Turkey is one of the world’s best cruising grounds, with an exceptionally long sailing season, good weather for most of the year, and thousands of years of history and civilization carved into the country’s long coastline. During the yacht charter season, travellers can still find some seclusion in Turkey’s many quiet coves, wide bays, shaded beaches and many uninhabited islands, which is not always the case with some of the other, less budget-friendly Mediterranean sailing destinations to the west.
The most popular area for a sailing vacation, Turkey’s southwest coast, stretches from Izmir in the west via Bodrum, Marmaris and Fethiye to Antalya in the south. The region offers a perfect cruising ground for bareboating as well as for popular gulet holidays known as the blue cruises, luxury crewed charters that take travellers on a picturesque adventure aboard a wooden Turkish gulet.
Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean regions have the typical Mediterranean climate. These areas have a longer sailing season than most European destinations, starting in April and lasting well into November. The peak season, the months of July and August, has very little rain and the sailing conditions are excellent, with no tides or strong currents.
May, June, September and October are ideal times for a sailing holiday because the weather is warm, but not too hot, and there are fewer boats around than in the summer. This an excellent time to charter a bareboat and discover the country’s islands, which offer an easy sailing ground, with friendly northwestern winds blowing throughout the season. Meltemi wind follows the coastline in this region, blowing from the south to the bay of Fethiye and from the west into the gulfs of Gökova and Symi from May to October. The swimming season is exceptionally long, with water temperature staying between 23° and 28°C from May to October.
The region around the Sea of Marmara has a considerably lower water temperature, restricting the swimming season to the months of June, July and August. The transitional climate in the area – between an oceanic and semi-Mediterranean climate – brings some rain, but not a lot, during the summer.
The weather conditions in the Black Sea are more extreme and, with an oceanic climate, the region gets more rain than the others. There is also an almost constant large swell regardless of wind. The water temperature along the coast typically does not exceed 20° C.
Turkey has several cruising regions: the Black Sea, Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, the Aegean Sea, Western Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean and Northern Cyprus. The most popular yacht charter areas are the Ionian coast along the Aegean Sea, and the Carian and Lycian coasts in the Western Mediterranean region.
The Ionian coast stretches from the historic city of Izmir via Kusadasi and Güllük to Bodrum. In addition to these cities, major harbours in the region are at Çesme and Sığacık, with other notable anchorages at the archaeological sites of Teos, Ephesus, Latmos, Didyma and Gümüslük.
The Carian coast is situated between two of Turkey’s largest yacht charter bases, Bodrum and Marmaris. The notable anchorages and ports between these two are Çökertme, Akbük, Gökeva, Sehir Adalari, Söğut, Digirmen Bükü, Körmen, Mersinçik, Knidos, Datça, Bençik, Keçi Bükü, Bozburun and Bozuk Bütü.
The west Lycian coast stretches from Marmaris to Fethiye, with Göcek – one of the country’s top yachting locations, in between – while the east Lycian coast extends from Fethiye via Kalkan, Kaş and Finike to the flourishing resort city of Antalya.
The major harbours in the Black Sea include those at Sinop, Samsun, and Trabzon. These cities are home to numerous historic sites and buildings, some of them dating back to ancient times.
The major ports in the Dardanelles are found at Bozcaada, Çanakkale, Gökçeada and Lapseki. Located near the Hellespont, Çanakkale is the nearest major harbour to the archaeological site of ancient Troy. The 12-tonne horse used in the 2004 film Troy dominates the town’s seafront promenade.
Situated at the crossroads of European and Asian civilizations, Turkey is the site of an exorbitant number of ancient ruins and well-preserved monuments that dot every part of the country’s coast.
The Aegean region of Turkey is known for its mild climate, beautiful seaside towns and numerous olive groves and citrus plantations. Izmir, the region’s largest city, is home to the ruins of the historic city of Smyrna and draws visitors with its many beaches and bustling city life. Behramkale, a picturesque hillside village overlooking the Gulf of Edremit, contains the remnants of the ancient Greek settlement of Assos, with the ruins of the Temple of Athena, a necropolis and a theatre.
