Why the Turquoise Coast of Turkey is a Must Visit
Exploring the stunning Turquoise Coast of Turkey takes everyone's breath away. Sitting in the country's south, the Mediterranean coast boasts crystal-clear waters, gorgeous beaches, adventurous activities, and rich historical and cultural heritage. The Turquoise Coast offers much to curious travellers in Turkey, from ancient ruins to vibrant coastline cities.
Whether you choose to sail Mediterranean Turkey or follow the main coastal highway, we guarantee you will never forget your time in the region, because it captivates everyone. This in-depth Turquoise Coast guide gives tips on where to go and what to do. So, read on to discover the top destinations and why the Turquoise Coast is perfect for unique and unforgettable journeys in Turkey.
Turquoise Coast Travel Guide of Turkey
Ancient Ruins of Turkey's Mediterranean coast
The Lycian Way long-distance footpath in Turkey stretches approximately 540 kilometres along Turkey's Mediterranean coast, from Fethiye to Antalya. Boasting stunning coastal views, easy access to beaches, historical ruins, and diverse landscapes, hikers complete the trail in one stretch of roughly 29 days or break routes into smaller sections.
Traces of the Lycian Empire exist in excavated ancient cities like Xanthos, Patara, and Myra, and while the Lycians were known for their distinctive rock-cut tombs, archaeological sites reflect the ancient civilization's rich history and culture. So what are the best ruins to visit on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey?
Kaleici Old Town: Narrow, cobbled streets, Ottoman-era houses, and ancient Roman city walls perfectly sum up Kaleici's old town in Antalya city centre. Wander through maze-like streets to admire traditional architecture, historic mosques, and Turkish baths. Numerous shops, cafes, and restaurants also offer visitors good experiences of local culture and cuisine. Kaleici's old town provides vibrant atmospheres from day to night and is Turkey's top-visited Mediterranean attraction.
Myra Ancient City: Sitting near Demre, Myra was a critical Lycian League city with impressive rock-cut tombs and theatre. The most famous attraction, the 4th-century Christian church featuring well-preserved frescoes and mosaics, is where the real Santa Claus practised.
Xanthos and Letoon Historical sites: Xanthos was Lycia’s capital city from the 8th century BCE, whereas Letoon was a religious centre and place of pilgrimage in ancient Lycia. Letoon includes several ancient temples, agora, an old theatre, and well-preserved mosaic floors, which feature intricate designs and vibrant colours. Xanthos and Letoon UNESCO World Heritage Sites are popular with tourists interested in Lycian history.
Patara: This critical trading centre and seaport in ancient times features various ruins like the theatre, agora, bath complex, and triumphal arch. The long sandy beach is a nesting ground for endangered loggerhead sea turtles, and is the longest in the Mediterranean, stretching for 18 kilometres along the coast. Historical urban legends say Patara was the birthplace of the ancient Greek god Apollo. If the destination captures your attention, stay overnight in the rustic village to spend more time here.
Phaselis: Unique features of Phaselis are the half-moon beach, smaller stone beach, pine forests and surrounding turquoise coast mountains. The city's roman ruins also glimpse the region's ancient history among beautiful natural surroundings. Phaselis was significant in Hellenistic and Roman periods as a trade and commerce centre, but these days attracts tourists with impressive ruins and delightful swimming places.
Aspendos: Aspendos boasts of a well-preserved 2nd-century AD theatre that still holds concert performances. Historians regard the theatre, with seating for up to 15,000 spectators, as Turkey’s best preserved. Other landmarks include an aqueduct, nymphaeum, and basilica.
Olympos: The coastline ruins of Olympos include a Roman theatre, necropolis, temple, and bath complex. In mythology, Olympos was home to the ancient Lycian gods. Today, Olympos attracts international backpackers and those interested in ancient history and architecture. In addition, the nearby beach and natural surroundings also offer outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, and kayaking.
Gemiler Island: Also called St. Nicholas Island, and featuring several ancient sites, including churches, and monasteries, dating from Byzantine periods; the ideal time to visit is when the sun goes down. From the hilltops, expect marvellous sunset views on the horizon.
Where to see Lycian Rock Tombs on the Southern Coast
The Lycian tombs and ancient burial chambers sit in various locations throughout the turquoise coast. Fethiye contains several well-preserved Lycian tombs carved into the cliff face at the back of the town centre. Located on the Dalyan River, ancient Kaunos is famous for Lycian tombs overlooking the river. The Myra tombs are part of a larger necropolis and are notable for intricate carvings and decorations. Meanwhile, Xanthos ruins feature 5th-century BC Lycian tombs.
Sites of Natural beauty and Beautiful Beaches
Burning Flames of Chimera: Also called Yanartaş, these natural flames constantly burn through vents in the rock. The fire, caused by natural gas seeping from the ground, has burned for thousands of years. Greek mythological history says the Chimera fire-breathing monster lived here; hence people sailing the Turkish riviera stop to see these eternal flames.
Butterfly Valley in Fethiye: This highly treasured Turkish riviera destination features various species of butterflies, hence the name. The protected natural reserve can only be accessed by boat or by hiking down rugged trails. Here, you can swim, snorkel and walk to the back of the valley to see the waterfalls.
Waterfalls in Antalya: Duden waterfalls are two sections, the upper and lower, of which the latter falls into the Mediterranean Sea. However, we love visiting Manavgat and sitting in riverside cafes. Otherwise, sitting about 20 km from Antalya, the Kursunlu Waterfall flows over limestone steps.
