When thinking about Turkey, people’s imagination often immediately wanders to Istanbul; a city that has revealed itself to be layered with cultural delights, now addictive to the millennial traveller.
Alternatively, Cappadocia, with its surreal landscapes and dreamy hot air balloon rides have captured the people’s hearts.
But is that all Turkey has to offer??
I certainly don’t think so. In fact, I claim (perhaps rather controversially) that Southwest Turkey, while quieter is undoubtedly more beautiful and gives way to a deeper and enriching experience of authentic Turkish culture.
With staggering mountains rising up behind a luscious turquoise sea, crumbling Greek ruins interspersed with ancient Turkish burial tombs, secluded cloves and glistening, sandy beaches, Southwest Turkey is a paradise on Earth.
Continue reading this ultimate guide to Southwest Turkey to find out more!
For more travel articles by Jade Braham, head over to her website Jade Braham’s Odyssey.
Is Turkey safe to travel?
I’ve often been asked, is Turkey safe and are the people as nasty as reported? Contrary to popular belief, Turkey is safe, one of the safest countries I’ve ever visited. In fact, the biggest appeal to Turkey, for me, is the warmth, humanity and ethics of the people.
To this day, they are rooted in love; love for their family, for this world, and for new acquaintances.
They aren’t driven by economic success and will strive to never lose your respect and friendship.
Dive into our interactive map below!
This shows the best attractions and most popular Turkish Markets (Bazaars!)
User Guide: Use the +/- buttons to zoom in and out of the map.
Best locations for short getaways in Turkey:
The blue lagoons of Fethiye meet the Mediterranean Sea, while the sunsets unfailingly cascade vibrant hues of blood orange, amber and honey yellow over the rippling waves. If you’re seeking the perfect destination for a complete escape, look no further!
Tucked away in the southern reaches of a broad bay is Fethiye’s natural harbour which is peppered with hotels and restaurants that overlook pretty islands.
With this landscape comes unique hiking trails, a diverse range of sailing boats ready to be hired and taken out to sea and a countryside that has multiple interesting sites, including the ghost town of Kayaköy.
Due to its reliance on their ports, the town has numerous boat trips. I’d highly recommend the 12 Island boat trip and day trip to Rhodes.
The 12 Islands trip lasts for an entire day and takes you around all the incredibly diverse, green islands while sailing on the gentle blue sea.
There’s plenty of opportunities to swim in the sea as the boat stops at half of these islands.
For the day trip to Rhodes, you’d take the catamaran that leaves Fethiye harbour every hour.
In Rhodes, you can visit the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights, the Colosseus, the Acropolis, the castle of the old town and the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes (to name but a few).
Fethiye’s Lycian Way Walk is one of the world’s great long-distance hiking trails.
With 540km, this hike is around a 29-day trek that follows the outline of the Teke Peninsula between Fethiye and Antalya.
You don’t have to do the entire trek to see unique Mediterranean views, mountainous terrain, and ancient Turkish Tomb ruins.
For a more secluded retreat, a few miles out of town lies Çaslis beach. Renowned for its 5km of sandy beach and panoramic views of Taurus Mountains, Çalis has a plethora of resorts that’ll pamper you until you see heaven. It was definitely my perfect destination for a few short days in the sun!
Away from the town centre, is a pine-fringed and mountain-backed lagoon of Ölüdeniz. Here is the true definition of an unspoilt paradise.
Here, waters reach temperatures of 26 °C, while Gemiler Island and the national park protect native species and woodland. If an easy day on the beach or paragliding off a mountain is your versions of a dream getaway, then Ölüdeniz is the place for you!
While here, take a day trip by boat to Butterfly Valley. Butterfly Valley is one of those off the beaten track places created by nature that leaves you utterly speechless.
It is a green oasis surrounded by vertical rocks of up to 350m and a waterfall at the end of the valley that has created a stream all the way through the Mediterranean.
However, like most beautiful destinations, Ölüdeniz has fallen victim to tourism. I’d highly recommend avoiding this area in peak summertime when the charms of the Dead Sea are negated by the tacky adjoining town.
Antalya can easily be described as the gateway to the Turkish Riviera and the perfect destination for discovering Turkey’s Turquoise Coast.
Again, with splendid beaches, there’s plenty of secluded areas to laze around and with a history as deep as the turquoise ocean, you can explore the old-city district known as Kaleiçi.
