Best places in Turkey for winter sun
Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coastlines offer respite from the cold winter depths. While the searing heat of the summer is long gone, the Turkish seaside winter days are pleasant and mild, with temperatures hovering around 12-15 degrees - although it generally feels warmer due to the sunshine.
Here we compare and contrast the top three winter sun destinations: Fethiye, Bodrum and Antalya. We’ve helpfully rated each area out of five in terms of social life, amenities, getting there and around, and local attractions, so you can decide on the perfect place to spend a winter - or even a lifetime.
FethiyeBacked by mountains with a beautiful bay at its mouth, Fethiye offers a year-round working town chock-full of amenities, accessible tourist sites including ruins, beaches and nature spots, and some very decent restaurants, cafes and hotels. Property in Fethiye is ideal for anyone seeking a laid back home in close proximity to a lively centre.
Although Fethiye is quite compact, allowing for ease of getting about, it’s big enough to have everything you’ll need to set up a life. While tourism is well established in Fethiye, it’s a year-round working town, so it’s open for business during the off season months.
Lots of people use Fethiye as a point from which to explore this part of the coast. Whether its by boat (taking the ferry to Gocek, exploring the 12 islands, kayaking or yachting) or by car (visiting pretty Uzumlu, historic Kayakoy or the famous Oludeniz Beach and Blue Lagoon) there are so many things to do.
Fethiye offers a slice of authentic Turkish life, with an old bazaar, a historic hammam (Turkish bath) and bustling fish market close to the waterfront. Here you can feel like you’re part of a community, taking part in the traditions that have taken place for centuries.
If your tastes run to the historical Fethiye has its own Lycian rock tombs to explore. Slightly further afield you’ll find the Lycian ruins of Tlos, Pinara, Patara (where there’s also an incredible beach) and Xanthos-Letoon. Kayakoy offers some modern ruins - a village that was abandoned in 1923 during a population exchange that went awry. The site inspired Louis de Bernieres’ novel Birds Without Wings.
There is a well established expat community in Fethiye who organise lots of events and help newcomers settled into the lifestyle.
Thomas Cook recently announced a number of new flights connecting Dalaman Airport (the closest to Fethiye) to the UK during the winter months, further opening up the season and the region.
Dalaman Airport is a good hour away from Fethiye centre, and a slightly longer journey if you’re slightly further afield in Hisaronu or Ovacik.
While it’s pleasant during the day, outside the town centre it can get cold overnight. If you’re staying in the inland village of Uzumlu or in an elevated location like Ovacik, you’ll need to ensure your residence is insulated with a heating source for those chilly evenings.
The air is reasonably still in Fethiye, and the air can get a bit smoky from the wood fires in the area.
Social life: 5
Getting there and around: 3
Local attractions: 5
BodrumWhile the Bodrum peninsula is compact, it offers a wealth of beautiful beaches, stunning views, historical sites and upmarket shops. Bodrum property enjoys stunning sea views and you can choose to live in either a bustling town centre or a quiet fishing village.
There is a lot to do in Bodrum - and a surprising amount of diversity for such a small place. During the winter months life really slows down here, but each village has its own unique character, and in many cases, industry, to sustain it through the colder months.
If you’re after a bit of life, bustling Bodrum Town has a marina, an old castle (now an archaeology museum) and a lovely waterfront promenade lined with shops. Yalikavak is also a good option as this marina town will be busy and thriving all year round, with shops and activities up and running. Further afield, the quieter villages of Gumusluk, Gundogan and Torba offer peace and quiet - although they will feel fairly isolated between November and February.
Winter in Bodrum provides an opportunity to explore the peninsula and surrounds without the tourist crowds. There are a number of inland traditional villages to visit, as well as walks and historical destinations. The marinas are open as usual, and Palmarina in Yalikavak particularly is a great place to visit for lunch and a spot of shopping. And if you’re mooring your yacht here - all the better.
Bodrum has all the amenities you’d expect in a large centre: hospitals and medical centres, supermarkets, an international schools and further afield, you’re well placed to visit the spectacular ruins of Ephesus - one of the most incredible ancient sites in the world. Travel there will take some time but it really is worth a day trip.
The airport is just 40 minutes’ drive from Bodrum Town centre and there are flights year round.
Of all the three places mentioned here, Bodrum is the quietest during the winter months. However, because the peninsula’s compact even if you live in the quietest fishing village you will still be well connected.
Nights on the peninsula can be fairly cool, so make sure your house is well insulated and has a source of heat.
A lot of expats head home during the winter, so it will take a little extra work to meet people during the winter months.
A number of smaller shops and cafes close for the winter in the smaller towns, although main centres like Yalikavak and Bodrum Town will remain open for business year round.
Social life: 3
Getting there and around: 4
Local attractions: 4
AntalyaAntalya is the largest centre on the list. Over one million people call this southern city their home, and as a result there is a wealth of things to do, from visiting historical haunts in the old city to exploring the outlying attractions and beaches. A winter property in Antalya is ideal for anyone who wants a lively winter surrounded by plenty of leisure options.
Antalya is the heart of the southern coast. It’s a large city with a developed infrastructure, and everything you expect of a developed city is to be found within its limits. Not only the standard hospitals, schools, supermarkets and shopping malls, but also museums, theatres, libraries, sports stadiums and international companies. In short: everything you could possibly need.
It goes without saying that Antalya is a year-round city. While it has a thriving tourist industry it is a centre in its own right, and when the winter months arrive Antalya doesn’t miss a beat.
For culture vultures there are attractions galore, including Antalya Museum and Antalya’s old town, a lovely mix of old Ottoman residences, Roman remains and mosques.
If you have children there is plenty to do, including a fantastic aquarium and an aquapark.
Have car, will travel: leaving the city opens up a world of opportunity: visit Aspendos’s old theatre, play a round of golf in Belek, visit ruins in Phaselis, Side or Termessos, or visit the prehistoric settlement found in the cave at Karain.
If you’re into skiing, you’re just 50 kilometres from the Saklikent ski field, an untapped, untouristed ski field where prices are low and slopes are peaceful. Other adrenaline junkies can find thrills rafting through the Koprulu Kanyon or paragliding.
Antalya’s airport is now one of the busiest in the northern hemisphere, serving Europe and the Middle East year round. It’s just 25 minutes from the town centre, making Antalya the most accessible destination on our list.
While Bodrum and Fethiye are low built, with plenty of villas for sale, Antalya is high rise, with most Antalya property for sale found along Konyaalti Beach. If you have a larger family and want more outdoor space you might want to consider buying a villa in Fethiye or Bodrum.
Antalya is a large city, and while many people enjoy the city life others want to escape from reality on holiday. Living in a large city can be impersonal, and you’ll need to work hard to meet people, although Antalya does have an established expat community.
Social life: 4
Getting there and around: 5
Local attractions: 5
The south coast of Turkey is full of activities and attractions over the winter months, it’s just a matter of choosing the right destination for you and your family. As you can see, Antalya is our top pick for winter living, closely followed by Fethiye. Bodrum comes in third - but there’s still plenty to recommend the peninsula if you enjoy peace and quiet. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more.