The hottest days of summer are here. July and August weather can fry your brain and the easiest tasks become a chore.

What do you do? Stay inside with the air conditioning on at full blast? Lie under a tree and move as little as possible? Sit in a swimming pool up to your neck or hang out close to the frozen food section in your local store?

Of course, some of us have to work, but assuming that there are occasional days off, what could make a pleasant change from slowly roasting?

A place where time stands still

Yayla: land of horses, camels and cool summer breezes

Above Fethiye lies the mysterious and unchanging area called the yayla. There are yaylas all over Turkey. It means highland and is the traditional area in which Turkey’s transhumance communities [nomads] make their summer camp. In the summer it is cool, at altitudes of more than 2,500 meters, and there are still patches of snow.

High yayla above Gömbe
High yayla above Gömbe

The nomads arrive here with their sheep, goats, horses, mules and even camels, at the end of May; they make their camps and spend the summer months tending their flocks.

A family of camels enjoying the cooler temperatures
A family of camels enjoying the cooler temperatures

How to get there?

A 4 x 4 is best for this trip
A 4 x 4 is best for this trip

To get there, a 4X4 is ideal, but not essential. The roads are dirt tracks but negotiable with any car, as long as care is taken.

Turning off the Antalya road at Kemer, Muğla, the asphalt road takes you up to about 1,000 meters.

A track then takes you to above Kayacık, with amazing views of the Xanthos Valley below.

Here, red crested linnets and song thrushes can be seen together with wheatears.

Storks and purple heron can be seen flying overhead to the mountain plateaus where they nest during the breeding season.

Climbing higher through the pine forests, the track takes you to Cem Alanı, a place dotted with Köşks (seating platforms) and crisscrossed with streams.

This is a good place to relax together with any local families who have come to avoid the heat of the coastal towns.

It is a great place to make a barbeque or enjoy a picnic.

The area is surrounded by beehives, the occupants of which are busily collecting nectar from the wealth of alpine flowers in the area.

Mountain air

Yayla: land of horses, camels and cool summer breezes

Driving through the mountains, the air becomes rarefied and the pine gives way to the twisted trunks of juniper, and later, cedar.

High plateaus with snow-melt streams are a great place for semi-wild horses to feast on the juicy green shoots of grass and flowers, their flanks becoming glossy as they lose their winter coats.

Further on, a family of camels sits stubbornly in the road. A great photo opportunity, but in order to pass, they must be moved. Slowly, they stir themselves and lumber off to eat more of the prickly mountain vegetation that they seem to favor.

Away from it all

The camels are close to Twin Lake, called İkiz Göl in Turkish. On this occasion, a ruddy shelduck with her 13 chicks was a wonderful sight to behold. Also there were rock thrushes, blue rock thrushes and snow buntings.

Alpine beauty

Around the lakes were an abundance of flowers, many of them endemic to this region.

Yayla: land of horses, camels and cool summer breezes

The alpine flowers in this area are a dream for any botanist, including red helliborine orchids providing bright patches of color in contrast to the grey rocks of Ak Dağ, the name of these mountains at the western end of the Toros range.

Yayla: land of horses, camels and cool summer breezes

A remote paradise

Yayla: land of horses, camels and cool summer breezes

The streams are fast flowing, and coming together they form spectacular waterfalls that gradually bring the water to one fast flowing river that rushes into the town of Gömbe, providing vital irrigation for its fruit and nut orchards.

It is here that the weary traveler can rest before heading back to the coast and the towns of Kaş, Kalkan and Fethiye.

Yayla: land of horses, camels and cool summer breezes

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