The central and southern Aegean Travel Guide

The central and southern Aegean coast and its hinterland have seen foreign tourism longer than any other part of Turkey. The territory between modern İzmir and Marmaris corresponds to the bulk of ancient Ionia, and just about all of old Caria, and contains a concentration of Classical Greek, Hellenistic and Roman antiquities unrivalled in Turkey. Ephesus is usually first on everyone’s list, but the understated charms of exquisitely positioned sites such as Priene and Labranda hold at least as much appeal. Of course, most of the visitors who come here are drawn especially by the beaches – Kuşadası, Bodrum and Marmaris are among the largest resorts in the whole of Turkey. Bursting with cruise passengers and package tourists they may be, but they remain nonetheless rather likeable places. Independent travellers may prefer to seek more secluded sections of coast: the resort of Çeşme is certainly not overblown, the Datça peninsula is unspoiled and quite spectacular, while the towns and villages on the Çeşme, Bodrum and Hisarönü peninsulas are highly popular with moneyed locals.

There’s plenty to see once you get away from the coast, too. Sprawling İzmir, the third-largest city in Turkey, is an earthy city that attracts almost no foreign visitors, while little Selçuk, though it’s most famed as the jumping-off point for Ephesus, is a delightful place in its own right. The even smaller settlements of Muğla and Birgi are unselfconscious Ottoman museum-towns, while both Alaçatı and Şirince are well-preserved former Greek villages that remain just the right side of tweeness. For much of the time in this region, it’s the extraordinary quality of the landscape itself that provides the attraction, and often it can be utterly compelling – take a look at the eerie lake of Bafa Gölü, or the otherworldly travertine terraces that surround the hot springs of Pamukkale.

If you’ve been travelling in other parts of Turkey, the Aegean area’s high accommodation prices may come as an unpleasant surprise – rates at the coastal resorts go through the roof in summer, though inland (including İzmir, Selçuk and Pamukkale) you can find budget rooms at any time of year. As for Aegean cuisine, it’s unusual in placing far less emphasis on meat, and far more on fresh herbs and vegetables.

Ancient Ionia

The territory of Ancient Ionia begins south of İzmir. Its undoubted highlight is the ensemble of ruins that span numerous eras: most notably at Ephesus and Priene – perhaps the most dramatic site of all the Ionian cities; at sprawling Miletus, further south; and at Didyma, with its gargantuan temple. Kuşadası is an unabashedly utilitarian resort that serves well for excursions to the major antiquities and the nearby national park around ancient Mount Mycale. Nearby Selçuk is a prettier, more relaxed, base.

Ancient Ionia

The Ionian coast was first colonized by Greek-speakers in the twelfth century BC. The culture reached its zenith during the seventh and sixth centuries BC, when it was at the forefront of the newly emergent sciences, philosophy and the arts. Enormous advantages accrued to those who settled here: an amenable climate, fertile, well-watered terrain, and a strategic location between the Aegean – with its many fine harbours – and inland Anatolia. Partly thanks to the silting up of local rivers, the coastline soon began to recede, and by mid-Byzantine times virtually all of the Ionian cities had been abandoned; with the declaration of Christianity as the state religion, religious centres and oracles met a similar fate.

Today’s inhabitants have found the silver lining to the cloud of the advancing deltas, cashing in on the rich soil brought down from the hills. Vast tracts of cotton, tobacco, sesame and grain benefit from irrigation works, while groves of pine, olive and cypress, which need no such encouragement, adorn the hills and wilder reaches. And with the sea, though more distant than in former times, still beckoning when tramping the ruins palls, tourism is now threatening to outstrip agriculture.

Consulting the Oracle of apollo

Pilgrims visiting the sanctuary of Apollo would first purify themselves at a well below the resting place of the Medusa head, then approach the still-prominent circular altar to offer a sacrifice before proceeding to the steps of the shrine itself. As at Delphi, prophecies were formulated by proxy – supplicants would first deliver their queries to the priest of Apollo, who would disappear to consult the priestess, who (accounts disagree) either drank from, bathed in, or inhaled potent vapours from, the waters. Her subsequent ravings were rephrased more delicately to those waiting out front; the priest would reappear after a suitable interval on a terrace some 2m higher to deliver the oracular pronouncement. Questions ranged from the personal to matters of state; prophecies were recorded and stored for posterity.

