Antalya

Travel to Turkey, and you will hear Antalya described in many ways — as the blue city, this paradise on earth, a must-see wonder of the world — all attesting to its idyllic beauty. The town is uniquely situated at the base of the Taurus Mountains, which rise up sharply from the broad curve of the bay, with its white sand and pebble beaches and pure blue sea, to enclose the town with a wall of jagged blue peaks that melt into the sky, the sight of which makes this "Turquoise Coast" seem aptly named.

Antalya is a town of many pleasures. Turkish cuisine is justifiably renowned, and there are plenty of restaurants offering traditional or international menus. Take a stroll away from the cobbled streets of the old town around the harbour and you can explore the Roman ruins, visit the archaeology museum and just soak up the history, or discover the wider region of Antalya beyond the city — the ancient settlement of Olympos with its secluded beach backed by wooded hills, a good base for hiking, climbing, mountain-biking or canoeing; or visit the Karian Caves or the falls on the Aksu and Upper Duden rivers. Relax and enjoy the many popular beaches of Antalya, which has more blue flag designated beaches than any other region of Turkey: Konyaalti, Aspendos, Lara, Kemer and many more.

      

Take a boat trip from the Antalya marina out into the bay and you'll see one of the most spectacular sights in Turkey: where the cliffs rise up almost vertically to a height of 40 metres, the Duden river ends with a typically dramatic flourish, tumbling out of the cliff-top trees in a white, foaming, rainbow bejewelled waterfall — a fitting final image of the area, full of beauty and surprise.

  View Antalya beach holiday destinations

Bodrum

This former sleepy little fishing village is now one of Turkey's most popular vacation destinations. Whether you are looking for a five star hotel or a budget holiday, this gateway to western Turkey situated on the beautiful Bodrum Peninsula is the ideal stepping stone, which will draw you back year after year by its sights, sounds and flavours — the abundant life and excitement of this beautiful corner of the southern Aegean. The clear blue sea gently laps the golden beaches, and rugged hills frame the scene.

Here the modern world of trendy bars and glittering nightclubs meets the remnants of the ancient world: on the one hand, an international yachting centre and beach resort; on the other, the location of the ruined tomb of Mausolus, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. If history excites you, there is more than enough here to fill your holiday, with the impressive crusader fortress of the Castle of St Peter dominating the harbour, and up above the town, the Greco-Roman theatre. Bodrum also makes a good base to visit many of Western Turkey's other historic sights.

For a fun, family holiday, the most popular beaches are at Gumbet and Bitez. Behind the sand and pebble beach at Gumbet, a range of lively bars, cafes, restaurants and shops compete for your custom with the plentiful water sports on offer. In the evenings it really hots up, with music and dancing late into the night. Bitez is quieter, a place to relax, forget the passing hours and soak up the sun or dip your toes in the warm blue waters. If you like to get active, this is also the ideal spot for some windsurfing and to work up an appetite for that lovely Turkish cooking that scents the air.

  View Bodrum beach holiday destinations

Icmeler

Ignore the magnificence of the surrounding hills and palm fringed shoreline and you could say it was all about the beach: the reason for this purpose-built, all inclusive resort's existence, and its jewel in a crown of riches. Icmeler's wild and beautiful backdrop and low-rise buildings ensure that it manages to retain the charm of its fishing village origins while offering everything you'd expect in the best of holiday locations. The golden sand and shingle beach curves around in a wide arc that faces the morning sun. This sun-worshiper's paradise will put a smile on anyone's face. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, as if everyone's response to the beauty of the place is to forget all their cares and irritations. Isn't that the definition of a holiday?

The town's winding streets, gently flowing canals and whitewashed houses glisten in the sun, only adding to the natural beauty. A typical day in Icmeler might start with a swim in the hotel pool, followed by a morning on the beach, soaking up the sun; perhaps a swim in the sea or some lively water sports or a diving trip in the afternoon, punctuated by cool drinks and fine cuisine; then a leisurely evening meal with some impromptu Turkish singing and dancing to follow. Join in, if you like! No pressure. This is a place to relax.

It is also a wonderful area for walking in the hills, or you can take an evening stroll around the bay to nearby Marmaris for a taste of its nightlife or to explore the castles and mosques of the old town. Here in Icmeler, you go at your own pace. You can take it slow, or party till the small hours; fill your days with activity or just laze in the sun.

View Icmeler beach holiday destinations

Fethiye

Nestling at the foot of the forested Taurus Mountains, the ancient harbour of Fethiye is one of the most attractive spots on a coastline that invites only superlatives. Turkey draws you in with the beauty of its scenery and the good humour, hospitality and generosity of its people. This positive spirit ensured that after the disastrous earthquake that hit the town in the fifties, it got up, dusted itself down, rebuilt itself, and has been awarded the title of "best tourism destination in the world".