Situated on the western tip of Turkey’s coast, Çeşme has a number of well-preserved old buildings, including Çeşme Castle, a citadel overlooking the shore. The city is a popular destination for kiteboarding and windsurfing.
Sığacık, formerly a fishing port and now a large, full-service marina, is the place where sailors drop anchor to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Teos with a Temple of Dionysus, a theater, an ancient harbour and Acropolis walls.
Situated on the Reşadiye Peninsula, Datça is a booming tourist resort with many discos and bars. It is a convenient port of call for those looking to visit the ruins of the ancient Greek town of Knidos, which sits on the scenic tip of the peninsula.
The World Heritage Site of Pergamon, located 26 km from the Aegean coastline, contains the remnants of one of the most important cities of the ancient times. Ephesus, another UNESCO-protected site in the region, attracts visitors with a historically accurate recreation of the façade of the ancient Celsus Library, a preserved Terrace House, and the Great Theatre.
The ancient site of Didyma with the Hellenistic Ionic temple of Apollo, the fourth largest temple in the ancient Greek world, is a large and well preserved historic location. The temple’s oracle is said to have been consulted by a number of legendary rulers, including Alexander the Great and the Roman emperor Diocletian.
Kuşadası, another popular holiday resort, has some of the world’s cleanest beaches. Home to one of Turkey’s oldest marinas, the city is a popular stop for travellers visiting Ephesus and Didyma, located only a few kilometres away.
Bodrum, a popular seaside retreat and site where the ancient city of Halikarnassus once stood, draws visitors with its twin bays with stunning views of Bodrum Castle, a medieval fortress built partly with stones from the ruined Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The small scenic fishing towns of Güllük and Gümüşlük near Bodrum are increasingly popular holiday destinations both for local and international travellers.
Inland attractions in the Aegean region include the World Heritage Site of the Greco-Roman town of Hierapolis, which is adjacent to Pamukkale ("cotton castle"), a visually striking natural landscape known for hot springs and large white terraces of travertine.
Going south, the Carian coast is known for its sandy beaches, lovely bays and commanding rock tombs. The main ports in the region are often starting points for trips to the beautiful islands of Kos, Rhodes, Symi and Nisyros in Greece.
Çökertme makes an idyllic first stop on the way from Bodrum to Marmaris. Situated in a bay surrounded by pine and olive-covered hills, the town is an excellent place to rest and enjoy the delicious local food and wine.
Gökova is the home of the ancient Carian city of Idyma with an acropolis and necropolis. The nearby Sehir Adalari island, also known as the Snake and Castle Island, contains numerous ancient ruins. The beach on the west side of the island, once known as Cleopatra’s Beach, is said to have been created with sand that Mark Anthony brought from Egypt especially for Cleopatra.
Bozburun, a small seaside town facing the Greek island of Symi, is famed for its thyme honey, scenic coves and exceptional flora.
Marmaris, which marks the border between the Carian and Lycian coasts, is one of the most crowded tourist resorts on the Turquoise Coast. With a long seaside promenade and vibrant nightlife appealing to international tastes, the town draws more than a quarter-million visitors in the summer. The main attractions in the area include the 16th century Marmaris Castle, the Marmaris Museum, the Atlantis Water Park and the Marmaris National Park with wildlife and ruins.
The Lycian coast, south of Marmaris, is notable for its massive mountain ranges, wild, rugged terrain and turquoise coves. The area is home to the remains of several ancient cities – Aperlae, Myra, Kale, Olympos and Phaselis – which can be visited by boat. The famous Lycian Tombs, buildings carved out of rock, can be found in the area around Dalyan, a town between Marmaris and Fethiye. The town is also known for the 4.5 km long İztuzu Beach, popularly known as the Turtle Beach, which has a protected status as one of the main breeding grounds for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle.