Ephesus

Of Turkey’s superb array of ancient cities, Ephesus (known as Efes in Turkish) is by far the best preserved. In fact, with the possible exception of Pompeii, one could argue that it’s the world’s finest surviving example of a Greco-Roman classical city. A big claim, but with so much to back it up – the ruins here are not merely rocks on the ground, but near-fully-fledged incarnations of what life must have been like in ancient times.

The tantalizing prospect of delving back so many centuries in architectural time makes Ephesus a cast-iron must-see if you’re in, or anywhere near, the area. As one would expect, the ruins are mobbed for much of the year, particularly with summer cruise-ship arrivals from nearby Kuşadası – after the Sultanahmet district of İstanbul, this is the most visited tourist attraction in Turkey. However, with a little planning and initiative it’s possible to tour the site in relative peace.

There are two entrances to Ephesus, both surrounded by stands selling souvenirs and overpriced snacks. The prevailing current of people heads downhill from the upper entrance – a particularly good idea in summer – which is the route followed in this guide. You’ll need two to three hours to see Ephesus, and in summer you’ll need a hat – there’s next to no shade, meaning that the acres of stone act as a grill in the heat of the day. Whatever the season, you’ll probably need to carry water too; this is only sold at the entrances, from which multilingual audioguides are also available.

Brief history

Legends relate that Ephesus was founded by Androclus, son of King Kodrus of Athens, who was advised by an oracle to settle at a place indicated by a fish and a wild boar. Androclus and his entourage arrived here to find natives roasting fish by the sea; embers from the fire set a bush ablaze, out of which charged a pig, and the city was on its way. The imported worship of Artemis melded easily with that of the indigenous Cybele, and the Ephesus of 1000 BC was built on the north slope of Mount Pion (Panayır Dağı), very close to the temple of the goddess.

Alexander the Great, on his visit in 334 BC, offered to fund the completion of the latest version of the Artemis shrine, but the city fathers tactfully demurred, saying that one deity should not support another. Following Alexander’s death, his lieutenant Lysimachus moved the city to its present location – necessary because the sea had already receded considerably – and provided it with its first walls, traces of which are still visible on Panayır Dağı and Mount Koressos (Bülbül Dağı) to the south.

In subsequent centuries, Ephesus changed allegiance frequently and backed various revolts against Roman rule. Yet it never suffered for this lack of principle: during the Roman imperial period it was designated the capital of Asia and ornamented with magnificent public buildings – those on view today – by successive emperors. Ephesus’s quarter-million population was swollen substantially at times by the right of sanctuary linked to the sacred precinct of Artemis, allowing shelter to large numbers of criminals. Of a somewhat less lurid cast was the more stable, mixed population of Jews, Romans, and Egyptian and Anatolian cultists.

Priene

The ancient Greek city of Priene represents the best-preserved Hellenistic townscape in Ionia, without any of the usual Roman or Byzantine additions. It also occupies perhaps the finest location of any such city. Perched on a series of pine terraces graded into the south flank of Samsun Dağı, this compact but exquisite site enjoys a situation to bear comparison with that of Delphi in Greece. Despite all this, and the fact that it’s just 35km south of Kuşadası, Priene remains far less visited than Ephesus – even in summer, you’ll largely have this wonderful place to yourself.

Visitors to Priene who are dropped by dolmuş at the western edge of the strung-out village of Güllübahçe face an uphill walk to the site ticket office, and then another good steep walk up the hill to the northeast gate into the city itself. Beyond that, the ruins are strewn over a wide area, and all major points of interest have English-language information boards.

The town was set up along a grid pattern made up of various insulae (rectangular units), each measuring roughly 42m by 35m. Within each rectangle stood four private dwellings; a public building had its own insula, sometimes two.

Brief history

The original settlement of Priene lay elsewhere in the Meander basin. Following the receding shoreline, however – now just visible to the west – its inhabitants re-founded the city on its present site during the fourth century BC, just in time for Alexander to stop in and finance the cost of the principal temple of Athena. However, the city enjoyed little patronage from Roman or Byzantine emperors – which, of course, adds to its modern-day appeal.

Selçuk

One has to admire little SELÇUK. No more than a farming town only a generation ago, it has been catapulted into the limelight of premier-league tourism by its proximity to the ruins of Ephesus, the second most visited site in the whole of Turkey. Despite this, and its status as the burial place of St John the Evangelist, Selçuk remains an incredibly relaxed, easy-going place – swallows squeal and wheel from eave to eave, storks build nests atop Roman columns, and life dawdles by at a snail’s pace.

