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The History of Kalkan, 'Turkey's Riviera' by:Shereena Lingiah

The History of Kalkan, 'Turkey's Riviera' by:Shereena Lingiah

An idyllically serene resort bathed in warmth and surrounded by the natural beauty

of southern Turkey, holidays to Kalkan are most often based around the golden sand beaches and the plethora of first-class restaurants in the town. Listed by The Independent as one of the top tourist destinations of 2007, described by the Sunday Times as a viable alternative to Tuscany or the Dordogne and praised by The Guardian as being like 'the Italian Riviera minus the poseurs', it is deservedly regarded as a uniquely charming resort of international reputation.

But Kalkan is not a purpose built tourist destination, and can lay claim to more centuries of history than most other resorts in Europe. Beyond being a leading choice for romantic or family holidays, Kalkan is a living example of Turkish heritage.


Kalkan has always been based around its harbour, one that has been utilised since at least Roman times. As a safe shelter for ships passing along the coast between Ka and Fethiye, the region was often visited by travellers seeking respite from rough seas. It is no accident that 'Kalkan' is the Turkish word for 'Shield'. Equally, its harbour and secluded bays have offered a perfect hiding place for pirates seeking to ambush good-laden merchants who would have passed by.

Growth of Settlement

Around 200 years ago the modern town of Kalkan began to grow into the settlement that we see today. Populated by both Greek and Turkish peoples the town became a key port for the Ottoman empire. Goods were transported by camel from the surrounding Xanthos valley and ferried from Kalkan (or Kalamaki as it was known) to the far reaches of Ottoman control. These goods included Olive Oil, Cotton, Silk, Wine, Lumber and Grapes. Silk and Olive Oil, two of the most attractive of these products, are still produced in the town today, the Mulberry trees used to manufacture silk quickly becoming familiar to anyone on holiday in Kalkan.

20th Century Fade and Re-birth

Following the Turkish War of Independence, 1923 saw an exchange of population whereby the Greek citizens of Kalkan were resettled, many of them to new villages surrounding Athens. The remaining inhabitants of Kalkan began to drift away in search of work when the improved road systems in Turkey rendered their port obsolete. However, the 1960's brought a change of situation that altered their fortunes. Just as the town was about to disappear from the maps it was rescued by the arrival of rich English yachtsmen who came to indulge in leisurely pursuits and to holiday in Kalkan. Their wealth allowed the town to enjoy a resurgence with tourism as its main source of income.

Kalkan today is controlled by many planning restrictions which ensure its continuation as a real Turkish town that is funded by tourism, not a tourist resort altered by the whims of international demand.

Visitors are attracted to holiday in Kalkan by the 300 days of sunshine a year, the charm of the local people and the luxurious facilities offered by the many hotels and restaurants. It is a resort that provides a peaceful haven today as it has done for hundreds of years before.

About the author

Shereena Lingiah is the Marketing Manager for Anatolian Sky, a specialist travel company that can tailor make the perfect holiday in Kalkan ( for you. They provide holidays to Turkey and North Cyprus, including the entire Anatolian region.
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