With Turkish Airlines planning to launch flights between Istanbul and Melbourne (and possibly Sydney) by late 2023, there’s never been a better time to start planning a visit to one of Europe’s most intriguing countries.
Straddling western and eastern Europe, and with centuries of history and culture to explore, Turkey — now officially known as the Republic of Turkiye — offers every sort of holiday imaginable. From the bustling streets and labyrinthian laneways of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, to the ancient ruins of Ephesus and Bodrum, the natural wonders of Cappadocia, and the shimmering beachfronts of resort cities like Antalya and Marmaris, there’s an endless array of places to go and things to do.
Dedicated beach goers will find their happy place along the thousand-kilometre Turkish Riviera — the stretch of Aegean and Mediterranean coastline between Bodrum and Antalya. Also known as the ‘Turquoise Coast’ (for reasons that will quickly become apparent), the region is characterised by exquisite sand and pebble beaches, gentle swells, dramatic terrain, and picturesque resort towns and villages. And who knows — you may love it so much, you’ll decide to purchase your own piece of paradise. The Turkish Riviera offers a wealth of possibilities for both holidaymakers and property investors, and real estate in Alanya for expats is always in high demand — as it is in other resort centres such as Kalkan and Fethiye.
Here are five of the most amazing resort towns on the Turkish Riviera.
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Connected to Istanbul by direct domestic flights of just one hour, it makes sense to start your exploration of the Riviera in Antalya — the largest urban centre on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. This city of two million people is renowned for its wide beaches and exceptional weather (Antalya enjoys an average of 300 days of sunshine every year). It’s a popular travel destination for Turkish nationals, foreign tourists, and expats alike, and the vibe is cosmopolitan and relaxed. Upscale resorts and beach clubs line the oceanfront, and the city has a diverse seasonal nightlife.
There’s also plenty to recommend this destination to visiting history buffs, along with those interested in art and culture. Spend some time exploring the atmospheric old centre (known as Kaleici) — home to epic Hadrian’s Gate, which dates back to 130 AD. The Antalya Archaeological Museum is worthy of a linger and houses a collection of more than 5,000 artefacts (including ancient mosaics, statues, and haunting sarcophagi). Devote a few hours to exploring the Perge archaeological site — a Lycian settlement just 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre.
Situated 140 kilometres east of Antalya, Alanya is one of the most charming holiday destinations in Turkey. Smaller and less frenetic than Antalya, it offers a captivating combination of pristine beaches, warm seas, stunning topography, a beautifully preserved old town, and plenty of cultural attractions.
The city is dominated by the medieval-era Alanya Castle, which sits high on a rocky peninsular and offers incredible views of the surrounding landscape. The Ickale (inner castle) open-air museum is a fascinating step back in time and will afford you a sweeping view of the city’s beaches — including famous Cleopatra to the west. So named because the Egyptian queen is said to have favoured bathing in its crystal-clear waters, this 2.5-kilometre stretch of sand is broken down into numbered sections — each with its own set of amenities and sun lounges for hire. Cleopatra is incredibly popular with visitors and ranked as one of Turkey’s top beaches. It’s a great spot to while away a temperate afternoon, before watching the sun drop beyond the Mediterranean’s seemingly endless horizon.
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Just over one hundred kilometres west of Antalya (a scenic drive of around four hours along the coast), Kalkan has morphed from what was a small Greek fishing village in the early 20th century to what is now one of Turkey’s holiday hot spots. Particularly popular with British travellers, luxury resorts and villas cascade down Kalkan’s hillsides towards an almost picture-perfect harbour and old town — defined by narrow thoroughfares, white-washed buildings, and eclectic shopping boutiques. One of the big attractions of a visit to Kalkan is undoubtedly the ease of access to the surrounding area’s phenomenal beaches; there are more than 20 to check out, and each has its own unique charm. Kaputas Beach, for example, is a tiny cove framed by steep cliffs, while Patara is a vast stretch of golden sand (the longest beach in Turkey).
An hour’s drive west of Kalkan will bring you to fabulous Fethiye — a port town ringed by forest-clad mountain peaks. There are few visitors who wouldn’t fall for this relatively low-key city, which is best known for its seasonal cruises on gulets (traditional handcrafted wooden vessels) and proximity to the famous and much photographed Oludeniz lagoon — a sublime melange of shifting white sand and ultra-blue water. Fethiye is also renowned as a hub for adventure activities — and from hiking and mountain bike riding, to wakeboarding and parasailing, there are plenty of ways to shake things up during your stay.
Those with an interest in the past will want to check out the many surviving remnants of the Lycian kingdom (including the cliff face Tomb of Amyntas), along with the abandoned Greek village of Kayakoy — evacuated following the Greek-Turkish population exchange of 1923. At the end of each day, feast on the freshest of local seafood — much of which is sold directly from fisherman at the Fethiye Fish Market.
Sitting pretty on the southern Aegean coast, Bodrum ranks as one of Turkey’s top tourist destinations — and it’s not hard to work out why. This historic port city melds modernity and antiquity with absolute ease: one minute you can be walking through the ruins of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), and the next, marvelling at the million-dollar boating bling filling the berths of the busy marina. The city has plenty of five-star resorts and luxury developments, but step off the beaten track just a little and you’ll quickly find yourself cocooned in whitewashed laneways festooned with vibrant bougainvillea blooms. Down on the oceanfront, bars and restaurants jostle for attention — almost to the water’s edge in places, leaving just a narrow strip of pebbled beach shaded by a kaleidoscope of colourful beach umbrellas.
There are endless ways to while away your days in Bodrum. Take a cooking class, discover the delights of a traditional Turkish bath (hammam), or book a boat cruise along the uber photogenic coastline. Leave time to explore the 15th-century Bodrum Castle and adjacent Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology.
This post was published thanks to Turk.Estate.
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Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of top resort towns on the Turkish Riviera? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Envato
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.