Selçuk has maintained its relaxed air largely because Ephesus is also very close to the coast – the overwhelming majority of visitors to the ruins base themselves in nearby Kuşadası. Unless you absolutely need to be by the sea (which, in any case, is less than half an hour away), Selçuk is an excellent travel base, with super-cheap accommodation, good restaurants and a pleasing, backpackery feel.

As far as sightseeing goes, Ephesus is not the end of the story – stay a couple of days here (or in Kuşadası) and you’ll be able to see the hill village of Şirince, the shrine at Meryemana, and Selçuk’s own array of antiquities, most pertinently those in its excellent museum.

Accommodation

Most hotels offer free transport to Ephesus, as well as collection from the ferry in Kuşadası. Prices, already low, plummet further off season. Camping is possible on Pamucak beach, a short bus ride away.

Eating and drinking

Selçuk’s restaurants tend to much the same as each other, though they’re usually good value. Several hotels also operate decent dining rooms that are open to the public. Alcohol is easy to track down; many restaurants are licensed, and there are several noisy bars in the warren of streets around the train station.

Şirince

The evocative, well-preserved hill village of ŞİRİNCE, 8km east of Selçuk, was originally built by Greeks. It’s surrounded by lush orchards and vineyards – you can taste the wines, and buy bottles at many shops. Laden with pesky hawkers in season, it’s much more pleasant and relaxed outside summer and genuinely lives up to its reputation as one of the region’s most idyllic villages – this despite being a cab-ride from Selçuk.

The late nineteenth-century church at the edge of Şirince has a pebble-mosaic floor, plaster-relief work on the ceiling, and wooden vaulting, while the larger stone basilica nearer the centre dates from 1839. The main reason to visit, though, is the idyllic scenery and the handsome domestic architecture, which these days attracts wealthy urban Turks in search of characterful vacation homes.

When in Turkey… Hangover cures, local style

As westerners around the world can tell you, at the end of a night on the booze the best way to say sorry to your body is by throwing a kebab into it. A handy Turkish (and, of course, Greek) cure to an international malady, but what do Turks themselves do? One answer is işkembe çorba, a soup made with cow offal, often with a dash of lemon juice to cut straight through the offending alcohol. Its success as a hangover remedy may be behind the fact that, for many Turks, it’s the first meal of the year, consumed just after midnight on New Year’s Day. A few soup kitchens around the back of the Hanım Camii sell işkembe çorba; some stay open all night long.

Village food in Cherry Valley

One of the Aegean’s most interesting restaurants lies just a short drive from Kuşadası, beautifully set amid the orchards in the village of Kirazlı Köy in “Cherry Valley”, and readily accessible by minibus from Kuşadası. While it remains all but unknown to foreign travellers, it has become hugely popular with Turkish visitors.

Riding the crest of the home-cooking wave that’s washing over western Turkey, Köy Sofrası translates as “village feast”, and that’s exactly what you’ll find if you make your way out here. Diners are treated to round after round of superb food, using the freshest ingredients from the surrounding countryside. This is the Aegean, so a mixed meze plate will best showcase the area’s wonderful herbs, pulses and veggies; otherwise the breakfasts are phenomenal, if you can get here early enough in the morning.

Watery fun in Kuşadası

The main appeal of Kuşadası is that the sea is right next to it. Besides the posse of beaches that fringe the city, two huge water parks lie just to the north, and it’s also possible to organize short boat trips around the bay.

Beaches

Halk Plaj

In the town centre itself, though not terribly appealing.

Yılancı Burnu

The closest “real” beach to town, and quite a pleasing one too. It’s within walking distance of the centre, though you’ll have to navigate a small hill; failing that, jump on any minibus heading that way.

Ladies’ Beach

Kuşadası’s most famous stretch of sand, 3km southwest of town, is a rather scrappy affair, but very popular in summer. Regular dolmuşes from town.

Paradise Beach

One cove further along from Ladies’ Beach, and accessible on the same minibuses, this is smaller and quieter with fewer bars.

Tusan Beach

A nice, long stretch of hard-packed sand, 5km north of town, that’s famed for its adjacent water parks.

Pamucak Beach

The best beach in the whole area, 15km north of town, and also easily accessible from Selçuk, though the sea can be rough on windy days. Regular minibuses from both Kuşadası and Selçuk.

