I caught my first glimpses of Kaş at dusk, somewhere between fading sunlight and the switching on of flickering lamps in the main square with buildings painted white, surrounded by bougainvillea in pink and orange, open-air cafés lining up hilly cobblestone streets, and a view of the clear, blue ocean.
After five busy days in rainy but inspiring Istanbul, the calm demeanour of Kaş felt instantly appealing to me. My husband and I chose Linda Beach, a small boutique hotel perched atop a hilly street, that did justice to its advertised photos on the internet. A young man of about 21, dressed in flip-flops, shorts and a t-shirt helped us check in. The hotel was neither quaint nor sleek and modern, but over the course of our brief stay in the town, it offered us comfort, clean towels, a satisfying breakfast by the pool as well as a friendly staff that did their best to make us at home despite knowing very little English.
Whenever I travel to a new city, I never make any big plans for the first evening. After a long journey by road or air, I like to spend the first few hours getting to know my surroundings and finding a low-key place to eat dinner before getting a good night’s sleep. Our first evening then was spent exploring the town on foot.
Kaş being a small town of about 7,000 residents allows one to walk around the entire place in less than 30 minutes on foot.
We also made it to the popular Hellenistic amphitheatre in time to watch the sun go down. It is hard to miss it with a clear signboard and every local telling you to visit it. Built under the Roman Empire, the amphitheatre has stone steps forming a semi-circle that overlooks a restored stage area. Whilst other tourists lit up their cigarettes in one corner of the theatre, we climbed up to the top-most row, and spent the next 10 minutes introspecting and absorbing the beautiful view of the sea in the front.
The morning after was bright and sunny, perfect for spending a day at the beach. Kaş, primarily a fishing and yachting town, is also famous for its pristine but confined beaches. The most popular ones are known as the Little Pebble beach, and the Big Pebble beach whilst Kaputas — the sandier beach — is also close by.
A shuttle running from the local bus station is a convenient way to get to the beach of one’s choice. It leaves every half an hour or so. Compared to the smelly and murky waters of the Seaview in Karachi that I had grown up watching, the waters of Kaputas literally took my breath away. Even though I am not much of a swimmer, I was able to soak in some sun and just-be for a few hours by the sea. The beach is also equipped with a small café for drinks and snacks, as well as restrooms and showers.
For the more adventurous, the beaches also offer snorkelling and diving. The local transport can also take you to close by towns, such as Kalkan, Xanthos or Patara.
However, what drew my designer soul to Kaş, more than its tourist-brochure worthy beaches, was its attention to detail and carefully crafted aesthetic. If the design brief said beach, the people of Kaş took it seriously. From shop signs to restaurant menus to curated gift shops and their packaging, every little design detail has been paid attention to. All elements work in harmony with each other. The market in the main square is a visual treat in particular. The beach motif runs across the objects on display whether it is seahorse-shaped earrings or a scarf block printed with repeated motifs of a ship’s wheel. One of my few buys from the trip was a ring set in silver and hand-painted with the quintessential Turkish tulip motif in red and cobalt blue.
There’s also much to be said about the food in Kaş. There is of course a great offering of seafood as well as traditional Turkish cuisine. The dish that my husband and I enjoyed the most during our stay was Turkish kofte, grilled lamb meatballs served with sticky pilaf rice. For our last supper, we ate at Sempati, a rustic themed bistro located amidst other cafes in the main square. The manager/owner greeted us himself, bringing us a house special for the starter, followed by some delicious kofte and some good old ice-cream and chocolate cake for dessert.
For people looking to take a break from hectic sightseeing and/or intense partying, Kaş is the perfect small town by the beach. It is quieter than Bodrum as well as relatively unspoiled by tourism. Kaş can be reached via a domestic flight from Istanbul to either Dalaman or Antalya airport followed by a two-hour journey by car. It is the kind of place where artists personally show you around their studios, chefs use their grandmother’s recipes for the night’s special, and siblings run around to get people their drinks at a café.