Beach holidays in Turkey are often synonymous with (mostly) British tourists occupying row after row of sun loungers, rowdy club nights and all-inclusive resorts. However, using public transport, or your own car, you can get to some of the best beaches in Turkey in no time.
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Meet the loggerhead turtles who bury their eggs in the protected sands of Ciralı. Or, escape the tourist haven of Bodrum, one of the best beach destinations in Turkey. Find secluded coves just down the coast.
Turtles and tourism coexist on the protected 4.5km of hard-packed sands of Iztuzu beach, which is considered one of the best beaches in Turkey. Tracks emerging from the sea are visible on the sand in June and July. These are formed when turtles have dragged themselves ashore to lay their eggs, and the marshes behind the beach are often alive with other wildlife too.
While lack of shade is often a problem on this beach, the gently shelving seabed calms the choppy waters, making Iztuzu excellent for children.
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Patara’s fine white-sand beach ranks as one of the longest continuous beach in the Mediterranean. It measures 9km from the access road to the mouth of the Eşen Çayı, and then another 6km to the end.
In peak season the immediate vicinity of the beach entrance gets crowded, but walking northwest past the dunes brings you to plenty of solitary spots. Spring and autumn swimming is delightful, but in summer the exposed shoreline can be battered by body-surfable waves.
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The small village of Kabak is the perfect place to escape package holiday groups. Most visitors come here to chill out in one of the many wooden huts and bungalows, set in the pine-forested valley behind the sand-and-pebble beach. Wear mosquito repellent in the summer though, as these pesky insects are everywhere.
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The laidback resort, shrouded in citrus groves, is situated on a narrow plain between the mountains and a long, curving 3km-long shingle beach, considered one of the best beaches in Turkey. It is possible to walk along the beach to the ruins of ancient Olympos, as well as longer hikes on the Lycian Way, which blazes its way through the settlement.
Çiralı is safeguarded by various Turkish bodies for its unique ecology. This has enabled threatened loggerhead and green sea turtles to continue laying their eggs here. Be careful not to so dig up, litter or nocturnally illuminate the beach during the summer nesting season.
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Heading north from Olympos, there’s scant pretext to stop before Antalya. Yet ancient Phaselis, with its superb swimming opportunities, will certainly tempt you off the main road.
The ruins of Phaselis flank three small bays, providing ample opportunity to contemplate antique monuments while lying on the beach. The natural beauty of the clear sea makes for a rewarding half-day outing. Bring a picnic if you don’t fancy the car-park snack caravans.
Sitting beneath the gently undulating countryside of Bozcaada there are a few good beaches, the most developed being Ayazma, which offers watersports and sunbeds. The next bay west, Sulubahçe, has good broad sand but no parking. For the best beaches head to the secluded, sandy Beylik cove or Aqvaryum bay, tucked scenically to one side of the Mermer Burnu cape.
Belediye Plaji is a long stretch of sandy beach that’s backed by low cliffs packed with fossils. Sadly, in summer, campers’ rubbish and semi-permanent tents can blight this beautiful landscape. But with your own transport, head north to find several more almost empty beaches – some of the most stunning and undeveloped in Turkey.
Arguably one of the best beaches in Turkey, just 10km from the town, this beach is 1500m of sugary blonde sand, lapped by warm, pristine water.
The salt lake just inland is a major habitat for migratory birds, especially flamingos. The entire area is supposedly a protected reserve. However this has neither prevented tourist development nor deterred Balkan tourists from wallowing in the shoreline’s black mud, said to have healing properties.
This is the final beach along the Gökçeada coastline, 3km west of little Uğurlu fishing port. It has no facilities but fine sand and a pine-grove backdrop make this a worthwhile and relaxing stop.
Some excellent beaches are dotted along the scenic 20km road that separates Foça from Yeni Foça. However, they’re only accessible by foot or by paying fees to the campsites that own them. The best sand is at Acar Kamping (after 10km), but 700m before that, paths from the roadside lead down beneath some high voltage power lines to a succession of idyllic coves opposite an islet.
