Turkey is one of the most fascinating and impressive countries in the world. Its cultural heritage, along with its historic charm and Mediterranean beauty, are reason enough to choose a holiday in Turkey. But a sailing holiday along Turkey’s southwest coast will reveal even more hidden treasures. Known internationally as the ‘Blue Voyage’, along this stretch of coast you’ll see flying fish, majestic dolphins, breathtaking sunsets and night skies bursting with stars. You’ll experience the incomparable beauty of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, sailing at your leisure from Bodrum to Marmaris and from Gocek to Fethiye.
Sounds perfect, right? Well, it is. Sailing in Turkey is an unforgettable experience of discovery and adventure, and one that will certainly leave you wanting more. Here’s why…
1. The Bays and Coves
As a sailing destination, Turkey is becoming increasingly popular with travellers from all over the world. But thankfully, the coast is scattered with secluded coves and bays where you can unwind and escape the crowds. As you sail along the coast of Turkey, each day you’ll be stopping in stunning bays and coves to swim, sunbathe, snorkel, eat, drink and chill-out. The Turquoise waters are so clear you can see the ocean floor underneath you. Some of our favourite spots to relax in are:
- Butterfly Valley Beach – A beautiful cove with golden sand that’s surrounded by a stunning limestone canyon.
- Cold Water Bay – A picturesque bay with fresh water springs that push cool, refreshing water up through its rocky seabed.
- Sarsala Koyu – A lovely quaint cove with crystal blue water, a locally run restaurant and a huge pine tree forest reaching down to the sea below.
- Asi Koyu – A particularly small bay that’s popular among scuba divers. There is a whole world to be discovered under its waters, including bright coloured sponges and an abundance of sea life, such as grouper fish, rays and much more.
- Kapi Creek – A narrow bay surrounded by pine trees and olive groves, with crystal clear water and a local restaurant.
- Kekova Roads – One of the most stunning bays that’s completely protected by the beautiful four-mile-long Kekova Island, which should also be explored while you’re there.
- Oludeniz – A landlocked beauty of a bay and, although yachts are prohibited from anchoring in the famous Blue Lagoon, you can anchor in the harbour entrance and take a line ashore.
- Wall Bay and Tomb Bay – The hills above Wall Bay are filled with pine trees, olive groves and oleander flowers, and its small sandy beach and turquoise-coloured waters make it an ideal stopping point. Tomb Bay is surrounded by ancient tombs and freshwater springs.
2. The Food
Layers upon layers of diverse populations have left their marks on the culture and traditions of Turkey. And while surely there is nothing better than gazing out to the Mediterranean Sea while enjoying a feast of rich and lavish Turkish food on your own private yacht, visiting some of Turkey’s coastal restaurants and bars is a must. Due to its exceptional produce, the local cuisine of the Aegean coast is said to be the best in the country. So whether you cook it yourself on your boat, hire an onboard chef to cook it for you or head into town to experience the local cuisine, you’ll be sure to find the freshest salads, seafood, stews and the best traditional Turkish food you’ve ever had.
3. The Sea Turtles
Travellers flock from all corners of the globe to see the magnificent Loggerhead Sea Turtles of Turkey, hoping for the chance to swim with them. Iztuzu Beach, along the Dalyan River, is extraordinarily beautiful and world-renowned for being the protected sanctuary home of the amazing giant Loggerhead Turtles (Caretta-carretta). Here, you’ll see tracks in the sand emerging from the sea where huge turtles have come ashore to lay their eggs. Another spot popular with these incredible creatures is Cirali, which is safeguarded by various Turkish bodies for its unique ecology that enables threatened Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles to continue laying their eggs here. When exploring these popular areas, you might be lucky enough to see these beautiful amphibians pop their heads above the water and dive back under the surface. If you’re really lucky, you may even get the chance to swim alongside them.
4. The Ancient Ruins
The entire stretch of Turkey’s southwest coast is scattered with incredible ancient ruins. As you sail from town to town and bay to cove, the options to explore ancient ruins – both above and under water – are endless. Here are some of our top picks…
- Cirali – And the ancient ruins of Olympos.
- Asin Liman – Also known as Iasos, Asin Liman is an ancient harbour famous for its ruins of an ancient city and walled acropolis dating back to the Byzantine period.
