Elmalı – Appley

There was a time, way back, when I believed in maps – I’d been weaned on a diet of Ordnance Survey military and Wayfarer maps as well as Shell Route Planners. Maps were maps, maps were accurate, maps were reliable, things of beauty, treasure troves of information – and then J and I came to Turkey!

Here, we rapidly learned, maps were the physical manifestation of someone’s fevered imagination! Designed to confuse Greek third-columnists and Soviet ‘Spetsnaz’ special forces; maps here showed roads where none existed and nothing where they did. Whole towns upped sticks and moved miles to where you might eventually find them – if you were lucky, had unlimited time or happened to pick up a local who was hitching a lift there! Navigating off of the main roads, and even on them, was a trifle hit and miss to say the least.

So it was that way back when J and I were searching out places to settle down we set out very early from our overnight stop at Kalkan. In our search for places that would give us the right sort of vibes, we were heading up and over the mountains behind the town following the so-called main road to the town of Elmalı – ‘Appley’ (or ‘With Apples’ if you want to be precise) in English.

Pretty soon the asphalt ran out and we were on the dirt which got progressively rougher until we considered ourselves lucky to get into second gear from time to time. The hours dragged on as we ground our exhaust system across the uneven terrain and dodged the heavy construction vehicles that were working on a new baraj. Eventually we crept into the small town of Gömbe, a pretty enough place nestled to one side of the river valley, where we stopped for a very late lunch.

These days, anyone making the journey would wonder what the fuss was about as they whizz along the new road that bypasses the baraj and Gömbe. Back then it was a nightmare and because of the construction work the road from Gömbe to Elmalı was also a mess. The plain between Gömbe and Elmalı lies 1100mts above sea level and my enduring memories are of the glorious smells of apples and woodsmoke (it was winter). By the time we got to Elmalı it was dark and J and I had had enough – it was going to take a lot more hours to get back to our base in Dalyan so instead of stopping in the town we drove on and until a couple of months ago we had never been back.

When we did, we were delighted! The town has great charm with many lovely old houses, a beautiful main mosque, a quaint little mosque and water from the mountains cascading down gullies in the steep streets. The air is cool and sweet in summer and although it gets bloody cold in winter it makes a great base to explore the surrounding countryside which is magnificent. Missing this little gem the first time around was a mistake.

Elmalı and little Gömbe both have charm and interest but for me they are mainly useful as a base to explore the stunning mountains that surround them. I’m not going to spend any time describing in detail, suffice to say that J and I spent three days walking, touring and exploring before taking the magnificent drive back that takes you up over the mountains and down to Seki before rejoining the main mountain road from Antalya to Fethiye. It wasn’t enough, so we’ll be back for more.

If you haven’t been to Elmalı or explored the surrounds I recommend it to you, especially when you want to escape the heat of summer for a while. Meanwhile, here are a few photos to whet your interest.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Elmalı Camii and Medrese
Little Camii on the hill
fascinating back streets


'oldish' house
interesting insects


across the rooftops of Elmalı


more back streets


view from the top with karamanlar (fat-tailed sheep)


12 thoughts on “Elmalı – Appley

    1. it really is a delightful town and worth the detour – try and fit in the drive over the mountains sometime, as well. I look forward to reading your write up of your trip.

  1. How utterly beautiful. It looks so lush and green – presumably the mountain springs and the cooler, fresher climate at altitude serve to discourage aridity.
    I love the ‘oldish’ house, and the picture of the mosque is inspired.

    1. It is a delightful place – has grown quite a lot since we first by-passed it, but retains a lot of its old character. Water is everywhere in the old part of town where it self-powers fountains and keeps the ducks happy.

  2. Hilarious and entirely accurate assessment of Turkish maps, We may pay you a visit soon. You need to be very afraid. We recently met someone who knows you and your village. It’s a small world, Mr F.

  3. Jeez! Jack also said I should be afraid! As for whoever is grassing me up behind my back needs to know that I am a vindictive bastard with a very long memory.
    Anyway, someone once told me to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, if you are over this way let me know – I owe Jack a beer or a meal – you I’m not so sure about! 😀

  4. We read about Elamlı in the Rough Guide years ago and fancied heading off up there. One day we ended up there unintentionally after not concentrating. We were en route from Antalya to Fethiye through the yayla and somehow (maybe we were chatting?) missed the Fethiye turn-off in Korkuteli and took the Elmalı one instead. We only realised we were going wrong when we started to go ridiculously uphill. Glad we did it wrong though – great little place. Love your photos.

  5. Yayla tour! My favorite word in Turkce, happy to use it, so forgive me. OK, you have just convinced me that we need to really seriously consider the Back Roads idea…M. is enchanted by the Ottoman houses in the post and probably the maps too. He still recalls (the ptsd?) of being in charge of all of the maps while doing his military duty and making sure they were all in order and thus has a love-hate relationship with them. He tends to focus on cutting them up and re-configuring them in his assemblage work these days. As for me, I’m with Liam on the state of Turkish maps – but I love nothing better than a day’s adventure involving an imperfect map, my internal compass and a lot of dead reckoning. Here’s to kindred spirits. Want to hear more about this region!

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