Izmir and the Aegean Coast
There are several great reasons to base yourself in the ancient city and port of Izmir. Its close proximity to the airport makes it accessible and convenient for a short triste, and its location close to historical sights and several beach resorts along the Aegean adds more options.
The city unfolds around a huge bay pleated by several rivers and streams and stretches out into a major metropolis hemmed by mountains. Though it has an ancient heritage, there is a European essence in its broad boulevards, contemporary buildings and shopping centres. But this is tempered by old mosques such as the 16th century Hisar Mosque and churches, and the well preserved Roman and Greek remains at the ancient market place of Agora where you can stroll around collonades and ruins.
Turkish authenticity still looms large in the district of Kemeralt home to an an expansive, lively and very colourful 17th century bazaar specialising in antiques.
But the place to be at sunset is by Kordonboyu, the seafront promenade and its pleasant grassy area, sipping an Efes beer in a meyhane (taverna) or a European styled cafe, and enjoying the seaviews and mountains beyond.
Though the city has a shore it is not a beach resort but it is close to several towns that are, so you could enjoy a city/beach combo.
Head south to the Cesme Peninsular where the landscape transforms into fields of artichokes and aniseed, fig trees and groves that lead to golden ribbbons of sand, and countless romantic bays all lapped by the waters of the Aegean sea.
The resort of Ilica, known for its thermal springs that sometimes appear in the sea itself especially around Sifne Bay, is also a well developed holiday resort with a fabulously long white sand beach and warm vibrant blue waters.
Together with the neighbouring beach town of Alcati, whose landscape features hilly vineyards and windmills, the duo have become windsurfing favourite thanks to steady high winds that blow in from the sea.
There are three somewhat quieter beaches too at Altinkum and Pirlanda and even more so at Kaputa,s a spectacular beach reached via a gorge,where there are so few amenities that you have to take a picnic.
Dalaman and the Turquoise Coast (Turkish Riviera)
When the ancient Lycians set up their homes in the south west of Turkey they chose what is probably Turkey’s most beautiful stretch of coastline and landscape.
It edges out onto the Mediterranean with some sandy swathes of beach, behind which are jagged, forest-hugging slopes. For undisurbed serenity seek out the 12km long beach at Patara and the hidden cove at Cirali which is engulfed by citrus groves and two miles of shingle beach.
The Dalyan resort has a quiet long sandy beach overlooked by pine trees and not much else except for a sprinkling of restaurants. These are shallow waters and safe for young families and is also home to a sea-turtle nesting ground. If you keep an eye out you may spot their tiny footprints in the sand. There’s a turtle sanctuary which can be visited – it’s about an hour’s walk from the jetty and worth the stroll.
A little more vibrant is Oludeniz beach yet it is just as picturesque with its curvaceous bay and mountainous backdrop. Though its long beach is mainly shingle, it leads to a tranquil blue lagoon which, in part, is a protected national park. Overall it is so beautiful that you may just want to stop and stare a while and while you do you may see the hang gliders launching from the mountains and yachts taking to the sea, while young families enjoy frolicking in the sun and the sand.
Make sure you also read Alanya, Turkey – beachside holiday resort
The hilltop cities of Xanthos, Letoon and Arykanda are close by and if you look out onto the horizon from up there, you will see glinting hues of blue light that have given the Turquoise Coast its moniker.
While still in Lycian hands, the dead were buried in monumental rock tombs and these are scattered all over the landscape. There’s also the signposted 509km-long Lycian Way trail from Fethiye to Antalya. It meanders through the pine forest that leads either to the ruins and beach of Olympos or to the lighthouse on Cape Gelidonya where you can stay the night.
The easiest way to approach the coast is by landing at Dalaman airport and using Highway 400 between Mamaris and Antala and taking in all the sights in between.
Suggested reading: Travel Guide: a weekend in Istanbul