BLOG A Turkish Riviera travel guide to the best places and sights
Any guide to the Turkish Riviera should start by saying that if you think the French Riviera is a place for yachting and sailing enthusiasts, you haven’t seen anything yet. While the French version caters only to the rich and famous or international figures, the Turkish Riviera, which spans more than 1,000 kilometers, supports everyone, including budget and luxury travelers as well as real estate investors.
With its beautiful coastal resorts, many historic ruins, ultra-modern marinas and harbors, and stunning scenery, its diversity is hard to ignore. Stretching from the northern Aegean coast to the cosmopolitan center of Antalya, the Riviera promotes healthy eating, great summer weather, beachside bathing, a laid-back lifestyle, and secret islands that are rarely mentioned in mainstream travel books. Once you see it for yourself, you’ll be hooked and plan to return.
A Guide to the Turkish Riviera.
Nostalgic Beginnings in Bodrum
Cevat Sakir Kabaagakli, a writer and passionate explorer, is credited with creating the Riviera. Nicknamed the Halicarnassus Fisherman, he was exiled to Bodrum in 1925 because his published works upset the influential politicians of the time.
At first distraught and dissatisfied with his new home, he explored the local coastline, hiring small sponge diving boats. His daily trips lifted his spirits, and his bohemian friends, living in different places like Athens or Istanbul, arrived in Bodrum eager to find out what got Cevat so excited. They also fell in love with the area.
To accommodate passengers, fishermen converted boats into floating hotels, and the Riviera was born when Cevat and his friends published details of their travels in the mainstream press. Transported to the present day, the multimillion-dollar industry includes traditional gulets, luxury yachts and famous itineraries called Blue Voyage cruises.
The best places, cities and resorts on the Turkish Riviera
Bodrum: Bodrum, with its typical view of the Aegean Sea, white houses scattered over the hillside, contributes to an ideal lifestyle on the Riviera. Much of daily life focuses on coastal activities, marinas and harbors, lazy day boat cruises, four night cruises and a vibrant lifestyle.
Fishermen selling their daily catch from the harbor fronts become colorful characters, while lavish and sophisticated restaurants attract high society on cool summer evenings.
The center of the city belongs to the larger Bodrum Peninsula, which also includes smaller coastal resorts such as Türkbuku, a favorite vacation spot for Turkish celebrities, and Turgutreis, a favorite retirement spot for British immigrants. Most towns and coastal villages also have marinas, encouraging sailors to explore and soak up the atmosphere of each destination rather than rush.
One marina in Bodrum that has made worldwide news is Yalikavak Palmarina, an establishment that only allows entry if your bank balance is six figures or more. Read our Bodrum guide to learn more about coastal resorts at the forefront of sailing.
Fethiye: Bodrum caters to the rich and famous, but Fethiye, another major hub, has captured its market, catering to travelers on a limited budget. A popular tour is a three-day, four-night cruise from Fethiye to Antalya, where people on a tight budget enjoy a luxurious lifestyle at low prices.
Having breakfast on the boat and sleeping on deck is an unforgettable experience, as is watching the disappearing Caretta turtles swimming in various places. Such is the popularity of Fethiye, it has grown from a medium-sized town like others into a cosmopolitan city, and small coastal resorts like Kalis and Hisaroniou have attracted emigrants with low real estate prices.
Fethiye’s Mediterranean lifestyle is thriving and combined with the perfect summer climate, it’s hard to resist its lure. Our guide to Fethiye explores the neighborhoods and areas in detail, as well as shopping, nightlife and attractions.
Antalya, Alanya and Belek: golf holidays and luxury hotels
As the second most popular tourist destination in Turkey, the Antalya region boasts world championship golf courses, all-inclusive hotels, historic ruins, exciting shopping and nightclubs, and the best hospitality industry in Turkey.
As a starting point for the famous Lycian Way and the ultra-modern airport, travelers and property buyers have a huge choice of destinations, including downtown and smaller coastal resorts. The main city center also has some of the best beaches in Turkey.
