With over 8.000 kilometres of coast line, Turkey is home to some of the best beaches in the world. With long sandy beaches and quiet coves tucked between towering cliffs, there is something for everyone. But Turkey is so much more than its beaches. It’s a country full of history and culture. There are hundreds of historic places in Turkey, and many of them are along the coast. In this guide we will introduce you to 5 historical places in Turkey for beach lovers.
The majority of the ancient cities with beaches are scattered along the southern coast close to the tourist spots of Turkey. There are so many ancient places in Turkey that it can be hard to know where to head. We decided to come up with five ancient cities that are really beautiful but that are also located on the coast so you get the best of both worlds.
Patara is a great place to start this post. It boasts one of Turkey’s longest beaches stretching 12 km and is practically empty the whole length of the beach. It is a stunning beach and looks beautiful under a blue sky.
Not only is it a great beach destination but it also has a great ancient city and should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Turkey. The history of these unique ruins dates back a long time and many of the structures are still standing. Getting to Patara Ancient City and beach is actually quite straight forward and I will go into more detail in the ‘how to get there’ section.
The ancient city of Patara dates back over 2,500 years and was founded by the Lycians. All over the south-western part of Turkey you can see the remains of Lycian cities and there is something very special about them. It is quite easy to spot them as wherever there are rock faces you will see tombs carved out in a beautiful way and they are some of the most famous places of Turkey.
Patara was inhabited up until around 1340 AD and during its habitation it was an important seaport especially for the Lycian League. It was their primary seaport but in 333 BC Alexander the Great captured the city. Throughout its lifetime the city changed hands many times between different empires as they rose and fell.
There are several key ancient places that you should definitely check out when you visit Patara. Malin and I were really impressed by the theatre, its grandeur still very apparent. The steps are pretty high and reaching the top after thirty rows will leave you out of breath but the views of the theatre from the top are completely worthwhile.
Below the steps on the semi-circle wall you can still see carved-out figures of soldiers and presumably gladiators and warriors.
Adjacent to the theatre you will see a completely restored building which will give you a great idea of how the area used to look. The restoration work makes the building look completely new which is a bit of a shame as you can’t get a sense of the history in the same way as when something looks a little rough.
The incredibly long beach of Patara will leave you stunned by its beauty. Just behind the beach you will find a long stretch of sand-dunes that are just waiting to be explored. If you head to the far western side of the beach you will be able to walk up a small hill to get great views of the beach and the cliffs on the other side.
After checking out the ancient ruins and spending some time on the beach you might be starting to get a little hungry. Thankfully there is a cafe right on the beachfront serving food at surprisingly reasonable prices.
This region of Turkey has many types of tortoises/turtles that lay their eggs on the beaches and Patara beach is one of those. For that reason you aren’t supposed to be on the beach at night. We actually ended up camping between some of the sand-dunes and when we woke up in the morning and walked down to the beach we could see hundreds of tracks leading down to the ocean. We were pretty gutted to have been oblivious to this miracle of life and would have loved to have seen it.
If you want to see how we spent our time in Patara check out our video below to see this important place in Turkey.
How to get there
Getting to Patara is possible by first making your way to Fethiye or Antalya. From the buses going between these to places will pass by the road that leads down to Patara beach and ancient city. If you are coming from Antalya you may need to change at a place called Finike and double check that the buses will let you off at the right spot as some are express buses and won’t stop.
Once you have made it to the road that goes down to Patara there are dolmuses (small buses) that run quite frequently into the town of Gelemiş. From Gelemiş there is a 2.5 km walk down to the beach and ancient ruins.
Hitchhiking in Turkey is very easy and we found it to be really safe and didn’t have any problems. We got dropped off at the road that leads to Gelemiş and Patara and quickly got another ride into town. From there we walked to the beach.
Where to stay
As there is no accommodation available between Gelemiş and the beach due to the nature conservation you will have to stay in Gelemiş. There is a wide range of accommodation to choose from.
If you are looking for a fairly budget friendly place to stay then you should check out St. Nicholas Pension which starts at 31$ per night for two people. It is located in the heart of the town and it has everything you need for a comfortable stay. Another thing we always look for are family-run hotels and guest houses and this is one of those.