Boat trips

A clutch of boats lies in wait just off Pigeon Island, their skippers eagerly drumming up custom in the morning, then again in the evening for the next day’s venture. Most offer a similar itinerary, leaving at 9.30am, visiting three isolated beaches and returning by 4.30pm. The price hovers around TL25 including lunch; chat with the skippers before you make your choice.

The southern Aegean

South of the main Ionian sites the southern Aegean begins with reminders of another ancient civilization, the Carians, a purportedly barbarous people indigenous to the area (a rarity in Anatolia) who spoke a language distantly related to Greek. Bafa Gölü (or Lake Bafa) and ancient Heracleia ad Latmos on its northeast shore make a suitably dramatic introduction to this once isolated and mysterious region. From the nearest substantial town, Milas, the ancient sites of Euromos, Labranda and Iassos provide tempting excursions.

South of Milas, on the Gulf of Gökova, Ören is a rare treat: an attractive coastal resort not yet steamrollered by tourism. Most visitors bypass Ören in favour of Bodrum and its peninsula, very much the big event on this coast. While the tentacles of development creep over the surrounding land, in places what first attracted outsiders to the area still shines through on occasion.

Further south, Marmaris is another big – and rather overblown – resort, from which the Loryma (Hisarönü) peninsula beyond, bereft of a sandy shoreline but blessed with magnificent scenery, offers the closest escape. As a compromise, Datça and its surroundings might fit the bill, with remote beaches nearby more rewarding than the much-touted ruins of ancient Knidos.

Bafa Gölü

Surrounded by jagged mountains and more than 100 sq km in size, Lake Bafa – in Turkish, Bafa Gölü – is an entrancing spectacle. Created when silt sealed off the Büyük Menderes River’s passage to the sea, it’s now most famed as the site of Heracleia ad Latmos, a spectacularly located set of lakeside ruins.

As for Bafa itself, the water is faintly brackish and fish species include levrek (bass), kefal (grey mullet), yayın (catfish) and yılan balığı (eel). Although levels are depleting, stocks are still high enough to support the arrival throughout the year of more than two hundred species of migratory wildfowl, including the endangered crested pelican, of which there are believed to be fewer than two thousand left in the world.

Heracleia ad Latmos

Look across Lake Bafa from its southern shore and you’ll spy a patch of irregular shoreline, and the modern village of Kapıkırı, whose lights twinkle at the base of Mount Latmos by night. Strewn higgledy-piggledy around the village are the ruins of Heracleia ad Latmos (Heraklia in Turkish), one of the most evocatively situated ancient cities in all Turkey.

A settlement of Carian origin had existed here long before the arrival of the Ionians, though Latmos – as it was then known – had far better geographical communication with Ionia than with the rest of Caria. Late in the Hellenistic period the city’s location was moved a kilometre or so west, and the name changed to Heracleia, but despite its numerous monuments and enormous wall it was never a place of great importance. Miletus, at the head of the gulf, monopolized most trade and already the inlet was starting to close up.

Only the retaining wall and some rows of benches survive of the second-century BC bouleuterion that lies 100m east of the first parking area. The Roman baths visible in the valley below, and a crumbled but appealing Roman theatre off in the olives beyond, can be reached via an unmarked trail starting between the first and second parking areas. The path up to the hermits’ caves on Mount Latmos begins at the rear of the second parking area; stout boots are advisable. Similar cautions apply for those who want to trace the course of the Hellenistic walls, the city’s most imposing and conspicuous relics, supposedly built by Lysimachus in the late third century BC.

The restaurant of the Agora Pansiyon looks south over the Hellenistic agora, now an open, grassy square; the downhill side of its south edge stands intact to two storeys, complete with windows. The grounds offer a fine view west over the lake and assorted castle-crowned promontories. A box-like Hellenistic Temple of Athena perches on a hill west of the agora; less conspicuous is an inscription to Athena, left of the entrance.

From the agora a wide, walled-in path descends toward the shore and Heracleia’s final quota of recognizable monuments. Most obvious is the peninsula – or, in wet years, island – studded with Byzantine walls and a church. A stone causeway half-buried in the beach here allowed entrance in (drier) medieval times. Follow the shore southwest, and across the way you should be able to spot the tentatively identified Hellenistic Sanctuary of Endymion, oriented unusually northeast to southwest. Five column stumps front the structure, which has a rounded rear wall – a ready-made apse for later Christians – with sections of rock incorporated into the masonry.

