Last updated on September 4th, 2023
Fethiye to Pamukkale route is one of the least popular routes for a road trip in Turkey. Going on a tour or by bus is a more common option than traveling by car. However, car travel provides an excellent opportunity to make some interesting stops and see some of the highlights of Turkey’s southwestern Turquoise Coast.
The route I am talking about goes from Fethiye to Pamukkale by the sea and passes a few quiet coastal villages with some hidden waterfalls and bays. It somewhat intersects with the route between Marmaris and Fethiye, so you can make all these stops also when driving from Fethiye to Marmaris or vice versa.
If time allows, make a bit of a detour toward some lesser-known beaches and natural landmarks along the way. I talk about all of them below in this post.
And, if you are visiting this part of Turkiye between Mugla and Antalya for the first time and consider exploring the region by car, use my other posts about Antalya to Fethiye road trip and Antalya to Pamukkale drive for planning one big road trip itinerary for Turkey.
So without too much ado, let me briefly talk about my favorite stops on the route between Pamukkale and Fethiye.
Things to Know About the Fethiye to Pamukkale Drive
Fethiye to Pamukkale Distance
As in my other posts, here I also want to mention quickly a few words about the distance between Fethiye and Pamukkale as there are two different routes where to go.
The shortest route from Fethiye to Pamukkale goes through Serinhisar, Akalan, and Cameli towns and the entire distance is around 200 km (125 miles). However, that’s not the road I advise you to take because there is simply not much on it for a traveler.
Instead, I recommend you choose a bit longer road and drive through Tavas, Koprubasi, Cicekli, and Akyaka (the map is included below). In this case, the distance is going to be around 300 km (186 miles) but the road is very scenic with many interesting sights to see.
On this road trip, as with others, you can also drive slowly and split a trip into 2 or even 3 days, pausing for a night in small towns on the coast before you reach Pamukkale. However, it is very doable to cover the distance in one day and see everything if you hit the road early.
Planning a Trip from Fethiye to Pamukkale
The first thing you will need here is to rent a car (if you haven’t done so yet). And surprisingly, hiring a car in Fethiye downtown costs no more than car hire at the airports in major Turkish cities.
Renting a car and driving in this part of Turkey is enjoyable, although in the high tourist season, roads near major towns can be busy due to the high number of tourists.
Find Your Car for a Trip
Those who don’t feel like renting a car can also cover part of this route by bus. There is a bus between Fethiye and Mugla that makes stops in some places along the coast that I mention on my list. And there is a bus connecting Mugla and Denizli (Pamukkale area), so using public transport is also possible.
Going from Fethiye to Pamukkale on a day trip by car is possible as well. But be ready to skip some places on this drive and leave early. Pamukkale is that type of destination where you’d want to spend at least one day. So it may be better to travel on an organized tour.
12 Incredible Stops to Make on Fethiye to Pamukkale Road Trip
Fethiye is probably one of the most underrated cities on the Turkish Riviera. If you are traveling through it and wondering whether slowing down in this place is a good idea, here are a few thoughts to consider.
Fethiye is very calm and quiet and in its nature very different from other cities on the Aegea and Mediterranean Sea, including nearby Marmaris and Bodrum.
You won’t find there huge hotel complexes and resorts, but instead there are mainly villas, guesthouses, and low-rise hotels for visitors. Almost the entire city of Fethiye is located on the plain and only a very small part on the mountain which is one beautiful place from where you get the birds eye view of the surrounding area.
Generally, I do not recommend my tourists spend too much time in Fethiye as there are many places in the region (Oludeniz is not the only one).
But if you happen to visit this city on a quick trip, don’t miss Amyntas Rock Tombs, Museum of Fethiye, and take a walk along the promenade near the yacht club. From the tombs, it is easy to climb higher to the ruins of the fortress and lookout.
2. Göcek Town by the Sea
Göcek is one of the cutest small towns on the Turquoise coast of Turkey in Mugla province in the Fethiye district which is considered ‘Turkish Paris’ for its charm, beauty, and sophistication (although to me it looks like a small town in Orange county California).
It is famous for its beautiful marinas, crystal clear sea, and quiet enjoyable life. Gocek is developing quickly, attracts many local tourists and in summer it is a very busy place.
People mainly come here to distract from all the stresses of today’s life, go on a cruise around the bay or to nearby islands, spend time by the marina, swim on local beaches or to numerous coves, and eat quality and satisfying meals.
Thanks to the green pine forests that surround the whole of Göcek, it is also a nice alternative to Fethiye where to stay overnight since many accommodation options here meet all holiday needs and are located in a quiet natural setting.
When you make a stop here on the way to Pamukkale, you may even want to change your plan and stay in this town longer.