Here, the old castle walls surround the Roman-era harbour which is home to modern Turkish markets. The mysticism of the past interlaced with the lifestyle of the present is both classically beautiful and stylishly modern.
Head to the Greco-Roman ruins; here you’ll find the colossal amphitheatre and the Temple of Apollo or head to Cirali Beach to see the ancient Greek ruins of Olympos. Or for a natural phenomenon, make a swift turn for Mount Chimaera to see the “Eternal Flames”; fire created by naturally occurring gasses escaping from the rock.
Some of the best places in Southwest Turkey for a short getaway are off the beaten track. There are a few key ingredients every getaway destination should have, and Izmir ticks every box.
First, the ancient city, once known as Smyrna, boasts a lively party scene, fascinating bazaars, and a vibrant local lifestyle. Its beachside promenade makes for an idyllic and romantic spot for an evening stroll while its sandy beaches and blue seas offer relaxing ways to soak up the sun.
Pamukkale consists of 17 pools that hang like white travertine terraces. Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish, and these pools are made up of centuries worth of calcium-carbonate deposits.
It is in Izmir that you’ll find ruins of Hierapolis, the Greco-Roman city that includes the remains of baths, temple ruins, a monumental arch, a nymphaeum, a necropolis and a Roman amphitheatre.
On top of this, Izmir is deeply cultured housing Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Levantines and Turks and its delicious cuisine attests to this multicultural community.
Shop like a local in the markets of Turkey!
1. Fethiye, Antalya & Izmir Bazaars
From the spectacular colour of the fruit and vegetables on display, the heady scent of spices to the sweet aroma of the Turkish delights, shopping at these Bazaars is nothing like we’re accustomed to in the Western world.
Instead, they provide a sensory journey through Turkey’s traditional cuisine, showing that one can survive on the bare essentials.
Hand grown and cultivated locally – usually by those selling it – these ingredients, especially the huge, beefy tomatoes and fresh mango are juicy with sweet flavours and completely addictive!
Every Tuesday sees Fethiye hold a local market. Immense in its colours, sounds, smells, and tastes, Fethiye Market is a concoction of the East and West.
With a harmonious blend of the old world with the new world, objects of cultural significance with tacky replicas of designer fashions, there’s something magical in these cultural contrasts. Shopping here is almost a visual representation of Turkey’s cultural and economic evolution!
However, the spice and herb section is without a doubt the greatest gift you’ll receive here. Everything from cinnamon, saffron to oregano has been voluminously put on display and its presence is unavoidable.
Much like Fethiye Market, Çalis Market is held every Sunday and sells everything from clothing, electrical stuff, to fresh fruit, spices and Turkish tea. But here there’s a greater essence of a family and a friendly community.
With seemingly endless rows of stalls comes an even greater row of food courts of mobile cabins, plastic chairs and tables set up by different families all offering Turkish classic cuisines.
Hungry shoppers can take a hiatus and taste Gözleme, a traditional savoury Turkish flatbread and pastry dish, Döner kebabs or the most delicious pancakes you’ll ever have. It’s lovely to witness tourists and locals sitting and conversing with each other!
With many dressed in traditional Turkish attire, your experience of authentic Turkey continues even to the ice cream you buy!
Best Turkish food to try
The best advice I have been given is to try out some of the less fancy and smaller restaurants and cafes that are hidden down alleyways! These have a greater chance of serving traditional cuisine as their menus haven’t been tailored for the Western tourist.
Turkish food isn’t all kebabs and mezze, there’s rice, Manti (Turkish Ravioli) and Gözleme which similar to a crepe but filled with savoury ingredients such as cheese, meat, vegetables and potatoes.
Kumpir is another must-try, it is a potato baked, cut down in the middle, then the soft insides are mixed with butter and kasar cheese and on top, you can have yoghurt, sweetcorn, sausage slices, couscous, grated carrot, or olives.
For a lighter snack, a street food classic is a corn on the cob or Simit which lies between a pretzel and a bagel, encrusted with sesame seeds!
Whatever you decide to eat, the food will be locally sourced and always fresh that day, meaning flavours are rich!
