The Ultimate Guide to Summer Destinations in Turkey
Summer on the Turkish coast is just like the rest of the Mediterranean — in Spain, Italy, France and Greece. People like to enjoy their time out with family and friends, preferably on a beach on a hot day, followed by an evening of barbecue enjoyed on the patios of their summer houses. If you’re headed to Turkey, then make a note and plan your trip to one of these summer destinations after your trip to Istanbul.
Check out our other article on the Top 10 Cities and attractions outside of Istanbul too!
Turkey is full of natural wonders and one of the best times to visit the country is during early summer or in high season if that’s what you prefer. But keep in mind that summers are hot and humid on the beautiful Turquoise Coast of Turkey. Scattered with ancient ruins, traditional bazaars in port cities, this is our round up of the ultimate summer destinations of the country.
Turkey is surrounded by many seas and the three most important of them all are the Black Sea (to the North), the Aegean Sea (on the West) and the Mediterranean Sea in the South. Connecting Europe to Asia, is of course, the beautiful city of Istanbul.
However, if sun, sand and sea is your mantra during the hot summer months, then you’ll have to head to the coasts of the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas for the best of the best.
Small sleeping villages along with world renowned resort hotels, Turkey has much to offer to summer holiday makers.
Now, let’s get take a look at our ultimate summer destinations guide below!
Bodrum was a sleepy little seaside town at the intersection of the Aegean and the Mediterranean Sea twenty years ago. Having been discovered by exiled artists and new celebrities since then, it has gained titles such as the ‘St Tropez of Turkey’ given its place in the Turquoise Coast.
It’s one of the best getaways for all kinds of budgets and is known for its party spots. Five-star hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental (with the price of a room going for 5k Liras/night) to less chic but perfectly delightful stone houses turned into boutique hotels in the city centre are all within reach.
Moreover, visit the Hospitaller castle overlooking the bay and visit the underwater Archaeological museum inside and the ruins of ancient Halicarnassus not far away, home of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. Known as Halicarnassus in ancient times, Bodrum is the resting place for ancient Caria’s governor, Mausolus. From his name we actually get the English word “mausoleum”! Pretty neat!
The Bodrum peninsula was the playground of the rich and for many years, but with the economy not doing well and political problems plaguing the country, it no longer caters like it used to. Tourism, both domestic and international, is a driver of the local economy, however.
Small fishing villages dot its peninsula today and there are some amazing hotels, shopping complexes and chic beach resorts and clubs. Summers bring in both international and domestic visitors. Spending a holiday in Bodrum can be said to be right of passage for most well-to-do Turks.
Before you leave the main town of Bodrum, buy tickets for a day-long boat trip from the seaside to the nearby coves with other swimmers. Hire a gulet for a “Blue Voyage” with family and friends. Alternatively, you could do some windsurfing or wakeboarding in nearby Bitez or Akyarlar.
2. Antalya & Side
Antalya has everything: ancient ruins, sandy beaches and top notch resorts! One such is Side. It is a famous resort town with classical ruins, just a mere 30 minutes from Antalya. It’s pronounced ‘sea-de,‘ this small village has an ancient fort and a beautiful bay with sandy beaches on either side. You can buy some local souvenirs in its old bazaar or if you’re lucky, you can even shop at the Saturday market, a local fresh produce market that only operates on Saturdays. In the evenings, you can choose to have a bite in the sea-facing restaurants. Enjoy a drink or two in some of local bars and clubs lining the seaside.
In Side, you can find the ancient temples of Apollo and Athena and even a Roman bath. It was part of an ancient Pamphylian city and has many streets paved with cobblestones. The town is famous for its ancient ruins and its beaches. If you aren’t into history, you can always head to Antalya or Lara or Belek to play golf or relax on the beach.
However, since this is the ultimate summer destinations list, you’re probably looking to have a nice beach holiday. Side and Kemer both are known for their beautiful beaches and boutique beach clubs and resorts attached to it. You can do many different activities such as diving, renting sports equipment such as jet skis and banana boat rides.
A few minutes away, you can choose to visit from natural sights such as the Manavgat waterfall and its nearby cafes. You can spend the day here and enjoy the lights at night near this attraction.
3. Kaş & Kalkan
Although Kaş is part of the bigger Antalya province, it deserves its own special mention in this list! A small fishing village turned into a popular tourist spot, this cute place on the Mediterranean coast is just a mere two hours’ drive from the big city of Antalya.