Surrounded by picturesque views of the Taurus Mountains, Alanya has a large population and international fans who return year after year for holidays. Well known for its red castle and proximity to protected natural areas, Eastern Europeans and Russians prefer it to the Aegean Sea.
Further along the coast, the small fishing village of Side, built around ancient Roman and Ottoman ruins, boasts its star attraction, the Temple of Apollo, the secret meeting place of two lovers, Mark Antony and Cleopatra.
Kemer is an all-inclusive beach resort, while the smaller village of Belek attracted international attention when it became the golf capital of Turkey and a new trend for golf properties was born. Read more about beaches, shopping, entertainment and smaller resorts in our Antalya travel guide .
Must-see historical sites
Many empires have ruled Turkey over the centuries, and most have left traces of their existence in ruins scattered from east to west. It’s easy to get to the historic sites along the coast, including Xanthos and Letun, two UNESCO World Heritage sites on the Mediterranean coast.
The unspoiled theater of Aspendos in Antalya always fascinates visitors whether they like history or not, and the ancient city of Phaselis, captured by pirates, is just a short drive away. Fethiye offers many historical ruins, each with a unique history, including the old churches of Gemiler Island and the ghost village of Kayakoy.
Heading to the Aegean coast, one city not to be missed is Ephesus. Also a UNESCO heritage site, it is the most visited attraction in Turkey and a wonderful city that rivals Rome itself. Sights worth seeing include the Celsus Library, Roman houses, and the great theater. While there, also visit the house of the Virgin Mary and the wine village of Sirince.
Turkish Riviera real estate and properties for sale
Tolga Ertukel, owner of Turkey Homes, says, “Many foreigners buying property in Turkey choose a home on the Riviera because the lifestyle and proximity to the beaches is a great lure. Having said that, each region has a distinctive style and character.
Small villages like Gümüşlük, Çıralı and Faralya retain an understated reputation and traditional way of life, while the more expansive centers of Fethiye, Bodrum and Antalya enjoy a prominent presence at the forefront of the tourism market and real estate industry.
Use our neighborhood guides to learn more, or contact us with questions about neighborhoods where you can buy property. Also, browse our portfolio of coastal and harbor properties for sale in Turkey and use the inquiry form to learn more.”
Read more about Turkish Riviera Guide: From Fethiye to Olympus : The popular Blue voyage cruise itinerary for travelers on a limited budget is a three-night, four-day cruise that takes in famous places like Kaş, Butterfly Valley, Demre and the 12 islands.
Holidays at resorts on the Turkish Riviera in 2022
Russia’s own warm sea is not enough, so many citizens have to rest abroad. Turkey in the post-Soviet years has become one of the popular destinations. There is its own riviera, which is a tourist region on the coast with a developed resort infrastructure. What is the Turkish Riviera, and which resorts it includes, let’s try to understand.
Historical and geographical characteristics
Turkey is lucky with its location on the world map, almost all of its territory is washed by the sea, and the duration of the beach season is about five months. However, the term “Turkish Riviera” applies only to the area between the cities of Cesme and Alanya.
That is, the western border of this resort region is located approximately in the middle of the Turkish waters of the Aegean Sea, and southeast – near Gazipasha airport, which belongs to the resort of Alanya. Not far from it is Cape Anamur, Turkey’s southernmost point. Thus, more than half of the territory of the Turkish Riviera belongs to the Mediterranean Sea, from Alanya to the city of Marmaris. The peninsula near the latter serves as the border between the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea. The total length of the coastline is about 1000 km.
Turkish Riviera takes on more than 40% of the total tourist flow of Turkey. In 2011, it was visited by more than 13.5 million people, and by the end of the decade, this figure increased. Most tourists come from Germany, Russia and Britain.
A large part of the Turkish Riviera is located on the coast, along which stretches the mountain range of the Western Taurus. The maximum altitudes near Antalya and Alanya range from 2600 to 3000 meters.
