pamphylian Plain, including ancient Aspendos, Termessos, and Perge, each featuring magnificent theaters, the latter featuring a complete stadium, as well. Once a major base for Byzantine dromons and, later, the Ottoman flotillas of Kheir-ed-Din Barbarossa and Piri Reis, Antalya's harbor area has been beautifully restored, most notably including hundreds of nineteenth century Ottoman houses and gardens. During June and July Antalya annually hosts a 3-week opera and ballet festival in the Aspendos theater. An unforgettable experience.
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