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Best Beaches and Ruins, 10 days

created by fodors-partner on 2017-03-16

Best Beaches and Ruins, 10 days

It's fairly safe to say that the main features that attract visitors to Turkey are the beaches and the magnificent archaeological sites. This itinerary covers the best of both, along the two major coastlines. Adding a couple of days in Istanbul at the beginning or end makes a perfect trip.

DAYS 1 AND 2: ISTANBUL

Arrive in Istanbul and head to one of the charming small hotels in Sultanahmet (the Empress Zoë and the Sarı Konak Oteli are two good options). If you have time, go to see the awe-inspiring Aya Sofya and the nearby Blue Mosque.

The next day, visit Topkapı Sarayı to get a sense of how the Ottoman sultans lived (make sure to take a tour of the Harem). From there, go to the nearby Archaeological Museums complex, displaying Roman and Greek artifacts that come from many of the sites that you'll soon be visiting. In the evening, head by taxi to one of the little neighborhoods along the Bosphorus, such as Ortaköy or Arnavutköy, for a fish dinner by the waterside (if you time it right, you can take one of the limited Bosphorus commuter ferry services there, though none go back down to the Beyoğlu or Sultanahmet areas at night).

DAY 3: EPHESUS

On the morning of Day 3, take the roughly one-hour flight to İzmir and rent a car at the airport to make the quick 84-km (52-mile) drive down to the ancient Roman city of Ephesus. If you get an early flight out, you should be here by lunch. The site is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Turkey, and you'll see why: the buildings and monuments are remarkably well preserved and easily give you the sense of what life must have been like in this important trading city 2,000 years ago. After Ephesus, visit the nearby Meryemana, a pilgrimage site for both Christians and Muslims where the Virgin Mary is believed to have spent her final years. You can spend the night in Selçuk, which is right on the doorstep of Ephesus, but better yet, head 10 km (6 miles) into the mountains above Selçuk and stay in the tranquil village of Şirince, surrounded by fruit orchards and vineyards.

DAY 4: PRIENE, MILETUS, AND DIDYMA

Start off your day with a visit to Priene, an ancient Greek city that sits on a steep hill looking out on a valley below—it's about 62 km (38½ miles) from Şirince. From there continue 16 km (10 miles) south to Miletus, another Greek city, where a spectacular theater is the main example of its former glory. Twenty kilometers (12 miles) south of here is Didyma and its magnificent Temple of Apollo, its scale as grand as the Parthenon, with 124 well-preserved columns. To keep yourself from burning out on ruins, continue another 5 km (3 miles) to the white-sand beach of Altınkum (this is not the same as the similarly named beach near Çeşme) and take a dip in the warm water, then have a meal at one of the numerous fish restaurants lining the shore. Drive back to the busy seaside resort town of Kuşadası, where there are several small pansiyons at which you can spend the night.

DAY 5: APHRODISIAS

Get an early start for the drive to the ruins of Aphrodisias, a Roman city named in honor of the goddess of love, Aphrodite. High up on a plateau and ringed by mountains, Aphrodisias has a spectacular setting and as much to offer as Ephesus, although with significantly fewer crowds; there are many ancient sites in Turkey, but Aphrodisias is quite evocative, especially after you’ve visited Ephesus. From here work your way down to the coast and the quiet town of Dalyan, where you can spend the next two nights in one of several riverside pansiyons.

DAY 6: DALYAN, İZTUZU BEACH, AND THE ROCK TOMBS OF KAUNOS

At Dalyan's riverside quay, you can hire a boat to take you to the ruins of ancient Kaunos, a city dating back to the 9th century BC and famous for its collection of tombs cut into the surrounding cliffs. Watch for the herons and storks idling in the river's reeds when you stop to take a look at the ruins. Continue your day cruise to the famed İztuzu Beach, a 5-km (3-mile) stretch of undeveloped sand that's also a nesting ground for sea turtles. There are a few snack bars at the beach, but you might want to consider bringing a picnic lunch along.