Bodrum

It’s fair to say that the coastal resort of BODRUM has a certain reputation. To many travellers, the very name conjures up images of drunken debauchery, full English breakfasts, and belly-out Europeans turning slowly pink on a Mediterranean beach. While there’s an element of truth to that stereotype, the reality is somewhat different – with its low-rise whitewashed houses and subtropical gardens, Bodrum is the most attractive of the major Aegean resorts, given a more cosmopolitan air by the increasing number of Turkish visitors.

Bodrum is neatly divided into two contrasting halves by its castle, and a largely pedestrianized bazaar area that sits immediately to its north. To the west is the more genteel area that surrounds a spruced-up yacht marina, with its upmarket hotels and restaurants, while to the east the town’s party zone holds its highest concentration of bars and restaurants. The eastern zone also features a thin, scrubby strip of beach, packed with sunbathers during the day and shoreside diners in the evening.

Lastly, mention must also be made of the delightful peninsula that Bodrum calls home; a tranquil and highly characterful place with beaches galore, it has recently become immensely popular with moneyed locals.

Brief history

Originally known as Halikarnassos, Bodrum was colonized by Dorians from the Peloponnese during the eleventh century BC. They mingled with the existing Carian population, settling on the small island of Zephysia, which later became a peninsula and the location of the medieval castle. During the fifth century BC, Halikarnassos’ most famous son Herodotus chronicled the city’s fortunes in his acclaimed Histories.

Mausolus (377–353 BC), leader of the Hecatomnid satraps dynasty, increased the power and wealth of what had already become a semi-independent principality. An admirer of Greek civilization, Mausolus spared no effort to Hellenize his cities, and was working on a suitably self-aggrandizing tomb at the time of his death – thereby giving us the word “mausoleum”. Artemisia II, his sister and wife, completed the massive structure, which came to be regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. She distinguished herself in warfare, inflicting a humiliating defeat on the Rhodians, who were tricked into allowing her entire fleet into their port.

After a period of little importance under the Roman and Byzantine empires, and brief shuffling among Selçuk, Menteşe and Ottoman occupiers, the Knights of St John slipped over from Rhodes in 1402 and erected the castle that is now Bodrum’s most prominent landmark – indeed, the name bodrum, meaning “cellar” or “dungeon” in Turkish, probably pays tribute to the stronghold’s subterranean defences.

The Bodrum peninsula

For anyone staying in Bodrum, it’s worth making at least one day- or half-day trip across the peninsula it calls home. You might even consider basing yourself in one of its many relaxed villages, such as Gümüşlük or Akyarlar, rather than in hectic Bodrum. The peninsular population was largely Greek Orthodox before 1923 and villages often still have a vaguely Hellenic feel, with ruined churches, windmills and old stone houses. However, the area has become immensely popular with moneyed Turks of late, and whitewashed cube-buildings have proliferated – some now appealing boutique hotels, others eerily empty, where building projects have gone belly-up. Luxury hotels, on the other hand, are proliferating – every major world chain either has, or is about to have, a hotel open here.

The peninsula still exudes a unique charm. Its north side, greener and cooler, holds patches of pine forest; the south, studded with tall crags, is more arid, with a sandier coast. There are also plenty of serviceable beaches, with Bitez, Ortakent, Yalıkavak and Türkbükü, among others, currently holding Blue Flag status for cleanliness.

Note that most of the peninsula’s hotels and restaurants only open from May to October. Travel at other times is certainly possible, though, and it’s blissfully relaxing.

Accommodation and eating

Accommodation on this stretch of coast is plentiful, particularly in the package-tourism resort of Gümbet. Bitez has some nice places to stay and eat, while Akyarlar has some of the cheapest pansiyons on the peninsula, as well as some great local restaurants.

Coastal charters and boat excursions around Marmarıs

Chartering either a motor schooner (gulet) or a smaller yacht out of Marmaris will allow you to explore the convoluted coast from Bodrum as far as Kaş. Especially out of high season, the daily cost isn’t necessarily prohibitive – no more than renting a medium-sized car, for example – and in the case of a gulet, a knowledgeable crew will be included. Virtually all the shore is accessible by boat, with abundant hidden anchorages.

You can pre-book a yacht charter through specialist holiday operators, or make arrangements on the spot. Prices are always quoted in euros or US dollars, but it’s possible to pay in Turkish lira. Substantial deposits are required – usually fifty percent of the total price.