The real treasure in Southwest Turkey is the Fethiye to Çalis water taxi! A small sailing boat that fits around 20-30 people, it goes from Fethiye to Çalis and back to Fethiye every 30 minutes between the months of May to October. You can buy a ticket at Kiosks on the pier in Fethiye or near the bridge over the canal in Çalis.
The water taxi takes roughly 40 minutes and I highly recommend taking it right before sunset to enjoy the serene view of the sun going down over the sea.
The boat zigzags between the canals’ water reeds, interspersed with young ducklings dutifully following their mothers to safety.
While the boat utilises the beacons as its guiding light to meander through the shallows; one minute facing the vibrant harbour, the next heading towards a cluster of picturesque islands.
But the true magic lies in the warm wind combing its way through your hair as the sea air wholesomely fills your lungs and the sun soaks its way into your skin, causing time to cease and the land of dreams to begin.
Next to the water taxi, hiring a car gives you the freedom to explore at any time and not have to depend on others or public transport timings.
It is also one of the easiest ways to explore off the beaten track locations and experience more of Southwest Turkey. While more expensive than public transport, hiring a car is still very cheap and easy to do as they’re located in the centre of each town.
This is an oldie but a goldie! Walking to and from your chosen destination is certainly the easiest way to immerse yourselves in the Turkish lifestyle. There have been numerous times where I have witnessed locals cooking BBQ’s, laughing and hugging on Çalis beach while the sun sets in the background.
Best time of year to visit to Turkey?
When travelling to new destinations, I typically prefer to avoid tourist crowds and go out of season.
Therefore, I’d highly recommend visiting Southwest Turkey in April, May, September or October. The weather is still pleasantly warm, with temperatures reaching mid-20°Cs instead of mid-30°Cs or even 40°Cs in the summertime.
While you might need a jacket in the evenings, this is perfect weather for visiting the sites and there won’t be very many tourists around, meaning the essence of the Turkish culture will resonate with you a lot more!
The following accommodations are recommendations that are central and within driving or bus distance to all my suggested locations for short getaways.
1. Lukia World Resort
If you’re travelling with young children or looking for a romantic destination, Lukia World is the perfect all-inclusive resort in Ölüdeniz! With its unique nature, exquisite gardens, and turquoise sea adorning a 650m long private beach, it feels like paradise on earth!
There are multiple pools, some for children with water games and pool activities, others specifically designed for the relaxation of adults.
Behind the beach, there’s a climbing wall, basketball court, football fields, aerobic fields, beach volleyball courts, paragliding landing track, and a plethora of water sport activities including diving courses.
There’s also a Patara Beach Bar for those looking to indulge while watching the sunset.
On top of this, there are 9 restaurants offering cuisine from all around the globe, including the Pinara Turkish restaurant serving delicious dishes of traditional Turkish cuisine, Sushi A’la Carte, blue buddha serving authentic Asian food, and multiple seafood restaurants.
If this isn’t enough, there are 9 separate bars; the Sarpedon Bar for adults only, Tylos Forest Bar which is in the shadow of the trees, a Beer House, Wine house, and a lovely Lykia Children Bar for your younger members.
Located on a magical peninsula and overlooking the Gulf of Fethiye, Letoonia’s nature-integrated design and tree-embroidered bungalows give its visitors a gift – complete seclusion!
Here, there are three magnificent bays and beaches, three outdoor pools and one indoor therapy pool. For children, there are three water slides, which can also be used by adults.
Much like Lukia World, Letoonia has eight restaurants that serve cuisines from around the globe and nine bars that offer alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and the Panorama Bar, a nightclub that is open between 23:30 to 07:30 am!
For something a little different, head to Sunset Beach Club. It is one of the few holiday resorts right on the beachfront. It is perfect for renting villas with private pools and apartments with multiple communal pools, pool bar, sauna, and a spa.
Within ten minutes of walking from Sunset Beach Club, you’ll find multiple restaurants along the beachfront and a surf club.
For a full list of our recommended hotels and resorts in Turkey, follow the link HERE
There you have it, my ultimate guide to Southwest Turkey! Where would you like to visit? Or have you been to Southwest Turkey before?
For more travel articles by Jade Braham, head over to her website Jade Braham’s Odyssey.
Turkey was included as one of our: Top 12 Winter Sun Destinations close to U.K/Europe!
To help budgeting your trip while in Turkey Check out our: Turkey: Travel Budget Calculator