Turkey’s Mediterranean shore, called the Turquoise Coast, is nearly 1600 km (994 miles) long (map), scattered with fine-sand beaches and sprinkled abundantly with classical cities turned to picturesque ruins.
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 does 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.
Here they are from west to east [map]:
Whether you consider Bodrum the south end of the Aegean or the west end of the Mediterranean, it is still Turkey’s foremost chic seaside resort, with two perfect bays framing a noble crusader castle, and the flashiest discos in the land.
“Green Marmaris” is Turkey’s most active yachting port, and a likely departure point for your Blue Voyage yacht cruise.
Peaceful and quiet, this traditional town sits on the shore of large, placid Köyceğiz Lake connected to the Mediterranean by the reedy Dalyan River. Hot springsare nearby.
This river town in the shadow of dramatic rock tombs cut into a sheer cliff is near the ruins of ancient Caunos and wide İztuzu Beach, both reached by riverboat.
Not much of a place to visit on its own, Dalaman is home to the western Med coast’s largest airport, with regular service from Istanbul and Ankara, and several international flights. Nearby Sarıgerme is a little-known but fine beach resort.
Small, pristine and charming, this is primarily a nice port of call for yachters, but you can stop and enjoy it even if you’re only the captain of a Toyota.
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.
Over the mountains south of Fethiye, this is perhaps Turkey’s most beautiful beach, and also its most popular.
A tiny charming fishing village has become a yacht portwith nice little restaurants.
A lazy pace governs this nice little resort town far enough from the airports to preserve a lot of its charm. This is as close to “uncrowded” as you’ll find on the Turkish Mediterranean.
Dramatic cliff tombs loom above a huge Roman theater, and vegetables grow everywhere in the rich alluvial soil. This is where St Nicholas did his good works, and where he is buried. Stop and say “Hi!” to Santa!
Once called Phoenicus, Finike is now a sleepy fishing town with a long pebble beach nearby.
Roman ruins scattered in a pine forest, a secluded beach, fertile fields, and the Chimaera, the world’s oldest and best-known natural “eternal flame,” make Olimpos and Çıralı great places to spend a few days.
Once a thriving port shipping timber and rose oil, Phaselis is now a beatiful 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.
The coast north of Kemer is lined with posh self-contained resort complexes.
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.
This planned resort district 36 km (22 miles) east of Antalya has sprawling resort hotels with lush golf courses. If you like large resort hotels with many activities, this may be the place for you.
Imagine a traditional Turkish village scattered among the extensive ruins of a Hellenistic–Roman city: that’s Side (SEE-deh), and it has a kilometer of fine sand beachon either side. Neighboring Manavgat has a nice waterfall and more practical shopping.
Once a small, quiet town favored by Seljuk Turkish sultans on vacation, it’s now a large and fast-growing resort for package-tour beach-goers. The promontory at its center is topped by a dramatic Seljuk fortress. Its beaches go on for miles.
A craggy fortress with one foot in the sea guards a spooky Byzantine ghost town in this undiscovered beachfront town.
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.
A simple seaside village has grown into a resort town mostly because of two medieval fortresses, a fine small beach, and interesting ancient ruins in the hills inland.
A modern commercial port city, Mersin has ferries to Turkish Cyprus.
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.
Turkey’s fourth largest city is fast-growing because of the local agriculture (think cotton) and light industry, but not all that interesting for tourists.
Formerly Alexandretta, this mostly modern port townhas a few interesting sights on its outskirts.
Set back from the coast, this ancient city has Roman remains, particularly its incomparable mosaics, as well as a cave said to be the oldest Christian church. There’s a beach and more ancient relics at Samandağ.
—by Tom Brosnahan
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