The second of the 5 historical places is Olympus Ancient City which is slowly being reclaimed by the forest itself. It is by far the most magical ancient sites around the world that Malin and I have visited. In some places you get a feeling of being in a trippy movie and something is going to jump out at you. It definitely has that enchanted forest feeling going on.
We visited in the middle of May before the summer season had started and it was possible to find a great deal on accommodation. Not only was it quite affordable but we were the only guests and the ruins themselves were fairly quiet and for most part we were on our own. For this reason it is one of the best historical places to visit in Turkey we believe.
The ancient city of Olympus is easily one of our favourite ancient places in Turkey. There was something really special about it and it is one of the best sites to see. Like all of these cities in Turkey they all changed hands fairly frequently but Olympus has a special claim to fame. Apparently under the Roman Empire even the emperor Hadrian visited the city and its name was temporarily changed to Hadrianopolis!
The city joined the Lycian League around the 130 BC then only 30 years later Cilician Pirates took control of the area until 78 BC. This is when a Roman commander and a young Julius Caesar captured Olympus and other territories in the area after a victory at sea.
In more recent times the Venetians, Genoese and Rhodians constructed a couple of fortresses along the coast but by the 15th century AD Olympus had been abandoned.
A visit to a historical place isn’t complete without just wandering around as you will stumble across a vast array of different buildings, some completely overgrown with foliage others in great condition. We recommend hiking up to the view point which offers views of the stunning beach as well as views up the valley.
On a side note, if you are into climbing we saw a bunch of people scaling the rock face on the other side of the river from the area where all of the accommodation is located. You can probably just head over and ask to join in if you have some experience.
The beach by Olympus, Çıralı beach, is almost 3 km long and is a great place to refresh after a day of exploring the ancient ruins. If you walk to the far end of the beach you can pitch your tent and enjoy the surroundings. The beach itself is not exactly sandy but more of a pebble or shingle beach.
As I mentioned earlier you can get an incredible view of the beach from the view point. It is absolutely stunning and we could have sat up there for hours soaking up the view of this magical place.
An additional thing to check out when you go to Olympus are the Burning Flames of Chimaera. Essentially these are just a few crevices in the rocks where gas escapes and is on fire. Sounds cool, right? Well, there is an interesting ancient belief about these flames. According to legend it is something known as Chimera, a hideous creature that is made up of a medley of animal parts and that breaths fire as a way of defending itself.
Sounds worth visiting just for the ancient belief! We didn’t make up to the flames as we ran out of time but the path going up there is quite the trek. Let us know if you have been there or are planning to in the comments below.
How to get there
Olympus is located about 80 km from Antalya and 28 km from Kumluca. If you are in either Antalya or Kaş you can hop on a bus that goes past the junction that leads down to Olympos. From there it is about 10 km down to the ruins. The junction itself has a little cafe to wait at whilst waiting for the bus which leave fairly frequently these days and especially during the summer months.
As always in Turkey it is possible to hitchhike like we did. Our driver even went out of his way and took us the extra 10 km down to the ancient ruins. The amazing hospitality of Turkey never ends.
Where to stay
The cheapest place you can find on Booking.com is Turkmen Tree Houses which starts at 25$ per night. You will find that most of the places in Olympus include breakfast and dinner and where we stayed it was really tasty and so much food it was hard to eat it all.
When we visited Olympus we shopped around a bit to find the place that could offer us the best value for money. We also visited just before the high season had started so we managed to get a pretty good deal for a nice room which included breakfast and dinner.
We stayed at Olympos Camlık Pension. The rooms were very comfortable and the owners were super friendly and went out of their way to make us feel at home. They even provided us with cards that we could top up to allow us to enter the ruins at a discounted price.
The food they served was incredible and we even got to try some Turkish food that we hadn’t had before. Overall it was a great stay and we would definitely stay again! Their rooms start at 38$ per night for two people. I believe that they also have some cheaper tree houses available that aren’t listed on Booking.com.
If you want a really nice room that is tastefully decorated then Ekinoks Hotel is for you. It is located on the other side of Olympus by the beach in the town of Çıralı and starts at 67$ per night.