In ancient times, there were several historical regions within the region: Lydia, Kariya, Lycia, Pamphylia and Cilicia. The border between Lydia and Caria ran roughly along the river Meander, that is, between the ruins of Ephesus and Miletus. Caria covered the coast to the northeast of the island of Rhodes, that is, to about modern Fethiye, which in antiquity was called Telmes. From there began Lycia, it occupied the ledge of land into the Mediterranean Sea from Fethiye to Antalya. Finally, in the eastern part of the Turkish Riviera in antiquity was Pamphylia. It bordered Cilicia in the vicinity of the ancient city of Laertes to the east of Alanya.
A typical city of the Turkish Riviera
These regions have an interesting history. Before the Greek colonization, they were inhabited by the Lycians, the Carians, and other peoples. For example, the Lycians had their own alphabet, and in the 14th century BC they raided ancient Egypt and took part in the Trojan War. The peoples of the region interacted closely first with the Hittites and then with the Greeks, gradually adopting their alphabet and culture. In the sixth and fourth centuries BC, the region was ruled by the Persians and then defeated by Alexander the Great. His empire quickly fell apart and most of the modern Turkish Riviera became part of the Seleucid Empire, but Lycia was controlled by the Ptolemies, who ruled Egypt for about 100 years.
The Greeks in the I century BC were replaced by the Romans, and 400 years later, after the partition of the Roman Empire – by the Byzantines. From the end of the 11th century, the region gradually came under Muslim rule, first the Seljuks and then, in the first half of the 15th century, the Ottomans. This change of states has left a vivid mark on the local culture, the cities on the Turkish Riviera have a variety of attractions, from the Ottoman houses to ancient ruins.
The Turkish Riviera is located in a subtropical Mediterranean climate. It is characterized by mild winters and dry summers. Snow falls a little, most of the winter precipitation is rain. Summers are long and dry. The amount of precipitation is influenced by the proximity of mountains, such as the Taurus. They interfere with the movement of cyclones to the north. The average temperature during the bathing season ranges from 20 degrees in May and October to 28 in mid-summer. The maximum, up to 45 degrees, is observed in July.
In March, April and November, the average temperature ranges from 12 to 15 degrees, and the minimum can drop to zero degrees. The maximum and in these months reaches 33 degrees. The average winter temperature is 10 degrees. The lowest winter temperatures are recorded in February, minus 4, and the highest in December, 25.5 degrees.
Precipitation from May to September, if it falls, then in small amounts, from 5 to 30 mm. The rains begin in October, so the amount of precipitation in this month is 85 mm, and by December it reaches its maximum of 270 mm. In the beginning of the swimming season (May) the water temperature is 20 degrees, from June to October it ranges from 24 to 27 degrees, with the peak in August. In November it is 21 degrees, so you can take a risk and go to the beginning of the month, when Russia celebrates November 4. The minimum water temperature noted in February and March – 16 degrees.
View from the sea in Kusadasi
When is the best time to go to resorts on the Turkish Riviera? If you do not want to get at the peak of the heat, then May, September and October are ideal. The last month is good because you can swim and sometimes it rains, at least the pictures will be more diverse. If the purpose of the trip is not a beach holiday, you can come in April. The weather is already good enough to visit the sights, the prices in the hotels are lower, there are fewer tourists.
The climate of the Aegean part of the Riviera is a little bit colder, for example, near Cesme in the winter you can see a temporary snow cover. The precipitation there is less than in Antalya in winter and summer, and the bathing season lasts from late May to October.
Because of the climate and coastal position the nature of the Turkish Riviera is very diverse. Along the coast, citrus and olives grow, plantations of bananas (at Cape Anamur) and palm trees, natural pine forests are found in the reserves. The towns offer views of the peaks of mountain ranges, on which snow can lie. The coastline of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas is indented. The shores are often rocky with bays and coves.
How to get there?
The best way to the resorts of the Turkish Riviera is by air, it is fast and inexpensive. If you’re lucky, you can find a ticket from Moscow to Bodrum or Antalya for 3-4 thousand rubles. At search of tickets for “point of arrival” it is necessary to enter one of five airports, from the east to the west they go in such order:
- Gazipasha. An airport near Alanya, the smallest in passenger traffic of all, about 1 million people a year.
