Not far from the Club Med Palmiye resorts lies the queen of Turkey’s beach destinations – Antalya. You can't fail to be impressed by the mix of old town charm, historical places of interest and beach life that is amongst the best in Europe. Take a stroll through the local market for an authentic slice of spice-fumed commerce or head further afield to mysterious caves and waterfalls. Simply get lost in its winding streets with something memorable around every corner or watch the fishermen haggle with restaurateurs at the old harbour. The sun shines all year round and there are few better resorts for families, couples and those travelling on their own to follow their own path and enjoy the things they love to do on holiday.
For the holiday maker, Turkey has an abundance of riches from beach to city and everywhere in between. As well as being blessed with natural beauty there is a rich history to be found across the land and blissful breaks by the sea can also be mixed with travels back in time. There is so much choice of where to go and what to do it can be difficult to decide what to book. We’ve tried to provide some help by picking our top 10 places you should seriously consider on your itinerary.
Top Destinations in Turkey
Istanbul has to be experienced to be fully believed. Almost 2000 years of history is ready to be explored, dating back to the Byzantine era. Nowadays, the city is alive with colour and noise and over ten million people head there to see world famous sights such as the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. But it’s the everyday life that will charm you in equal measure as the cultures of East and West meet in one melting pot of delicious cuisine, stunning architecture and vibrant atmosphere that runs throughout the city. Enjoy some tea with the locals or photograph the monuments with the crowds, there is more than enough to enjoy for a week or two if you’re happy to forgo the beach and instead revel in Istanbul’s absolute abundance of excitement and beauty.
Brilliant Bodrum is the glamorous resort in Turkey frequented by the rich and famous and also open to you as a holiday destination, including a superb Club Med. Built on the site of ancient Halikarnassus, it’s a place of fancy hotels, superyachts and designer sunglasses. There are a number of smaller resorts along the coast near Bodrum if you want more isolation but everywhere you'll find amazing beaches, famously white houses, your own special cove, lovely little villages and nightclubs where you’ll feel like a member of the jet set. Choose a day trip and we’d recommend the remarkable Ephesus, one of the most complete ancient cities in the world. But make sure you see the castle, find as many windmills as possible, take a seat at the amphitheatre and visit the world class museum. Maybe you should book a longer holiday?
Whether it’s the spectacular beaches or many ancient secrets, the Fethiye region is a firm favourite amongst tourists. The beaches are a glorious golden whilst further inland forests and lakes await your discovery during beautiful day outs. There are a number of smaller coastal resorts that make up the area such as Oludeniz, Ovacik and Hisaronu. Fethiye itself comes highly recommended for those who want their authentic bazaars, luxury yachts, cobbled old town, museums and a great mix of food and drink. You’ll be hard pressed to tell that the entire area was destroyed by an earthquake 70 years ago and the modern tourist trap has been avoided by sympathetic architecture that keeps the town low key yet exciting. Of the many local adventures available, we’d recommend discovering the ancient city of Telmessos up in the cliffs including the spectacular Tomb of Amyntas hewn from stone in 350 BC.
Would you like to spend your holiday in Turkey on water skis or the back of a horse? For those who prefer some adrenaline to go with their sunshine, Kaş is ideal. The beaches are not the best in Turkey but they're still lovely. The town itself has a laid-back, boho atmosphere that has attracted artists and craftspeople for many years. Like much of Turkey, there are plenty of ancient ruins to be explored nearby and we’d recommend visiting the newly restored Antiphellos Ancient Theatre. But what really sets the area apart is the opportunity to take part in scuba diving (there are plenty of wrecks offshore), climbing, horse riding, paragliding and many other sporting activities. The famous Lycian Way, one of the best hiking trails in the world, is also close by.
You don't have to be near a beach to have an amazing holiday in Turkey. Cappadocia is perfect for those who want to explore further afield to find remarkable landscapes. The region is renowned for its rock formations commonly referred to as ‘fairy chimneys’. The rock itself has been moulded by human hands to create accommodation, churches and museums. It's even possible to book a stay in a cave. Another famous sight is the hundreds of hot air balloons that swarm across the sky every morning. It never gets old and you may want to join those up above and enjoy the fairytale scenery below. For hikers, there are few better places in the world with lots of trails to try. With magical towns to discover, castles to visit and wines to taste, every day of your holiday is a surreal, stunningly visual experience.
Apart from the 300 days of sunshine a year, Kuşadası has everything else you need for the perfect Turkish beach holiday. The attractive city even has a beach right in its centre where women used to bathe away from their menfolk. But there is plenty of golden coastline for everyone to enjoy by the sea with all mod cons and an array of boat trips as well. The shopping in the city is superb as well if you fancy a break from the sun and The Grand Bazaar should not be missed. The eating and drinking is exemplary. Day trips? Kuşadası has some stunners to enjoy with an abundance of ancient ruins close by including Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis. There is also lots of nature to be hiked and explored and you should pay a visit to Pigeon Island, a little outcrop of mystery with its small fortress and pirate past. You can access it from a small causeway at the beach.
Many assume Istanbul is the Turkish capital but in fact Anakar has held that title since 1923. This is the place to go if museums and arts is your idea of a great holiday destination. Where to start with the places to visit? The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations has a massive collection of archaeology. Ankara castle offers brilliant views. The Roman baths provide a fascinating window into the past. For the kids there is Gençlik Park with its iconic Ferris wheels, mini-train rides, beautiful gardens and even an open air theatre. Wonderland Eurasia, just outside the city, is one of Europe's largest theme parks and includes 20+ roller coasters and a Dinosaur Jungle with life size inhabitants to scare the little ones. April and May are a great time to visit for both The Ankara International Film Festival and Ankara Music Festival packed full of interesting events and performances. For active families, cultural couples and those who love the past, Anakar surely is one of the best destinations in Turkey.
The Southern Turkish beach resort of Kemer is about 40m along the coast from Atalya but provides a great alternative to that busy resort. It offers the beauty and beaches (Moonlight Bay is our favourite) you want from your holiday and plenty of walks under the shadow of the fabulous Taurus Mountains. The Marina is the place to head in the evening for great food and sophisticated drinks as you watch the glorious sun go down over the horizon. Mount Tahtali cable car offers the best view in the region for those who can handle the heights. The Flaming Rocks of Chimaera are a must-see. Grouped over an area of 5,000 square meters, the rocks have been providing an amazing natural display for thousands of years and will fill your Instagram feed or even boil your water if you’re camping.
If you like your beach resort to be relatively untouched by tourism then maybe you should give Çeşme a go. The waters are blue and inviting and the visitors are mainly from Turkey itself, because they know a good thing when they see it. You’ll adore the long promenade at the seafront and the colourful houses that make up the town itself. Aqua Toy City is a waterpark that your kids will love while you relax in a lounger. Spas and mud baths are a local specialty and you’ll find plenty of places to soothe an aching body. Throw in plenty of day trips and nature rambles and you have the perfect little resort to find an authentic side of Turkey and chill the days away while others cram themselves on busy beaches.