The main beach is across the bay at Calis, just a short taxi, bus or ferry ride away. Here you’ll find a two kilometre stretch of pebbles and shingle that slopes gently to sea, perfect for swimming or sunbathing, backed by a broad promenade. Just around the peninsular is the popular beach and lagoon at Ölüdeniz. The beaches closer to the town are often overlooked, but they have a charm all their own. The small shingle beach of Aksazlar Koyu is in the perfect position to catch the sun and enjoy the broad view of Fethiye and the surrounding hills and coastline. Grab a sunbed or sit in the shade of the pines behind the beach and while away the afternoon with a few ice-cold Turkish beers.

Fethiye’s old quarter of Paspatur is a maze of paved and cobbled streets, with food and gift shops, cafés and bars, dominated by the white dome and minaret of the mosque. You can take a stroll and shop in the dappled shade from the overhanging trees, or on Tuesdays join the crowds of visitors from the nearby towns attracted by the weekly market and the scent and colour of all the local produce.

View Fethiye beach holiday destinations

Gumbet

This lively, modern beach resort has become a great favourite with British visitors. Once a quiet little fishing village, it now has a reputation as one of the top holiday locations for water sports and exciting nightlife, rivalling even its near neighbour Bodrum for its range of restaurants, bars and discos.

The attractive town is built over a series of small hills and set amongst pine trees, backed by a range of larger pine-covered hills overlooking the bay, which is enclosed by a full kilometre of gently curving, golden sandy beach. Amongst the palms and pines that fringe the shore, there are many small bars and cafés that allow you to use their sunbeds and umbrellas for just the price of a drink. Find your ideal spot and settle in for a lovely, lazy day on the beach, where the sea or some welcome refreshments are just steps away.

If you're feeling active, you can get out on the water. The variety of water sports on offer here are virtually limitless. Try parasailing, jet skiing, water skiing, windsurfing — all the usual, plus a few you may not have seen, such as banana riding — a bunch of you being towed at speed astride a huge inflatable banana; or the flying fish — a three-seater inflatable, towed by a speedboat, which literally takes to the air.

No Turkish holiday would be complete without a taste of the wonderful Turkish cuisine. At the last count there were 65 restaurants in Gumbet, offering all price ranges and serving everything from the finest Turkish and Mediterranean dishes to the usual English, Italian, vegetarian, Indian or Mexican menus. The whole world, literally, has found a home and a haven in Gumbet and is here to stay, determined to have fun.

View Gumbet beach holiday destinations

Hisaronu

Hisaronu is a small, traditional resort perched high in the wooded hills overlooking the breathtakingly picturesque beach and lagoon of Olu Deniz, which is probably the most photographed beauty spot in Turkey. This is just a short ten-minute ride on the Dolmus, or minibus, which offers a regular service to and from the resort. For the more adventurous, you can make the trip down to the beach by paraglider from the top of the Babadag Mountain — 45 minutes of sheer excitement, with a nice soft landing. If this grabs you, if you like the thrills and spills, you will find here all the usual water sports — water-skiing, canoeing, scuba diving, snorkelling, etc — or you can hire a pedalo, go on a boat trip to visit some of the nearby secluded beaches or go fishing.

Back in Hisaronu, in the cool, refreshing mountain air, there is plenty to occupy the more leisurely holidaymaker. The resort is bright and lively, with gift shops, cafés and restaurants to suit all tastes. This is a great base for exploring the area, whether you are on a luxury retreat or budget holiday, or you're an active family needing to amuse the kids or a chilled-out couple looking for adventure. There are plenty of excursions to go on, which can be booked in the town. You can go hiking in the hills or relax by your hotel pool and come alive at sunset, when visitors and locals alike fill the restaurants and disco bars to socialise and enjoy a leisurely evening in a resort that manages to retain a friendly, village atmosphere while offering all the amenities of a first class holiday resort.

View Hisaronu beach holiday destinations

Marmaris

Blue, pine-clad mountains and an even bluer sea frame this beautiful resort and harbour, which is almost totally enclosed by the typically twisted coastline of this part of Turkey's Muğla Province. Stand at the dockside looking out to sea and it seems the mountains are all around, blocking any exit to the open water and defying the evidence of your eyes — the large cruise ships at anchor that regular visit this most loved of Turkish tourist destinations.

Marmaris is as popular for its budget holidays or luxury hotels as it is a fixture for a day trip on any tour of western Turkey. It will ably satisfy any taste or budget, with a wide choice of hotels and self-catering apartments along the sea front, around the coast road or on the hillsides behind the main part of the town. Most hotels offer a good three star standard although there are plenty of luxury five star hotels to choose from. Around the marina there are designer shops with designer prices, and at night the Marmaris clubs, restaurants and bars come alive.

