Few countries have quite as wide a variety to offer the discerning traveler as Turkey. From the almost mythic-seeming “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia to the artsy elegance of Istanbul, from the ruins of Pergamum and Ephesus to the emerald forests of the northeast coast of the Black Sea, from the whirling dervishes of Konya to the Armenian ruins of Ani at Kars, Turkey contains multitudes upon multitudes of sites for exploration. But few elements of Turkey’s booming tourism trade are as singular as its seaside resorts.
Boasting two seas – the Mediterranean and the Black Sea – along its borders, Turkey has more excellent seaside resorts than most travelers could visit in a lifetime, each with its own unique “feel.” From the luxury and elegance of Kas to the peace and quiet of undiscovered Olympos, each of Turkey’s resorts offers something different.
Unfortunately, in recent years, a number of Mediterranean Turkish resorts have been taken over by package tourists and party-seeking holiday-makers, their authentic charm vanishing in a sea of drinks specials and “foam parties.” Luckily, most of Turkey’s resorts still maintain their classic appeal. We here at Never Fly Coach Again have put together six of Turkey’s most appealing seaside resorts.
Perhaps the most beautiful of all the seaside resorts listed here, the fishing-village of Kas, with its winding cobblestone streets and traditional whitewashed Ottoman houses, is the best choice for the traveler in search of a perfect combination of authenticity and amenity. With its jutting rock beaches and numerous resorts – Peninsula Gardens, a minibus ride away from the heart of the old town, is among the best hotel-restaurantss in Turkey, with a perfect blend of pools and private swimming platforms – Kas is the ideal base from which to visit many of the region’s historic and cultural attractions: among them the Limannagzi Beach and the ruins of Kekova. Stop by the Sultan Gardens for their signature dish: squid stuffed with a shrimp-and-spinach mixture. Ferry day trips operate almost daily to the Greek island of Kastellorizo twenty minutes away.
Long considered the jewel in the Blue Coast’s crown, Kalkan has lost some of its cachet for “authenticity” in recent years, but what it lacks in down-home charm it makes up for in luxury: this is the place to go to indulge. With over 200 restaurants, Kalkan has more restaurants per square mile than any other town or village in the country – so be sure to sample them all: from family restaurants to more elegant offerings. While there are a number of fine guesthouse accommodations in the village, travelers for whom money is no object are advised to rent one of the hillside villas that surround Kas, many of which come fitted with infinity pools (not to mention mind-boggling views of the sea below).
Ever wanted to escape to your own private deserted island? It may not be possible, but Olympos – a tiny settlement located by a ruined Lycian city – is the closest you’ll get in Turkey. Due to the archaeological riches as-yet uncatalogued in the area, permanent construction is forbidden here. But savvy entrepreneurs have gotten around this rule by constructing “temporary” treehouses and wooden cabins – the rustic lodgings for which Olympos is famous. Rent a cottage of your very own for a song – breakfast and dinner buffets tend to be included. You may find, like so many “regulars” who have been there for weeks or months, that you never want to escape Olympos’s hidden charms.
If culture and history are more your style than suntanning for hours, forego Kas, Kalkan, and Olympos altogether and head to Antalya: the historic city that serves as a de facto capital of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. The Kaleici, or Old Quarter, of Antalya is almost entirely pedestrianized; wander through the town to see examples of its Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman past. Visit the famous “fluted minaret”, the Ottoman clock tower, and the ruins of the old Roman temple, since converted into the Broken Minaret Mosque. Stop by the “Owl Bookstore” – Antalya’s premier used-bookstore – to stock up on English-language reads and converse with the eccentric intellectual proprietor, Kemal.
Unlike the other resorts on this list, Amasra is located not on the Mediterranean but to the north, on the Black Sea. You’re less likely to find Americans or the English here; visitors tend to be local, giving Amasra a more “authentic” feel than some of the other seaside resorts in Turkey. There’s much to do and see here: including the Church Mosque, a 9th-century Byzantine church later converted into a place for Muslim worship, a Roman castle with Byzantine walls, and the first-century Roman “Bird’s Rock” monument.
Located further north on the Mediterranean than Antalya, Olympos, Kalkan, or Kars, the Aegean town of Ayvalik is known for its Greek population and legacy; for centuries, the city was inhabited by Greeks, until a 1923 “population swap” forced locals to change places with ethnic Turks who had been living in Crete. Today, though, the whitewashed houses do feel more Greek, rather than Turkish. There is plenty here to attract the “cultural” and “spa” traveler alike: visit the churches and monasteries on nearby Alibey (aka Cunda) Island, or simply spend an afternoon relaxing on Sarimsakli Beach, where a number of eateries and guesthouses offer fresh fish and a soft bed for the night.