“According to the legend Endymion, the legendary shepherd boy, was asleep on Mount Latmos when Selene, the eternally beautiful goddess of the moon, fell in love with him. After that myth relates Endymion slept forever and Selene (also called Diana) got to come down and slept with him everynight. It seems that every full moon night, Selene comes to Bafa Lake looking at herself reflected in the waters to take care of her hairs”
In Turkey there are so many places related to the legends and Bafa Lake is only one of them and may be one of the less-known among the others.
Once upon a time Bafa Lake was a gulf of the Aegean Sea until the classical period and over a period of time the gulf was silted up by alluvial deposits on the west and the sea was converted into the Plain of Soke which is today one of the most fertile areas of Turkey. But the separation of the lake from the sea is not perfect as it is linked to the sea by small channels. That’s why the water of the lake is both fresh and salty.
The human history of the area starts in the 18th century BC. Many prehistorical paintings remain about that time. During 1200 B.C the Aegean coast was populated with a mixture of indigenous peoples and hellenistic invaders. They named this area as Caria. The Carian people founded old Latmos city in 1000 BC. By the end of 4th century BC the was moved to its present site called Herakleia. This name is derived from mythological hero, Hercules. Ancient Herakleia has 6.5 km long city walls and 65 watch towers defending the old harbour.
The city was conquered by the Persians in the 4th BC, then Seleukos took over the control of the city. During the 11th century BC, after a big natural evolation, the lake was separated from the sea.
In 129 BC, the Romans established in Anatolia. The city enlarged at Roman Age is stil standing today. After Arabian invasions during the 8th century, this area was one of the refuges fort he christians. Many monesteries were built by the christians that came from Syria and Patmos Island.
Built on the ruins of old Herakleia, today there is a village named Kapıkırı. Walking around Kapıkırı visitors can find the rest of all these civilizations. An old path in the forest leads westwards up to the Temple of Athena overlooking the lake.
Where the old village school is located, stands the ancient Agora. Several hundred meters through the stone-walled pastures from the agora and across a valley, the unrestored Roman Theatre is located. On different points around the lake, it is possible to see well-preserved city walls dating back to 300 BC.
Walking on the road to the lake, visitors can see Endymion Temple built partly on the rock. Just at the entrance of the village, Kapıkırı, to the left it is accessable to a Byzantine Castle and the old city’s Necropolis located by the lake
Declared as National Park in 1994
Bafa Lake is a unique and special place. The environs attract not only those interested in history but also numerous lovers of nature.
As an ancient gulf transformed into a lake by the alluvial deposits of the River Meander, Bafa Lake is situated at the foot of Mount Latmos (1375 m).
The lake is fed by little torrents and by the river Meander during the rainy season. Visitors can find several rare species of animals and plants living here and Bafa Lake offers an ideal location for relaxing with its impressive setting and spectacular landscapes.
The National Park covers over 7000 hectares of mountain, waterland, woodland, waterways and historical sites. It was designated in 1994 to embrace the small village of Kapıkırı (once Herakleia) and its environs: forests, lake, historical sites and the five-peaked Besparmak Mountain (ancient Latmos)
Bacause of Mediterranean coast’s temperate climate, plants such as apricots, cotton, grapes, melones, oranges, lemon trees and many others thrive.
Central to the National Park however is its lake, supporting a large population of animals. In addition to the mammals such as bears, wild boars, turtles, jackals, fox, rabbits, beavers and fish life as salmons, carpi, mullet principally, the park boats a wealth of bird life including eagles, hawks, storks, fish birds, little owls, wild ducks and thousands of flamingos, pelicans etc. Upto now 265 bird species have been recorded in the National Park. That’s why every year hundreds of bird watchers visit the lake.
What to do – Alternative Tours in and around the Bafa Lake
Bafa Lake and its environs offer many alternative tours for the nature and history lovers at all ages. You can participate in such different tours as trekking, birdwatching, botanical, photography, rock climbing, some of which are listed below.
- Seven Brothers (Yedi Kardesler) Monastery
It is a round trip of 12 km and takes about 5 hours of walking. During the trekking you can see neolitic cave paintings dating back to 8000-10000 years ago. Seven Brothers Monastery from the 7th century is famous for its frescos of Jesus
- King’s Road & Stylos Monastery
Round trip of 22 km and takes 9 hours of walking. The route follows the King’s Road built by the Persians. Stylos Monastery, home to St Paul the younger and frescos from the 10th century can be seen during trekking
- Ancient City Walls
It is a 3.5 hours walking. King’s Road, Ancient City Walls, Watch Towers can be seen during the tour
- Karahayıt Balıktas Cave
After travelling to Karahayıt Village by vehicle, you can see the red-yellow frescos dating back to prehistoric period, 8000-10000 years ago.
- Jesus Caves
After walking among the huge metamorphic rocks of Mount Latmos where the earliest settlement took place you will see mysterious Jesus Caves with some paintings on the rock and some frescos and tombs.
- Gokkaya & Kiliselik
6.5 hours of walking will take you to Ikizce Islands. After visiting the monastery decorated by frescos dating back to the time of Jesus, the day ends up swimming in the lake.
- Ionian Marble Quarry
Following 4 hours of walking you will reach at the site of an Ionian settlement on the South of the lake. You can discover the monastery and a marble quarry which produced marble columns used in the construction of the Temple of Apollon in Didim, ancient Didyma. This area is also an important place for bird-watchers and those interested in botanic.
Birdwatching in Bafa Lake
Bafa Lake surrounded by Dilek Peninsula National Park, Menderes Delta, Sercin Lake and Azap Lake homes to 261 different of bird species. That’s why Bafa Lake and its environs attract many birdwatchers every year.
Botanical Tours around Bafa Lake
During the months of March and April, Bafa Lake turns into a big garden with wild strawberry, endemic bellflower (campanula), 13 species of orchid and many more.
Rock Climbing in Bafa Lake
Mount Latmos with its huge metamorphic rocks is today one of the most important free style rock climbing points in the world.
Beside all above activities Bafa Lake and its environs are ideal places for photography and painting. All year round many photographers and painters come to the lake to catch the best scenery for their portfolios.