EVERYONE MUST SEE LAKE BAFA!
Those who visit Bodrum by car know that while driving from Aydın’s district Söke towards Milas, a huge lake to your left with its splendour and beautiful scenery forces you to look at it. Naturally, everyone wants to pull the car to the edge of the lake and enjoy the view. But Lake Bafa is not just a beautiful lake with a view! It has a special importance with its history, geographical formation and surrounding historical sites. It is a great benefit to know Bafa Lake in detail before you go for a tour, so let’s get started…
- HISTORY OF LAKE BAFA
- WHERE IS LAKE BAFA, HOW TO GET TO LAKE BAFA?
- PLACES TO SEE IN LAKE BAFA
- IS IT POSSIBLE TO SWIM IN LAKE BAFA?
- IS IT POSSIBLE TO CAMP IN LAKE BAFA?
- TAKE A BOAT TRIP ON LAKE BAFA
- ACCOMODATION OPTIONS IN LAKE BAFA
- FISH OF LAKE BAFA
- LAKE BAFA IS NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE
HISTORY OF LAKE BAFA
Lake Bafa, known as Camici, used to be a gulf which opened to the Aegean Sea in antiquity. The gulf was closed with the alluvium deposit carried by the Büyük Menderes River and the movement of the earth’s crust and turned into a lake, taking its present form.
The people who lived around Lake Bafa, which had turned into a swamp with the closure of the gulf, started to leave the region gradually as ships could no longer visit the gulf and their livelihood disappeared. Monks settled in this region, which was suitable for monastic life during the Byzantine period, to spread the Christianity. Thus, you can see the ruins of many monasteries and churches and drawings of that period in the region.
Lake Bafa, which has a surface area of 60 kilometres, is two meters above sea level. Its length is 16 kilometres, its width is 6 kilometres, and its deepest point is 21 meters. Declared as natural protection area in 1989 and a nature preservation area in 1994, the lake is also a bird sanctuary.
“Lake Bafa is Mine”
Here’s another surprising piece of information about Lake Bafa. A landlord and a CHP deputy at the time, İsmail Rüştü Aksal forbade the locals – who’s only livelihood was fishing – to fish in the lake without his permission.
Deniz Gezmiş and his revolutionary friends intervened and organized the people to start an uprising and clashes broke out. The gendarmerie suppressed the uprising and unfortunately the villagers were forbidden to hunt in the lake. While Deniz Gezmiş and his friends were tried in Martial Law Courts, Bafa resistance was also included in accusations.
This nonsense continued until 1978. On June 16 1978, the Prime Minister of the time, Bülent Ecevit, expropriated the lake and returned it to its rightful owners, and the lake now belongs to the public.
WHERE IS LAKE BAFA, HOW TO GET TO LAKE BAFA?
Lake Bafa is located within the provincial borders of Aydın and Muğla. While a part of it is within the border of Söke district of Aydın, the other part is connected to Milas district of Muğla. If you have planned a holiday in Bodrum, you should spare at least one day to visit Lake Bafa. But one day is definitely not enough to explore Lake Bafa and the beautiful area surrounding it, a week is barely enough if you want to explore it completely.
The distance from centre of Bodrum to Bafa Lake is 87 kilometres, you can reach the lake in an average of one hour and 15 minutes. If you are coming from other provinces; It is 613 kilometres from Istanbul, 691 kilometres from Ankara, and 152 kilometres from İzmir.
It takes an average of six hours to drive from Istanbul, eight hours from Ankara and an hour and a half from Izmir to Lake Bafa. You can also take the public busses from Bodrum to Soke which go thorough Lake Bafa.
Closest airport to Lake Bafa is Milas Airport which is located about 30 minutes away. Please note that if you are planning to get there by bus or a public minibus, you should notify the driver before getting on as the busses are not allowed to pick-up or drop-off passengers everywhere! You can find public minibuses or buses from most of the cities or towns in the nearby region.