Go for a walk to D-Marina (the only marina in town, so finding it is easy even without a map), visit Gocek Market, go by boat to Cleopatra Bath Cove or Shipyard Island, walk around Gocek town center to check their fantastic restaurants, souvenir shops, and small businesses hidden in green gardens and surrounded by colorful flowers.
You will find the atmosphere of Göcek dazzling with the aromas of flowers in the air and high oxygen levels.
Dalyan is another stop on Fethiye to Pamukkale drive that is worth a separate trip, to be honest. It is also a quiet, peaceful holiday resort that has the most beautiful green and blue of the Mediterranean Sea and offers great opportunities for walking, boat tours, healing waters, and mud baths after lunch or dinner.
There are actually so many places to visit and see in Dalyan that you can fit them all in 3 days (and more). But if you are stopping by just for a few hours then you may need to plan ahead of time where to go and what to skip.
The first thing you need to do as soon as you arrive is to go see Tombs of the Kings. This is a unique ancient site that was carved into the mountain in the 4th century BC. The best way to see it is on a walk along the road while sitting by the river, or on a boat.
If you want to go to the rock tombs, I recommend you do it from the side of the ancient theater, because the other side is a steep cliff.
As for other must-do things in Dalyan, don’t miss Iztuzu Beach, a unique narrow but long beach between the sea and river which is also a home for Caretta turtles.
If you have time, go on a river cruise along the Dalyan River. Boat tour companies are located in the center and it’s easy to purchase a ticket. Here are the coordinates of one of the companies.
But for the most complete experience, better go through my guide to Dalyan and its delta to know how to plan your trip, be it for one day or for a few!
4. Yuvarlakcay Defne Restaurant
After Dalyan, once you get back on the main road D400, I suggest you take a detour, turn towards Beyobasi and drive on the country road. It makes a loop through a few villages and connects with D400 again near Zeytinalani. But it is a pretty drive and the road passes near a number of restaurants by the river with incredible scenery and great food.
After spending some time in Dalyan, you will be hungry. But instead of eating in Dalyan, you can dine along this road in one of the restaurants. Our favorite one is Defne restaurant located here because tables stand right on the river and there is a swing where visitors can ride over the water and take photos.
It’s a beautiful place with nice amenities, delish food, and affordable prices. If it’s full, there are other restaurants nearby that also have beautiful settings by the water.
5. Köyceğiz Town on the Lake
Köyceğiz is a charming town on the lake with the same name on the opposite side of Dalyan located at a point where the Mediterranean and Aegean regions meet. There is no direct access to the sea here but natural beauty is abundant and air is saturated with history.
You can make a quick stop to walk on the Koycegiz waterfront (where this restaurant is located) with many venues, hotels, and small shops, and see a different side of the region. If you wish to swim, then drive to a small Ekincik village surrounded by olive and pine trees. It has its own gorgeous bay with a bit of sandy and stony beach.
This is a nice place where to make a stop on the way from Fethiye to Pamukkale or back from Pamukkale to Fethiye for people who are looking for a very quiet and peaceful environment. With a nice atmosphere, different accommodation options, and close proximity to Dalyan it is also a popular place where to stay overnight and have a break.
6. Sultaniye Mud Baths
Sultaniye Hot Springs is actually located in Dalyan but to visit it everyone needs to drive through Köyceğiz. So it is very easy to reach this place if you have a car and desire to improve your health a bit in one of the most popular hot springs destinations in Turkey.
In fact, Dalyan is famous for springs and mud baths and they are one of the most well-known activities and the reason why tourists from Europe come here.
Especially to Sultaniye Hot Springs which is among the oldest mud baths. Its history dates back to the 100s BC and it is good for rheumatism, sciatica, and some skin diseases. These hot springs were used by many civilizations over all these centuries and have survived to the present day.
Today it is a clean, affordable place operated by Dalman municipality which is great to stop at to find peace and relaxation.
If you prefer you can visit it from the center of Dalman by special bus. However, if having a car, it is much more convenient to drive from Köyceğiz town along the pretty road. It is also possible to reach Sultaniye from Dalyan by boat.
7. Toparlar Waterfall
The next location where it is easy to stop on the way from Fethiye to Pamukkale is Toparlar Waterfall. It is very close to the main road and within short walking distance. On hot summer days Toparlar is a nice place where to cool off, go for a swim, and have a quick but enjoyable time among beautiful nature, particularly pine trees.
Toparlar waterfall consists of multiple falls of various sizes and while they are rather small, the scenery is spectacular. Near one of them, there is a rope tied to the tree branch which is used by many people for swaying and jumping into the water. The first waterfall and pool you reach by walking is the biggest one.
In April, May and June, the flow rate of the waterfall is the highest and the depth of the pool reaches 5 meters. Rocks are a bit sharp and unstable due to their structure, so do not enter with bare feet and be careful.
