Exploring Turkey’s Aegean Coast

Landmarks & Icons

The Galata District, Istanbul, Turkey

With near perfect blue skies, warm temperatures, and minimal rain, the Aegean Coast in Turkey is a great holiday choice year round. For sun lovers the very best times to visit are April to October. But for those seeking to escape the North American winter, then November through March can offer some terrific low season deals to take advantage of.

With a population of 90 million, Turkey has daily internal flights to connect you from Istanbul to a multitude of small cities and towns along the coast, easily allowing you to fly into one and out of another,  minimizing backtracking and maximizing your precious vacation time. Turkish Airlines is a star alliance member with huge reach into North America and very competitive rates that offer excellent domestic prices when sold in conjunction with an international ticket – so if you know you’re coming to Turkey, strongly consider Turkish Airlines (aka ‘Turkish’). With above average service on their new fleet of aircraft and arguably one of the best Premium Economy classes out there (It rivals the business class of yesteryear for an excellent value). It should be noted that advance purchases is a must for any deals, as they are priced aggressively and sell out early ( the premium economy in particular). What this means is, Turkish Airlines and in turn Turkey has great savings – but only if you book early.

Ephesus, Turkey
Ephesus, Turkey

For a Mediterranean Turkish itinerary, I personally suggest starting in Izmir to visit world Unesco site Ephesus. Source a local guide to get the most out of the visit. I would recommend either an early morning start or a late afternoon visit, for three reasons: crowd size, heat, and lighting.  Turkey attracts a tremendous amount of visitors and Ephesus is one of the most significant ancient sites in the world. The temperature is far more bearable at the above times, due to a lack of trees and little shade, and finally because the light is best for photography.

Turkey has a thriving economy with a travelling public that enjoy their luxuries. As a result there are numerous unique boutique hotels as well as up scale hotels that not remotely cookie cutter but rather full of interesting architecture, art and ambience. Many have rooftop terraces furnished with comfy sofas and deep chairs to sip evening cocktails or share a romantic tapas style meal on while enjoying the sunset or star gazing. Turkish wines are a surprising delight to explore and rival many of their European competitors. Food is a focal point of life here and restaurants are plentiful and packed with locals and tourists alike. Turks don’t even consider eating until at least 9pm so if you want to escape the crowds head out prior, but if you want to join in the fun it is well worth the wait.

Kusadasi is an ideal spot to spend a couple of nights and explore surrounding area and ruins by day, and enjoy a great restaurant, cafe and bar scene at night. If the bar scene is not your thing then don’t despair all the boutiques and artisan shops stay open until at least 1am. Kusadasi has a great beach too, perfect for people watching.

The Bay of Bodrum
The Bay of Bodrum

Not too far down the coast is Bodrum, and nearby Priene founded in 350 BC – little visited by the average tourist but more than worth it to see the site of the last Greek home of Alexander the Great. Another noteworthy site to spend some exploring the ancient world is Didyma which was the cultural centre of Miletos and home to the majestic Temple of Apollo.

Bodrum boasts not only a great vibe for night-life, shopping and restaurants but one of Turkey’s finest museums, the Museum of Underwater Archaeology that is housed in the 15th century Bodrum Castle of St Peter.

Turks are very fashion conscious and have a style flair that has produced numerous local clothing designers that have unique products that you can’t find anywhere else, and they sell for decent prices. If you are after high quality goods then Turkey (particularly Istanbul) will be a big draw as the prices are lower and you can claim the tax back at departure. Here if you’re interested in the real thing, Chanel, LV, etc., Istanbul is the place to shop. We can help you arrange a private shopping tour at certain times of the year with early access to annual sales. Email carolynw@goway.com for more details. Buyer Beware, they also have a huge market for high end “genuine fake products”. If the price seems too good, it probably is, and you’re buying a knock off, not the real thing.

Tombs of Lycia near Kaunos
Tombs of Lycia near Kaunos

Moving further south along the coast takes you to Kaunos and the Lycian tombs that are carved into the cliff face above the Dalyan river. The only way to visit these two sights is by boat. Kaunos was founded in the 9th century and has remnants of an acropolis, an amphitheatre and an impressive Roman bath all boasting fabulous views of the surrounding countryside. The ruins are about a 3/4 mile walk from where ships dock but an industrious old Turkish farmer has set up a small stand about 1/2 way selling ice cold fresh pomegranate juice that is a treat to your taste buds!

The picturesque harbour town of Gocek is well located and offers town homes for the long stay apartment rentals, equipped with modern kitchens I imagine are rarely used as there are so many great restaurants lining the waterfront. The rich and famous have discovered Gocek and there are many unique little boutiques selling beautiful clothing that ranges from super high end to somewhat affordable.

Finishing off in Fethiye, located on the ancient city of Telmessos where the ruins can still be seen at the Hellenistic theatre near the main quay.

There are so many things to see and do along the Aegean coast one could spend weeks in the area and this year we will introduce a long stay program already available in Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands to Bodrum and Gocek so you can do just that.

Turkey really is a destination with something for everyone. It’s a unique blend of old and new, eastern and western culture, great cities and gorgeous scenery. It’s not a one-time vacation but somewhere you can return again and again, yet always discover something new.