PLACES TO SEE IN LAKE BAFA
You can see many ancient ruins in the area surrounding Lake Bafa. The lake also hosts many small islands. Hayalet Ada (Phantom Island), İkiz Ada (Twin Island) and Menet Island are the most prominent among these. Heraklia city which was a prominent city in the lake’s vicinity in antiquity and Yediler Monastry which is located in a few kilometres walking distance from the lake are the most important ancient ruins.
Located on the shore of the lake, this village with the population of 350 people is a must see. Kapikiri is a village of Milas. Both the views from the village and its people are great. The locals, who earn their livelihood from the visiting tourists, fishing, agriculture and livestock are hospitable and friendly.
Women of the village, which is flooded by tourists in the summer, contribute to their family budget by selling souvenirs such as handmade necklaces, bracelets, headscarves and neck scarfs. If you come across one of them, please buy one of these souvenirs for yourself or your loved ones.
Kapikiri Village also hosts Herakleia ancient city. You can come across the ruins of Herakleia ancient city while strolling the village. Temple of Athena and Temple of Agora, which are nearby, are the best-preserved historical buildings of the ancient city overlooking the village and should be seen.
Herakleia Ancient City
This city, named initially as Latmos in ancient times, took its name from Mount Latmos, which is now called Beşparmak Mountains, located at 1300 meters above sea level. The city was founded on the slopes of Mount Latmos, as living by the sea was dangerous for various reasons at the time. Established on the slopes of Mount Latmos, Latmos ancient city is located in the region between Kapikiri Village and Yediler Monastery.
Wishing to make Latmos a port city, as Halicarnassus, the Carian Satrap Maousolos had the city of Herakleia built in its current location, which is closer to the sea and ensured its habitants that this newly established port city was safe. Since there were many cities named Herakleia in Anatolia at the time, the name of the city was changed to “Herakleia ad Latmos”, meaning “Herakleia below Mount Latmos”. The city is intertwined with Kapikiri Village, it is possible to see the walls of the ancient city around the village. Don’t be surprised to see the ruins of ancient city of Herakleia in the gardens of the villagers.
Mount Latmos, known as Beşparmak Mountains today, is another place that must be seen. Mount Latmos, which we think will be highly appreciated especially by those who love hiking, will fascinate you. Historical ruins which you’ll encounter while trekking the mountain aside, we think everybody will be fascinated by its beauty.
You’ll get the feeling of visiting an art gallery while watching its naturally rock formations. By visiting Mount Latmos, you’ll also be visiting the ancient Latmos City (which was the name of Herakleia before it moved to the sea side) and see many historical ruins. You can also see the rock formations and cave drawings which are estimated to date back 8000 years. Do not miss a hike to Mount Latmos when you visit Lake Bafa.
Located within Golkaya Village, which is in the South of Besparmak Mountains, Yediler Monastery is one of the most important historical buildings of the region. You can reach Yediler Monastery by a 1–2-hour hike from Golkaya Village and see the frescos and murals of the important events of Christianity and Jesus’ crucifixion. Not being under any protection, unfortunately these historical buildings are neglected.
Ikiz Adalar (Twin Islands)
Located in the Northern shore of Lake Bafa, Ikiz Adalar are two islands which appear to be connected to each other. According to the inscription on the entrance door, the monastery, which is in the larger island to the West, is thought to be built by a monk called Methedios. You can rent a boat from Kapikiri village to visit Ikiz Adalar.
Due to its distant proximity to habitation in comparison to the other islands, Menet is relatively wilder. However, the historical ruins indicate the importance of the island. It is known that there is a church, two chapels and ancient tombs in the island. Unfortunately, the island was damaged by looters numerous times due to the fact that it is located at a distance from habitation.
Another aspect which contributes to the beauty of this island is the fact that it hosts various types of birds. Dalmatian Pelican, Grey Heron, Great White Heron, Black Cormorant are amongst the birds which can be seen in this island. Should you visit the island, be careful not to disturb its natural habitants.
