A journey to Lake Salda, Turkey- the closest point to Mars on Earth

A journey to Lake Salda, Turkey- the closest point to Mars on Earth

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There are thousands of lakes on the Earth. But some of them are exceptional, different, and unique. And usually, they are more beautiful than the other lakes. One of them has an unearthly turquoise color, with extremely pure water, and a weirdly white coast- something that can’t be seen on the “normal” lakes on the Earth. This is Lake Salda in Turkey (Salda Golu). And someone said that this is “the closest point to Mars on Earth”. What does it mean? Let’s go there and see.

Lake Salda discovery

When we designed our Western Turkey itinerary, we wanted to follow the seacoast of Minor Asia to Kas, between Fethiye and Antalya, and from there to move to Pamukkale and Laodicea. All of these places are famous tourist destinations, and it looked like there is “nothing special” between them.

We discovered Lake Salda by chance. When I looked at the satellite map of the area between Kas and Pamukkale, I could see mostly mountains and high plains between them. I could also see some lakes.

Then, I noticed that one of these lakes is different than the others. It was darker, like a piece from the deep ocean on the land. This lake drew our attention and we start looking for some info, photos, and videos about it. And we were impressed by what we saw!

Lake Salda- white and turquoise blue
Lake Salda- white and turquoise blue

Moreover, it was located at a convenient place near our planned route. So, we thought, why don’t we visit it along the way? But first, we wanted to get more information about it. This is what we learned…

Basic facts about Lake Salda

It is a crater lake, located at 1145 m altitude, with an almost round shape. Its maximum length is about 9 km. Not so large, but quite deep- its deepest point is 184 m below the surface, which makes it the 3rd deepest lake in Turkey.

The lake is endorheic- a “hole” without any outlet. It is a freshwater lake, with very clean, pure, and transparent water. In winter, it can freeze, but in summer it is nicely cool, great for swimming, despite the cool mountain climate in the area.

Lake Salda- crystal clear water
Lake Salda- crystal clear water

And what causes its amazingly beautiful color, like a tropical paradise sea?

Mars

What has Lake Salda to do with… the planet Mars?

This is the bottom of the lake. It is white and made of rocks called stromatolites, further formed by local bacteria. More precise chemical research shows that these rocks contain magnesium. It was discovered that the overall chemical features of the white rocks are closest to those on the surface of Mars! There are only two such places on the Earth, and Lake Salda is one of them, the better of them!

That’s why first the scientists and then the local people say that Lake Salda is the “closest place to Mars on the Earth”. It is still an off-the-beaten destination, with very few tourists. But it was already noticed by the tourist industry, and currently, the government is establishing Lake Salda National Park, as a well-arranged tourist destination that at the same time should protect the lake and its environment.

White magnesium shores around Lake Salda
White magnesium shores around Lake Salda

Our journey to Lake Salda

We traveled to Lake Salda on our way to Denizli (the area of Pamukkale and Laodicea) from Fethiye by car. The lake is 160 km northeast of Fethiye and we reached it after 2 hours and 30 min driving. We stayed there for a few hours- honestly, it is a too short time to fully enjoy it, but we still tried the best of it- swimming in its cool pure water and enjoying the best views of its stunning landscapes.

And in general, that’s what you can see and do in Lake Salda- it looks like not too much, but here the quality is more precious than the quantity. So, if we could, we would enjoy the things we did for a longer time.

What to see and do at Lake Salda

So, that’s what you can do at Lake Salda- enjoying the views and swimming.

Enjoying the views

The first activity can be found everywhere, but certain points are particularly beautiful and deserve more special attention.

Swimming

This is still allowed but only in certain places. There are several beaches where you can enjoy the cool waters of the lake.

Have in mind that the white shores are not made of sand but of miniature soft magnesium stones. At many points in the water, they are also mixed with grey clay, so when you step on the bottom, your feet can sink 10 to 20 cm in some places. But this clay is good for your skin and it is said that it can contribute to the healing of some skin diseases.

Usually, where the slopes are not steep, the water is shallow at least 30 to 50 m inside the lake. But at the steep slopes, it gets deeper more quickly. There are no big waves (the lake is too small for that), and the transparent water is great for snorkeling too.

Doganbaba Beach
Doganbaba Beach

Around the Lake Salda

So, let’s circle around the lake and focus on the more interesting points on the way. There is a road around the lake, with several points of interest on it. The main starting point of the lake is the town of Yeşilova. And the full circuit around the lake (from Yeşilova to Yeşilova) is 36 km long. So, let’s follow it in a clockwise direction.

Yeşilova

It is a small town, located near Lake Salda (not exactly at the lake shores). There is nothing special to see there- just the local people’s life on the streets and the markets. And the town is good for some shopping, as well as staying at night.

