Turkey’s cruise ship industry has faced some troubling times over the past couple of years, due to security concerns amongst tourists, who bring in important revenue for the country. However, the country's Aegean and Mediterranean ports are now firmly back on the map for would-be cruise ship passengers, and cruise operators are returning to these amazing hotspots.
Our guide to Turkey's six most popular cruise destinations offers an insight into what’s on offer at each destination.
1. Istanbul Cruise Port, Istanbul
Istanbul truly is a sight to behold, especially as you approach this stunning city from the water. With panoramic views of the splendid domes and minarets that make up part of the many mosques found here, as well as the stunning Istanbul sea view apartments, you can really begin to capture the essence of the city as your cruise ship makes its way towards the port.
Your ship will dock by the Galata Bridge, in northern Istanbul, which offers a gorgeous walk across it when the sun is setting for the day. Other than the views from the bridge over the Golden Horn, there’s not an awful lot to see around the port or the Galata area in general, near the Galata Tower, so to make the most of your visit, take the tram from here and to old Sultanahmet, where plenty of attractions are waiting. From the Blue Mosque to the Aya Sophia, the Hippodrome to Topkapi Palace, you could easily spend a whole day soaking up the sights of what old town Istanbul has to offer.
The port itself is situated on the Bosporus, in a spot where you can look to both the European and Asian parts of Turkey. What better way to soak up the two different sights than by relaxing on your cruise ship before settling down for the night.
2. Kusadasi Cruise Port, Aydin
Kusadasi is relatively new to the tourism industry, having once been a traditional farming town just a few decades ago. Since then, however, it has grown in popularity amongst tourists, and those looking for Kusadasi property, providing the funding needed to turn the town into a bustling beach resort that’s well worth the visit.
Your cruise ship will dock in the downtown area of Kusadasi, just a few minutes walk away from many shops and beaches. There’s also some shops at the port itself, offering many duty-free bargains for visitors to peruse.
To make the most of your time in Kusadasi, a trip to Guvercin Adasi, otherwise known as Pigeon Island, should be one of first stops. The views of the small island and its fortress are simply stunning from the mainland, but it’s well worth taking a stroll along the causeway and around the island itself, where you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous gardens.
From there, make your way to the Kaleici area of Kusadasi, where you’ll be able to soak up the ambience of what Kusadasi was once like. Enjoy some haggling at the market, relax in the Turkish baths or sample the local grub offered by many restaurants in the areas.
3. Marmaris Cruise Port, Mugla
As you make your way to the cruise port in Marmaris, there’s an abundance of truly beautiful scenery to soak in from the deck. The port is situated within the bay of Marmaris, a natural bay that’s been protected for many years. As you approach, you’ll be treated to lush green scenery that climbs the rocky landscape that surrounds the cruise terminal - there’s no greater first impression than what you get from a cruise to Marmaris.
You’re greeted with even more lovely scenery as soon as you hop off the ship, especially with a gentle stroll around the nearby marina as you admire the nearby citadel. Many cruise operators also offer a shuttle service into the town centre, with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy.
Of course, the real essence of Marmaris lies in its shoreline and surrounding islands and villages. If you have enough time, enjoy a trip to Paradise Island, Cleopatra’s Island, Icmeler or Turunc, just a few of the nearby destinations offering fantastic sights and experiences.
4. Bodrum Cruise Port, Mugla
Here’s another port in Turkey that offers spectacular views on your journey towards the shore. Make sure you grab a spot on the deck as you approach Bodrum’s cruise port, when you’ll be able to admire the views of the impressive Bodrum Castle as it stands watch over the water’s edge.
Bodrum’s port is situated close to the city’s centre. A short but very pleasant walk by the side of the water will take you to the heart of Bodrum, where you will find the castle along with many shops, bars, and restaurants, too. This pretty city centre is a huge attraction for anyone looking for Bodrum property close to the life and soul of the peninsula.
Bodrum is an easy destination to walk and you’ll have a lovely time strolling its streets and taking in the sights and sounds on offer. A trip to Bodrum isn’t complete without visiting the 15th century castle, along with the museum of Underwater Archaeology, too. If you’re a foodie fanatic and have enough time, visit the nearby village of Gumusluk, which boasts some epic fish restaurants.
5. Antalya Cruise Port, Antalya
Known as the turquoise coast and the gateway to the Mediterranean region of Turkey, a cruise to Port Akdeniz on the outskirts of Antalya really does offer some gorgeous coastal vistas. However, on arrival, there’s not an awful lot to see at the port and its surrounding areas, so it’s best to take the transfer to the centre of Antalya some nine miles away.
Here, you will be able to walk along the palm-fringed promenades and the fabulous marina, all before exploring the quaint streets and city walls that together make up the old town. If you’re into your history, visit the Archaeological Museum, considered one of the best in the whole of Turkey and certainly a must-see.
If you’re looking for some natural scenery to feast your eyes on, head to Konyaalti Beach, where you’ll be able to sit back, relax and admire the magnificent mountain range before you. Better yet, why not make a trip to the Olympos Bey Mountains Coastal National Park, to get up close and personal with the mountains and the ancient ruins that lie amongst them.
6. İzmir Cruise Port, İzmir
With a visit to İzmir by cruise, your ship will dock at the port in Alsancak, a large and premium neighbourhood within the city centre. The journey into the port will provide views of the clean and modern part of town, and the port itself is pretty simple albeit the second largest one in Turkey.
The locals are extremely fond of İzmir, often referring to it as “beautiful İzmir”, as its full title, and we’re sure that a trip to this lovely part of Turkey will soon have you as big a fans as those who live there.
A trip around Alsancak is a must during your time in İzmir, where you’ll find unique bars in traditional houses lining the promenade, otherwise known as the Kordon. Here you can sip on a cold drink as you take in the gorgeous views over the Gulf of İzmir. You should also visit Konak Square, which plays host to the local Bazaar. Discover some true Turkish treats here that you can cherish and use to remember your experiences in İzmir.
Now that Turkey’s tourist industry is back on track, there’s no reason why you or anyone should miss out on sampling some of these incredible destinations on offer with cruise operators around the country. With so much to see, do and experience in these unique towns and cities, a short trip as part of your cruise might not be enough!
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