Westward Bound: The Aegean Coast of Turkey

Turkish Aegean Coast mapThe Aegean coast of Turkey does not garner as much fame or admiration as its counterpart, the Mediterranean coast. Starting from the outskirts of Istanbul and stretching southwards towards the Marmaris peninsula, the landscape is perhaps the most startling difference.

Sandy beaches and places of natural beauty, backed by the Taurus mountain range, are a prominent feature of the Med coast but the flat geographical appearance, and non-sandy beaches of the Aegean landscape hardly impresses visitors.  

The Mediterranean also attracts many nationalities, like Russians and Germans but Brits have dominated the Aegean and in some resorts, left a big imprint of their presence. The small coastal town of Altinkum, nicknamed “mini Britain” is either loved by visitors for home comforts such as English breakfasts and football bars, or heavily criticised for selling out Turkish culture and traditions to mass tourism. 

It really is all about personal preferences, but to assume the Aegean coast is ugly or has no soul is wrong. A diversified range of towns, villages and landmarks awaits anyone who wants to explore the West of Turkey. 

Useful Information for Visiting the Aegean Coast of Turkey

Airports to Fly Into

If you plan to start at the Northern tip of the Aegean coast, use one of the Istanbul airports otherwise, the most popular Aegean airports are…

Bodrum: Open for international and domestic flights in summer, this airport only focuses on the latter during winter periods. (Airport code is BJV).

Izmir: Operating all year round for domestic and international flights, Izmir airport underwent extensive modernization to accommodate millions of passengers travelling through it every year. Ranked as the fourth busiest in Turkey, its airport code is ADB. 

Popular Places to Stay

Izmir Peninsula: Including the main city of Izmir (3rd largest in Turkey) and surrounding, small coastal resorts, an extensive and impressive transport network enables easy travel around this extensive region. Wealthy and influential Turks prefer the villages of Cesme and Foca while windsurfing fans head to Alacati, which in recent years has modernised and updated its appearance for the influx of youngsters looking for summer fun!

Northern Aegean: Popular with Turks from Istanbul, most international tourists instead pass through or only stay for two nights because their aim is to see the UNESCO World heritage site of Troy or the Gallipoli peninsula, where the Anzac landings of 1918 took place. 

Bodrum Peninsula: With its canny ability to accommodate rich, celebrities but also budget holidaymakers, Bodrum is a top destination of the Aegean coast. An exceptional nightlife and water sport scene dominates resorts like Gumbet, while Yalikavak attracts artistic types and has firmly established itself with a loyal expat community. Large amounts of money invested by local businesses and councils into the modern and impressive marinas, established a firm reputation for Bodrum as a pivotal point on the Turkish Riviera. 

Kusadasi: Previously, Irish holiday companies were strong in this region but these days, the nearby ancient ruins of Ephesus, the 2nd most visited attraction in Turkey, lure many nationalities who often dock in on large cruise liners.  

Altinkum: As mentioned before, this small resort is notorious as an expat haven for Brits. Efforts are underway to modernise the resort, with a professional marina and more five-star hotels. The Temple of Apollo and old town of Yenihisar compensate for anyone seeking traditional and rural Turkey. The cheap price of apartments and villas in Altinkum are credited for its popularity as an expat base.   

Historical Landmarks

Ephesus as it stands today is the result of just over 100 years of excavation projects. More than 1 million people every year flock to the ancient Greek and Roman ruins including the Celsus library, Roman terraced houses, Hellenistic theatre and state agora. Historians still have a lot more work to do though; since estimations say only 60% of the city is on show. As one of the Seven Churches of Revelation mentioned in the Bible, Ephesus and its nearby Christian landmarks like the “cave of seven sleepers” are popular on religious tourism routes.

Miletus and Priene: Dating from the same era as Ephesus, and within close distance of each other, the small cities of Miletus and Priene once enjoyed lucrative success as sea-trading ports. The holding cells and walkways under the half circle amphitheatre of Miletus perfectly portray life as a Roman gladiator or member of the city’s senate. 

Overlooking the rural market town of Bergama, the ancient ruins of the Hellenistic city of Pergamon feature heavily in travel guidebooks, mostly because of this steep amphitheatre, carved into the hillside. Unfortunately, Pergamon’s main claim to fame, the altar belonging to the temple of Zeus, sits in the Berlin history museum. 
Markets in Turkey

Other Things to Do

An extensive repair project of highways and roads, over the last 10 years, makes road-tripping the Aegean easy. Izmir and Bodrum airports both have hire car offices in their arrivals terminals, or within towns and villages, travel agents offer good deals on daily and weekly car rentals. 

The well maintained and large variety of water slides at Aqua fantasy in Kusadasi attracts families sometimes for the day but many who stay overnight in the castle-like hotel within the same grounds. Further down the road, the dolphin Park of Adaland wins admiration from families who pay for a 20 minute session of swimming with them. 

Naturally, as with any coastal region, fish and seafood are big features on menus. Called “Aegean cuisine” restaurants serve fresh fish and seafood dishes, eaten with traditional Turkish mezes and slow consumption of the national alcoholic drink of raki. Evenings spent like this are typical examples of “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Covering more than 20,000 square metre's, Dilek National Park, on the outskirts of Kusadasi is one of the country’s largest protected areas and home to many species of flora and fauna. Nature lovers often take advantage of the set walking routes and chances of spotting the park’s wild boar. 

The unusual appearance and nickname as the “cotton castle of Turkey” contributes towards Pamukkale’s achievement as the top visited attraction in the country during 2014. Solidified calcium pools cascading down the hillside present the fairy-tale castle look, while nearby the ancient Roman ruins of Hierapolis also belong to the UNESCO World heritage list. 
Dilek National Park


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