- Ephesus – An ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, 3km southwest of present-day Selcuk in Izmir Province.
- Gemiler Adasi – An island off the coast near Fethiye, with an ancient sunken town dating back to the Byzantine era.
- Kalkan – And the nearby Lycian sites of Tlos, Xanthos and Patara.
- Fethiye – Lycian Rock Tombs and a medieval fortress look down upon the bay below, which make for a dramatic sight.
- Kalekoy/Simena Castle – Take the stairs up to the top for some mind-blowing views of the coast and surrounds, and trust us, you won’t regret the hike.
5. The Sunsets
One of the best aspects of sailing in Turkey is relaxing on the deck of your boat and gazing up at the magical kaleidoscopic sky above. When it comes to sunsets, Turkey provides the most perfect picturesque scene, with sunsets that light up the Aegean and Mediterranean seas like no other in the world. As you relax on your private boat with a cocktail in hand and gaze out to the horizon in front of you, you’ll realise why there’s no better place to sail than Turkey.
6. The Turquoise Water
There’s a reason this stretch of coast is nicknamed ‘The Turquoise Coast’. Diving into water this crystal clear is reason enough to book a sailing holiday in Turkey. And, when you’re on your own private boat, you’ll have the opportunity to cruise these waters all day long. Sailing the Turquoise Coast is something everyone should experience in a lifetime. Really. You won’t believe the amazing blue hues of the turquoise water until you’ve seen it yourself.
7. The History
The combination and clashing of East and West over the Turkish border for hundreds of years has contributed to the character and fascinating aspects of modern day Turkey. Turkey’s history is a rich patchwork of overlapping cultures, governments and Empires, which is what created the architecturally and historically rich landscape that many seek to explore today. Not only are they visible in their magnificent remains, but in the daily lives of Turkish people. From the Early Ages to the Legendary Troy, and from the Phrygians and King Midas to the Roman Empire, each have left a significant impact on Turkey, making it all the more exciting to discover.
8. Meeting New People
Turkey is without a doubt one of the most popular sailing destinations in the world, and during the summer its beautiful coast is filled with travellers sailing all different kinds of boats. Typical Turkish gulet cruises, party boats and private charter boats consume its coves, bays, harbours and beaches, so its almost impossible not to make friends with the thousands of other pleasure-seekers along the coastline. Everyone is having the time of their lives (how could they not be?) enjoying Turkey’s glorious beaches, pristine bays and coastal towns, so whether it be bonding over the day’s experiences or bonding over a cocktail, we’re sure you’ll meet some friendly people.
9. The Serenity
You may think you’ve experienced tranquillity before, but we’re telling you, it’s nothing like what you’ll feel as you’re relaxing on your own private boat after a long day on the water, gazing out at a magnificent orange sunset as the warm evening breeze floats through your hair. And while some areas of the Turkish coast may get busy during the summer months, there’s always a secluded cove or bay to escape to, where you can grab a book, take a swim and cook an indulgent Turkish meal on quiet, still waters.
10. Sleeping Under The Stars
While on most boats the sleeping quarters can be quite cosy, we’re betting that while sailing along the stunning coastline of Turkey you won’t even want to be below deck. Often, when sailing in Turkey, guests will bring their mattresses up on deck and sleep under a blanket of night sky full of bright stars. It’s not often you’ll get to experience a climate that allows this, in addition to the opportunity of sleeping on the deck of a boat as you hear the soft slapping of the waves on the side of the hull below. Plus, how many times in your life can you expect to be woken up by the incredible Mediterranean sunrise?
The best way to explore the gorgeous Turkish coastline is sailing on board your own private boat. You’ll have the freedom to cruise along the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas and discover archaeological marvels and popular island destinations all in your own time. You’ll enjoy quaint restaurants, hospitable people and indulge in excellent local food as the warm sun slips over the horizon in front of you. And at night, you’ll sail into a secluded cove or anchor in one of the many stunning harbours, all full of boats just like yours and people just as happy and content as you are.
Renting a boat and sailing the coast of Turkey has never been easier, and all these experiences are just a click away. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your dream sailing holiday in Turkey now.
Thanks to Rough Guides, Jirka Matousek, princesskoko, Esther Lee, Melissa Adey and A. Strakey for the excellent images from Flickr. Please note all were under Creative Commons Licence at the time of publishing.