Best Beaches

The Turkey beaches are wonderful for most of the year, but the waters begin to seriously warm up around June and stay that way pretty much through about October. This is true of the Mediterranean and Aegean beaches, but it does not hold true for the beaches on the Black Sea. These waters north of Istanbul are cooled by the Dnieper River that starts in central Russia and flows through Ukraine and Belarus. These Black Sea beaches in Turkey are wonderful if you are looking for tranquil, secluded stretches of sand and don’t necessarily have to have warm water. One of the loveliest of these is the beach at Sinop, which is an ancient city that was the eastern capital of the Byzantine Empire. Here are some very old mosques, an old castle fortress, and the ruins of a Roman temple that later became a Byzantine church. The most popular and best beaches in Turkey are found along the Aegean and Mediterranean Turquoise Coast (also known as the Turkish Riviera) that stretches for almost 1,000 miles, from approximately Cesme on the peninsula just west of Izmir to Anamur a little to the east of Alanya. The major resorts are most crowded during July and August—not a bad thing if you’re also looking for the exciting nightlife in these areas. It is still possible to find long, secluded stretches of beach.

Here are Turkey’s top 10 beaches, with nearest big town (in parentheses). Some even rate the coveted Blue Flag for cleanliness.\

  1. Patara (Fethiye): 50 meters/yards wide and 20 km (12.5 miles) long, this beach 75 km (47 miles) south of Fethiye is Turkey’s finest. Accommodations—and shade—are limited, though. (Big photo)
  2. Ölüdeniz (Fethiye): Very fine, with good hotels, restaurants and bars, but because it’s Turkey’s most famous, it can get crowded. (Big photos)
  3. Olimpos (Antalya): The opposite of the others: small, secluded, atmospheric, backed by a forest filled with Roman ruins. 79 km (49 miles) southwest of Antalya (map).
  4. Side (Antalya): The once-idyllic village 65 km (40 miles) east of Antalya is now crowded and noisy, but the beaches are still fine and unspoiled. Roman ruins abound (map).
  5. Alanya: The town (115 km/72 miles east of Antalya) is busy and crowded, but the beaches are so long (22 km/14 miles to the east) that there’s plenty of sand for everyone. Great Seljuk castle, too (map).
  6. Iztuzu (Dalyan): Good beach, with or w/o logger-head turtles. The town, 8 km (5 miles) NW of Dalaman Airport, the river, cliff tombs and Caunos ruins are a nice bonus.
  7. Bodrum Peninsula: Beaches in the towns are not great, but good smaller ones abound: Ortakent Yalisi (coarse sand & pebble), Turgutreis (surfy), and gem-like Gümüslük (map).
  8. Kemer (Antalya): Very mod-resorty, but near a lot of interesting day-trip possibilities (map).
  9. Pamucak (Ephesus): Big, broad, dark sand, only 7 km (4 miles) west of Ephesus, relatively clean with a few cig butts and bottlecaps (map). (Big photo)
  10. Çalış (Fethiye): Long beach near the city cradling yacht-happy Fethiye Bay, good but somehow un-charming, and famous Ölüdeniz is just 10 km (6 miles) away over the hills.

  • Alaçati Bay (Çesme Peninsula): The small beach here opens up to an enormous bay blessed with lofty winds — paradise for windsurfers. The high winds are attributed to the sizable stretch of shallow water and the absence of anything obstructing it. The beach is backed by hills, hills, and more hills, all topped by dry, barren brush.
  • Pirlanta Beach (Çesme Peninsula): Pirlanta, which means “diamond” in Turkish, describes the creamy whiteness of this sandy stretch of the peninsula. The beach is long and wide and faces the open Aegean. It’s also easily accessible by dolmus (minivan-type public transportation) from Çesme’s town center.
  • Altinkum Beach (Çesme Peninsula): The golden-colored sand from which the beach takes its name is located in a relatively hard-to-find spot at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. Luckily, this only serves to keep this public park blissfully empty and undervisited. Because this beach faces the open sea, the water is a refreshing few degrees cooler than elsewhere on the peninsula.
  • Ayayorgi Beach (Çesme Peninsula): This is not a beach per se, but a few narrow concrete piers jutting out over the water. Nevertheless, Ayayorgi is a charming spot, hidden in an overgrowth of orange and olive groves and open to a small and intimate cove.
  • Türkbükü (Bodrum Peninsula): Still waters embraced by the shoreline of twin villages characterize this part of the peninsula. The jet set may need to find alternative haunts now that the mayor has announced the dismantling of all of the private access beach clubs. By the time you read this, the magical destination of Türkbükü may have opened up its shoreline to the common man.
  • Ölüdeniz Beach (Ölüdeniz): The posters just don’t do it justice. On one end is the great expanse of Belcekiz Beach, enclosed by the brittle silhouette of Babadag and the landing pad for paragliders sporting jet-propulsion packs. And on the beach is the jaw-dropper, the Blue Lagoon made real: still waters in no less than three shades of turquoise.
  • Butterfly Valley (Fethiye): After reaching the Blue Lagoon — the holy grail of Turkish beaches — it seems odd to want to go elsewhere. But the Fethiye area abounds with stunning scenery. If you can tear yourself away from the main event, take the 30-minute boat ride to Butterfly Valley, a sandy paradise hewn out of a soaring gorge.
  • Iztuzu Beach (Dalyan): There are strict rules of conduct here: Iztuzu Beach is a national preserve and breeding ground for the Caretta Caretta, or loggerhead turtle. But at night, after the crowds have gone home, you can watch the lights move out to sea, or listen to the sounds of home life glide over the river from a nearby fishing village. Just don’t wander too close to the waterline, and on behalf of the turtles, stay away from the off-limits areas.
  • Kaputas Beach (near Kalkan): Hundreds of years ago, a huge chasm opened up the side of the mountain face. The gorge has dried up, but what’s left is Kaputas Beach, a small, sandy patch 400 steps down from the highway that feels like the middle of nowhere. From here, it’s just a short swim to some nearby phosphorescent caves.
  • Patara Beach (near Kalkan): Eighteen kilometers (11 miles) of beach backed by dunes and marshlands — need I say more? The Mediterranean rises to the challenge in the summer, when it turns a deep shade of blue.
  • Konyaalti (Antalya): The newly developed waterfront in center-city Antalya breathes new life into a seaside resort that risked second-rate status. Miles of pebble beaches, waterfront promenades, meandering lawns, cafes, and activities make this one of Turkey’s most coveted destinations. Bodrum, look out!