Knidos was one of our favourite ancient cities in Turkey because of the adventure that we had there. The road leading to Knidos is incredibly beautiful and the views of the Aegean sea below is spectacular and vast.
The ancient city of Knidos may not be the most historical place to visit or large even, but it does make up for it in terms of the location. Right at the end of the Marmaris and Datça peninsula you will find this stunning ancient city. Most people we talked to in Turkey had never even heard of it and when we visited there was probably a maximum of 10 other people there.
As you are probably realising by now, all of these ancient cities have a pretty turbulent past and, of course, Knidos is no different. This was especially because of its location, sticking out at a obscure angle it made for a great port and strategic position.
Throughout history is changed hands many times but it really thrived during the Lycian time. It was during this time that a famous sculpture, made by Praxiteles of Athens around the 4th century BC, was created. It is known as ‘The Aphrodite of Knidos’. This piece of work was incredibly influential and brought people from far away to visit Knidos.
So why was this statue so important? Well, it was the first life-size representation of a woman nude in Greek history, a change from the traditional idea of male heroic nudity. Unfortunately the original has been lost to history but there are plenty of replicas and other variations of this work.
Another piece of work that was found close to Knidos was ‘The Lion of Knidos’. There are contradicting theories as to what this lion represented but the one I like the most is the commemoration of the naval of Knidos in 394 BC during which a general from Athens was victorious over a Spartan fleet.
To be completely honest with you the beaches at Knidos itself are not the best in the area but they are still pretty incredible on the whole. What I want to say is that if you have a car you can find even more beautiful beaches and you will more likely than not find yourself alone there!
The water on the whole peninsula is crystal clear and you can easily understand where the name Turkey comes from when you think of these turquoise waters.
We gave ourselves the challenge of finding a camping spot in this barren scrub-land landscape and ended up getting pretty scratched up in the process. But oh my, it was totally worth it. Just look at this incredible wild camping spot!
Every time we camp next to an ancient Turkish city we get this incredible sense of history and Knidos was no different. The sunset was spectacular and the next morning we walked over to the lighthouse for some absolutely fantastic views of the Aegean Sea.
How to get there
Getting to Knidos is a bit of a challenge without your own set of wheels. You can get a bus from any of the big towns nearby such as Marmaris, Muğla or Fethiye to the seaside town of Datça. From there to Knidos is where the challenge will start.
For us we found hitchhiking to be the easiest method. We caught about five rides in order to get to Knidos with only short waits between each ride. When we left Knidos and started heading back to Datça is when our troubles started. It took a good hour before the first car that wasn’t full stopped to pick us up. So be in for a bit of a wait on the return trip.
Of course if you have hired a car getting to Knidos will be very straightforward and you can stop at some of the incredible beaches on the way.
Where to stay
Staying in a hotel or guest house in Knidos isn’t a possibility unfortunately. To be honest there isn’t much there apart from a few little shops. If you are feeling up for an adventure then you can try to reach our camping spot (it was a challenge and we got plenty of scratches and cuts on our legs in the process!).
Your best bet is to stay in the town of Datça. You will have plenty of choice from low-end to high-end places to stay.
The cheapest place I can find available on Booking.com is actually an apartment hotel. The room looks pretty nice actually and it will cost you 33$ per night. It is called Beyaz Konak Evleri and is located in the centre of Datça.
If you would prefer to stay in a hotel then check out Datça Deniz Hotel starting at 35$ per night.
Side was an important seaside city and has been inhabited since the 7th century BC. The fact that people still live right next to this ancient city and have built around it makes it something very special. Side itself has become a popular tourist destination especially for all inclusive resorts. It is one of the most accessible ancient sites in Turkey which is possibly why it is so popular among tourists and locals.
The ancient Turkish city of Side needs to be on your must see visit in Turkey. The area of this ancient city is vast and you will need many hours to truly explore and enjoy it.
Let’s get into a little history about this ancient city. This port city dates right back to the bronze age when the locals spoke their own language of Sidetan and the language stayed for several centuries longer before different empires took control and lost control of this port city. First it was Alexander the Great who took control of Side but it was lost to the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century.