Marmaris Folk Beach, just in front of the town, has a pleasant palm tree lined promenade with cafés, shops and bars, and sunbeds and umbrellas are available for a hire at a small fee. If you're looking for a quiet spot for some rest and relaxation, a short walk out along Uzunyali or Long Beach takes you away from the crowds. The sand here is fine and golden compared to the darker, coarser sand at Folk Beach. Looking further afield, you can book a boat trip to the even more secluded beaches around the coast, or visit Cleopatra's Island where it's said that Mark Anthony imported the finest sand in the world to please his Queen.

View Marmaris beach holiday destinations

Olu Deniz

Of all the beautiful beach resorts in Turkey, Olu Deniz has to be the one that makes all superlatives seem inadequate. The famous lagoon, protected by a curving spit of white sand that forms the end of the main beach, is one of the most stunning natural wonders in a country not exactly short of them. No holiday to the area would be complete without a dip in its crystal clear waters and a photo for the album.

That being said, this is not all Olu Deniz has to offer. The atmosphere of this small resort is as laid back as it could be. Life is centred on the beaches: the bustle of Belzekis in front of the town, the pretty little tree covered sand spit, the more secluded Kidrak beach just three kilometres away, and the magical Butterfly Beach, accessible only by boat from Olu Deniz. The latter is named after the Jarsey Tiger butterflies that can be seen here throughout the summer. The beach is a strip of golden sand at the mouth of a short, high-walled canyon, settled by a small population of hippies who cultivate the small area of flat land behind the beach. There is a modest restaurant, some beach huts and some basic accommodation in the form of tents and tepees.

Back in Olu Deniz, the promenade is the lively centre of activity, with the comings and goings of the visitors to the beach and the bustle around the little tour boats down at the waterline. Overhead, the paragliders are an almost constant presence, circling on the thermals or coming in to land — a quick route down from the top of Babadag Mountain. The skies are particularly busy during the October Air Games Festival, which draws fliers from around the world.

View Olu Deniz beach holiday destinations

Side

In Side you will find everything you'd ever want in a Turkish holiday. A combination of wonderful location, golden beaches, all the holiday amenities and entertainments, plus a generous helping of ancient ruins, with thousands of years of history to be explored, has made this former Roman port and fortified town one of the most visited of Turkish resorts.

The town is built on a small rocky peninsular at the end of which is the small, picturesque harbour filled with yachts and pleasure boats, with two stretches of fine sandy beach on either side. The west beach in particular is well developed with hotels catering to all your needs, from low cost holidays to all inclusive luxury. There are also some good Turkish restaurants around the harbour, and many of the old traditional houses in the town have been converted into small hotels.

Both beaches are excellent for swimming and sunbathing, but it is on the west beach that you will find the boat rentals, water sports, parasailing, cafés, shops and late night bars — all the holiday essentials for you and your family. There are also many activities on offer for the more energetic, including quad biking, horse riding, parasailing and white water rafting, or you can go on a jeep safari and explore the Taurus Mountains.

By contrast, the east beach is less developed. Here amongst the dunes, the main archaeological site is still being explored. There are many fine ruins to be seen around the town, most notably the beautiful Corinthian Temple of Apollo beside the harbour, and Side's largest ancient ruin, the amphitheatre. Much of this is still standing and the wonderful acoustics can be experienced at the regular performances put on free of charge.

View Side beach holiday destinations

Kusadasi

Set on Turkey's spectacular Aegean coast, Kusadasi is one of Turkey's most popular resorts for those looking for sunshine, fun on the beach and an exciting nightlife — great for an all inclusive family holiday. There are eight beaches, all with soft golden sand gently shelving down to the crystal clear, blue waters. Along the seafront you will find lively shops, bars and restaurants serving a variety of Turkish and international menus. Whichever beach you choose, each has its charms, and there is always a variety of water sports and plenty of sunbeds and beach umbrellas to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

For miles of beach with plenty of elbow room, take a short dolmus ride out to Long Beach, which lives up to its name, although it can get crowded. Ladies Beach is one of the liveliest in the area, popular with Turkish families on the weekends. If you are willing to take a longer ride out of town, Pamucak is a long, sandy beach twelve miles away, which is open for surfers and has an aqua park nearby. Pigeon Island, with its Byzantine castle, is the most recognisable landmark in Kusadasi. This is joined to the town by a short causeway, and you can sit in one of the cafés, take your time over a drink and enjoy the view of the town or watch the sunset. Nearby is the little isthmus of Yilanci Bujrna, where there are also restaurants and clubs — a good place for a night out.

An excursion to Ephesus is not to be missed: explore the ruins of an entire classical city, including the open air theatre where St Paul preached, the wonderfully intricate façade of the Library of Celsus, the Temple of Artemis, and the house of the Virgin Mary.

View Kusadasi beach holiday destinations