The Turquoise Coast is the first place to think of when you’re considering a seaside vacation in Turkey. It has more and better beaches and resorts than the Aegean coast, and warmer, saltier water than the Black Sea coast. The Taurus (Toros) Mountains form a dramatic backdrop along much of the coast, often dropping steeply right into the sea, but in some places, rivers have washed down enough sediment over the ages to form beaches backed by fertile alluvial plains good for growing cotton, vegetables, and even tropical fruits like bananas.
The Mediterranean has something for everyone: parasailing, boat tours, lively resorts, quiet seaside villages, and ancient historical cities. In many cases, you may want to consider getting a rental car or using a travel agency to assist with transportation between some of the major cities and smaller villages.
The “capital” of the Turquoise Coast, Antalya has a charming old quarter surrounding its Roman harbor, though most of the sprawling city is modern. Most importantly, it’s the coast’s transportation hub, with a huge, busy bus terminal and a large, modern international airport. In Olimpos & Çıralı, Roman ruins are scattered in a pine forest next to a secluded beach, fertile fields, and the Chimaera, the world’s oldest and best-known natural “eternal flame."
Dramatic cliff tombs loom above a huge Roman theater, and vegetables grow everywhere in the rich alluvial soil of Demre/Myra. Once a thriving port for shipping timber and rose oil, Phaselis is now a beautiful park backing its three perfect little bays good for a swim. Built as a modern Mediterranean-style resort in the 1980s, Kemer is filled with group tours. It boasts all sorts of hotels and restaurants, a beach, yacht marina, and a park.
Including: Ölüdeniz, Göcek, Kaş, Kalkan, Patara, Dalyan, Köyceğiz, Dalaman, Muğla, Sarıgerme, & Üçağız/Kale.
West of Antalya, stretching to the border between the Aegean and the Mediterranean, you’ll find a number of charming towns. Built on the ruins of an ancient city, Fethiye has age-old stone sarcophagi in its streets and gardens, rock-hewn tombs in a cliff above the town, an active yacht harbor, a vast bay dotted with islands, and all tourist services. Thrillseekers enjoy parasailing and full-day boat tours in Ölüdeniz.
Quiet villages such as Kaş and Kalkan have grown in popularity in recent years but still maintain their appeal. Close to Kas, Üçağız is a tiny village on a cove with a sunken Roman city and an island (Kekova) with a Byzantine one. For those interested in yachts and an upscale town, Göcek is the place to see. Patara is the birthplace of St.Nicholas aka Santa Claus, but visitors now come for the spacious, very long, very uncrowded beach as well as the sand-covered ruins of St Nick’s Roman town.
Further west, Dalyan is a river town in the shadow of dramatic rock tombs cut into a sheer cliff. It is near the ruins of ancient Caunos and wide İztuzu Beach, both reached by riverboat. Köyceğiz is a peaceful, traditional town that sits on the shore of large, placid Köyceğiz Lake connected to the Mediterranean by the reedy Dalyan River. Hot springs are nearby. Sarıgerme is a little-known but fine beach resort.
East of Antalya
Well worth the short drive from Antalya, the historic Hellenistic–Roman town of Side features extensive ruins and has a kilometer of fine sand beach on either side. Neighboring Manavgat has a nice waterfall and more practical shopping. Belek, a planned resort district 36 km (22 miles) east of Antalya, has sprawling resort hotels with lush golf courses.
Once a small, quiet town favored by Seljuk Turkish sultans on vacation, Alanya is now a large and fast-growing resort for package-tour beach-goers. The promontory at its center is topped by a dramatic Seljuk fortress and its beaches go on for miles. If you like large resort hotels with many activities, this may be the place for you. Aspendos is one of the best-preserved Roman theaters.
Including Mersin, Tarsus, Adana, Hatay, Antakya, İskenderun, İçel, Anamur, Kızkalesi, Taşucu, & Silifke
Adana is Turkey’s fourth-largest city. It’s fast-growing because of the local agriculture (think cotton) and light industry, but not all that interesting for tourists, though it does have a few museums and a large mosque. It’s also known for its spicy Adana kebap. It also has an international airport. The modern commercial port city of Mersin has ferries to Turkish Cyprus. Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul is mostly modern, but you can visit the ancient well said to be St Paul’s, and a Roman gate named for Cleopatra.
Formerly Alexandretta, İskenderun is a mostly modern port town, which has a few interesting sights on its outskirts. If passing through, it’s nice to have a coffee at the seaside next to the new Nihal Atakaş mosque, built in a combination of modern and Seljuk style. Set back from the coast, the ancient city of Antakya (Antioch) has Roman remains, particularly its unique mosaics, as well as a cave said to be the oldest Christian church. There’s a beach and more ancient relics at Samandağ.
A craggy fortress with one foot in the sea guards a spooky Byzantine ghost town in the undiscovered beachfront town of Anamur. Silifke/Taşucu (Ancient Seleukia) is a thriving market town with a few interesting old ruins. Just south, Taşucu is the port for fast ferries to Turkish Cyprus. Kızkalesi is a simple seaside village that has grown into a resort town mostly because of two medieval fortresses, a fine small beach, and interesting ancient ruins in the hills inland.