Aydin, our Turkish guide, says: ‘You did see the ruins, surely?’ as we’re about to leave our hotel in Antalya. We stare back at him, blankly.
‘You didn’t show them?’ Aydin reproaches the manager in disbelief. Without further ado, we are taken down into the subterranean Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman layers beneath the hotel, which the owners had spent 17 years excavating.
We gawp. It’s exquisite.
Our holiday with the Slow Cyclist Company involves e-bikes and hikes through the Taurus Mountains of the ancient, remote province of Pisidia, 60 miles north of Antalya.
There are 12 of us – six couples, all friends. We stay along the way in guest houses, including two nights glamping. Operations supremo Jemima drives the back-up vehicle and all but unpacks our bags in each of our new rooms.
Clare Mann goes on a hiking and e-biking tour through the Taurus Mountains of Turkey’s ancient, remote province of Pisidia with the Slow Cyclist Company. During the trip, they go on a hike through the Koprulu National Park (above)
The demand for e-biking holidays has soared – and for good reason. You can work up a sweat or remain as cool as a cucumber.
Our first stop, via a two-hour minibus trip from Antalya, is Sagalassos. It’s a fabled city that was conquered by Alexander the Great in 4th Century BC. We strike lucky with Aydin, a charismatic historian. ‘In Ephesus the hordes take selfies and pictures of cats. Here it’s just Alexander, the Romans and us,’ he says. I avert my camera from the friendly stray dogs snoozing on the fallen Doric pillars and listen in.
One group member, who says she hasn’t been on a bike for 30 years, leads the pack most of the time. On average, we cycle between ten to 35 miles a day – nothing too arduous. It’s an enriching experience as we chatter in small groups or break away to go solo for a while, breathing in the forests of pine, oaks and juniper.
Some of us are occasional cyclists. Turbo gear on the e-bike – drawing maximum power from the battery – is for wimps (me), while economy gear is for the diehards who want a work out.
The first stop of Clare’s tour, via a two-hour minibus trip from Antalya, is the fabled city Sagalassos. Above is a bird’s eye view of the site
Sagalassos, pictured, was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th Century BC, Clare learns during her tour
One of our group, Jeffrey, makes us titter in his gorgeous Lycra as he powers along, grinning.
Each day merges deliciously into the next with the Slow Cyclist template – a blend of military precision (our guides Aydin and Ramazon are Army veterans) and yavas (laid-back) attitude.
Jemima is waiting in shady spots with drinks and sun-dried apricots.
Lunch is arranged with a family in their home or in a meadow with a trestle table where a kettle sings and tasty flatbread with feta sizzles on an open fire.
We stop to buy mulberries, pause in sleepy villages to eat ice-cream and watch men silently play Rummikub. Cars rarely pass and just the odd lorry rolls by, loaded up with braying donkeys. Wild horses frolic and large tortoises amble across the road. Occasionally, shepherds’ dogs, with spiked, wolf-proof collars, bark furiously.
We stop to greet a semi-nomadic family resting in the shade with 200 goats; they press their simple meal of rice and yogurt on us.
‘The demand for e-biking holidays has soared – and for good reason. You can work up a sweat or remain as cool as a cucumber,’ writes Clare. Above, e-bikes make short work of the rolling hills of Pisidia
Clare says that ‘each day merges deliciously into the next with the Slow Cyclist template’
We hesitate. Aydin whispers: ‘Don’t, that’s all they have.’
In Buyuk Hacilar, we lunch above the village shop on a shady terrace. Three generations of a family serve us a traditional wedding feast: meze, rice, beans with chicken and courgette fritters. How do you find such wonderful hosts, we ask Aydin. By knocking on doors or asking the local mayor for the best cook in the village, he replies.
From the overgrown, forgotten Roman ruins of Adada we walk through the valley along a mile of Roman road – great slabs of rock engineered to fit perfectly.
One spectacular hike is Deli Sarnic in the Koprulu National Park, with tantalising scenery through an elvish kingdom of monolithic boulders, contorted rock formations, secret emerald mossy passageways and splashes of fuchsia pink Judas trees. An elderly farmer and his wife revive us with tea and dried figs as we climb back into civilisation.
The tour group explores the overgrown, forgotten Roman ruins of Adada (pictured above) before walking along a mile of Roman road
On average, the group cycles between ten to 35 miles a day through the Taurus Mountains, Clare (not pictured) reveals. Above is the region’s Tazi canyon
The tasty dishes enjoyed by the Slow Cyclist riders
Our favourite place to stay is the exquisite camp near the hamlet of Cukura, in a wild flower meadow among more stupendous rocky outcrops overlooking the Koprucay river canyon. We swim in the freezing cold, turquoise water and skim stones.
Then, reclining on cushions like potentates after fresh trout and meze we helped prepare in an impromptu cooking lesson, we listen to a group of musicians play the tambourine, oud and kanun. They refuse to continue unless we dance – which, of course, we do.
We sleep so soundly in our bell tents – complete with kilim carpets, proper beds and hot water bottles – that, alas, we miss distant howling wolves.
On our last night we stay with the mayor of Caltepe in his charming guest house: roses in our rooms and homemade jams for breakfast.
There’s one final surprise when a Turkish barber appears and gives our menfolk an outdoor shave. We listen to the violent yelps as nasal hair is singed. The ladies – guests and hosts – roll eyes and snigger, language not a barrier.
The Slow Cyclist offers a six-night journey in the Taurus Mountains from £3,350pp for up to 12 guests from May to October. Cost includes transfers, a support vehicle, full board, e-bicycle, two English-speaking guides and a hostess (theslowcyclist.com). Flights cost extra: easyJet flies from Gatwick to Antalya from £84 return (easyjet.com). Must-packs: padded cycling pants, walking boots, waterproof cape.