Desperately in need of a respite from the dirty air and chilly weather in Istanbul, I decided to head for the south coast for a well-earned break. In between two busy tourist centres, Marmaris and Fethiye, is the peaceful, not so touristy town of KOYCEGIZ. Even in high summer, the place is a quiet, refreshing retreat from the madness of Mediterranean tourism. In winter, itís the perfect place to regroup and inhale huge lungfuls of fresh mountain air. The feel of the warm sun caressing my cheeks in the middle of winter was the ideal cure for the horrid flu that I had caught.

KOYCEGIZ is a little fishing town nestled on the plains at the edge of the KOYCEGIZ Lake at the western end of the Taurus Mountain Range. Surrounded by orange groves and cotton fields, the town is a quiet getaway from the bustle, traffic and filthy air of Turkeyís big cities. Situated right on the edge of the lake, itís the perfect starting point for fishing trips and canoeing, windsurfing and swimming in the hot summer months. In winter, thereís mountain hiking, treks to the Selale Waterfall and the hot springs at Sultaniye to soak in, ancient ruins to explore and endless fresh air to breathe.

I stayed at the Tango Pension, owned by Sami and Sahin Sagżroglu. These guys are some of the friendliest people Iíve ever met in my years in Turkey, and the range of activities they have on offer from the pension is sure to leave you breathless. If you thought you could just chill out and be a lounge lizard here Ė think again! Thereís so much to see and do every day while youíre here that youíll find yourself whisked off to the highest mountain peaks, grumbling and moaning at the rather early hour of departure, only to discover magnificent views and vistas from exhilarating heights that you wouldnít have missed for the earth! Each day brings a new place to explore and the guys are excellent guides, even Sahinís early 80ís rock canít put a damper on your mood! He has all the greatest hits from Twisted Sister, The Knack, Bananarama and Split Enz to keep you bopping throughout the day! And... he never tires of it! Compensation comes in the form of delicious home-cooked meals every night and an amazing array of card tricks to keep you amused.

Sahin has a couple of boats moored on the lake during the spring and summer months to take his guests on a full-day cruise around the lake and through the canals to Turtle Beach, where the huge turtles come to lay their eggs between March and September. The seven kilometres of white sand and emerald coloured sea is an attraction all by itself. We stopped at the ancient city of Caunos, which is said to be over 3000 years old, and wandered through the ruins of the metropolis for an hour or so. Caunos was built by Caunos, the son of Miletus, who fell in love with his sister and was banished from the kingdom. Then, we headed off to see the Lycian Kingís Tombs carved into the rocks in the cliffs overlooking Dalyan. Itís Ďofficiallyí forbidden to climb up to the tombs themselves, but itís possible to get a good photograph of the intricately carved granite tombs from the lake. Lunch on the boat is an interesting affair, noisy and fun. Everyone eats and drinks their fill, laughing and talking non-stop the whole time. The atmosphere on the boats is like that of an impromptu party.

The aromatic mud baths on the trip back are well worth the stop, they donít smell too pretty, but the magical effects of their remedial properties will soon help you forget that. Smearing sticky mud all over yourself and your friends is lots of fun anyway! You can hang out by the pools and let the mud dry before you wash it all off in the springs, or just sit in the middle of the mud and feel the good itís doing you. The mud is said to cure rheumatism and aid in the treatment of gynecological ailments as well as reducing stress and increasing sexual prowess, not to mention getting those horrible blackheads off your nose!

At Sultaniye, the natural hot springs have been captured by the locals and pools carved out of the rocks hold the hot water to bathe in. Itís usually around 38į C, unless the level of the lake creeps up to blend with the spring water. The sulphuric smell is said to be a wonderful cure for asthma and other lung ailments - breathing in deeply is not too painful an experience! The hot water is just relaxing and soothing to sit or swim around in for hours at a time - you canít wash with soap here - it ruins the PH of the water. Further down the road there are hot streams coming straight out of the side of the mountain and flowing into the lake. Itís this water that people drink for all kinds of ills and pains. It canít harm you, even if it doesnít help much!

Wandering off by yourself to discover the lost treasures of KOYCEGIZ is highly recommended. The little town is very peaceful, typical of a small Turkish town and the inhabitants are very friendly. The local markets on Monday are a sight to see as well. The one most important feature of the town is that there are NO carpet shops or annoying touts! If youíre into major touristy areas, head elsewhere! All in all KOYCEGIZ is a great place to relax any time of the year. It hasnít been overrun by mass tourism (yet) and itís quiet enough to enjoy the full benefits of the Mediterranean Coast without the hassles. And the Tango Pension is a great place to stay while youíre there! Get yourself down there! This is a last chance to discover one of Turkeyís last secret treasures before the boom.

Written by Roni Askey-Doran