On the Black Sea coast in northern Turkey, this beach is a fine stretch of white sand. It's backed by pine forests and picnic areas and is less frequented than the other beaches. However, unpredictable currents can make swimming dangerous here.
The most visited portion of the unrestricted zone of Dilek National Park has four good, but often windswept, beaches. The prettiest of them all is Karasu, a 700m stretch of gravel, perfect for swimming. Stand in the sea for long enough and the fish will nibble on your toes.
For unique windsurfing and kiteboarding conditions, head to a 300m-long sandy beach. Just 4km south of Alaçatı, it's one of the most upmarket locales on the Aegean coast. The strong, reliable “Meltemi” wind, combined with shallow water and lack of waves, makes this bay ideal for learners.
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The main appeal of this area of the Aegean coast is the posse of beaches that fringe the city of Kuşadasi. One of the best beaches in Turkey, 15km north of the city and accessible by minibus, is Pamucak beach. Note the sea can be rough on windy days.
The 9km of rough coast road that links Medusiye Bükü with Palamut Bükü makes a tricky prospect without your own transportation. It’s worth the effort though, as this stark setting is balanced by a kilometre-long beach of tiny pebbles, lapped by brisk clear water, with an islet offshore.
The deep canyon known as Kaputaş Gorge slashes back into the cliffs on the beautiful coastal road to Kaş, just under 6km out of Kalkan. Steps from the roadside parking lead down to Kaputaş beach, a 150m expanse of pebble and blonde sand. Kaputaş has served as the backdrop for innumerable TV advert shoots, and, unless there’s been a southerly storm, the water is crystalline.
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Butterfly Valley beach is named after the many species that flutter about during the right seasons. The beach is accessible by boat from Ölüdeniz or a rocky path leading down from the road. The golden sands are backed by a beautiful limestone canyon just inland.
There is a lot more to Turkey than meets the eye. Between the beaches and bustling markets lies a wealth of interesting history filled with religious and literary figures, civil war and a multitude of languages. Learn a little more about Turkey with these facts about Turkey you never knew.
Antalya’s western beach, Konyaatı, now spruced up, is finally beginning to live up to its dramatic situation between Antalya’s cliffs and the Beydağları mountains. Shingle, rather than sand, it’s clean and well maintained. However, for fine sand head to Lara beach, 10km southeast of Antalya by bus. The long, gentle waves make for some great swimming spots.
Offering watersports and activities from parasailing and banana-boating to go-karting, it's no wonder Kleopatra Beach is one of the best beaches in Turkey. This is the most popular beach in the local area, lined with a multitude of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops as well as tattoo parlours.
Explore two Turkish highlights on our tailor-made trip to Istanbul and Cappadocia. Visit Istanbul, the former capital of the Ottoman Empire with its many landmarks. After a few days in the city, fly to Cappadocia and explore the surreal surroundings, either on day tours or from above in a hot air balloon.
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It’s fair to say that the coastal resort of Bodrum has a certain reputation. However its southern flank holds some fantastic beaches. Many of the area's beaches are crowded by (mostly) British tourists and lined with rowdy clubs and bars. However, Kargı beach is somewhat quieter. It's sandy and gently sloping, overlooked by the ubiquitous villas and a handful of fish restaurants.
The next cove on, Bağla, seems initially off-putting. But persevere and you’ll find some of the softest sand on the peninsula.
Spend your day on a boat tour visiting Bodrum's hidden bays. Swim in the turquoise waters surrounding Black Island and relax with lunch at Aquarius Bay.
Turkey is one of the best places to travel with kids. Check out our guide to the best places to go with kids and find some more inspirational ideas for the family holidays.
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Top image: Iztuzu Beach and Dalyan © Nejdet Duzen/Shutterstock