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The turquoise coast

The Turquoise Coast, or Turkish Riviera, is home to two wonders of the world, an iconic sailing route and a hotel built like the Kremlin - not to mention those beaches. We take a tour

  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast
  • The turquoise coast

Text by Norwegian

At a glance

The Turkish Riviera has more than 1,000km of shoreline along the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.

Its unofficial capital, Antalya, has a population of more than 1 million. In 2011, 10.5 million people visited from abroad, making it the world's fourth-most-visited city.

Every month from May to October, the average daily temperature on the coast is more than 20oC. In July and August, it's 28oC.

Dalaman Airport is one of the world's best connected for holiday spots: Marmaris, Fethiye, Köyceğiz, Dalyan, Kaş, Ölüdeniz and Hisarönü are all nearby.

The travel-brochure shot

The classic postcard image of the Turquoise Coast is the Blue Lagoon at Ölüdeniz - which means 'Sea of the Dead' in Turkish - a sandy beach that stretches into the sea, with crystal clear water on either side. Ölüdeniz is 60km from Dalaman Airport.

The map

Alanya Two hours from Antalya, Alanya is like a growing younger sibling, as its 20km of sandy beaches slowly become filled with high-end resorts. Still, hillside cafés and ancient ruins maintain some real charm.

Antalya Antalya is the region's biggest and most progressive city, boasting Dubai-esque hotels and top restaurants. The preserved Roman-Ottoman quarter of Kaleiçi is a must-see.

Fethiye Built around a natural harbour, Fethiye is the most common start and end point for Turkey's iconic Blue Cruises, on wooden gülets. It's near the ghost town of Kayaköy as well as countless great beaches.

Dalaman Dalaman, the central town of the district with the same name, isn't much, but it's bang in the middle of the Turkish Riviera's top spots, from the beaches at Ölüdeniz to the unspoilt fishing town of Kaş.

Marmaris Once a sleepy fishing village, Marmaris is now a full-speed holiday destination, stuffed with package tourists galore. But the rugged coastline nearby, backed by pine-covered mountains, is stunning.

Bodrum A town of contrasts, Bodrum is on the one hand a beautiful historic city, with palm-lined streets and pretty houses, but despite gentrification, part of the city's still ruined by hard-drinking tourists.

It's not all big resorts...

Kale is a beautiful village, which you can only get to by fishing boat from Üçagiz in the Antalya Province - with its rickety shorefront jetties, quaint restaurants and cottages draped in bougainvillea, it's one of the most charming spots on the Turkish Riviera, topped offwith a ruined castle. Stay at Nesrin's Bademli Ev (+90 242 874 2170), a friendly B&B surrounded by greenery, plus shaded balconies overlooking the sea.

Set in a gorgeous environmentally protected area, Dalyan - 40 minutes from Dalaman Airport - is surrounded by ancient ruins and wetlands that are home to everything from storks to the endangered loggerhead turtle. Head to the Iztuzu sandbar, a 5km stretch of white sand and tranquil sea, or check out the local mud baths and warm sulphur pools. Stay at the farmhouse-like Aydos Club boutique hotel, on the Dalyan River

... But Antalya does have some wacky hotels

The 464-room Adam & Eve claims to have more mirrors than any other hotel (many on ceilings), free condoms in the bathroom and an Angel Service (women dressed as angels). Ooh-er.

The WOW Kremlin Palace boasts brash recreations of everything from St Basil's Cathedral to the Bolshoi Theatre. Ironically, fewer Russians stay here than at many Antalya hotels.

The 640-room Rixos Premium Belek claims to be Europe's first seven-star hotel - if 10 tennis courts and 160 designer shops aren't enough, there's a dolphin show with a karaoke-singing walrus. 

The airy, whitewashed Marmara Antalya claims to be the world's first revolving hotel: 24 rooms in its Revolving Loft rotate 360o every seven hours for views of the sea and mountains.

Where to spot a celeb

Türkbükü, close to Bodrum, is known as the St Tropez of Turkey, where pop stars, footballers and models stroll the boardwalk filled with posh bars and restaurants. Indeed, model Kate Moss was spotted here last year. There's no beach, so everyone prostrates their polished bodies on a wooden deck stretching out into the sea. Stay at the Ada Hotel (www.adahotel.com), an elegantly rustic stonewalled boutique hotel with a stunning hammam.

In the know

The pyramids' volume

Total volume of the other six wonders

Total volume of the world's Seven Wonders combined

The Turkish Riviera boasts two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. They're ruins - of the rest, only the Pyramids of Giza still stand, while others have been destroyed by earthquakes and fires.

The Blue Cruise

The term Blue Cruise - now part of the Turkish travel lexicon - was created for trips along the Turkish Riviera, which involve lots of swimming and just a bit of sightseeing. The trips on gülets (traditional wooden yachts) typically run from Fethiye to Demre or Antalya over four days, stopping everywhere from Butterfly Valley to the rustic fishing town of Kaş. Companies such as Blue Cruise (mybluecruise.com) will take you on the classic route, or you could go for a quirkier itinerary on Australian-run Before Lunch's cruises, which start and end in Fethiye.

