Your Guide to the Turkish Riviera
The Turkish Riviera — dubbed the Turquoise Coast for its technicolour waters and pine-wreathed bays — stretches from Antalya to Fethiye in southwest Turkey. Its white-sand beaches are legendary, but this ancient region is far more than a fly-and-flop destination, with thousands of years of history and some of the world's most spellbinding cultural attractions.
It is impossible to write about the Turkish Riviera without mentioning its world-class beaches — even in high season, it is possible to stumble upon secluded stretches of fine white sand, hidden beyond canopies of sweet-smelling pines or encircled by mountains.
The waters are some of the clearest in the Med, meaning incredible visibility for snorkelling in the easily accessible reefs, with a number of unique dive sites, including seal-filled coves and haunting shipwrecks. Visit in early summer for the chance to see baby Loggerhead turtles take their first crawl towards to the sea.
Some of the best value to be had in Turkey is in Turkbuku — the glitzy resort town is a favourite haunt of the celebs and business tycoons, but it sports a number of luxury hotels that offer better bang for their buck than their European counterparts.
For nature lovers:
A great way to immerse yourself in the natural surroundings is to hike the Lycian Way, a well-mapped hiking route that skirts between the coast and the mountains on a route from Antalya to Fethiye.
Although it would take around a month to hike from start to finish, the Lycian Way offers a number of day hikes with incredible views of the coast and UNESCO World Heritage-listed Roman ruins.
Plenty of resorts also offer surprisingly easy access to smaller pockets of raw nature. Plenty of luxurious beach resorts near the town of Side back onto the Sorgun Forest, meaning you can take an easy hike at any time of day and toast the sunset with friends and champagne.
For culture vultures:
The Lycians based their empire around the Turkish Riviera over 1000 years ago, and no matter where you choose as your base, there's likely an ancient site just round the corner.
The major tourist town of Bodrum is super convenient for sightseeing — a well-preserved castle stands guard over the shoreline, with a tower that offers panoramic views from the coast to the mountains. There's also an evocative Roman amphitheatre that dates from the fourth century BC, and is often brought to life with concerts and performances during high season.
Travellers who want to connect with local culture will also get a lot out of a simple walk around the city's backstreets. The white plaster architecture and flower-decked balconies are impossibly pretty, and it is easy to escape the crowds and spend an afternoon like a local — perhaps indulging in traditional mezze or just enjoying Turkish coffee and watching the world go by.
There's no better way to learn about a culture than its food. Full-bodied, flavoursome and relatively guilt-free, Turkish cuisine represents the Mediterranean diet at its finest, and boasts some of the freshest seafood in Europe and west Asia.
We recommend a cookery class with a local guide — often, they'll take you round a vast bazaar to source the freshest ingredients, which you'll learn to cook and then eat. You can learn to cook staples like köfte (Turkish meatballs), dolma (stuffed vine leaves), or baklava (syrupy pastry) in almost any major town, and in smaller fishing villages, it is often possible to buy the catch of the day straight from the fishing boat.
Other experiences sure to delight gourmands include stays on working olive farms, village tours with pomegranate-wine tasting and drinking into the small hours in a traditional tavern.
For spa lovers:
There's an array of natural mud baths, sulfur pools and hot springs to leave you feeling refreshed after a heavy day exploring — the healing properties of the region's mineral-rich waters have been renowned for thousands of years.
The most famous baths are at Dalyan, on the far side of Lake Koycegiz, and there are plenty of guided tours, such as a ride across the lake in a rustic wooden boat and entrance to the famed mud baths on the other side. The pools are so salt-heavy that you can actually float in them, just like the Dead Sea.
For those who prefer something less stinky, there are plenty of high-end spas that combine traditional hammam rituals with luxurious products and innovative new techniques. Luxury hotels offer aromatic oil massages and invigorating body scrubs that draw on centuries-old traditions and use of the excellent local produce.
Sponsored by Jet2holidays, in association with Maxx Royal Resorts and Voyage Hotels, which have 5-star properties on private beaches along the Turkish Riviera.
Maxx Royal Kemer Resort has an impressive 4000-square-metre spa where you'll be pampered like a VIP, and Maxx Royal Belek Golf Resort has a sprawling waterpark with 11 slides for family-friendly luxury.
Voyage Hotels has a chain of five 5-star properties in Antalya, Bodrum and Sorgun Forest, which all have prime beachfront locations, gourmet dining options and easy access to the surrounding nature and ruins.