When you will be driving from Köyceğiz, Toparlar Falls will be on the right after the Toplarlar settlement ends. There will be a sign pointing out the direction of the falls. You need to pull off the main road and drive on the off-road for about 500 meters following the sign. You’ll see an area where to park your vehicle and from there walk further around 1 km to the waterfall.
Since I don’t have good photos from this waterfall, I suggest you check them out on google together with the coordinates.
8. Akyaka Town
Akyaka is not directly on the route to Pamukkale, but it is a short detour and a must-visit town on the Turkish Riviera if you are in the area. Not many people know about this gem and rarely add it to their itineraries, but it’s such a cool holiday destination!
Akyaka is another charming town in Turkey that has a calm, creative environment, and huge coworking space ideal for those who work online.
Turks know it as a kitesurf spot with its naturalness, greenery, and plenty of wind. It is an entirely different place with its historical buildings, sea and sun, nature and unique scenery, fish restaurants, and friendly people.
There are many activities you can do in Akyaka – from water sports and swimming in cold waters to canoeing, boat tours, camping, and fishing. For me personally, Akyaka is special because of the Azmagi river which is a gift from nature that allows getting rid of the heat of Muğla province (you can see it in the photo above).
The river with a water temperature of 8-10 degrees Celcius is stretching for 2 km and is perfect for swimming on a hot summer day or going on a boat tour any time from spring to fall.
If you don’t have much time or don’t want to break this trip into several days and stop overnight on Pamukkale to Fethiye trip, visit Akyaka quickly to hop on a boat to cruise the surrounding area.
Some tours go to nearby bays and coves while others, shorter ones have transparent bottoms and allow to see fish and a beautiful underwater world of clean waters of the Azmagi River. These shorter tours are quite popular here.
Our favorite activity is to rent a canoe and go down the river on our own, listening to the sound of nature in the place known as the Turkish Amazon. While you row in the canoe, a boat from the rental shop moves along with you. If you get tired, they tie the canoe to the boat and pull you back to the shore.
9. Sakar Gateway Panoramic Point
Just after you leave Akyaka and drive for a bit, make another stop by the road to get a pretty view of Akyaka bay and Aegean Sea. The viewpoint is here. You’ll see there is also a big observation deck where to stop and enjoy the view, but people walk around to take photos from different spots.
The only disadvantage of this place (as with many other panoramic viewpoints in Turkey), there is some trash around.
Where to Eat on the Road Between Pamukkale to Fethiye
Besides those restaurants that I have already mentioned above, I’d also love to share a few places on the way from Akyaka to Pamukkale. That’s the longest stretch that doesn’t really offer anything major worth stopping for. But it is full of some excellent restaurants with very well-prepared Turkish food:
Cinaraltina Restoran – they have very good menemen, gozleme, and drinks, and everything is served in a traditional local setting. It is a good place to stop for a quick break.
Yesil Vaadi Restaurant – a place to stop for pide and lahmachun that come straight from the oven. All other lunch and dinner items get the highest reviews as well.
Ortatepe Kir Kahvesi – a Turkish-style cafe where you can have a fulfilling traditional Turkish breakfast (all day long) or order popular meat dishes like kofte or different types of kebabs. It’s also a good place to stop for a tea or coffee break.
Where to Stay on the Road Between Fethiye and Pamukkale
As with other drives in Turkey that I wrote about earlier, a road trip between Pamukkale and Fethiye may be extended over several days simply because there are lots of sights and activities. But of course, you can cover it within a day.
Those who wish to take it slower and stay overnight on the Turkish Riviera have many options. And I’d love to mention some of them that we’d choose for ourselves. They are perfect for people who travel by car:
Casa Margot Hotel in Fethiye – if you still haven’t booked accommodation in Fethiye, let me share with you one of my favorite hotels there. This is a boutique hotel in the center of Fethiye, on the hill with incredible views, panoramic pool, and spacious clean rooms. It is perfect for honeymoons in Turkey, staycations, and couples’ getaways.
Kerem Apart Hotel in Gocek – a great budget option, yet beautiful, clean, and with perfect mountain views! It is hidden away 1 km from the Gocek marina, so every guest can enjoy complete calmness and tranquility. There is also a pool and restaurant on the premises.
Alp Suites Mandalin in Akyaka – a boutique hotel option only 200 meters from the beach in the historic part of the town. While from the outside it looks just like an old traditional Turkish house, inside it’s all modern and new.
Venus Suite Hotel in Pamukkale – my absolute favorite among all hotels in Pamukkale. From some rooms on the upper floor, there is a view of Pamukkale travertines in the distance. This hotel also has a pool and a huge breakfast.
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