- Antalya. Passenger traffic is more than 26 million people a year. It is among the five most important airports in Turkey.
- Dalaman. Serves more than 4 million passengers a year, is located between Bodrum and Antalya, that means it is suitable for getting to Fethiye and Marmaris.
- Milas-Bodrum. It has 3.5 million passengers and is convenient for getting to the Aegean Sea resorts.
- Adnan Menderes Airport in Izmir. It has excellent connections to the resorts on the northwestern part of the Turkish Riviera. It serves over 13 million passengers a year.
You can also get to the Turkish Riviera by land transport. There are many fast and comfortable buses across Turkey. There are flights from Istanbul and Ankara to all major resort towns. Smaller ones can be reached by cab or by changing to a minibus (dolmush) right at the bus station.
You can also arrive to some cities on the Turkish Riviera by sea transport. For example, from the Greek island of Rodom there is a ferry to Marmaris, and from the Turkish Northern Cyprus – ferry to Alanya. Ferries from the Greek island of Chios run to Cesme.
Urban transport in the cities of the Riviera is not diverse. Buses and shuttles go everywhere, in Antalya there are two lines of streetcars – modern and historical. The nearest subway to the Riviera is in Izmir.
The ruins of Side
Resorts on the Turkish Riviera will appeal to lovers of active, beach and educational recreation. On the territory of the region are the ruins of the mausoleum in Halicarnassus (Bodrum), one of the Seven Wonders of the World of Antiquity. Along the coast there are the ruins of dozens of ancient cities. The most famous are Ephesus, Miletus, Aspendos, Mira, Knid, and Side. The Middle Ages heritage includes the hospitalier castle in Bodrum, Byzantine churches, Seljuks buildings in Alanya (The Red Tower), Kemer (hunting lodge) and other cities. Architecture of the Ottoman period is represented by numerous mosques of the XV-XIX centuries, old houses.
Over the years of the Turkish Republic, the region has erected many monuments to Ataturk, opened several of his museums (usually free of charge), built modern buildings of universities, stadiums, various administrative buildings.
Almost every resort town on the Riviera has a museum with an exhibit on archaeology. In large cities, such as Bodrum, there are museums of underwater archeology and art, and in Antalya – a museum of toys.
If you do not want to visit museums, you can do active recreation – diving, rafting, horseback riding, paragliding. Natural attractions of the Turkish Riviera are diverse. Trekking lovers can arrange a hike along the 540-kilometer “Lycian Trail”, which connects Fethiye and the outskirts of Antalya.
Of natural beauties can be visited:
- Waterfalls, such as the Sapadere near Alanya and the Düden Falls in Antalya;
- The valleys of the rivers Xanf and Dalyan;
- The “burning mountain” Yantaras (Chimera). It is shrouded in smoke and fire because of the release of natural gas to the surface;
- Kekova Island;
- The top of Mount Tahtali. A great observation deck, it is accessible by cable car;
- Saklikent Gorge, the longest in Turkey.
It is also worth taking a ride along the coast on the Ottoman gület (a type of ship), visit the Antalya Zoo and the dolphinariums in Alanya and Marmaris.
The Marmaris promenade
How to choose a resort?
Some resorts of the Turkish Riviera cater to tourists-packagers. These include Alanya, Kemer and Belek. As a rule they are small towns which are easily accessible by bus from the airport straight to the hotel.
There are also resorts that specialize in individual tourists. They are less well known and their names are not often found in travel brochures: Cirali, Kaş, Kalkan, Dalyan. They are far from airports, instead of large hotels there are often built small pensions. Many resorts are aimed at both package travelers and independent travelers. These include: Cesme, Marmaris, Bodrum, Antalya, Side, Fethiye. To get to Cesme you can use the major airport of Izmir, and in Antalya the air hub is located near the city.
Among the expensive resorts on the Turkish Riviera are Belek and Cesme. The first is located 40 kilometers from Antalya. It is world famous for its golf club. Belek is suitable for a quiet holiday in a five-star hotel without the noisy youth parties nearby. On its sandy beaches sometimes come across rare loggerhead turtles (caretta). The average bill holiday in Belek, according to tour operators, reaches 150 thousand rubles.
