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Learn how there are Turkey holidays for everyone!

As the meeting place between the worlds of East and West, Turkey has always been a land of contrasts. Turkey holidays range from cosmopolitan Istanbul to the beaches and azure seas of the Mediterranean to the legacy of days long gone, empires and rulers of the Byzantine and Ottoman eras who’ve left their mark on the landscape.

Then there is the Turquoise Coast, stretching from Cesme in the north to beyond Antalya in the south-east. With over 750 miles of coastline and more than 400 blue flag beaches, the Turkish Riviera has countless sandy patches of shore, hugging a coastline gently washed by the jade waters of the Mediterranean backed by forest-covered slopes. This is the Turkey that most tourists visit, a staggeringly beautiful slice of Europe.

However, step back from the sea and discover another world of ancient ruins and archaeological wonders, with no less than 21 Unesco World Heritage sites on offer. Whether perched on hilltops or carved into the sides of cliffs, these sites provide a storybook of history telling. They are home to two of the seven ancient wonders of the world – The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus.

Let us take you on a journey along the Turquoise Coast from the northern Aegean to the Mediterranean in the south, then into the hinterland where ancient history and geographical wonders sit comfortably beside the modern world. 

Bozcaada is one of the few Aegean islands that belong to Turkey rather than Greece and would satisfy those looking for a cool and under-the-radar summer destination. Weekenders and couples from Istanbul love the island and have some of the best sandy beaches, while its charming streets are filled with bougainvillaea, colourful woodwork, and smart cafes. 

Further down the coastline is the small, picturesque seaside village of Assos, also known as Behram. It has a Greek feel, with a small row of brightly painted fishing boats, a pebble beach and smart stone buildings along the waterfront

Ayvalık is a two-hour drive from Izmir airport and is a working harbour town famous for its fishing and agriculture, with great cuisine, due to having some of the best fresh produce in Turkey. There are fewer tourists here, but attractions include the Byzantine old town with superb restaurants and converted mansions.

Just north of Izmir, Foca is one of the more popular coastal towns. It is jam-packed with the yachting fraternity thanks to its winding pedestrianised waterfront filled with fishing boats, restaurants and bars. It’s the perfect place to wind down at one of the many seaside cafes.

The Cesme peninsula stretches out some 50 miles from Izmir. Cesma has an engaging harbour area, and like many of Turkey’s coastal towns, beach resort hotels stretch out along the coast. Before reaching Cesme, you pass through the trendy area of Alacati, one of Turkey’s best boutique destinations with its flower-filled streets and lovely guest houses.

Ephesus is why Kusadasi is a hot-spot tourist destination, some 90 minutes south of Izmir. The ruins are situated only a few miles outside town and are amongst the best-preserved Greco-Roman remains found anywhere. Beware the stifling heat of July and August, as there is little shade among the ruins for protection, and although plenty of sand and sea make up the many beaches, with them come the crowds.

Turkey Holidays range from beach to city!

Somewhat further down the coastline, the sparkling city of Bodrum is, without a doubt, Turkey’s best-known resort town. The picturesque city with its castle and pretty, whitewashed buildings is home to the best nightlife on the coast. The waterfront is lined with upmarket restaurants, and the coastline is covered with beach clubs and hotels overlooking the Aegean. Bodrum is the spiritual home of Gulet charter sailing, with hundreds of boats available during the season. By sunset, the bay is filled with party boats and superyachts gleaming in the last rays of sunlight. If Bodrum is too busy, Gumbet, just along the coast, has better beaches and offers a relatively quieter stay. 

On the edge of the Aegean Sea, Gumusluk is a much more low-key destination with the surrounding coastline and the Bodrum peninsula, one of the prettiest parts of the Turkish Coast, with endless coves to discover.

Akyaka is making a name for itself as one of Turkey’s premier and slower-paced travel destinations. There is a small beach of dark, gritty sand, but the main reason to come is for nature and, of course, the cuisine. It’s less well known than other towns but is loved by locals as a peaceful retreat in the hotter months. 

As we move southwards into the Marmaris area, the rugged and green coastline here has some of Turkey’s most popular beach resorts but also adds nature parks and small islands to its collection. Marmaris is a great resort located on a splendid bay beneath forested hills and bustles day and night. Heritage and culture are not high on the agenda here, but it has a fantastic choice of pubs, clubs and restaurants. Crammed with shops selling bargain beachwear and convincing designer gear, English and Irish pubs add to the buzz in town. Wooden sailing boats moor along the pretty waterfront, while sleek yachts bob in the upscale marina opposite the miniature Ottoman castle.

Icmeler has been an established resort in the Marmaris region for decades. It has a long beach of dark sand and shingle in a lovely setting backed by big green mountains. There are some great walks and activities in the area, as well as lively nightlife and easy day trip access to Marmaris and Rhodes. Restaurants and cafes tend to cater to British tastes. 