In 190 BC a Greek fleet defeated the great Seleucid fleet and took control of the area but the in the 1st century Cicilian pirates established Side as their main naval base and the centre of their slave-trade. In 78 BC the Romans defeated the pirates and took control of Side and where there until the 4th century AD.
From then onward until the 12th century it suffered many raids, earthquakes and was even burnt by the Arabs.
I think that is enough history for now. As you can tell it has a pretty vibrant past and there is plenty more to learn when you visit yourself and you will agree that it is one of the best sights to see in Turkey.
Side’s beaches are a bit of a mix. To the west you will find most of the all-inclusive beach resorts, however if you head over to the eastern side of the city you will find a much more relaxed beach with dunes running behind.
There are quite a few beach bars lining the eastern beach but there is plenty of space between each one and the beach is very nice and if you want to do some wild camping just head into the dunes behind.
How to get there
Getting to Side is quite a lot easier than the other places on this list as it is a pretty popular resort town. If you are flying in to the area your flight will be to Antalya. From there you can grab one of the many buses from heading to Side for a low price. Remember that it is always possible to hitchhike in Turkey, just maybe not from the airport!
Where to stay
There is an incredible amount of accommodation available in Side! This is the most populated place on historic places in Turkey for beach lovers. You can find any type of accommodation you would like.
If you are looking to be in the historic centre of Side there are plenty of options available. The first place Malin and I want to recommend is Side Antik Sempati Hotel. Starting at 26$ per night, the rooms are simple but comfortable and the building looks beautiful.
The second budget-friendly place we want to recommend is Yildiz1 Motel. The prices start from 22$ per night for a double or twin room and the place even boasts some ancient ruins right outside the window!
This place is way out of our budget but if you are looking for something special then this is it. For 153$ per night you can get a private bungalow but if you can afford an additional 8$ you can get it all-inclusive! The name of the hotel is Hotel Can Garden Beach and it is just outside of the historic centre close to the beach.
Our friends over at SlowTravelGuide claim that this is the best beach in the country and one of the must go places in Turkey. Not because of its amazing beaches lined with sunbeds and umbrellas but because of its incredible history and the ruins that are still there today. They write that this ancient Turkish city comes to life when you visit and explore the ruins.
Phaselis was the main eastern seaport during Lycian times because of the connections between Greece, Asia, Egypt and Phoenicia. The city was attacked multiple times throughout its history and was eventually abandoned in the 11th century when Antalya and Alanya became the more important ports of the area.
When you visit Phaselis you will be able to bear witness to the impressive ruins that are still standing. There are three harbours: the Northern Harbour, the Battle Harbour and the Protected Sun Harbour. The last one of these is the most important today where you can see the history with your own eyes.
There is a 24 metre wide street which leads to Hadrian’s Waterway Gate. You will find ruins of shops, Roman baths, agoras as well as theatres. The majority of these ruins date back to the 2nd century. You will learn so much about historical places visiting Phaselis.
The last beach on this list but definitely not least is Phaselis beach. With Phaselis you get three beaches for the price of one. There are two larger bays and one smaller one. Even in the summer months you will find it to be fairly quiet on these beaches, especially on the western most beach.
The beaches in this part of Turkey are absolutely perfect for wild/free camping. Turkish people love wild camping and you might even meet some locals who can give you tips on the best place to pitch your tent.
How to get there
You will find that getting to Phaselis is much easier than making your way to Knidos. If you are travelling by bus then you jump on one in Antalya or Kemer and there are apparently even buses from Olympus but I haven’t really found any concrete information to back that up.
If you are hiring a car you will have no trouble finding Phaselis, just follow your GPS.
Another popular way to make it to Phaselis is by boat. A popular thing to do in Turkey are boat trips along the coast and Phaselis, with its three harbours, makes a perfect place to stop.
If you are hitchhiking you will have no problem getting a ride. There should be plenty of local tourists as well as foreign tourists who would be willing to pick you up!
Where to stay
In our experience you can pretty much camp wherever you want in Turkey. Obviously it is best to ask first at the entrance to Phaselis, or don’t, it is up to you. If you head to the beaches I am sure you can find a small forested area set back from the beach out of sight.