However, from here, not far from the last houses of the town, you can take a 10-15 min walk on the circuit road (in the counter-clockwise direction) to the lake shore as a first glimpse of the Salda landscape. There are also some hotels and restaurants in this direction.

On the streets of Yesilova
On the streets of Yesilova

Belediye

This is a nice place on the southern shore of Lake Salda, about 4 km from Yeşilova. In general, there is nothing more than one hotel and two restaurants here, but the main attraction is Belediye Beach. It is relatively shallow and it is one of the places where you are still allowed to swim.

Orman Bakanlığı Tabiat Parkı

Another 4 km westward along the southern coast of Lake Salda is this Orman Bakanlığı Tabiat Parkı. It is a small nature reserve, a part of the larger Lake Salda National Park. Here you can’t swim but can enjoy a view of some white magnesium sandy rock formations at the shore.

Salda Maldives

This is the most beautiful point at Lake Salda and its main place to visit. The place is called “Turkish Maldives” because there is the widest white magnesium beach and the shallowest waters near the shore. Today, the “Turkish Maldives” are turned into a tourist site.

Here you can’t swim, and can’t enter from everywhere. You have to go to the parking lot at the entrance of the site. It is located 11 km from Yeşilova (you travel westward on the road D330 and after the 10th km turn right at a large roundabout, 700 m further is the entrance).

If you travel by car, you can park your car there (there are some stalls with local, mostly blue-colored souvenirs). From there, you take the tourist bus to the observation point- two tourist buses travel about 1200 m from the first to the second (the last) stop.

The last stop is about 400 m away from the shore. There is a café and more stalls with souvenirs. Once you arrive at this point, you can walk to the observation point where you can enjoy one of the best panoramic views of the lake and can get photos at the sign “Salda” at about 300 m from the shore. Here is the end- you can’t approach more closely to the lake.

Currently, the whole tourist site, with the parking lot and the tourist bus- everything is free, with no entrance fee, because it is still in the construction phase. But when they complete it, you can expect an entrance fee and probably it will be not so cheap.

Salda Maldives from above
Salda Maldives from above

Salda Village

Salda Village is the nearest settlement to the “Turkish Maldives”, and everything shows that it is probably going to turn into a tourist place with restaurants, cafes, art, clubs, bars, hotels, souvenir shops, and more attractions. So, this is another place where you can spend the night, buy some things, or get lunch or dinner.

However, when we arrived here, we got on the road to Doğanbaba. And after the last houses in the village, we turned right on a short dirt road to the top of a small hill. Here we found another great panoramic viewpoint, just over the main Salda tourist site.

Doğanbaba Beach

This place is located about 4 km north of Salda Village, and this is the most beautiful beach. What makes it beautiful is the fresh combination of the blue water, white magnesium shore, and the surrounding pine forest. This is the beach we chose to swim, and it was fantastic.

There is a nice restaurant and a café, as well as several small souvenir stalls at the beach. If you come by car, you can just park your car between the pines and enjoy the beach and the scenery around you.

Not far from this beach is also Doğanbaba Village. It is smaller than Salda Village and seems it will be its alternative option for staying.

Doganbaba Beach and forest
Doganbaba Beach and forest

Orman Evi

From Doğanbaba Beach and the village, the narrow paved road proceeds along the northern coast of Lake Salda. Here the landscape is more mountainous, and there is nothing but only nature and views. And after 9 km, you can reach the next point- Orman Evi, already on the eastern side of the lake.

Orman Evi is a small restaurant complex with a spectacular view of the lake and another point where you can still enter the crystal-clear water. The complex is still new and probably will be developed into something larger, maybe a small resort.

From here, your starting point Yeşilova is about 8 km away. You back to the town on the eastern coast of the lake, following the steepest mountain slopes above it.

The eastern coast of Lake Salda
The eastern coast of Lake Salda

Useful tips

So, let’s see some important tips about visiting Lake Salda: where is it and how to get there, where to stay there, and what is the best time to go there.

Transportation

Lake Salda is not so popular yet, so, there are not too many transport options to go there. To reach the lake, first you have to go to one of these big cities: Denizli, or Antalya. They are famous tourist destinations and are well-connected to the rest of Turkey, and they have airports nearby.

From there, you can travel by local mini bus (dolmuş) to Yeşilova:

  • From Denizli: Go to Denizli Otogar and take a minibus to Yeşilova. There are regular minibuses every hour and you can reach Yeşilova for about 1 hour and 30 min.
  • From Antalya: Go to Antalya Otogar and take a minibus to Yeşilova. Again, there are regular minibusses every hour and the time for traveling is about 2 hours.

There are other minibusses from other towns and cities nearby, but you have to change one or two of them to reach Yeşilova.

