The Turkish Aegean Coast covers the entire western side of the country. Many say it isn’t as scenic as the Mediterranean coast on the southern side, yet every year thousands of holidaymakers fly into Bodrum and Izmir airports for Turkish sun, sea, and sand. Some of these destinations have also developed into expat towns, with many foreigners but in particular, Brits choosing to make it home.
The geographical landscape is considerably flatter than other places in Turkey, yet this has also made it a top agriculture destination particularly for dairy farming in the north Aegean and olive harvesting across the flat plateaus. However, undoubtedly, the biggest attraction on the Turkish Aegean coast for holidaymakers is the beaches. Some of the most popular and the holiday towns surrounding them stand out for specific reasons and attractions.
Altinkum and Didim: Golden Sands and the Apollo Temple
The name “Altinkum” translates into golden sands in Turkish, and this gives an excellent insight into why it has become a holiday town and expat destination. Sometimes also called Didim, mainly by Turks, Altinkum refers to the beachfront area while Didim is the main shopping centre, a short distance away.
Unfortunately, town officials were not original when naming the beaches, instead just calling them first, second and third. These are all within the central districts but branch out along the coastline, and many more small bays and coves are local secrets. Just a short bus ride away, the small, traditional village of Mavisehir is popular with Turkish holidaymakers, yet many foreigners visit to see its famous sunset views and to shop at the evening market.
Regarding scenic beauty, Altinkum has a relatively plain look, but in recent years, the local council has made efforts to clean up and modernise the town. The major landmark and historical site is Apollo Temple, standing at the entrance to Didim, but undoubtedly, the main lure for expats and holidaymakers is its status as one of the cheapest holiday towns on the Turkish Aegean coast.
Eating out and drinking is a fraction of prices in places like Bodrum, further up the coastline. Property is also cheap with the average price of an apartment starting from just £40,000. Ultimately, Altinkum and Didim attract budget holidaymakers and expats looking to stretch their capital and get as much for their buck as possible. (Read more about Altinkum here)
Kusadasi: The Cruise Ship King
Just one-hour drive from Altinkum, the vast and sprawling city of Kusadasi has made its mark for one reason only. Weekly, big cruise ships dock in, to transport passengers to the nearby Ephesus city ruins, one of the world’s greatest historical sites. The cruise ship trade has sparked tourism in the town with restaurants, bars, and souvenirs shops eager to catch their interest.
Although it does market itself to the mainstream holidaymakers, in previous years, it was more popular with Irish holidaymakers. They generally prefer Ladies Beach area and the two huge water parks, while the major landmark of the town is Birds Island, a perfect place for relaxing. Like other locations on the Turkish Aegean coast, it has a sizeable expat population, who likewise are attracted by low property prices.
The Bodrum Peninsula
Since the Bodrum peninsula has a modern airport, with frequent, established foreign flights, it makes sense that it is the most popular holiday destination on the Turkish Aegean coast. Including the town centre, smaller holiday resorts scattered all over the coastline, each attracts a typical stereotype of holidaymaker thanks to the unique characteristics of each destination.
For many years, Gumbet with its British restaurants and bars has appealed to budget families and groups of friends while Turkbuku markets itself, in completely the opposite niche, as a luxury holiday town, often favoured by Turkish celebrities. International stars also endorse the town centre with luxury hotels and an established marina.
Turgutreis also has a long established holidaymaker base, but the biggest success story of the Bodrum peninsula is Yalikavak. It went from small fishing village to budget holiday destination, to ideal expat haven and has now firmly established itself on the yachting scene of the world with its state of the art marina, the only one in Turkey with the capacity to hold mega yachts of the rich and famous.
Although Bodrum gives, the impression that it caters only for people with celebrity status or money, in many places, traditional and normality still reign strong. The small village of Gokcebel retains its overall impression of being stuck in time, while places like Bitez, Kadiklesi, and Ortakent maintain a down to earth presence. For an entirely laidback lifestyle, worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, Gumusluk delivers exactly that and much more. (Find out more about these resorts in our Bodrum guide.)
Cesme and Alacati in the Izmir Region
For many years, Izmir didn’t market itself to the mainstream foreign tourism industry. Instead, it was a favourite destination for Turks from the major cities who purchased holiday homes on the peninsula. However, with the advancement of the internet, and boom of independent travel, more foreigners drifted in that direction and liked what they saw. While the city centre (the third largest in Turkey) is a gem of activities and things to do, two holidays towns are becoming the star attractions.
Alacati as part of the Cesme region is now a top windsurfing destination, even holding international world championship festivals. Many visitors also adore the cute cobbled streets and blue and white architecture dating from its history as an old Greek town. Boutique hotels are the preferred place to stay while property prices in both Cesme and Alacati are rising thanks to increased interest from foreign investors and expats.
Datca: The Last Gem of the Turkish Aegean Coast
Another well-kept secret gaining international attention is Datca. The laidback lifestyle, quaint country lanes, old boutique hotels, and abundance of flowers may seem like utopia, and indeed, Datca has avoided the pitfalls overcoming other holiday towns eager to benefit from mass tourism. Some artistic circles say it is the ideal creative retreat, while others flock to see the ancient city ruins of Knidos. Many, however, stop by while sailing the Turkish Riviera. The town and in specific the old part is one of the prize gems of Turkey, that you can read more about in our country guide. Talking about the weather, facts and much more, it explains why many expats love living here.