Around the coastline is the smaller resort village of Turunc in an equally picturesque setting. It has a narrow sand-and-shingle beach and is one of the best resorts for older couples and families looking for a quiet vibe before stepping onto the Datca and Bozburun peninsulas. This is where some of the Turkish coast’s greenest and most tranquil parts are situated. It is a great sailing area, and although it is not much in the way of development, it is ideal for those looking for an authentic vacation. Many superb hotels are tucked away in its sleepy hills and quaint villages, with enchanting sea views across to the Greek island of Symi.

If it tried, Dalyan couldn’t be more different from Turkey’s other resorts. It’s not by the sea, although it is only a short boat trip away to one of Turkey’s most spectacular and untouched beaches at Iztuzu, where loggerhead turtles lay their eggs in season. This laidback riverside village is hard to beat if you are looking for peace and quiet. There are no big hotels or big clubs here. Nightlife is an after-dinner cocktail by the emerald green river, admiring the floodlit royal tombs carved into the cliffside opposite.

Lying 30 minutes north of Fethiye, Gocek is a sophisticated town with a marina that can cater to even the largest yachts. Despite its popularity, this small town retains its tranquil atmosphere with a wide promenade and sheltered bay, where bars and restaurants cater for limited tourist demand.

Fethiye is as authentically Turkish as it gets with as many domestic tourists as foreign visitors, while Calis Beach, a couple of miles north of town, attracts a more multi-national clientele, lined with hotels, restaurants and bars, with plenty of water sports available.

The promenade and harbour of Fethiye are the busy areas, with boats plying day trips and Gulet cruises. Choosing a fish from the market and taking it to a nearby restaurant to be grilled is one of the town’s unique experiences. Although an English bar will appear here or there, the flavour is mainly Turkish and attracts more independent travellers than Marmaris.

Olu Deniz was purposely built for tourism, with the famous’ blue lagoon’ being the main reason for visiting. There are several places to eat and drink along the streets inland from the beach, although nightlife is much lower-key than Marmaris. The beach could be more sandy than it appears in the brochures, although the scenery is spectacular. The ‘Blue Lagoon” itself is a protected National Park that requires a small fee to enter and can get very crowded in mid-summer.

Kalkan, a tiny Greek fishing village until the 1920s, is about an hour south of Fethiye. It is now a small, sophisticated beach resort known for its colourful fisherman’s cottages, family-run restaurants, and boutique hotels. A short day trip to the Saklikent Gorge allows you to walk through this majestic canyon from spring onwards when the melted snow has disappeared.

Kas, known more for its reputation as Turkey’s top centre for scuba diving, has ancient ruins, oceanside restaurants, and bougainvillea-covered houses. Numerous bars rather than clubs pepper the town, emphasising live music. Kemer has grown enormously over the last few years, and although the beaches are mainly pebble, they are popular with the ever-increasing number of tourists who make the town their base. 

As one of Turkey’s largest cities, Antalya has sophisticated shopping and excellent restaurants, especially in the old Kaleici district. It showcases thousands of years of history in the shape of the Old Town, wrapped around a striking Roman-era harbour, with the best beaches easily reached at nearby Lara.

Toward the end of the official Turkish Riviera, at Belek, you’ll find miles of sand lined with opulent hotels and all-inclusive resorts with vast pools and spas offering pampering experiences. A few miles further on, you arrive at Side, a picturesque old town huddled around a quaint harbour and dotted with Greek and Roman ruins, with its selection of excellent hotels stretched out along the shore.

While the coastline attracts the bulk of UK visitors, further inland, a different kind of magic and a different type of Turkey emerges; the region of Cappadocia captivates the soul, whether hot air ballooning over the spectacular Fairy Chimney rock formations, visiting one of the numerous underground cities, or experiencing unforgettable cuisine and wine.

Six of the UNESCO World Heritage sites are within the Riviera area, which includes Troy, Pergamon and the most visited – Ephesus. Another at Pamukkale, which means ‘Cotton Castle’, limestone cascades have created an unreal landscape made up of mineral forests, petrified waterfalls, and a series of terraced basins. The ‘Cotton Castle’ sits alongside the extensive ancient ruins of baths, temples and other monuments of Hierapolis.

Wine lovers who enjoy finding new vineyards and getting ahead of the rest of the pack should make for an area between Izmir and Antalya, where you’ll find the relatively new Cal Vineyard Route consists of four wineries set among olive orchards and melon farms in this internationally expanding wine region.

The Lycian Way is made for walkers, hikers, and horse lovers, or at least a small part of it is. At 470 miles long, one of the best short hikes provides trails of spectacular scenery through small settlements into Butterfly Valley near Fetihye, ending at a small beach accessed only by foot or boat.

While sun and sand are the main draw for visitors, Turkey has so much more to offer with its staggering history and enviable hospitality. If Mark Antony considered the Turquoise Coast so beautiful to give it to Cleopatra as a wedding present, then we should all see it at least once in our lifetime.