Turkey South Coast: Introduction

  • © editha, marcopolo.de

    © editha, marcopolo.de


Beaches as far as the eye can see. No matter whether you look to the right or left, or back over your shoulder: there is no end in sight to the beach at Patara. The fine sand stretches for miles and the dunes carry on for hundreds of yards inland. And there are no busy roads behind them, only the last stone remains of ancient Patara, a once important harbour town. If the weather is clear, the view from the old Lycian city reaches over the sea and as far as the Taurus Mountains that only seem to be a stone’s throw away.

Even though Patara is a very special gem, this combination of wide beach, ancient sites and the peaks of the Taurus Mountains that are snow-covered until early summer is typical of the Turkish Mediterranean coast. The mountain range stretches for around 600 km (375 mi) from the western Aegean to the eastern rim of the Mediterranean: always within sight of the sea. The coastal strip in front is sometimes so narrow that it almost seems that the mountains are about to slide into the sea; sometimes it is miles wide and covered with cotton fields – along with its secluded beaches, picturesque villages, cultural highlights and lively tourist centres, it is one of the most varied holiday landscapes in the entire Mediterranean region. Antalya is the heart of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. In the past twenty years, it has developed at a dizzy speed from a sleepy little town on the coast into a tourist metropolis. Although there has been a great deal of construction, the old city centre has been carefully restored to preserve its original charm. Antalya is good starting point for a swim at one of the beaches to the east, as well as the romantic, steep and rocky coast with small coves to the west.

There’s something for everyone on the South Coast of Turkey

Leaving Antalya to the east, you reach a large sandy beach on the outskirts of the city; this is the beginning of the ‘Turkish Riviera’. This stretch of the coast between Antalya and Alanya is one of the most popular holiday destinations for visitors from many other European countries. The tourism infrastructure in this region is absolutely state-of the-art and offers everything from all-inclusive complexes and small hotels in historical towns such as Side, to campsites and guesthouses in Manavgat. The Turkish Riviera would not be complete without its historical sites, such as the amphitheatre in Aspendos and the ruins in Termessos.

Alanya is the second largest city on this stretch of the coast after Antalya, and is home to some 10,000 West Europeans – about half from Germany and Denmark – who are attracted to this Eastern Mediterranean town, with its high average mean temperature. If you travel further eastwards, you will soon reach places that have hardly been affected by tourism. The coast becomes steeper, wide beaches rarer, and the closest airport ever further away. This is where the people living on the coast make their money - from agriculture rather than catering to tourists.

In the footsteps of the early Christians

The coast reaches its southern-most point at Anamur and beyond it lies the Bay of Adana – the most easterly section of the Mediterranean. The bay is not suitable for swimming due to the large industrial ports at Mersin and İskenderun, the oil loading port of Yumurtalık and the swampy plains at the mouth of the River Ceyhan. Things start to get interesting again at the end of the bay just before the Syrian border. The Turkish city of Antakya is the biblical town of Antioch where Paul founded the first Christian community.

Lycia – a destination for individualists

A few miles to the west of Antalya, you will be able to admire the most spectacular landscape of the eastern Mediterranean. This is where the Taurus Mountains plummet from a height of up to 3000 m (9850 ft) almost perpendicularly into the sea; the coastline is broken up into countless bays that offer everything from beaches of sand and pebbles to high cliffs. There are still many club complexes at the beginning of the stretch near Kemer but further on you will discover a paradise for individual travellers. Secluded bays in Olympos, charming little guesthouses in Kaş and wide sandy beaches at Patara: the Lycian coast is a dream for all those who want to go out and explore the area.

The best known tourist areas in Turkey after Antalya are Fethiye, Marmaris and Bodrum. Ölüdeniz, one of the most magnificent Mediterranean bays near Fethiye, the rock tombs and reed forests at Dalyan, the sailors’ paradise in Gökova Bay and the almond groves on the Datça Peninsula: the western tip of the coast has surprises in store going far beyond the spectacular paragliding leap from the Babadağ and the finest marina in the eastern Mediterranean in Marmaris. There are legendary places such as Knidos, unspoilt fishing villages such as Bozburun as well as luxurious holiday complexes and exclusive hotels near Marmaris. One of the loveliest ways to get to know the south coast of Turkey is on board a large wooden boat, a ‘gulet’. Cruises along the coast are known as ‘ Blue Voyages’ and offer the purest form of relaxation. And, as an extra, you will discover bays and other areas along the coast that are still difficult to reach from the land because there are no roads or tracks.

Appealing in the off season too

The high season on the south coast runs from April to November. The temperature rarely sinks below 10°C in the winter months, but there can be heavy rainfalls between December and March. However, when it is sunny in February it becomes warm enough for the hotels to open their outdoor pools. The sun shines all the time from May to September, and in July and August the temperature can reach more then 40° C (104° F). However, there is usually a breeze to make things more pleasant. The Turkish tourism industry has done a lot in the past few years to make the south coast not only an attractive destination as a classical beach holiday but also for tourists interested in culture, as well as winter holiday-makers. Many ancient sites are better cared for than only a few years ago and are now easier to reach. Golf courses and hiking trails attract those who want an active holiday and prefer to avoid the hot summer months. Many hotels now have attractive offers for guests from northern Europe who want to spend the winter in Turkey.

Of course, Turkey’s Mediterranean coast also has its negative aspects. In spite of the government’s assurances not to make the same common mistakes as in other areas of mass tourism, there has been some unsightly development. And the crowds in Marmaris and Side mean that the often-sung oriental hospitality is no longer what it once was. The locals have developed a professional relationship to their visitors – this is not surprising considering the millions of holiday-makers who come every year. However, this changes as soon as you get a little bit off the beaten track. If you leave your holiday complex behind you and set out to explore the countryside, you will discover peaceful villages where time seems to have come to a standstill and where the people who live there always have a moment for a chat, even if there are some language barriers. Here, visitors are still treated as guests. Leave your holiday rep at the hotel and set out alone; you will soon discover that everybody is interested in you and will do all they can to help.

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