Kahveasar Island is another island worth visiting with its ancient ruins. There is a monastery, a church, a mess hall, a chapel and walls surrounding the island as well as remains of two towers. The monastery, which is thought to be the largest church of the region, and the church are more intact compared to the other remains standing today and it is possible to see the murals inside. You can rent a boat from Kapikiri to visit the island.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO SWIM IN LAKE BAFA?
The increase of drought in the summer and the flow of polluted water of many facilities, especially along the Menderes River basin, begs the question of “Can one swim in Lake Bafa?”
Kapikiri Village neighbourhood representative, Necmettin Mekeci says that “The local people of Kapikiri and the tourists coming to the region often dip in the lake to cool off. But the lake is not what it used to be.”
It may not be a good idea as the pollution increases even more in the summer, but the decision is still up to you. Swimming in Lake Bafa is not prohibited by any authority or a health warning has not been issued.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO CAMP IN LAKE BAFA?
It possible to camp, of course, but there is no camp site on the lake which provides the necessities such as electricity, water etc. You can take your tents to set camp by the lake or on Mount Latmos which has a wonderful view, however, we’d recommend you to set camp by settlements as it is the only way you can access electricity, water and sanitary facilities.
The neighbourhood representative of Kapikiri Village, Necmettin Mekeci has a request, however, for visitors to not to set camp fires on the beach and to clean up the debris of fire and the camp site. The white sandy beach ashore is spoilt by the black spots left by the camp fires. If you are planning to set fire, please set it away from the beach and make sure to clean up afterwards!
If you have an enjoyable camping experience in Lake Bafa please drop your comments and plenty of photos below.
TAKE A BOAT TRIP ON LAKE BAFA
Do not leave Lake Bafa without joining a boat trip. There are local companies which organize boat trips as well as locals who take small group tours of 3-5 people on their own boats. It would be a shame to leave without seeing the islands on the lake and enjoying a boat trip.
EXCURSION RECOMMENDATION: IBEX ADVENTURE CLUB
Thinking that if you have read our article so far you should have decided to visit Lake Bafa, we should give you an excursion recommendation. Because we don’t want you to miss out by just going to one of the restaurants ashore and leave after enjoying some local fish dishes.
If you are visiting Lake Bafa for the first time or you don’t have much information about the area, you should definitely contact a good tour company. By a tour company we don’t mean an excursion taken with the lead of a history teacher. Mr. Deniz, the owner and guide of Ibex Adventure Club, will lead you on tour with a warm and friendly atmosphere to Lake Bafa, Kapikiri Village, ancient city of Herakleia, Mount Latmos and surrounding area.
Organizing many tours in Bodrum and the region, below are some information about two of the tours Ibex Adventure Club lead around Lake Bafa and the surrounding area;
Classic Lake Bafa Tour: The hiking route, which starts in Golkaya Village, leads to Yediler Monastry where very important Byzantine murals can be seen and to Kerdemelik Cave with 8,000-year-old cave paintings. The hike is about three hours in total, depending on the pace of the group. After a lunch break in Kapikiri Village, ruins of Agora, Temple of Endimion Temple of Athena of Herakleia ancient city are visited.
Suratkaya Walk: The hiking route, which starts near Sakarkaya Village, leads to the Hittite Epigraphy which was discovered in 2000 in Mount Latmos. The drawings on the surface of the rock, which is called Suratkaya, are invaluable in the sense that they show us just how far West the Hittits have advanced in Anatolia. As this hike takes place in an altitude of approximately 1,000 meters and goes through the woods, it is also possible to walk it in the summer. The route is approximately eight kilometres in total.
Please see below the contact information to get further information from Ibex Adventure Club which has professional experience in their field.
ACCOMODATION OPTIONS IN LAKE BAFA
We mentioned that it is not enough to spend just one day to discover Lake Bafa. Here are a few accommodation options for those who are planning to spare longer for his legendary trip. Silva Oliva Hotel & Farm stands out of these options with its view and comfort. Another option is Agora Pansiyon. The staff will help you with directions and tours. You may have difficulty finding availability in the summer.
