Mediterranean Turkey (Turkish: Akdeniz Bölgesi) is a region in Turkey, encompassing the entire southern coast and the inland areas backing it. The coast is also called the Turkish Riviera (Türk Rivierası) and the Turquoise Coast.
Perhaps along with the Aegean, the region is the top destination in the country, thanks to its crystal clear waters, sunny skies, and rich art and history.
|Cilician Mountains |
a mostly rural area with a beautiful mountain scenery and ruins just a stone's throw away from miles of lonely beaches
|Cilician Plains |
Hittite ruins, Biblical sites and Crusader castles dot the country's largest flatland
the southeastern part of the region which extends towards Syria, which has much influenced its culture and great cuisine
|Lakes District |
a whole lot of lakes — big and small, salty and fresh — scattered across a picturesque, mountainous area
rugged and densely forested, with many turquoise coves heavily indenting towards the land, this is the "blue voyage" country offering impressive Lycian ruins and stunning landscapes
mainly a mass tourism destination, this is the shining gem of the Turkish Riviera with some of the clearest waters and longest sandy beaches along the Mediterranean; there are more than a few things to catch the glimpse of history lovers, too
- 1 Antalya — the largest city in southwestern Turkey and the unquestioned capital of the Turkish Riviera
- 2 Adana — one of the largest cities of the country serves as a hub to the eastern half of the region
- 3 Alanya — a popular beach resort crowned with an extensive medieval fortress
- 4 Antakya (also known as Antioch) — where St Peter served as a bishop offers a great culinary experience as well as the Mosaic Museum with a rich Roman collection
- 5 Fethiye — nestled at the head of a gulf perfect for yachting, Fethiye and its vicinity offer outdoor sports; paragliding and hiking top the list
- 6 Kaş — an unspoiled resort town with traditional architecture in the southwest
- 7 Marmaris — a major tourist town, scenically surrounded by piny mountains, and serves as one of the gateways for the "Blue Voyage"
- 8 Mersin — a major port, one of the best examples of modern Turkish town planning, with a palm-lined esplanade
- 9 Taşucu — a pleasant town with cobbled streets and frequent ferries to Northern Cyprus
- 1 Anemurium — the ruins of a Roman city on the southernmost point of Turkey
- 2 Butterfly Valley — an isolated canyon with waterfalls and a large colony of butterflies
- 3 Heaven and Hell — a geological curiosity, two large chasms next to each other just inland from the coast
- 4 Kayaköy — a ghost town with plenty of hiking opportunities in the surrounding area
- 5 — somewhat overrated waterfalls near Antalya
- 6 Ölüdeniz — the "Blue Lagoon", one of the most celebrated Turkish beaches
- 7 Olympos — a backpacker destination with tree-houses in the forest near a pebble beach and Roman ruins, also featuring a rich nightlife
- 8 Patara — the birthplace of St Nicholas is now a great archaeological site adjacent to a dream-like beach with the largest dune landscape in Turkey
- 9 Xanthos and Letoon — the ruins of the ancient Lycian capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Mediterranean coast of Turkey is mostly a narrow strip of land hemmed in by the pine-covered Taurus Mountains (Toros) and the Mediterranean Sea.
Home to a number of ancient civilizations, namely Lycia, Pamphylia, and Cilicia from the west to the east, Mediterranean Turkey was captured by the Romans about a century before the birth of Christ. After a brief occupation by the Crusaders on their way to Jerusalem, as evidenced by a number of Crusader-built or -expanded castles mainly in the east, and a number of Crusader-backed Armenian kingdoms, the Turkic Seljuqs seized the region. It was during this era when the ancestors of most of the locals poured in from Central Asia as nomadic tribes. Some still keep the tradition, wintering on the warm coast and heading for the heights of the Taurus Mountains or the plateaus of Central Anatolia further to the north with their goats and camel caravans when summer approaches. The Seljuqs were replaced by the Ottomans in about the 15th century.
As expected, Mediterranean Turkey enjoys the typical Mediterranean climate: the temperature can go above 40°C in dry summers, some of the sunniest in Europe, while the rest of the year is quite rainy, although winter lows rarely go below +5°C and snowfall is virtually unknown in the region (unsurprisingly except the peaks of the quite high mountains close to the coastal strip). The season with the highest amount of rainfall is winter (more or less limited to late October through early April in this region) and can be accompanied by strong winds, to the point of storms, in the localities close to the shore, especially around Antalya.
Water temperature of the Mediterranean Sea is around 28°C during summer, i.e. May through October.
The inland Lakes District has an altogether different continental climate than the rest of the region, and the winters can be severe and quite snowy there.
The region is home to a plethora of Turkish dialects, from the Muğla şivesi, some of which is totally incomprehensible for non-local Turks spoken in Lycia to the dialect of the Cilician Mountains, which is essentially a mainland "extension" of Cypriot Turkish. The Syrian dialect of Arabic is also prevalent around Antakya.
However, thanks to heavy tourism, English will likely be enough to communicate during your trip, especially in the western parts of the region (i.e. Pamphylia and Lycia) and especially if you don't intend to go off the beaten path. German, Russian, and Scandinavian languages may also be helpful, especially when you visit one of the resort towns mainly frequented by the speakers of those languages.
- By plane — The major airports in the region open for international flights are located in Dalaman, Antalya, and Adana.
- By train — Adana has daily direct passenger train services from Konya (which is connected to Istanbul and Ankara by high-speed trains), while Isparta and Burdur has services from Izmir.
- By bus — All cities and a good number of towns, especially those attracting many travellers, have direct bus connections from the large Turkish cities.