Saklikent Gorge Near Fethiye: The 18-kilometre Saklikent Gorge and deep, narrow canyon, carved over thousands of years by rushing waters, also has walls reaching 300 meters in height. Wade through icy-cold river water while marvelling at surrounding cliffs and rock formations. Several nearby cafes serve local Turkish cuisine and places to relax after exploring.
Mount Tahtali Near Kemer: This national park offers terrific Mediterranean coastline views thanks to the staggering height of 2,365 meters. Visitors take cable car rides to the summit to enjoy the panoramic views and explore the observation deck, restaurants, and souvenir shops. In addition, the mountains are home to several endemic plant and animal species.
Oludeniz: The picturesque Blue Lagoon in Oludeniz, Turkey, offers calm, crystal-clear blue waters and a white sand beach, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports such as snorkelling, scuba diving, and parasailing. The designated nature reserve shares the same name as the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, but both are entirely different.
Simena: Simena village near Kekova promotes charming atmospheres reflecting the historic Simena Castle, with views over the peninsula. Numerous civilizations, including the Byzantines and Ottomans, occupied the 4th century BC castle over history. Also, Simena's restaurants that sell delicious homemade ice cream on hot summer days.
Other Places: Kaputas Beach cove beach, about 20 km from Kas, offers swimmers crystal-clear turquoise waters between cliffs that rise from the sea. The beach is accessible by car or by local bus. Kekova is an exciting place to go sea kayaking. 2nd century AD earthquakes partially submerged the sunken ancient Lycian city, but visitors can still see underwater foundations of the Byzantine church.
Charming Towns to Stay Overnight or Visit
Antalya: Antalya city centre offers modern and historic architecture, excellent shopping centres, restaurants, bars and cultural attractions. Visit Kaleici's old town mentioned above and Antalya Museum, featuring artefacts and exhibits from various civilizations, or shop in multiple markets, bazaars, and boutiques selling everything from traditional Turkish handicrafts to high-end designer goods. To relax, head to Karaalioglu Park, or to stay overnight, choose from many accommodation options. Antalya, a famed Turkish riviera spot, also boasts of Konyaalti and Lara beach districts that sit in the top ten beaches of Turkey. (More about Antalya in Turkey.)
Fethiye: Delightful restaurants and bars in family-friendly Fethiye also sit nearby Paspatur, the old town part where shops sell local handicrafts and souvenirs. In addition, Fethiye is ideal for exploring nearby attractions, including Oludeniz beach, Saklikent Gorge, Butterfly valley, and beautiful beaches. Popular Turkish riviera routes are three days from Fethiye to Antalya or overnight around Fethiye’s delightful islands.
Kas: This coastal town is excellent for exploring the Turkish coast and offers easy access to nearby beaches, crystal-clear waters, narrow streets, whitewashed houses, and flower-filled balconies. The town attracts water sports enthusiasts, especially those who like scuba diving, thanks to interesting underwater attractions. Explore the historic sites, including several rock tombs and the 4th century BC Hellenistic theatre, or relax in harbour cafes and restaurants.
Belek Town: Belek features sandy beaches, luxurious hotels, and more than 20 golf courses designed by famous names like Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie. The courses, set among natural landscapes, including forests, rivers, and the Mediterranean coastline, are Turkey's best. Golfers enjoy various facilities, including driving ranges, putting greens, and pro shops. Belek attracts golf enthusiasts worldwide and hosts several international golf tournaments. In addition, Belek offers various other activities, including water sports, spa treatments, and cultural tours of nearby historical sites.
Dalyan: Many say this charming south coast town near the famous Iztuzu beach, protected by law as breeding grounds for endangered turtles, reflects authentic Turkey away from modern living. Sit in riverside restaurants, eat fresh fish or crab, and book into rustic boutique hotels. While other resorts sold out to mass tourism, Dalyan keeps the authentic Mediterranean Turkish coast vibes. While there, visit the hot springs and famous mud baths. (See our video on YouTube about Dalyan.)
Boat Trips to Sail the Turquoise Coast
Sailing Turkey's turquoise coast introduces Mediterranean Turkey with crystal-clear waters, amazing views, beautiful beaches, charming towns, and dramatic mountain scenery, making this coastline paradise for sailors and boaters. Along the way, drop by charming Turkish riviera coastal towns like Fethiye, Kas, and Kalkan, and discover small coves and beaches only accessible by boat. What a great way to see it all within one holiday!
Sailing routes typically include stops at historic landmarks, such as the Lycian rock tombs and the ancient city of Myra. In addition, tour operators throughout Turkey offer day trips and overnight charters of multi-day excursions from nearby towns along the coast. Just look for the blue voyage and Turkish riviera signs.
The high season for cruising the Turkish riviera is from May to October, whereas the off-season is from November to April. Visitors can combine these trips with the Aegean Sea region of Turkey or even hop over to the Greek islands. Adventure activities while sailing include scuba diving and snorkelling. (More about Blue Voyage cruises in Turkey.)
Final Thoughts about the Mediterranean coast
So, as you can see, Turkey's southern coastline has much to offer. Indeed, the Mediterranean coast, Turkish riviera and Lycian way are destinations everyone has to see at least once in their life. But such is the addictive lure, some people return year after year for those beachside and sailing holidays. While, others completely up their lives, and buy homes in southern Turkey to live their whole life here. Indeed, the area reigns strong for tourism and expat living. So, we hope we have persuaded you to put this coast of Turkey on your bucket list. Also, remember to follow us on Facebook to stay up to date for more inspiration from the Lycian way, the Turkish riviera and the Turquoise coast.