© Images Courtesy of GoTürkiye
The Aegean coast of Türkiye is where the mountains soaring directly from the sea are divided by endless bays and coves, creating a unique culture defined by a laid-back lifestyle, an abundance of fish, olives, and fresh produce, and an idyllic setting. Here is a quick look into the earthly pleasures of the TurkAegean that may inspire your next escape.
One of the most epic wars in history, thought to have been fought on the TurkAegean coast around the 12th century BCE, has inspired several literary works, including Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and Goethe’s Faust, as well as the occasional blockbuster movie. This legendary battle has also given us popular phrases such as “Trojan horse” and “Achilles’ heel.”
The city of Troia was subsequently uncovered in the 19th century in a rural area 15 miles from the town of Çanakkale. A city with significant cultural impact, Troia has been enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Immersed in the beautiful TurkAegean landscape, the Museum of Troy awaits you as a state-of-the-art building, where the excavated artifacts are displayed on-site with an inspiring storyline.
Travel Tip: While in Çanakkale, you can also visit the World War I memorial of Gallipoli. This historical event is frequently likened to the defense of Trojans against occupying forces.
About 60 miles south of Çanakkale lies the Edremit Gulf, overshadowed by the Kazdağı (Ida) mountain range, where the ancient gods are said to have watched the Trojan War. Thanks to its extraordinary local microclimate, the residents of this bay have been producing some of Türkiye’s best olive oil for centuries. The region is also a popular vacation spot with its mountain villages offering distinctive boutique hotels in rustic stone houses and summer resorts with pristine beaches and inviting waters.
Travel Tip: The charming coastal town of Ayvalık has seen a resurgence in recent years, with many of its elegant Aegean-style houses being restored into cozy hotels and restaurants. You can buy olive oil and fragrant soaps here and visit Cunda Island for a local feast in one of its traditional waterfront restaurants serving rakı (anise-flavored local liqueur) and meze.
As one of the most important ports of the ancient world and the oldest excavation of an archaeological site in Türkiye, Ephesus provides the wandering eye a complete envisioning of what an ancient Roman city was like 2,000 years ago. Among many delightful landmarks to explore here are the Library of Celsus and an intact Roman theater where St. Paul once preached and gladiators had fierce battles, beside hillside mansions of the wealthy citizens of ancient Ephesus that are rich in frescoes and murals with vivid colors and patterns.
Travel Tip: You might easily visit Ephesus on a day tour from İzmir or stay overnight in Selçuk, where you can enjoy the Ephesus Museum with its magnificent marble statues and the extensive remains of the Basilica of St. John on Ayasuluk Hill in the town center. The House of the Virgin Mary, a chapel four miles from Ephesus, was also a significant place of Christian pilgrimage since the fifth century. Do not leave Selçuk without tasting the local kebab variety of çöp şiş (small pieces of meat on thin skewers).
The TurkAegean is also an important destination for faith tourism, as it hosts all of the seven major churches of early Christianity mentioned in the New Testament Book of Revelation. These seven churches are known as Pergamum (Bergama), Thyatria (Akhisar), Smryna (İzmir), Sardeis (Salihli), Philadelphia (Alaşehir), Ephesus (Selçuk), and Laodicea (Denizli). The churches are relatively close to each other and marked for visitors, which makes them easily discoverable during a week-long itinerary.
Travel Tip: Hosting one of these seven churches, Pergamum is among Türkiye’s most impressive ancient cities and another UNESCO World Heritage site. After admiring its Roman theater carved into a steep hillside, and imagining the ruined Library of Pergamum with its 200,000 volumes of books written on the rolled parchments invented here, visit the nearby ancient healing center of Asklepion.
A mere 12 miles south of Selçuk lies the cruise port of Kuşadası, an old city with a well-preserved Ottoman castle. Kuşadası can be your base to explore the ancient twin cities of Miletus and Priene, both of which flourished in the delta of Büyük Menderes (Meander) River, the second most recognized river of antiquity after the Nile. Priene is notable as the city that applied the first example of a “grid system” in city planning. On the other hand, the nearby ancient city of Didyma welcomed attention with its imposing Apollo Temple, an important pilgrimage site of antiquity.
Travel Tip: Dilek Peninsula National Park, one of Türkiye’s best-preserved nature reserves, allows daytime entrance for visitors who would like to enjoy its pristine beaches, biking trails, bird watching and diving spots, as well as spacious picnic grounds.
With its sun-kissed beaches, secret coves, and lush landscape—not to mention its dazzling high-end resorts and premium shopping experiences—this idyllic peninsula has been a local favorite for more than half a century. The peninsula features several small coastal towns and villages, each with its unique pleasures. While Yalıkavak and Göltürkbükü attract a globetrotting clientele with their luxury beach clubs, hotels, and marinas, Gümüşlük emits bohemian vibes from its waterfront jazz bars and fish restaurants.
Travel Tip: You can visit the iconic Bodrum Castle to see one of the oldest shipwrecks of the world in the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology, catch a live summer concert staged in the ancient Bodrum theater, and see Türkiye’s most elegant sailing yachts compete at the annual Bodrum Cup every October.
İzmir is usually regarded as the main gateway to the TurkAegean. As the third largest city in Türkiye, it is also a favorite holiday destination, with its proximity to the pristine beach towns and resorts scattered around the Çeşme Peninsula. After reserving one or two nights at the city center to explore the historic bazaar area and the vibrant street culture, head to the beach destination of your choice. While Urla has a provincial vibe with its wine route, Alaçatı would satisfy windsurfing enthusiasts and night owls alike with its breezy coast and sidestreet bars.
Travel Tip: İzmir is also a place to taste some of the best seafood you will find in Türkiye. Head to the coastal villages of Özbek and Çiftlik to taste the local fish, clams, and langoustines at picturesque seaside restaurants.
Between the Bay of Gökova and Marmaris lies two beautiful swathes of land, jutting out to the Aegean Sea. Both are an integral part of blue voyage cruise trips on board a traditional gulet (a traditional wooden sailing yacht), as they hide some of the best crystal-clear coves of Türkiye.
The must-see spots along this coastal stretch include Akyaka, with its kite-surfing beaches, Bördübet with its teeming greenery and streams pouring into the sea, Datça with its charming town center, azure beaches, and ancient ruins of Knidos, Bozburun, and Selimiye, with their laid-back coastal living, Marmaris with its yachting culture and Turunç with its secluded cove and small luxury hotels and villas watching over the expansive landscape from their infinity pools.
Travel Tip: Datça is famous as the center of almonds in Türkiye, starting their bloom every February and celebrated with an annual festival. Make sure to stock local delicacies that include these almonds and other typical products of the region that are sold in chic food boutiques along the town’s main shopping street.
Endangered loggerheads (Caretta caretta) and green sea turtles choose İztuzu Beach in Dalyan as one of their prime nesting spots in Türkiye. This three-mile strip of golden sand along the TurkAegean coast lies at the mouth of the Dalyan Stream, the winding runoff connecting Köyceğiz Lake to the sea. Stay in a riverside lodge in Dalyan to enjoy the tranquility of the natural setting and join a daily boat trip meandering its way to the sea among thick marshes. Also, make sure to visit the gorgeous temple-like tombs of Kaunos cut into cliff walls above the town of Dalyan.
Travel tip: From May to August, you can observe the turtles laying eggs and the baby turtles hatching two months later along İztuzu Beach under the protection of stalwart NGOs.