Where to see old stuff...

Aspendos Roman theatre

This stunning amphitheatre near Antalya dates back to 155BC and is best seen during the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival in June (www.aspendosfestival.gov.tr), when top companies perform here.

Temple of Apollo ruins

The seaside Temple of Apollo near Side (60km from Antalya) is one of the country's most important historical sights, but also a spectacular spot to see ancient ruins framed by azure sea.

Lycian tombs at Dalyan

The Lycians were known for their tombs and the versions cut into the cliffs at Dalyan are some of the best, dating back to 400BC. See them from a boat up the Dalyan Çayi River, which runs through the town.

Important people hung out here...

Antony and Cleopatra's wedding might have been the must-attend event of the Roman era - they tied the knot in Antioch (now Antakya).

Herodotus, the Greek historian known as the father of modern history, was born in Bodrum in 484BC - among other things, he helped come up with the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

St Nicholas - the inspiration for Santa Claus - was born near Demre (formerly Myra) near Antalya in 270AD. Among many myths surrounding the gift-giving saint, one is that each year his relics exude a clear liquid said to possess miraculous powers.

Ideas for the kids

Turquoise Coast Adventure

UK travel company Exodus (www.exodus.co.uk) runs an eight-day Turquoise Coast Adventure, based in the harbour town of Kaş, designed for families. The trip includes an overnight stay in a mountain village and you can also choose to go sea kayaking at Kekova or walk in the spectacular Saklikent Gorge.

Go farming

The Pastoral Vadi Organic Eco Farm in Fethiye (www.pastoralvadi.com) is in the middle of a valley surrounded by pine forests and a river. Kids can join arts and crafts classes, learn to make börek (fried, filled pastries), help out at the farm or go fishing. The bungalows are all made from stone, mudbrick or wood, and all the food is local and organic.

Don't want to just lie there?

Walk the Lycian Way 

The 500km walk from Ölüdeniz, near Fethiye, to Hisarcandir, about 20km from Antalya, is one of the world's most famous hikes and it usually takes 25 days to cross the old mule trails between the coast and mountains. Only to be attempted in the cooler spring or autumn months. 

Live the outdoor life 

It's not all beaches in southern Turkey. Sakli Göl Evleri, 64km inland from Antalya, features seven luxury tents and five bungalows in the forest overlooking the peaceful Lake Karacaören. Days are spent hiking, fishing, canoeing and cycling, and it's close to the ancient ruins of Sagalassos. 

Swim the coast 

Open-water swim specialists Swim Trek offer seven-day breaks around the beaches and islands of the Lycian coast, based from the pretty harbour town of Kaş. There's an average 6km of swimming every day, so you'd better be fit before you start.

Species-spotting on the Turkish Riviera

Loggerhead turtles Endangered

British lager louts Threatened

Big-spending Russians Thriving

In the know

Antalya's football team, which plays in the top Turkish league, has perhaps the least chantable name in football: Medical Park Antalyaspor, after its sponsors, one of the country's biggest hospital groups.

Where the travel agent recommends

Exclusive Escapes is the UK's top online agent for trips to the Turkish Riviera. The company's Felicity Hoad gives us a few tips...

Şövalye (pronounced chevalier) near Fethiye is a sleepy, entirely pedestrianised island - ideal if you want peace and quiet to roam the shady walkways through pine-scented forests.

There's only one hotel on the island - the 12-bedroom Ece boutique hotel, which is surrounded by sea, and this year has a new beach club and waterside restaurant. If you go canoeing or snorkelling, you paddle over ancient ruins directly offshore, which include submerged houses, an old city wall, churches and a Roman cistern. There's also a courtesy boat to the town of Fethiye.

Chichi Kalkan is an archetypal Mediterranean harbour town, with a horseshoe-shaped bay, roof-terrace restaurants overlooking the sea and a bustling weekly market.

It's also home to Hotel Villa Mahal, a waterfront boutique hotel which was awarded "most romantic hotel in Europe" by Condé Nast Johansens and featured in the Sunday Times' (UK) list of the 100 best hotels in Europe. With just 13 bedrooms, it boasts stunning sea views from all rooms - suites have their own pools; everyone else has to put up with the infinity pool. 

If you only eat at one place...

Fethiye's fish market is a raucous courtyard packed with stalls. At some you buy a vast array of fresh-caught fish, from sea bream to giant prawns and plump sardines; others are basically small restaurants that will cook the fish for a small charge, and serve with raki (local aniseed-y spirit) and hot Turkish bread, often to the accompaniment of local bands.

In the know

Want to read what an array of writers say about the Turkish Riviera? Rupert Scott's Turkish Coast: Through Writers' Eyes is an edited collection of thoughts on the coast by everyone from Plutarch and Homer through Byron to Louis de Bernières.

Find more online www.gototurkey.co.uk www.lycianway.com 

Book your tickets www.norwegian.com


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