The best option for individual travellers or small groups is a cabin charter. Several companies set aside one schooner whose berths are let out individually. The craft departs on a particular day of the week with a fixed itinerary of three to seven days. Typical prices, including all food and watersports equipment, range from €390 per person per week in April, May and October, to over €470 between June and September.

If you can assemble a large group, and have more time, consider a standard charter of a 20m motor schooner. A group of twelve, for example, will pay around €35 each daily during May or October, not including food or sporting equipment, and around €45 from June to September. Companies often offer to supply food from about €30 per person per day, though the best strategy is to dine in restaurants at your evening mooring and to keep the galley stocked for breakfast and snacks. If you tip the crew appropriately they’re usually happy to shop for you. Old and reliable charter agencies in Marmaris include Yeşil Marmaris, Barbaros Cad 118 (t0252 412 6486, wyesilmarmaris.com).

For greater independence, so-called “bareboat yacht” charter is the answer. Prices range from under €1000 for the smallest boat in off season, to €5800 for the largest in high season. This assumes that at least one of your party is a certified skipper; otherwise count on at least €140 a day extra (plus food costs) to engage one. For bareboat yachts, a large local operator is Offshore Sailing at the Albatros Marina, 3km east of Netsel Marina (t0252 412 8889, woffshore-sailing.net).

Boat trips from Marmarıs

Day excursions aboard a gulet depart from the southern end of Kordon Cad and the castle peninsula. Trips usually visit highlights of the inner bay, heading to a fish farm on the north side of Cennet Adası, caves on its south shore, then completing the day with a visit to Kumlubükü or Turunç coves. In summer, boats leave around 10.30am and return between 5pm and 6pm, and charge around TL20 per person, including lunch (no drinks).

You’ll also see signs in Marmaris offering trips to Cleopatra’s Isle. These actually refer to the islet of Sedir Adası (Cedar Island), near the head of the Gulf of Gökova, and said to have served as a trysting place for Cleopatra and Mark Antony. The sand on its beach was supposedly brought from Africa at Mark Antony’s behest, and indeed analysis has shown that the grains are not from local strata. The tours leave between 10 and 11am from Çamli İskelesı, and return at 4 or 5pm. The departure point is 6km down a side road that starts 12km north of Marmaris; most passengers get there on tour operators’ shuttle buses, but hourly dolmuşes leave from the otogar.

The Çeşme peninsula

The claw-like mass of land that extends west from İzmir, the Çeşme peninsula, terminates near Çeşme itself, the least touristed and most relaxing of the central Aegean’s main coastal resorts. A one-hour bus ride from İzmir, it makes a decent base for the few attractions within shouting distance of town – most notably ancient Erythrae, the hip town of Alaçatı and Altınkum beach.

The immediate environs of Çeşme are green and hilly, with added colour from the deeply aquamarine sea and the white of the wind turbines on the approach to the peninsula. The climate here is noticeably drier, cooler and healthier than anywhere nearby on the Turkish coast, especially in comparison with occasionally hellish İzmir or muggy Kuşadası. These conditions, combined with the presence of several thermal springs, have made the peninsula a popular resort for over a century.

Alaçatı

The architecturally stunning old Greek village of ALAÇATI is one of the most upmarket locales on the Aegean coast. With an undeniably Mediterranean air, it’s one of those places that makes you question whether you’re still in Turkey at all – the lone call to prayer is heeded by next to no one, while cafés, shops and wine bars run a brisk trade. However, this is no Brit-packed beach resort. Most of it is manifestly inland, for a start, while the overwhelming majority of visitors are Turkish – mainly cosmopolitan, moneyed sorts from İstanbul and İzmir, who pop by on weekend trips.

Things have changed considerably since 2001, when Alaçatı was just another charming peninsular village. Then one of the town’s old stone houses opened up as a swish designer hotel. Within a few years it had spawned a dozen tasteful imitators, and a similar number of gourmet restaurants. There are now something like 150 hotels and 50 restaurants, and numbers are still growing; however, strict building regulations have ensured the rapid growth has had little effect on Alaçatı’s architectural character. Its old lanes and cobbled streets, particularly on the main thoroughfare, Kemalpaşa Caddesi, are dotted with antique shops, art galleries and snazzy boutiques selling designer goods.

Most visitors head to the town’s 300m-long sandy beach, 4km south, to take advantage of unique windsurfing and kiteboarding conditions. The strong, reliable “Meltemi” wind, combined with shallow water and lack of waves, makes the bay ideal for learners.

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Rough Guides Editors
8/29/2020
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