The Turquoise Coast : Places to Explore



The big, brash resort city Marmaris has two faces, and they're hard to reconcile. From the sea, a thick line of resort hotels stretches around the northern edge of a great bay, the whole encircled by a magical necklace of pine-clad mountains. Behind those same hotels, however, the city has been overwhelmed by boxy concrete development and streets lined with a hundred generically named eateries. An annual horde of European tourists descends on these workaday establishments, but for the international traveler, there is little special about Marmaris that cannot be savored elsewhere in Turkey. It's a very pretty spot, but there is little reason to linger unless you are meeting a yacht, traveling on to the Greek island of Rhodes, or perhaps taking up an unbeatable deal at one of the best resort hotels, some of which are spectacular worlds unto themselves (which is just fine given that you probably won't want to see much else here).

If you're in Marmaris, though, don't miss the city's best achievement, a 10-km [7-mi] seafront promenade that stretches all the way from the easternmost marina known as Netsal, past the old fortress, along the palm-lined main boulevard of town, and then out between the beach and the fancy hotels that line the coast, all the way west to the outlying resort of Içmeler. Along the way there are any number of cafés at which to pause for refreshment or to take in fine views of sea and mountains. For $5, the footsore can ride back on one of the shared water taxis that run up and down the coast in season (usually April–November).

There are few historic sites in what was until a few decades ago a small, sleepy fishing port. These include a modest 16th-century citadel, first built by Süleyman the Magnificent, shelled to bits by the French in the First World War and rebuilt in the 1980s. There is a small museum inside (both are closed on Mondays).

Good day outings from Marmaris include a boat trip from the harbor to Turunç on a visit easily arranged by yourself, your hotel, or any of the many travel agencies. Another fine destination is Sedir Island (Cedar Island).

This will likely involve a bus ride north to the gulf of Gökova and then a boat. Sedir harbors one of the most perfect beaches in the world—if only one could have it to oneself. The sand is made up of tiny egg-shaped pearls of a luminous white marble, making the water brilliantly clear as you swim before the impressive escarpments of Mt. Kavak over the sea to the north. An hour's bus ride from Marmaris will also take you to the refreshing sulfurous mud baths near Lake Köyeceğiz or, on a long but doable day trip, to the town of Dalyan and the ruins of ancient Kaunos.

Marmaris Bay is also home to some of Turkey's biggest and busiest marinas, and is one of the main bases from which sailing yachts and wooden gulets can be chartered for Blue Cruises.