Sea Turtles ( Caretta Caretta )

Sea Turtles have been around for 95 million years. Their ancestors were giant land turtles that entered the sea ages ago when the great dinosaurs lived. The first sea turtles looked little like those of today. It took millions of years for sea turtles to change, for legs to become pad-shaped flippers and for heavy, bulky bodies to flatten into lighter, streamlined shapes. The dinosaurs and the giant land turtles are gone forever; we can see only their fossil bones in museums. But, somehow, sea turtles have lived on. Seven different kinds still swim in warm and temperate oceans around the world. They spend their whole lives in the water except for the brief times the females come onto land to nest and lay their eggs. The sea turtles share the sea with fish, whales, other sea creatures and you and me. In the seas surrounding Turkey, two species of sea turtles live: Loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas).

When Chirstopher Columbus discovered the New World, there were millions of sea turtles in the Caribbean Sea. Columbus and other explorers, traders, settlers, and pirates who followed him soon found out that one kind of sea turtle had especially tasty meat. This turtle was brown all over, grew to about three feet in lenght, and often weighed some 300 pounds. It grazed in shallow beds of grass, or turtle grass, near the shore. Sailors could easily capture the gentle animal. They could turn it over onto its back so it was helpless, tie its flippers, and keep it aboard their ships to slaughter when they needed fresh meat. The fat inside this turtle’s body was green from the grass it ate, so it was named the green turtle. It is the only sea turtle that lives only on plants. Today, hundreds of years later, green turtles are still hunted and taken. Fewer and fewer remain.

The loggerhead turtle is slightly smaller than the green. A loggerhead may weigh between 300 and 400 pounds. It eats crabs and other sea animals for its food. The loggerhead hunts near coral reefs and rocks. You can recognize it by its large, thick head and broad, short neck. The loggerhead, like other sea turtles, cannot pull its head into its shell the way land turtles can. Its shell is like a suit of armor, but its head and flippers are unprotected. Certain sharks and killer whales may attack these parts, but the loggerhead is big and fast and has few natural enemies. Colour its carapace and skin reddish-brown and the plastron yellow.

The rays of the sun heat the beach, warming the turtle’s eggs buried in the sand. The eggs develop in the nest. They are ready to hatch in about two months. The patchlings pick at their shells with a small, sharp point at the front of their snout—this particular part will disappear after hatching. The hatchlings crack their shells. All must hatch at almost the same time, for all must share the work to escape from the nest. The baby turtles scrape away at the sand overhead. The sand falls upon their empty shells, forming a platform that allows the hatchlings to rise. In a few days, they have scraped their way up to the roof of the nest. Then at night, or in the early morning, little dark heads and flippers wriggle out onto the beach. Two-inch long hatchlings crawl away and look for the sea. The hatchlings sense the direction of the sea. The birghtness over the water attracts them. They stream from the nest and begin their race to the sea. Full of life, but defenseless, they struggle clumsily across the beach. Their shells are soft and offer little protection. Swift lizards attack them. Armies of crabs pick them off. Sea birds gather and catch the tiny turtles in their sharp beaks and feast on them. Few hatchlings make it to the water. And most of these will be eaten by fish: snappers, groupers, jacks, and sharp-toothed barracudas. Only one or two of the hatchlings may live. Where they go to spend their first year of life is a mystery. It is one of nature’s many secrets. Green turtles, for example, are not seen again until they are one year old when  they are found feeding offshore in turtle grass beds. They are then as big as a dinner plate.

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