You can laze around on the beach at the pebbly and sandy but stunning blue beach of Kaputaş. Alternatively, grab a a book or two and enjoy a lazy day in one of the waterfront cafes! Although the seaside is mostly rocky, this hasn’t stopped tourists and domestic visitors from enjoying its peaceful and unspoiled atmosphere in the hot summer months. And it can get crowded, so instead head to Patara or a bit further away to Kalkan.
Kalkan is one of the most popular places for retirees from the UK who rent out a week’s worth or even decide to stay at this beautiful town.
There are also ancient ruins in Antiphellos, and opposite the bay you’ll see the Greek/Italian island of Megisti or Kastellorizo! A day trip from here to the smallest of the Greek islands is worth it in our travel to do list! If you like hiking, then the Lycian trail should be on your to do list too and you can start you trip fro Patara or Demre and beyond.
4. Fethiye & Ölüdeniz
Home to nearby Oludeniz, Fethiye is a paradise for nature lovers. Muğla is one of the leading holiday destinations and there’s not just one beautiful place, you’ve got many options. Home to Ölüdeniz and the nature reserve of Butterfly Valley, Fethiye can be an amazing getaway for summer lovers!
Fethiye is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world. Green one side and the blue on the other, Fethiye is an ideal destination for those in love with the outdoors. You can both hike in the mornings and take a dip in the pristine waters of the sea here. Hiking on the Lycian Trail is a popular activity for hiking enthusiasts here. On the other hand, Butterfly Valley is a nature reserve for butterflies and scuba diving, camping and hiking are allowed, but with limited structures and facilities to protect the area.
Visitors can visit its famous Çalış Beach just a few kilometers away. You can also visit the ancient Lycian city of Telmessos and its ruins all around the city. Rich in ancient cultural and archaeological artefacts and sites, it has such sights like Lycian tombs and the ancient Telmessos theatre. You can take a look at these at the Fethiye Museum, for instance.
At the harbour, you can hop a ride for a day long boat ride and visit some of the many smaller islands in the city’s bay and beyond such as Kizil Ada and the many smaller villages in the area such as Gemile, Aziz Ağa or Akvaryum. Fethiye and Marmaris in fact are favourites of visitors from the UK.
5. Izmir & Çesme
Overlooking the blue waters of the Aegean sea and not far away from the Greek island of Chios is Çeşme, 40 minutes away from Izmir. Its beach clubs and nightlife is famous around the country and you should know about it too! Sandy beaches, turquoise waters and hotels for all budgets, you’ll find that this small Aegean village turned popular spot has a lot to offer. It’s an extremely popular destinations for Turkish out-of-towners, especially Istanbullites.
Check out our article on Turkey’s third largest city, the Pearl of the Aegean, Izmir in our Brief Guide to Izmir.
Small neighbourhoods, cobblestoned streets and unique boutiques, cafes and restaurants will make you fall in love. You can also enjoy fresh fish here and even local wine from neighbouring Urla. Both places are popular for their beaches; so popular in fact, that people from out of town are buying up houses here by the dozen! For hot summer nights, we recommend posh Alaçatı where people enjoy mezes and glasses of raki on its cobbled streets! Enjoy the villages vineyards, windmills and architecture here!
The busy harbour has a chic marina and even late night live music for those humid and hot nights after spending some quality time at some of the popular beach resorts such as Papparazi. Enjoy some local ice cream near the old town. It’s made of wild berries or if you’re hungry, grab a local sandwich called Kumru. It is stuffed with hot cheese, sausage, tomato and pickled cucumbers, it’s served in a hard shelled sandwich bun sprinkled with sesame seeds.
A short 1.5 hours drive from Izmir, Kuşadası is where you’ll find yourself. This port city is famous for being a pit stop for many Aegean and Mediterranean cruise ships. A popular destination in recent years, you can find beautiful beaches, sea side restaurants and cafes around.
The cobbled streets of the old town gives it an authentic feel while the more modern resorts will offer some great sun and sand for those seeking it. Not far, you’ll also find the ancient city of Ephesus. This was an important archaeological site with an ancient history as a port city (no longer near the water now) and a religious site. Destroyed by earthquakes, it was later discovered and now serves as one of Turkey’s most important museums, with the Temple of Artemis and not far away, the House of the Virgin Mary. Of course, ask the locals and they’ll recommend that you visit the quaint town of Sirince on the hilltops not far away.