- By car — The region is connected to the northern parts of the country by a number of highways, most of which are double-carriageways, and O-21 north of Adana/Mersin is a motorway. These drop down to the coast through numerous, very scenic passes across the Taurus Mountains.
- By boat — There are ferries from Northern Cyprus to a number of ports. See also Ferries in the Mediterranean.
By public transport
Buses (for long-haul routes such as Antalya to Adana) and minibuses (for shorter routes between a major city and nearby towns) will be your main mode of transportation within the region. Services are fairly frequent and quite comfortable, and especially so in the more touristed areas of Lycia and Pamphylia.
There is no long-haul ferry route along the coast, however, boat trips offer pleasant cruises into the remoter parts of the coastline from the major touristy towns.
At least two daily flights connect the airports of Adana and Antalya.
The highway D400, which closely follows the shoreline of the Turkish Mediterranean from one end to the other, is the main regional thoroughfare. While most of its length has an appreciably wide alignment (at least 2 lanes per direction) and is in a very good condition, some sections are very twisty and narrow such as between Alanya and Anamur. There are other roads, such as D650, which connect the inland areas (e.g., the Lakes District) with D400, thus the coast.
- Ancient ruins — The region is dotted by many ancient city ruins. Most date back to the indigenous civilizations of the region, which were expanded or rebuilt by the Romans later.
- Early Christian sites include those in Tarsus, the hometown of St Paul, Antioch, where St Peter preached and founded the first church openly called "Christian", Patara, where St Nicholas was born, and Demre (Myra) where he preached.
- Citadels — Strategically located on the main route between Europe and the Middle East, there are also lots of citadels in the region, either in the form of walls surrounding towns or castles in a valley or on a rocky outcrop to defend the nearby routes from unwanted incursions. Many, especially those in the eastern portions of the region, were either built by the Crusaders from scratch or were heavily fortified by them.
- The Lycian Way — A 509-km, waymarked hiking trail connecting Fethiye with the southern suburbs of Antalya.
- Yachting. One of the top cruising areas in the Mediterranean basin, the southwestern reaches of Mediterranean Turkey (the coasts of Lycia and western Pamphylia) offer abundant yachting options. In the much famed Blue Cruise (a.k.a. the Blue Voyage; Mavi Yolculuk), started by a group of Turkish intellectuals in the 1940s and usually compared to cruising the Caribbean, you take a chartered gulet type yacht (two-masted wooden boats) for a specified amount of time (usually 15 days), and cruise from cove to cove with turquoise waters surrounded by the pine-covered mountains rising immediately from the shore, calling at coastal towns and fishing villages on the way. Marmaris, Fethiye, and Kaş are the usual starting points of a Blue Cruise (as well as Bodrum and Kuşadası in the neighbouring Aegean), although voyages extending all the way from Izmir to Antalya are not unheard of.
While local cuisine traditionally embraces goat meat, which is less common to much of the rest of the country and may lead to stomach trouble for those who are unaccustomed to it, the restaurants in the touristy towns frequently feature more familiar treats. Fish restaurants abound in the seaside towns, while typical Turkish fast food döner and the like are common in the larger towns and cities. Adana in the east is known for its style of kebabs (Adana kebabı), while the cuisine of Antakya to the southeast, being culturally a part of neighbouring Syria, features highly delicious and partially vegetarian or even vegan-friendly Middle Eastern fare.
A great way to reduce your bottled water costs in this hot region is to use the free cold water dispensers, locally called sebil (pronounced say-beel), which can usually be found on the sides of the streets and the mosque courtyards in the less-touristed towns and districts. They look like small, white refrigators and usually have two faucets: the red one delivers warm (or mildly hot depending on the weather) water, while the blue one offers comfortably cold water. Though the water coming out of the faucets is not from a commercially-bottled jar, and likely from the city water network, it's harmless and causes no stomach upsets. A way to reduce the risk may be allowing yourself a week after arrival in the region to get accustomed to local microflora that may be present in the water and then taking full advantage of the sebils.
Mediterranean Turkey lies further south than anywhere else in Europe except Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete, so take it easy in the beginning of your trip and pay close attention to the early signs of heat stroke and dehydration. While on the beach, applying liberal amounts of sun lotion wouldn't hurt.
If you plan to spend time in the mountains, be wary of scorpions. They thrive in the Mediterranean climate and rocky areas are their habitats, so never reach under a rock without carefully checking first. Keeping your backpack closed at all times will keep them out, and don't forget to check the inside of your shoes first, should you take them off for any amount of time.
On crowded public beaches (i.e., those that aren't owned and enclosed by a resort hotel), don't leave your valuables like cell phones and cameras unattended, or better yet, don't take them to the beach. While many beaches are patrolled by the police and security cameras, there are still reports of petty theft.
Antalya has 4G from all Turkish carriers, and the signal extends along the resort strip to Alanya and beyond. 5G has not reached this area.
- The Aegean Region to the northwest has a lot in common with Mediterranean Turkey (especially the climate, landscape, and flora), yet is culturally distinct.
- Northern Cyprus is a short ferry hop away to the south.
- Many travellers with an intention to move forward into the Middle East to the southeast used to cross to Syria from one of the border gates around Antakya. Due to the ongoing Syrian civil war, the flights from the regional airports are absolutely safer options as of 2022.
- If you've found the Seljuq sites in Alanya and Antalya interesting, head north to Central Anatolia for a lot more.
- Southeastern Anatolia to the east is quite an off the beaten path destination and is an altogether different world.