Cirali Beach holidays
By Anne Wordsworth, Friends of Cirali
Over the last few decades tourism has become a major industry in Turkey. But Turkey is in danger of going the same way Spain has gone – over development, too much concrete, water shortages, and degradation of the environment. Until very recently, the Turkish Mediterranean was a jewel of unspoiled beaches and coastline. Now from Iskenderun to Antalya, the coast is lined with big hotels and condominium developments. Yes, tourism brings revenue but, as Spain and other countries have learned, mass tourism is cheap tourism, not necessarily good for the surrounding communities and not sustainable in the long run.
There is an alternative to this mass tourism. It brings value, and it supports the economy of smaller communities. It is not siphoned off to big corporations and anonymous hotel owners. The alternative is small-scale tourism where the owners and their families run pensions, small restaurants and do their own boat tours. Where the local farmers sell fruits and vegetables – in Cirali much of it organic – to the same pensions and restaurants.
Now, there are only a few places like this left along the coastline from Antalya to Fethiye. These are the beautiful beaches of Cirali, Adrasan, Patara and Dalyan. They have been left natural despite all the development pressures because they have been protected as special turtle beaches. In 1989 Cirali was given this protection.
Because of this, the beach is free of bright lights, electronic music and water sports. The atmosphere is attractive to many people who want to spend their holidays in peace surrounded by natural beauty. Cirali has many different types of accommodation – from some of the most exquisite small hotels in Turkey to simple wooden bungalows and campsites. No one is excluded from staying here because of the price. There are no large hotels and very little concrete. Many restaurants and pensions are built with wood and imagination, and give Cirali a unique character.
The natural beauty around Cirali is exquisite – on one side, the shimmering turquoise blue of the Mediterranean; on the other, the rocky pine-covered mountains with the miracle of the Chimera’s flames visible in the background for those who know where to look. There are the endangered sea turtles, of course, which crawl out of the sea to lay their eggs on the shore in the summer. We even see them sometimes when we’re snorkeling. But birds, like crested larks, small owls, finches, wildflowers including rare ones like the sea lilies or bee orchids, and the Ottoman parasol pines -- all are still here in Cirali, but getting more and more difficult to find in Turkey and in the world.
However, as we very well know, they always want to “pave paradise, put up a parking lot”. At the moment, we don’t know who wants to develop these beaches. In 2005 Turkey built more than 500 so called five star hotels on beaches around the Mediterranean and the Aegean.
We want to keep Cirali and the other beaches protected. We have established a new organization called the Friends of Cirali or Cirali’yi Sevenler Dernegi. If there is any threat to Cirali, we will tell the world and this website will be one of the first places where you will find this information. We invite your support, and if you would like to be on our mailing list, please send us your email. If the government tries to give Cirali to developers, we will also need your help and we will ask for it then. Cirali is not only a treasure for us who live here but a treasure for the world.