Samuel Turner

The name today stirs a sort of concern, a country which is well known in Western media as controversial, unsafe and dangerous. The negative stigma has denounced this country as the prime holiday destination it used to be and nowadays it has fallen significantly in tourism. The political climate of recent times may have jeopardised its current situation but throughout history this country was visited by millions, whether it be as a trading hub, cultural centre or pilgrimage destination. But these days the travellers are wearing flip-flops and swimmers.

So where am I talking about?

I’m talking about the gorgeous, vibrant and welcoming country of Turkey. Unfortunately Turkey has gotten some harsh criticism recently, from political assaults to the instability of the country and terrorist threats. But I personally felt incredibly safe during my entire time there with no overarching feeling of governmental influence or religious pressures. But enough about that – let me convince you why you’ll no longer have Croatia, Ibiza or Cancun on your list of relaxing sun-soaking destinations!

The south of Turkey is known as the Turquoise Coast and appropriately named - translucent azure waters hug the rocky coastline for hundreds of kilometres. It is reminiscent of the Greek Islands at a mere fraction of the cost. Here are some of the most beautiful, relaxing, Instagram-worthy and picturesque of the lot!

Olympos

Olympos is an ancient town that was once a flourishing trade city, controlled by Greeks, Romans and even pirates. One look at the bay of Olympos and you’ll realise why perhaps the pirates liked to put their feet up here too. Nowadays it relies on tourism (less on piracy) and it is famous for its bungalow accommodation, where for around $14 a night you can have a room in a wooden cabin with buffet breakfast and dinner. The infrastructure of the old harbour is still visible today along with many Roman ruins including an amphitheatre and baths.

Probably the most interesting part of Olympos is the natural gas fires known as the Yanartas flames. A one hour hike to the top of the Chimera Mountain will bring you to these magical cracks in the rock where pockets of natural gas fuel the relentless fires that have been burning for over 2500 years. In the past, these fires were used to help sailors navigate at night time.

The must-do list:

  • Take a relaxing kayak ride out from the pebbled beach and spend the afternoon gazing up at the sheer, jutting rock faces that sometimes harbour wild boars.
  • Climb up to the Yanartas at night for the most beautiful vantage point. Bring some Turkish tea to boil at the top or some marshmallows!
  • The water at Olympos is also great for snorkelling and the afternoon sun will illuminate the clear waters so you can appreciate the breadth of your surroundings. 
  • Hike up to the remains of the steep city walls that protected the city from foreign invaders coming in from the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. A priceless view over the bay of Olympos.

Fethiye

Fetihye is a great starting off destination to explore the surrounding attractions from. The city itself hums with a certain spirit, with hundreds of ships docked in the marina. With lots of affordable accommodation due to the decline in tourism, you can stay in Fethiye for pittance and easily see the top sights with day tours. A close walk from the city centre are some Lycian tombs, incredible hand carved graves etched out of mountains for the nobility. A couple of dollars will get you up close and personal with these thousand-year-old ruins and you can even crawl inside the spooky tomb.

Although a little on the touristy side, the most beautiful beach award has to go to Oludeniz, a short minibus ride from Fetihye. Oludeniz literally translates to ‘dead sea’ – testament to the calmness of the waters, irrespective of weather. The weather is great all year round and neatly tucked in a beautiful valley, surrounded by lush greenery and mountains. The aquamarine waters have been enticing travellers from near and far for a long time now, so you should give in to the salty air and the rhythm of the sea as well. 

The must-do list:

  • The Twelve Islands Tour. For only around $20 for a seven hour cruise (pay the little extra and take a sailboat) you can see the most beautiful of the surrounding islands, with a full barbecue lunch included. Sunbake on the roof and cool off by jumping into the picturesque turquoise water.
  • Take a dip at Oludeniz and check out the nearby Blue Lagoon if you want to fork out a few extra dollars for some privacy and serenity.
  • For something different, check out the nearby ‘ghost town’ of Kayakoy – a town which ‘swapped’ its Greek residents with Turks living in Greece during the war. The now desolate and empty buildings are being slowly reclaimed by nature.
  • Fetihye has lots of cheap eats and a relaxed coastal vibe. Indulge in some Turkish kebabs and some sweet desserts – you’re on holiday!

The Turquoise Coast has some truly gorgeous sights and beaches for your next holiday. At a fraction of the cost of your cliché holiday escapes, I wholeheartedly recommend it and not just purely because of the affordability. The history, food, people and nature are unquantifiable. Those rays of sunshine will not be the only thing you absorb, as you encompass the wonderful and welcoming Turkish culture, so prevalent throughout this paradise straddling Europe and Asia. This forgotten gem won’t stay forgotten for long – so get in while you can!

Don’t forget:

  • Sunscreen here can cost a small fortune ($20-$30 for SPF 50, equivalent to four nights accommodation!) so bring your own from home or stock up in a bigger city like Istanbul
  • Even though it’s typically a beach destination, bring hiking boots as there are some incredible short and worthy hikes in the south.

 

Samuel Turner is an Australian journalist with a passion for adventure, travel and food. Follow him on Instagram @turnernator and Facebook Samuel Turner.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.