Southwest Turkey has some of Europe's best beaches, especially along the Turquoise Coast between Bodrum and Alanya.
With the splendid Aegean and Mediterranean seas lapping the west and southwest coasts, Turkey doesn’t lack for beautiful beaches. With luscious coasts tucked between towering cliffs, quiet coves in the shadow of ancient ruins, and seaside breezes ideal for windsurfing, it’s not hard to find a beach in Turkey that perfectly suits your taste.
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Tucked between two dramatic cliffs off the road between Kalkan and Kaş, Kaputaş Beach feels like stepping inside a photograph. With turquoise Mediterranean water, this beach is small but very popular, thanks to its convenient location near a major road. Because the beach is situated at the bottom of deep cliffs (hence lots of stairs going down), the noise from the road is a distant memory as you wade in the water.
Only accessible by boat or a treacherous climb down a cliff, the beach at the Butterfly Valley is situated in the bottom of a wide valley beneath the village of Faralya. Clear turquoise waters and lush nature attract a laid-back crowd. The valley is a protected nature area, in order to preserve the natural habitat of the valley’s eponymous butterflies (there’s a charge to climb up from or down to the beach), but boat tours depart daily from the port in Ölüdeniz, including a stop at the beach, or there’s a regular taxi boat service. Tour operators will also pick you up from any Fethiye hotel.
Perfect for laid-back travelers who want to stay in a tucked-away, rustic treehouse, the beach at Olympos is relaxed and lovely. The cove contains calm water, and the sandy beach gives way to sprawling ruins nestled in dense forests. Olympos is located on the Lycian Way, so there is ample hiking in the area for those who want to do some more extensive exploring.
Patara’s beach is the longest stretch of sand in Turkey, and one of the few for which you need to buy an admission ticket (5 TL). This is because the beach abuts extensive Lycian ruins, which together make up a well-preserved open-air museum. Patara is one of the nesting grounds for the Caretta Caretta turtles, which are protected, so beachgoers are asked to plant umbrellas no closer than 20 yards from the waterline to protect nests.
This beautiful village is just a short ride outside the city of Fethiye is one of Turkey’s most iconic beaches. The long bend of sandy white beach against azure waters has been deemed the blue lagoon, which actually refers to the lagoon that’s mostly enclosed by the sandbar at the northern tip of the beach (it’s part of Ölüdeniz Natural Park). The long, beautiful shore and the near-constant winds have made Ölüdeniz a popular destination for both vacationers and paragliders, who take in the views of the beach from above.
This quiet beach on the Datça peninsula feels like an escape from it all. The rolling landscape of pine-crowned hills and olive groves gives way to the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea. If you make it all the way here, be sure to go the additional 38 km (24 miles) west to visit the Knidos ruins.
İztuzu Beach (Dalyan)
Known as a nesting area for Caretta Caretta turtles, İztuzu Beach is located on a narrow strip of land that separates the Mediterranean from the Dalyan River. In order to protect the turtles, the beach is closed for night swimming, but by day it’s a calm cove for a cool dip.
This tiny bay across from the main harbor in Kaş is only accessible by boat (or by hiking), which makes it the perfect retreat from the bustle of the city center. With a small beach with rentable chairs and a small bar to purchase beverages, Limanağzı is a great spot for a casual swim during a long, relaxing day.
Cleopatra Beach (Alanya)
Alanya is one of southwestern Turkey’s most visited vacation destinations and Cleopatra Beach is its crown jewel. The main draw is that the beach is adjacent to the city center, making it one of the easiest to access. There are many beachside cafes and restaurants spread along the shore and there are plenty of opportunities for water sports.
Nestled in the Çeşme peninsula, Alaçatı’s beach is best known for windsurfing and kitesurfing. With constant gusts blowing from the Aegean Sea, adventure seekers flock here to take advantage. There are plenty of beach clubs, as well as calmer bays, where you can lounge by the clear water. The town of Alaçatı is cobblestoned and charming with blooming bougainvillea.