Lake Bafa Accomodation Options:
- Agora Pansiyon
- Selene’s Pansiyon
- Pelikan Pansiyon
- Haus Yasemin
- Zeybek Pansiyon
- Karia Pansiyon
- Silva Oliva Hotel&Farm
FISH OF LAKE BAFA
The lake hosts over 200,000 birds as it is located in the migratory route of birds. There are also many different fish in the lake; eel, gray mullet and bass are amongst the most caught fish by the fishermen.
Eel’s Journey from Mexico to Lake Bafa
One may find this hard to believe but the eels in Lake Bafa come from the Gulf of Saragossa in Mexico. Once the eels in Lake Bafa reach a certain maturity they start on their long journey which takes them up to the Menderes River through which they reach the Aegean Sea from where they reach the Mediterranean before crossing the Atlantic to reach Gulf of Saragossa in Mexico.
Eels, not only the ones in Lake Bafa but the ones in other countries too, migrate to the Gulf of Saragossa in Mexico to lay their eggs at a certain depth and die shortly after. Once the eels that hatch from these eggs reach a certain maturity, their journey back starts. As if possessing a navigation device, they follow the same route back to Lake Bafa. How do they know that they should return to Lake Bafa? The science doesn’t have the answer yet!
Eels are important for the fishermen around Lake Bafa. Caught in Sercin and other villages more than Kapikiri Village, this fish is an important part of local’s livelihood. Even though the lake has gray mullet and bass, eel is the most prominent type of fish. Lake Bafa, which provided 50 tons of eel for exportation prior to 1985 only allows for eight tons of eel for exportation nowadays due to the pollution. Why? Because Lake Bafa is not what it used to be…
Are Eels Edible?
Eel is consumed in European countries such as Germany, Italy and Greece as smoked fish. Though not consumed much in our country, not having a lot of bones, fried or grilled eel is delicious.
We recommend you to taste eel while visiting Lake Bafa. It is said that having high nutritional value, eel is good for many health conditions including the heart problems, cholesterol, allergies and asthma as well as boosting the immune system and sex drive.
LAKE BAFA IS NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE
Those who watched the first season of True Detective would remember the dialog between Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson where McConaughey says; “”I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware, nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself, we are creatures that should not exist by natural law.” It’s hard to disagree with him!
Such that, sometimes without knowing and sometimes on purpose, humans destroy the nature. Lake Bafa is also being destroyed by humans on purpose, and for what? Sometimes for a piece of metal called ‘gold’ which is only valuable in our minds and have no real contribution to any aspect of life; and sometimes for the pieces of marble which we believe adds glamour to our homes.
Some of the greatest damage to Lake Bafa is caused by these mines, which operate in the Besparmak Mountains to extract the stones used in the production of ceramics and the fancy marble decorations in our bathrooms. They are destroying both the history, Lake Bafa and hundreds of square meters of green space with the permission of the state.
The cleaning works carried out by DSI (State Water Works) are pleasing, but it is like trying to empty out water with a bucket from a sinking ship, which is not enough. We expect more effective solutions from the authorities. Nature does the only realistic cleaning work on its own; Rain! The pouring rains refresh the water of the lake and clean it up a bit. Unfortunately, this cleaning is only enough for a very short time.
he cleaning works carried out by DSI (State Water Works) are pleasing, but it is like trying to empty out water with a bucket from a sinking ship, which is not enough. We expect more effective solutions from the authorities. Nature does the only realistic cleaning work on its own; Rain! The pouring rains refresh the water of the lake and clean it up a bit. Unfortunately, this cleaning is only enough for a very short time.
It may be a good idea to include Lake Bafa to your itinerary when you visit Bodrum next. Do visit Herakleia ancient city, Mount Latmos and Kapikiri Village and of course, take a boat trip on the lake.
We recommend you to read our article ‘Bodrum Tour Guide for Novices and Those Who Fall Asleep on the Sunloungers’ to make your Bodrum holiday more enjoyable. If you have enjoyed this article, please share to support us as well as following our facebook and instagram accounts.
We wish you an enjoyable holiday