The road to Lake Salda
The road to Lake Salda

Once you arrive in Yeşilova, you can travel around Lake Salda by taxi. Seems, currently, this is the only way. We expect with the tourism development, some motorcycle or bicycle rental companies will appear in Yeşilova or Salda Village, but currently, no such companies are known there yet. Or, you can just walk to the lake, to some of the nearby points, including the Salda Maldives.

Lake Salda tours

A convenient option to visit Lake Salda is to join a tour. There are a few tours that are not focused entirely on Salda, but include it as a part of their itineraries, along with other destinations:

Lake Salda by car

A much better option is to travel there by car. There are good roads from the nearby big cities to the lake:

  • Denizli-Lake Salda: 98 km, for about 1 h 15 min.
  • Fethiye-Lake Salda: 180 km, for about 2 h 25 min.
  • Antalya-Lake Salda: 154 km, for about 2 h 20 min.
  • Isparta-Lake Salda: 107 km, for about 1 h 35 min.

And of course, once you arrive at the lake, you can easily make a full circuit by car around it.

Find the best rental cars in Turkey!

Accommodation

You can find some hotels in (and around) Yeşilova, Salda, and Doğanbaba. Currently, the choice is not so big, but seems new hotels will appear soon. Most of the hotels can be found on Booking or Agoda. They are relatively small and not too expensive.

Good options are:

  • Cantas Otel. It is located in the center of Yeşilova. This is a 3-star hotel with room service.
  • Turkuaz Pansiyon Salda. It is a guest house (homestay), located in Yeşilova, at the exit of the town in the direction of the lake. Relatively cheap for its quality.
  • Salda Gölü Çeliköz Apart. It is a nice family hotel in Salda Village, as many customers say- “one of the cleanest hotels in Turkey”.
  • Salda Gölü Koca Kapı Konaklama. It is a nice bed & breakfast type of guesthouse in Yesilova, with a beautiful garden.
  • Salda gölüne en yakın yerler. It is a comfortable and cheap apartment in Salda Village. One of the newest properties in Turkey (opened on 23 April 2023).
  • Rainfort Turizm. Another great apartment in Salda Village opened on 24 April 2023.
  • Fi Salda. It is a small family hotel, located in Doğanbaba Village, opened on 9 September 2022.

Check for accommodation around Lake Salda on Booking!

Check for accommodations around Lake Salda on Agoda!

The panoramic viewpoint in Salda Maldives
The panoramic viewpoint in Salda Maldives

There are several more, but you still can’t find them on Booking or Agoda. You can see them on Google Maps. Some of them provide phone numbers so you can contact them in advance.

As you can see, tourism is developing rapidly here, and many new properties appear. Obviously, you can expect more choices soon.

A good alternative is Airbnb. There are a lot of Airbnb properties in Yeşilova, and even more in Salda Village, They are not only a bit cheaper than the hotels but also give you a great opportunity to get closer to the local people.

If you don’t want to stay in a hotel, there are also two good campsites around the shores of Lake Salda- Sıra Çamlar and Nil Pera. They are located right beside the town of Yeşilova. Finally, you can go wild camping, but don’t do it at the lake shores- it is already turned into a national park, so camping there is not allowed. Instead, you have to go to the hills and the woods near the lake.

Camping at the shores of Lake Salda
Camping at the shores of Lake Salda

Seasons

Lake Salda is located on a highland, more than a km above sea level. So, although this area is in the subtropical zone, the lake has a cooler climate with more moderate features.

Summer is warm and nice. This is the best time to visit Lake Salda. It is not too hot, the air is fresh and in general, it is almost always sunny. The lake water is cool and great for swimming.

Autumn and spring are good seasons too, but it is too cold for swimming. In spring, it is usually rainier than in autumn. Anyway, you can still enjoy the stunning views of the lake.

Winter is from December to the end of March. And it is cold and snowy. Sometimes, the snow cover can reach almost 1 m. However, the lake water doesn’t freeze due to the high magnesium content in the water. In winter, you can enjoy another attraction- there is Salda Ski Center (Salda Kayak Merkezi), located south of the lake, not far from Yeşilova. Here you can go skiing while watching the lake below- it is fantastic!

Soup
Salda

We left Lake Salda- still a hidden, off-the-beaten, deep blue pearl in the highlands of Minor Asia, and proceeded on our journey to Pamukkale and the ancient cities of Hierapolis, Laodicea, and Colossae. But its heavenly color remained in our hearts, so we would be happy to go there again. Who knows, next time probably it will already become a famous and much more developed tourist destination. This would have its benefits, but we all wish it would not harm this gem and Lake Salda will remain a piece of paradise in the future.

Take a look at this video for more impressions from Lake Salda:

Check some travel books about Turkey:

   

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A comprehensive guide about Lake Salda in Turkey- an off-the-beaten piece of paradise with turquoise color and glimpse of the planet Mars. A comprehensive guide about Lake Salda in Turkey- an off-the-beaten piece of paradise with turquoise color and glimpse of the planet Mars.

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