Cesme is a popular holiday of the Turkish elite. There are few tourists from Russia. The Greeks and the Turks are met more often. The first come more often for shopping, and the second attracted to the thermal springs and the village Alacati, where year-round strong wind blows and thus good conditions for windsurfing.
Also a relatively expensive resort, judging by the prices in restaurants and stores, is Bodrum. It is often visited by stars of local show business. The average check rest in Bodrum is 103 thousand rubles against 109 thousand in Side and 118 thousand in Alanya.
Marmaris has a reputation of “Turkish Ibiza”. It takes the whole street bars. Its beaches and the air is notable for its purity. Especially beautiful is the beach of Cleopatra with golden sand on the island of the same name. However, Marmaris belongs to the budget resorts of the Turkish Riviera. The average vacation check in it is about 73 thousand rubles. This is cheaper than Alanya (89 thousand) and Kemer (94 thousand).
Beach in Belek
Among the little-known or “secret resorts” of the Turkish Riviera is Cirali (Cirali) near Kemer. It is located on the territory of the national park. Tourism in Cirali began to develop about 30 years ago, since then over 70 small guesthouses were built. The village has a pebble beach, a breeding place for sea turtles, as well as the ruins of ancient Olympos. The beach is bounded by the rocks “Moses Mountain” and “Black Cape”. The area around Chirala is associated by the Roman historian Pliny the Elder with the myth of Chimera. It is associated with the fact that from the rock of Yanartasha comes out the inextinguishable flame. The specialty of this resort is trout, which are bred in the village nearby.
If you move from the western point of the Turkish Riviera to the south and southeast, there are about 20 resorts along the way.
You can sunbathe on the sandy beaches of Altynkum, and do windsurfing in the nearby town of Alacati, where the wind is strong and the depth is low (1 meter at 700 meters from the shore). Cesme has a fortress, thermal springs, a caravanserai, Ottoman lodges.
Kusadasi is adjacent to the ruins of Ephesus and Priena and is a good place for diving enthusiasts. The city is famous for its turquoise beaches, but because of the waves it is not suitable for children.
Bodrum is located on a peninsula with many beaches, both pebbly and sandy (Akiyarlar). The city has an ancient theater and a medieval castle.
The city is well known as a center of diving and sailing. Among the attractions worth noting the cave Nimara and the castle. 70 km west of Marmaris lies the resort of Datca, located on the peninsula. It is surrounded by the Greek islands of Kos, Nikia and Symi. In Datca begins the highway D-400, which runs along the entire Mediterranean coast of Turkey to the town of Ceyhan, and then to the border with Iran near Hakkari.
Fethiye, with its Lycian tombs, archaeological museum, valley of butterflies, and historic lighthouse, which is adjacent to a seafood restaurant. Fethiye is adjacent to the resort of Oludeniz. It is known as the center of paragliding. Beautiful views of the area contributed to the development of the sport. Oludeniz is also home to the Blue Lagoon beach.
A major resort city on the coast of the bay of the same name. It is interesting for its diverse transport – there are streetcars running through the city. There are many hotels in the city, and if you want to relax in a small community, you can go south to Kemer, Tekirova and Cirali, or east to Belek, Manavgat and Side.
The last resort of the Turkish Riviera on the D-400 highway. The city is quite suitable for leisure, there are beaches, museums, a fortress, a majestic tower, a cave and a cable car. From the harbor ferries go to Turkish Cyprus, which is also interesting to visit. There are a number of resort towns and villages near Alanya: Konakli, Avsallar, Mahmutlar.
Thus, in the south and south-west Turkey is full of places for recreation of any type: family and individual, active and beach, luxury and budget. Any of these resorts can easily be visited on their own, without a ticket, just buy a plane ticket and book a hotel, guesthouse or guesthouse. In Turkey you can vacation all year round, even in winter is worth visiting for sightseeing and shopping.