With a total of six marinas, Göcek is one of Turkey’s main yachting hotspots. It is an excellent base for exploring the stunning Skopea Limani, a gulf with numerous sheltered coves, hugely popular with gulets and private yachts.
Fethiye, another major yachting port, is a popular destination for scuba diving and paragliding. It is also known for its many rock tombs, including the Tomb of Amyntas, carved into a rock overlooking the city in the 4th century BC.
Situated near Fethiye, Ölüdeniz beach resort is an idyllic place to rest, relax and enjoy spectacular sunsets. It is one of the world’s best destinations for paragliding, offering breathtaking panoramic views from Babadag Mountain. The nearby Butterfly Valley, designated as a nature reserve, is home to 105 butterfly species native to the area. The valley is also a popular destination for canyoning, scuba diving, canoeing and hiking.
Kalkan, a thriving port town perched on a hill overlooking a stunning bay, is an ideal holiday destination for those looking for both a rich tourist offering and a traditional fishing village atmosphere. Visitors have plenty of options for water sport activities and history buffs can explore some of the historical sites in the area, including Tlos, a ruined hilltop citadel, and Kekova, ruins of an ancient town destroyed by an earthquake in the 2nd century. The World Heritage Site of Xanthos-Letoon, which consists of the ruins of Xanthos, the center of the Lycian civilization, and Letoon, a major religious center in the region, is located in the same area.
Kaş, a modern seaside town occupying the site of the ancient Greek town of Antiphellos, is an excellent place for adventure activity holidays, with more than 15 diving schools and centers at the local port. The town is home to a number of visible ruins, including an ancient theater and the Lion Tomb, a Lycian rock tomb carved in the 4th century BC.
Antalya, the largest and easternmost city on the Lycian coast, is home to countless historic buildings and structures, most of them populating the narrow streets of Kaleiçi, the old quarter. These include the Hadrianus Gate, the Clock Tower, Yivli Minaret, Balibey Mosque, Murat Paşa Mosque, Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque and Hıdırlık Tower. Other attractions in and around the city include the beautiful Kurşunlu Waterfall Nature Park and Aspendos, a Roman amphitheater surrounded by other ancient ruins.
The city of Istanbul and Bosporus are the main reasons to enter the Dardanelles and navigate across the Sea of Marmara. The historic capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires offers an exceptionally diverse cultural and architectural landscape. The UNESCO-protected Historic Areas of Istanbul include the Walls of Constantinople, the 15th century Topkapi Palace, once the residence of the Ottoman sultans, Hagia Sophia, which served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral, Roman Catholic cathedral and Ottoman mosque since its construction in 537, the Little Hagia Sophia, consecrated in the 16th century and later converted into a mosque, and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque), constructed in the 17th century. The Grand Bazaar, one of the world’s oldest and largest markets, covering 61 streets and including more than 4,000 shops, is one of the region’s most visited attractions.
Some of the major port cities in the Black Sea offer plenty of sights to those looking to explore the region’s rich, diverse history and culture. Situated on the historic Silk Road, Trabzon is home to a number of tourist attractions, including the Byzantine church Hagia Sophia, the ruins of Trabzon Castle, and Trabzon Museum, which houses an impressive collection of artifacts from the Byzantine period. Sinop also has a number of historic attractions, such as the semi-circular Pasha Bastion, the 13th century Alaaddin Mosque, and Sinop Fortress, dating back to the 7th century. Samsun, the city in which Mustafa Kemal Atatürk began the Turkish War of Independence in 1919, is home to the 13th century Pazar Mosque, the Archaeological and Atatürk Museum and many other attractions.
With more than 7,000 kilometres of coastline, Turkey has countless other spectacular natural and historic attractions and idyllic places that make it a great destination for a sailing holiday. The country’s unique culture, pristine beaches, warm hospitality and varied nightlife make any sailing itinerary a memorable experience.