A hidden Mediterranean paradise, Marmaris is gorgeous! This port city is beautiful and surrounded by tall mountains and greenery on one side and the beautiful blue waters on the other. It’s also where some of Turkey’s richest hang out in expensive international hotels such as D Maris Bay and go see the super yachts in the Netsel Marina!
Of course, if you want to experience Marmaris as a local, head to the local bazaars and buy some Turkish towels, handmade soaps and some charms. Marmaris is also great for sun seekers, so head to the beaches such as the Long Beach and Urban Beach. The busiest one being the Urban beach and the less crowded is the Long beach. Of course, there are chic cafes, cute bars and bohemian restaurants that you can in many places along the beaches. You can also choose to do some scuba diving, snorkelling and even go to waterparks which are great for those with kids!
Alternatively, you can choose to buy tickets for a day long boat ride or visit the local castle that’s now a museum. Nearby beaches and cute towns such as Içmeler and Selimiye are also worth the visit!
8. Bozcaada & Gökçeada
When one hears of Bozacaada and Gökçeada, you’re reminded that these are perhaps some of the only known islands of Turkey, other than the Princes Islands in Istanbul!
Rarely visited by foreigners, we recommend a day or two on both islands to enjoy the local wines, vineyards, food, beaches and ancient sites such as the castle/fort.
Both islands are mentioned in Homer’s Illiad and the Odyssey as Tenedos and Imbros, for instance:
“..in the depths of the sea midway between Tenedos and rocky Imbros; here Neptune lord of the earthquake stayed his horses, unyoked them, and set before them their ambrosial forage. He hobbled their feet with hobbles of gold which none could either unloose or break, so that they might stay there in that place until their lord should return.”
Tenedos was where the hero Tenes from the Trojan War was from and Imbros was settled by ancient Athenians. More recent archaeological findings have proven that the island’s been inhabited for at least 5000 years. In recent history, the islands passed from the Venetians to the Genoese, then to the Ottomans, then to the Italians again and to Russians, and eventually to the Turks in the settlement of the Turkish question and the War of Independence with the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923.
Today, both islands are known for their vineyards, fishing and tourism which are the islands’ main sources of income. Get lost in the streets of the islands, see old Greek houses, ancient windhills and even monasteries. There’s even an island museum in Gökçeada! You can catch a ride in the ferries from the Çannakale peninsula and straits to visit both the islands. In between, don’t forget the legendary city of Troy. To learn more about Troy, read our article on the Top 10 Archaeological Sites of Turkey!
Dalyan takes its name from the Dalyan River and is located in one of the best green spaces in the country! The river delta and an upstream lake is a protected region as the stunning Iztuzu beach is nesting and breeding ground for endangered turtles.
Tourism and agriculture drive the economy here. Small boats, the only ones allowed, travel the length of the river offering river tours and riverside dining. Opposite the town lies the ruins of the ancient Carian city of Kaunos. It was once an important port city!
Furthermore, the whole area is scattered with tombs, baths, city walls, an acropolis and an amphitheatre. Rock-cut tombs carved into the rocks can be seen from the riverside are one of Dalyan’s main attractions.
10. Assos & Behramkale
Assos also known as Behramkale in Turkish is a tiny village in Ayvacik, almost 80 kms further away from Canakkale. This is again an ancient site that’s been inhabited continuously for a very long time. Ancient Assos has a famous Athenian temple built in the Doric order which an archaeological team excavation around 40 or so years ago and the excavations continue. What they’ve found is that Assos had an amphitheatre, an agora, a necropolis.
And of course, we’ve got the beautiful untouched Assos harbour which stands in the waters overlooking the Aegean. It can be seen from the hilltop of the Assos ruins.
A protected archaeological site, the modern village today itself is outside the ancient ruins and its sites. In the past, Assos has seen Lesbonians (yes, Lesbos is quite near, you can see it from the hilltop!), Persians, Byzantines and others take control of it until the Ottomans took over eventually. Assos is also where the famous polymath/mathematician and philosopher Aristotle lived for a few years.
To enjoy its beaches, there are many coves such as Kadirga cove, Babakale, Yesil Liman, Sivrice, amongst others. Kadirga is perhaps the most well known and prefered by visitors. A long line of beaches near the seaside will be enough to enjoy this quiet spot of ancient history!