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47 Best things to see & do in Turquoise Coast

  • Turquoise Coast, Turkey

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Jeremy Seal
  • Turkey

Close up of a gulet under full sail

Bucket List Experience

Cruise Turkey’s Turquoise Coast

Deserted, aquamarine bays, steep cliffs dense with bottle-green pines and the constant hum of cicadas creates a blissful backdrop to a typical week cruising Turkey’s southwestern ‘Turquoise’ coast. This absorbing stretch of coastline runs from Cesme to Anamur, including the towns of Kusadasi, Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye, and Antalya.

These small-boat sailing holidays are the perfect detox from everyday life, with days falling into a routine of swimming before breakfast, lazing on deck, more swimming, forays ashore and dinner under the stars, at anchor.

Book either as a single, a couple or a family and meet like-minded people, or charter your own gulet and choose our route. Boats come fully crewed and you don’t have to lift a finger.

Adult price: £Varies

Good for age: 13+

Duration: Min 7 days

  • Denizli, Aegean Region, Turkey

Travertine Pools at Pamukkale

Bucket List Experience

Travertine Pools at Pamukkale

This ancient hilltop spa centre is home to extraordinary scallop-shaped, cotton-white travertine formations that dazzle the eye with their shiny white brilliance.

The terraces form when warm natural springs of water, containing high concentrations of dissolved calcium bicarbonate, cascade over the edge of the cliff. As the water cools, calcium forms and deposits harden creating an unusual series of terraced shelves and ridges – and between them, natural spa baths.

Soak away.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 8+

Ephesus

  • Selcuk, Aegean Region, Turkey

Many tourists at the ancient site of the Library of Celsus

Bucket List Experience

Ephesus

With its cobbled streets, spectacular surviving villa interiors and painstakingly restored facades, Turkey’s best-known ancient site stunningly evokes Roman-era life in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. It’s rare to experience a city quite so rich in architectural detailing, not least inscriptions, statuary and restored facades.

Wandering Ephesus’ main street, past a wealth of buildings including bathhouses, temples and the exceptional Library of Celsus, is an unmissable experience for anybody with the least fascination for the past.

Adult price: £7

Good for age: 18+

  • Denizli, Aegean Region, Turkey

Hierapolis

Bucket List Experience

Hierapolis

This unique ancient site is home to the evocative Roman-era ruins of Hierapolis, an arresting UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to AD 80.

At its height, thousands travelled from across the Roman Empire to bathe in the medicinal hot springs and the town grew to a population of 100,000. The town was eventually destroyed, first by marauding Persian armies, then later by a devastating earthquake.

Today, it is notable for its fine theatre, impressive necropolis, museum and martyrium of the apostle St. Philip.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

  • Mediterranean Region, Turkey

Man with backpack relaxing on top of a mountain and enjoying on view the bay and sea landscape

Bucket List Experience

Hike the Lycian Way

The Lycian Way – or Lykia Yolu – is a rugged and scenic hike through ancient Lycia’s epic coastlands from Fethiye to Antalya.

At around 540km in entirety, it takes 25-30 days to hike the whole trail. Thankfully, it’s readily enjoyed in manageable chunks – as day walks or in longer sections where overnight accommodation allows.

Some wonderful ancient sites – like Olympos, Patara, Sidyma and the Roman aqueduct at Delikkemer – lie on the route of the Lycian Way; visiting them provides a long day’s walking with fascinating archaeological punctuation points.

The waymarking can be intermittent by European standards, but the combination of magnificent landscapes littered with historically resonant ruins and the hospitality of the locals truly makes for exceptional, if often demanding, walking.

It’s a great way to immerse oneself in the rural life, history and culture of Mediterranean Turkey.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1-30 days

  • Dalyan, Aegean Region, Turkey

Dalyan’s fleet of shaded timber caiques, which operate from the riverbank in the centre of the town, are the key to these wonderful waterways, and offer two different experiences, whether you travel up or downstream.

Downstream, the caiques range through the channels that wind among the reed beds, allowing stops at the ancient ruins at Kaunos and the turtle beach (also known as Iztuzu Beach) at the delta’s mouth. A wide stretch of sand, with a simple café, there are loungers and parasols to hire, and the sea is shallow and safe for swimming.

Heading upstream are sulphur mud baths at several locations; boats stop to allow time for slathering the mineral-rich mud onto your skin. Koycegiz lake, the final stop, offers the chance of a dip to rinse off any remaining mud. It’s wonderfully rich in birdlife too.

Other operators offer guided kayaking trips, stopping at all the main sights and great for spotting wildlife.

Adult price: £20

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 5 hours

  • Turkey

In Greco-Roman terms it pays to think of southwest Turkey as eastern Greece, as the extraordinary profusion of ancient cities, temples and other sites demonstrate.

These lands, home to Herodotus, Homer and Heraclitus among other major historical figures, are an archaeological paradise, with tumbledown theatres, bathhouses, temples, fountains, defensive walls, and tombs at every turn.

The ruins, often wonderfully ‘unimproved’ in beautiful natural settings, generally show rich evidence of later civilisations including the Byzantines and Ottomans.

The crowds that comparable European sites attract are thankfully absent, and the access is largely unlimited.

Good for age: 18+

  • Fethiye, Mediterranean Region, Turkey

Panorama from Kameriye Island on Aegean Sea with a cliff face in the difference

Bucket List Experience

Twelve Islands boat tours

Cheap and extremely cheerful, these day-long tours of the island-strewn Bay of Fethiye are a Turquoise Coast holiday fixture.

They stop at several different islands (usually around six) for swimming and snorkelling, visiting ruins and mud baths. (The other six islands, as per the name, you just cruise by). There’s a high probability you’ll see dolphins, flying fish and the odd sea turtle. Other tours

Most (younger) people opt for the larger and livelier double-deckers carrying up to 70 passengers; expect loud music and sociable buffet lunches. There are, however, more sedate options, on traditional wooden gulets and sailing boats.

Adult price: £20

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 6-9 hours

  • Turquoise Coast, Turkey

Every town of any size in Turkey has a weekly market; a travelling circus that moves each day to different places in each region.

Those in predominantly tourist resorts do have less of a locals feel, but almost all will have kitchenware and household stalls alongside fake designer handbags and clothes, leatherware, jewellery and beautiful handmade backgammon sets.

Markets in places such as Yalikavak, Alacati, Fethiye, Mugla and Kas also have wonderful fruit and veg sections, often with pop up stalls selling freshly-made gozleme (thin flatbreads filled with feta cheese or spicy potato) and ayrun (a traditional yoghurt drink).

Even if you’re not a shopper, this is a great place to people watch – to experience a slice of authentic Turkish life.

Good for age: 13+

  • Kalkan, Mediterranean Region, Turkey

Beautiful river flowing at the bottom of the canyon, with a footbridge nearby

Bucket List Experience

Saklikent Gorge [walking]

At 300m deep, Turkey’s most dramatic gorge makes for a wonderful walk and wade along some 4kms of its full 18km extent.

At the sheer-sided entrance, where the Dargaz River runs strong, raised walkways lead to the trail where the water in places rises to the chest, with some moderate clambering.

After returning along the canyon, retire to one of the charmingly rickety waterside eateries clustered beyond the entrance, where the stream runs wide and shallow.

Or hire a tube to float and bounce downstream for a few kilometres in the company of experienced guides, expecting the odd bump and bruise if the water is low.

Adult price: £4

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 2 hours