Spend a day on Sovalye Island
It takes just 20 minutes to leave the hustle and bustle of Fethiye centre and step into the tranquility of another world.
With no roads and no vehicles other than the odd humming motorboat or the gentle swash of a passing yacht, Sovalye Island is an oasis of calm -and a rather convenient one at that, being so close to Fethiye port.
Here is a list of our favourite things to do on Sovalye Island.
The island is crisscrossed with paths. Shaded by pines and carob trees, a walk across Sovalye is a sensory experience. Watch for local birds and glimpses of the seashore shimmering through the trees. Let the birdsong and the drone of cicadas wash over you. Smell the almost overpowering scent of jasmine and the fresh earthy aroma of the woods. Feel the breeze cooling your skin. It takes just 45 minutes to walk around the island.
You can also wander around the small harbour, admiring the houses and the pretty climbing plants and flowers spilling over walls.
Explore pirate treasure
Hidden amongst trees in the island’s centre you can see the remnants of a crusader castle, including ruins and mosaics. Sovalye Island was once a point of defence for the Knights of Rhodes. In fact, ‘Sovalye’ is the Turkish word for ‘Knight’. Formed in Jerusalem in the 11th century to protect Christian pilgrims during their pilgrimages to the Holy Land, the Knights quickly became one of the most powerful military forces in the region, operating from a network of castles and ports. They were forced out of Jerusalem in the early 14th century, and fled to the Aegean and Mediterranean - including parts of what is now Turkey. In 1522 their stronghold was ended by the Ottoman emperor Suleyman the Magnificent. Sovalye’s ruins are almost hidden by the trees, but intrepid explorers will find them.
Swim or snorkel
Sovalye’s quiet coves, lined with sand or shingle, are ideal for swimming or sailing. The crystal clear waters yield up a few delights for snorkellers, too. On the sea bed you can see ancient Roman ruins - an old wall, houses the remains of a few churches and a number of amphora and olive oil pots scattered around. The athletic can swim around the island in two hours. A circumnavigation by canoe will take you around an hour. You’ll still be able to see the ruins from above the water, but nothing compares to the experience of gliding face down in the water surveying an ancient civilisation.
Sunbathe in comfort
After you’re done exploring the coves, the ruins and the seabed, put your feet up at one of the beach clubs. Ada Restaurant and Ece Hotel both have beach clubs where, as long as you order the occasional drink or snack, you’re welcome to sit all day, under the shade of a sun umbrella or catching a few rays on the sundeck at the Ece or on the beach outside the Ada Restaurant.
Eat … and stay
This beautifully located restaurant has a five-star ambience, a five-star view and most importantly, five-star food. Sit out on the terrace and enjoy mezes, seafood, beautifully cooked steak and other favourites with your cocktail of choice. Ada is a wonderful place to enjoy the sunset. Make sure you take a stroll around the gardens before you head off. The hotel organises transport from Fethiye.
This charming boutique hotel has just 11 rooms, and greets its guests with a warm, personal welcome. The restaurant menu is very similar to Ada’s - as the restaurant is owned by the hotel.
Living on Sovalye
We’ve known people to come to Sovalye for a visit and stay for a lifetime - purchasing a luxury home in Fethiye close to the sea. Would-be buyers are surprised to discover that building or buying a home on the island doesn’t come with the multi-million Euro price tag of comparable Mediterranean areas.
Jonathan Gough spent a decade searching for a Mediterranean haven to call his own. When he set eyes on Sovalye he knew the search was over.
"There was nowhere else in the world I wanted to build," said Gough, 51, a commercial construction company owner from Staffordshire. "That whole coastline is quite stunning, with pine-covered mountains dropping down to little inlets where you can just tie your boat to a tree.
"Stepping onto the island feels like stepping back in time. With no roads, it is wonderfully peaceful and feels very safe. Most owners are Turkish, but there are a couple of Scandinavians and half a dozen other British families. It's how I imagine Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals, yet it's only 15 minutes by boat from Fethiye, which is vibrant all year round."
Gough discovered he could build his own custom-designed home for 900,000 Euro, about 70 per cent less than it would cost in the south of France. “Although you'd be hard-pressed to find the land there to do it on anyway," he said.
The growing trend of custom-building in Turkey is driven by affordability and the availability of coastal plots for sale - although this scenario is one that of course cannot last.
Property Turkey director Cameron Deggin says that his clients are surprised by the fact that custom building is an option. “Most people come to buy an existing property, but when they realise that they can design and build their dream home, on the coastal plot of their choice for a fraction of the cost of France or Spain, many can’t resist.”
“And how could you?” Deggin points out. “To me, it doesn’t get much better than the Turkish Mediterranean.”