I discovered Butterfly Valley in my determination to find a hidden, Turkish gem. A few articles described it as a place “far-off-the-beaten-path, a Turkish holiday experience typically enjoyed by locals“. I became enamored by the idea of finding this secret cove, enclosed between towering cliffs along the coast. The valley is only accessible by boat, or extreme hike down cliffs which was not highly recommended (at least based on my research).
For months leading up to our Turkey visit, I found myself daydreaming of this illusive valley of butterflies. Slowly but surely I began plotting our escape to a remote, beach-side bungalow. I asked fellow travelers if they had heard of Butterfly Valley, to which I received a consistent reply, “never“. I even asked some newly made Turkish friends the same question and received the same disappointing response. “I don’t think this place actually exists” Bryan was telling me, “and if it does, it makes me nervous to visit since we can’t find any firsthand feedback.” Two friends then joined our quest, meeting us in Istanbul, ready to tackle the unknown in hopes of discovering the best world yet.
Butterfly Valley does exist! This prime piece of Turkish real estate is owned and operated by a management group who welcome backpackers, campers, and like-minded people to escape the real world in a most natural, refreshing sort of way. Butterfly Valley Management offers beach-side bungalows for very low rent, or plots of land for those who prefer to set up camp.
We rented bungalows for two nights via Facebook – the Butterfly Valley Management team is very responsive through this medium, and allow for prearranged accommodations to ensure there are no surprises upon arrival.
Butterfly Valley is a unique paradise, one that is full of surprises! Here are five secrets of the Valley, discovered through our firsthand experience, to help prepare for your escape…
Hiking to Butterfly Valley is an adventure in it’s own.
Most travelers access Butterfly Valley by taking the official ferry, leaving from Oludneiz at 11AM, 12:30PM, 2PM, 3PM and 6PM. Round trip tickets are only 20 TL per person and can be purchased on the boat (not from anyone trying to sell them to you ahead of time in Oludeniz). Simply show up, jump on and it’s a quick and easy ride to the valley. I highly recommend this method of access for travelers who have any fear of heights and aren’t comfortable rappelling. We decided to hike to the valley (despite a few warnings against this method), with the understanding that we tend to appreciate paradise much more after having earned our right to bask in the glory.
You don’t need gear if you opt for hiking – there are pre-set ropes to assist in the journey down. You do need to be prepared to rely on a firm grip as you shimmy down a relatively steep, rocky incline.
We found a Lonely Planet article that made claims of hiking all the way to from Oludeniz beach to Butterfly Valley, so we decided to give it a try. Our experience showed us that this hike is not a good choice. Unless we missed it, there is no ‘hiking path’ to be found between Oludeniz and Butterfly Valley – there’s only a paved road. If you choose to hike all the way, you’ll be walking on asphalt for at least two hours. I recommend getting a taxi to the top of the valley instead. You’ll still have much to hike.
Finding the ‘drop-in’ point, with access down the cliffs to the valley, wasn’t easy. You’ll need to make your way through the small neighborhood of houses along the edge of the cliffs. Look for a sign (attached to the side of a house) guiding you in the right direction.
Once you begin your hike downward, and there are no more signs to be found, follow the red dot (not the white rabbit) until you reach the valley.
It took about an hour to descend to the valley floor from drop-in. We arrived to paradise dirty, sweaty and exhausted. We earned our right to relax 🙂
The food is communal, delicious and nutritious!
Breakfast and dinner are included in your stay (I also highly recommend the a la carte restaurant at the end of the beach, serving fresh fish sandwiches, for lunch). Each meal is announced by a ringing bell… I had flashbacks to summer camp our first day!
I was pleasantly surprised by both food options and quality! Evenings were a feast of spicy, curry soups, chicken grilled over open fire, pasta, and home-grown produce, all served family-style under a canopy of grape vines.
You can free-climb waterfalls.
Let me preface this statement with the following disclaimer – only climbers who are confident in their abilities apply. You don’t need to be an expert (we definitely are not) but you do need to be comfortable climbing. When we arrived we were told that there are two waterfalls in the valley – the small and the big – and that you can hike to the small, but you shouldn’t access the big waterfall without climbing gear as well as a guide. Butterfly Valley offers local guides who will provide equipment at reasonable rates. Having no clue what to expect, we nearly went this route; however, a friend we made in the valley assured us that we didn’t need hired guides, or even equipment, just someone to lead the way. We just walked up in sandals. Sometimes people get overly cautious when there is nothing to worry about… lessons of the road.
The hike to the small waterfall was as easy as expected, but then we reached cautionary signs as we continued on our way…
Our new friend assured us we could ignore the warnings, so we continued on, climbing metal pegs (secured to the side of a cliff) until we reached the top of a large boulder, accessing the waterfall.
Ropes are pre-tied to help with the slippery scale up. This was a fun, refreshing, wet climb; however, I can see why it is not recommended for everyone. It’s a steep trek up slick rocks, through rushing water; it isn’t necessarily a safe choice.
Whether you’re a sandal-trekker, or require the security of guide and gear, don’t miss a chance to see the serene, mystical showers of the ‘big’ waterfall.
It’s hard to find butterflies in Butterfly Valley.
This was my biggest surprise. I read articles about how conditions within the valley create a perfect environment for butterflies, with flourishing communities of over 100 different species to be found! While I did see butterflies, I wasn’t showered with butterfly kisses as I had hoped for.
According to experts, loud noise frightens butterflies. It’s unfortunately impossible to stop beach noise from daily tour boats, which scare the butterflies away from the shore. We did make our way to the “butterfly cave” (located just yards from the big waterfall), and saw more butterflies in a small space than I have ever seen in my life, but in a place called “Butterfly Valley” you can’t help but hope for more.
You’ll live in harmony with nature.
I’ve learned through years of travel, and a handful of unique experiences, that there are many different versions of paradise. Butterfly Valley is one of those extraordinary places that defines a new style of paradise – one that I had never experienced before. It’s a bit of hippie paradise.
It’s a place to sleep under the stars. I don’t know why or how, but there are no pesky mosquitoes feasting in the valley. We slept on top of our bungalow at night, waking to roosters crows at sunrise.
I’ts a place to connect with like-minded people. You’ll make friends at dinner or during beach-side bonfires. In this small community, you won’t see cell phones or laptops, you’ll have meaningful conversations.
The management team at Butterfly Valley “welcomes free spirited and adventurous travelers to enjoy this unique paradise”. Their goal is to keep the valley sacred, so it will live forever, providing a natural escape from the very real world.
This version of paradise will always have a special place in my hippie-heart.