(CNN) — At the point where the sky ends, a giant man sleeps lying along a mountain ridge overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

At least that’s how it appears when viewed from the old port of Kaş, on the southern coast of Turkey. Legend has it that a female giant lives above water on the island of Meis, called Kastellorizo ​​in Greek. If ever the sea touched them both at the same time, the two would wake up and fall in love.

It’s a suitably romantic tale for this seaside town that remained relatively unknown to outsiders until the early 1980s, when tanned sailors docked their yachts at the port to restock.

Backpackers from Europe and the Antipodes soon followed.

In between, exiled sons of wealthy Istanbul families have taken up residence in Kaş (a word meaning eyebrow in Turkish), bringing with them a love of music, good coffee and nature.

Due to the rugged geography and the lack of a nearby airport, Kaş has retained its charm as a small fishing village. Nevertheless, it offers plenty of activities, whether you are a potato in the sun, a foodie or a “jump off a mountain and go paragliding” type of person.

Like everywhere in Turkey, Kaş breathes history. Home to many dynasties and peoples, it was originally established as a trading port known for its high quality cedars and sea sponges, and rose to prominence under the Lycians who lived here before the rise of the Greek Empire.

Hittite texts from before 1200 BCE refer to the region as the lands of Lukka while the ancient Greeks called it Antiphellos.

In the second century BCE, during the Roman period, the Lycians formed the Lycian League, the very first democratic union in recorded history composed of elected representatives. They believed the afterlife was equally important, so they built stone sarcophagi in the form of houses to provide for the departed.

Tomb city

The streets of Kaş are lined with traditional houses.

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Today’s Kaş is full of tombs, found at intersections, in pedestrian streets and scattered in the surrounding landscape.

This makes it very easy to pick up the story without really trying, but it helps to know the lay of the land. The street leading from the bus station to the mosque, Cumhuriyet Meydan (town square) and to the port is Atatürk Bulvarı.

Turn west at the bottom and walk along Old Hospital Road to the Hellenistic open-air theater from the first century BCE. It’s a favorite spot for yoga practitioners, while music lovers take advantage of the free summer concerts.

The rows of limestone face the sea, making it a great place to sit and dream, especially at sunset.

Continue to Cukurbağ Yarımadası, also known as the peninsula, but note that the round trip is nearly seven miles. Serious walkers can follow part of the Lycian Way to the Sleeping Giant where they will see two ancient tombs and have incredible views.

An even better and certainly much easier way to enjoy these vistas is a tandem paragliding flight over Kaş from nearby Babadağ.

Back in town, it is possible to inspect one of only two remaining water cisterns of the many cisterns built in Hellenistic and Roman times, on the way for a drink. This is because it is housed under a bar.

However, most people come for the sea and it’s no exaggeration to say that the water takes on all shades of blue as the sun moves throughout the day.

Some guesthouses and hotels have their own beachfront access, but there are plenty of other options for sun worshipers and swimmers.

Dream beaches

For a change of scenery, take a minibus to Kaputaş.

For a change of scenery, take a minibus to Kaputaş.

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At Küçük Çakıl Beach, a small strip of sand east of the main square, restaurants with wooden terraces wrap around the cliffs, shaded by leafy trees. It’s the perfect place to do nothing but cool off once in a while.

About 30 years ago, local fishermen started supplementing their income by taking people to Limanağazı. They used to cast a line and any fish caught ended up on the barbecue outside the only inhabited house.

Nowadays, small boats regularly transport vacationers to the two pretty dream beaches of Limanağazı, both of which are fully equipped. History buffs should disembark at the second where they can follow a path to the Lycian tombs set in a dramatic rock face.

For a change of scenery but the same beautiful sea, walk to Büyük Çakıl Beach or take a minibus to Kaputaş. Or try a daily boat trip. Standard tours are anything but drop anchor to see an underwater city, swim in a pirate cave, and explore an ancient fortress. A delicious barbecue lunch is included.

Kaş also offers diving, gület (traditional wooden boat) excursions and even the possibility of going abroad. After all, Meis is only about 3.5 nautical miles away.

The Greeks come to the island on Fridays when people from the hill villages above Kaş bring their produce to sell in the markets just behind the bus station. Leave room in your luggage for a jar (or possibly two) of local honey. It is particularly good because of the high altitude pine forests.

delicious destination

The town comes alive at night, with restaurants serving traditional Turkish cuisine, seafood, and even plant-based menus.

The town comes alive at night, with restaurants serving traditional Turkish cuisine, seafood, and even plant-based menus.

Ivan Kmit/Adobe Stock

Kaş is a foodie paradise offering everything from traditional-style grilled meats, seafood pide and meze to plant-based menus, vegan cakes and third-wave coffee, just to start.

There are Turkish meyhane (taverns) set in walled courtyards, romantic restaurants in gardens overlooking the sea, sleek minimalist cafes creating a new wave of old favorites, and cheerful family restaurants serving up good home cooking.

Serious meals take place at night, and evenings begin and end at Cumhuriyet Meydan, with a statue of the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Families, singles, couples, locals, tourists, young and old. Everyone comes here. Some eat in one of the restaurants installed on the edges. Others settle on the low wall and the benches opposite, nibbling on freshly stuffed mussels washed down with beer. Many head off towards the Old Hospital Road, down around the harbor or into the narrow lanes that branch off from the square.

Those looking for a quiet drink or wanting to change the world head to the trendy little bars on Terzi and Zümrüt streets, past Uzun Çarşı. There is a huge 4th century stone sarcophagus at the top of this steep cobbled street. Officially called Likya Yazılı Anıt Mezar but more commonly, the King’s Tomb, it makes a fabulous background for selfies.

Uzun Çarşı is the place to go for handcrafted shoes, rugs, antiques and vintage clothes sold in old Greek houses, many of which were built by families who moved across Meis in the 19th century century. Proving that everything old is new again, a once-neglected coastal path on the other side of town is now home to upscale bars and restaurants with Greek-inspired menus.

As the hour draws to a close, packs of children, Turkish and foreign, race around Atatürk and the square, playing complicated games involving soccer balls and scooters. They run erratic patterns around sleeping dogs, teens in love, families eating candied almonds, groups of tipsy friends, and budding Rastafarian hipsters.

Attracted by the friendliness of the local people, the beautiful landscapes and the crystal clear waters, many visitors return year after year, as the essence of the city has changed very little. Although nowadays the boating crowd frequents a modern marina on the other side of the peninsula, Kaş is still a place where time passes only as quickly or as slowly as the lapping of the tide.