A sliver of mountain and beach jutting in to the Aegean offers an oasis of unspoilt tranquillity amid the lively resorts of south-west Turkey. The spindly, 50-mile-long Datça peninsula in Turkey’s Muğla province is a dagger of pure green at the meeting point of the Aegean and the Mediterranean, and is as unsullied as south-west Turkey gets. The ancient Greeks believed Datça to have been created personally by Zeus, so gorgeous are its rocky outcrops and aquamarine waters. The geographer Strabo apparently said: “God sent his beloved creatures to Datça for them to live longer.”
It’s about craggy, pine-crested hills, endless olive groves, empty ravines, cornflower-blue coves, vast sweeping bays and deserted beaches, air scented with thyme, rosemary and sage, and sleepy villages. It’s about goats on the road and old men tinkering with their worry beads in vine-covered cafes. Although this backwater peninsula is wedged between moneyed Bodrum to the north, and overdeveloped Marmaris to the south, bad road access and its distance from airports have left it unspoilt. Tourists do come and stay in a new clutch of upmarket hotels, and city-dwelling Turks are buying second homes here, but most visitors still only make short stop-offs on gulet cruises.
On the southern shore, workaday, harbour-front Datça is the main settlement. It’s not built for tourists but this is where you’ll find most of the restaurants. In the hills above town is Old Datça which, by the 1980s, was more or less abandoned, but is now having a mini renaissance. Then there is a 235-mile coastline to take in, Datça’s sleepy villages and landscapes, and its most precious jewel: the ancient Greek ruins of Knidos, a city at the confluence of the Mediterranean and the Aegean.