Enjoying the quieter side of Turkey
Turkey is a fascinating country with something to offer every traveller. Whether it's culture and history or beaches and hiking, there is something for everyone. Which is probably why Turkey has become such a popular holiday destination. In the summer months it can be hard to find a patch of sand that isn't crowded with umbrellas in the more popular seaside resorts or a historic site that isn't filled with onlookers. But there are still plenty of lesser known places to explore in this fascinating and beautiful country.
One of Turkey’s most iconic regions, the south-west coast – often known as the Turquoise Coast due to it's stunning waters and blue sky - is a great place to holiday if you are looking for a mixture of sun, natural beauty, culture and history. The Turquise Coast is home to a number of Turkey's most popular beach-side resorts and cities, including Bodrum, Feithiye and Antalya. But thanks to it’s imposing mountainous terrain that reaches all the way to the coast there are plenty of secluded beaches and quiet villages to explore, offering you the chance to experience the quieter side of life in Turkey.
With flights to Turkey from Thomas Cook Airlines flying into both Bodrum and Dalaman, the smaller towns along the Turquoise Coast are easily accessible. Here are some we think you should consider for your upcoming holiday.
Just two hours from the popular holiday destination of Bodrum is Didim, a small beachside town that has been a popular holiday destination for Turkish people for many years thanks to it’s mild year round temperatures and higher than average sunny days. It's much quieter than Bodrum but certainly not tourist free. Still, if you get off the main beaches and away from the town center it's very easy to find a secluded bay and quiet patch of sand.
Didim is known for it’s long sandy beaches, clear blue seas and great weather. With exceptionally clear water thanks to the many protected bays and this region's lower rainfall averages, Didim offers fabulous diving and fishing. A local market is held in the town every Saturday.
Didim takes its name from the ancient Greek sanctuary of Didyma, home to the Temple of Apollo and one of the most famous oracles of ancient times. The original temple was destroyed and was partially rebuilt by Alexander the Great. The ruins are extensive and well preserved, offering a fascinating trip back in time. They are a lot less popular than the ruins at Eupheus, even during the busy summer months, but just as impressive in their own way.
Entrance to the ruins at Didyma is only 10 turkish lira and the site can be reached by public transport for 2 turkish lire. If you are feeling energetic, the ruins are only a short walk from town. There are plenty of nearby restaurants so if you do go in the afternoon you can even enjoy a sunset dinner near the ruins. Be sure to go early in the morning or wait until late afternoon if you are visiting the ruins in the height of summer.
Even quieter than Didim, Gulluk is a friendly village that thusfar has managed to retain it's fishing village heritage whilst still welcoming tourists. If you are looking for a spot to get away from it all Gulluk is well worth considering. What makes Gulluk even more attractive is that if you do start feeling the need for shopping and nightlife, Gulluk is just a short ferry ride away is Bodrum.
It should come as no surprise that since Gulluk has maintained its traditional fishing village ambience, the recommended cuisine to eat is daily fresh fish and seafood.
There are several supermarkets, hotels, and banks plus a multitude of local shops and businesses. Local attractions include the beach, day boat trips to nearby bays and dining overlooking the harbour at sunset. You can also opt for a four-day cruise around the region. The nearby ruins of the city of Iassos make for a lovely day trip. The ruins include an ancient theatre, market place and mosaic house from Roman times, all well preserved. The ruins are usually quiet and offer a great view of the harbour and ocean.
Situated in a bay surrounded by protected mountain forests, olive groves and the clear waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas is Akbük Bay. The once remote fishing village has retained much of historic charms due to restrictions on development thanks to the regions status as a protected environmental area.
The beaches here are some of the most beautiful in Turkey. With crystal white sand and shallow calm waters it’s almost impossible to resist going for a swim. Boat trips to visit nearby islands and bays are available over the summer months. Prices are usually a reasonable 10 pounds, including several stops to go swimming or snorkeling and a barbeque lunch. A few boats also offer fishing trips.
Akbuk town has a selection of nice restaurants, cafes and bars offering Turkish cuisine and English fare. An open market is held every Friday night, selling produce, meat, fresh fish, clothing and basic household items.
Close to Didim and just 50 minutes from Bodrum Airport, Akbük Bay is an easy to reach ‘escape from it all’ holiday.
Twenty minutes’ drive from Dalaman, Sarigerme was once the bustling ancient city. Today it's a laid back village with a handful of bars and restaurants, and a long sandy beach with shallow waters reaching far out into the sea. The beach is part of a national park conservation area so there is a fee to use the beach and it's facilities.
A short thiry minute drive away is the ruins of Kaunos, an ancient seaport and city that is now 8km inland from the coast. Much of the city has been excavated including the city walls, the Acropolis, amphitheatre, Roman baths, a basilica, two Hellenistic temples and four Roman temples. The most famous attraction though are the Lycian tombs. Carved into the cliff-face, they are the most photographed place in this region.
The extensive ruins of Ephesus are among the best-preserved and largest ancient sites in the Mediterranean. The site includes The Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world.
Today Ephesus is famous for it’s Grand Theatre, one of the largest outdoor freestanding theaters in the ancient world. In ancient times it was home to dramatic performances, demonstrations of a social, political, economic, religious nature and for gladiator games. The Apostle Paul spent three years here preaching the gospel so the site has important Hellenistic, Roman and Christian ties. Today it is used for concerts and festivals over the summer months.
Ephesus is 1.5-2.5 hours from the Turquiose Coast, depending on where you are setting out from.
The famous waters of Pamukkale are best described by a photo rather than words.
Pamukkale is a World Heritage site that attracts visitors for it’s mineral rich hot spings and almost other-worldly natural features. Over thousands of years, thermal water cascading out of the ground has left behind calcium deposits creating brilliant white pools and terraced cliffs. The pools now dominate the landscape for miles around.
Pamukkale is a 4-5 hour drive from the Turquoise Coast. A long day trip but well worth it for the experience.
There are many amazing coastal and mountain hikes in the south-west of Turkey. One of the best is the Lycian Way, a 509km, 25 day way-marked footpath around the coast from Fethiye to Antalya. Of course you don’t need to do the full hike. It’s quite easy to just try 1-5 day section between two villages or a shorter 3hr return hike.
The Lycian trail consists of mainly old footpaths and mule trails with the occasional steep gradient. It’s not level walking but it’s worth the views. The Sunday Times rates it as one of the ten most beautiful long distance hikes in the world. The best time to try the walking route is in Spring or Autumn when the temperatures are mild.