DAY 7: LETOON, PATARA, AND KAŞ

The mountainous coastal region south of Dalyan is the home of ancient Lycia. An independent and resourceful people, the Lycians built a series of impressive cities whose ruins are sprinkled throughout the area. To get a good glimpse of one of these Lycian cities, drive from Dalyan to Letoon, a UNESCO World Heritage site with three fascinating temples dating back to the 2nd century BC. From here continue to Patara, another Lycian ruin that has the added bonus of being right next to one of Turkey's finest and longest beaches. You can spend the night in the relaxing little seaside town of Kaş, which has several good lodging and eating options. If you have an extra day, take the three-hour boat trip out of Kaş through the beautiful Kekova Sound and its fascinating underwater Greek and Roman ruins.

DAY 8: OLYMPOS

On your eighth day (ninth if you spend an extra day in Kaş), drive to the Lycian ruins of Olympos, which have a small river running through them that ends at a beautiful crescent beach backed by mountains. Stay in the little village of Çıralı, a good spot for an evening visit to the legendary Chimaera, small flames of ignited gas that shoot out of the rocks of a nearby mountain.

DAY 9: ANTALYA/TERMESSOS (OR ASPENDOS)

Spend your last night in the rapidly growing resort city of Antalya, but before going there head up into the rugged mountains above the city to visit the dramatic site of Termessos, an impregnable city that both Alexander the Great and the Romans decided not to attack. (Alternatively, continue 48 km [30 miles] past Antalya to visit Aspendos, a spectacular Roman theater that is still in use today.) Return to Antalya in the afternoon and stay in one of the renovated old Ottoman houses in the Kaleiçi, the city's charming old town.

DAY 10: RETURN TO ISTANBUL
If you have time before your flight back to Istanbul, use the morning to walk around the narrow streets of the Kaleiçi and then visit the city's large Archaeological Museums complex. If you need to stock up on souvenirs before your return, head to Antalya's bazaar before going to the airport.
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    Hotel Empress Zoe

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    Hotel

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    Hotel Sarı Konak

    0 votes

    Hotel

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    Hagia Sophia

    110 votes

    Sight

    Red, shimmering Hagia Sofia is an inseparable part of the Istanbul skyline. A late antique Christ...

  • 4
    Sultan Ahmet Camii - Blue Mosque

    168 votes

    Sight

    In the beginning of the 17th century, Sultan Ahmed I decreed the construction of arguably the mos...

  • 5
    Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi

    131 votes

    Museum / Gallery

    A visit to Topkapi Palace requires at least half a day -- no wonder, as you stroll through nothin...

  • 6
    İstanbul Arkeoloji Müzesi

    11 votes

    Museum / Gallery

    Holds two important artifacts from ancient Jerusalem: the inscription from King Hezekiah's Shiloa...

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    Efes Büyük Tiyatro

    0 votes

    Sight

    Ephesus (; Ancient Greek: Ἔφεσος Ephesos; Turkish: Efes; may ultimately derive from Hittite Apasa...

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    House of the Virgin Mary

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    Sight

    The House of the Virgin Mary (Turkish: Meryemana Evi or Meryem Ana Evi, "Mother Mary's House") is...

  • 9
    Didyma

    2 votes

    Sight

    Didyma (; Ancient Greek: Δίδυμα) was an ancient Greek sanctuary on the coast of Ionia and belonge...

  • 10
    Aphrodisias

    0 votes

    Sight

    Aphrodisias (; Ancient Greek: Ἀφροδισιάς, romanized: Aphrodisiás) was a small ancient Greek Helle...

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    Kaunos

    2 votes

    Sight

    Kaunos (Carian: Kbid;Lycian: Khbide; Ancient Greek: Καῦνος; Latin: Caunus) was a city of ancient ...

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    İztuzu Beach

    0 votes

    Beach

    İztuzu Beach is a 4.5 km long beach near Dalyan, in the Ortaca district of the Province of Muğla...

  • 13
    Letoon

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    Sight

    The Letoon (Ancient Greek: Λητῶον), sometimes Latinized as Letoum, was a sanctuary of Leto near t...

  • 14
    Patara Beach

    3 votes

    Beach

    Patara (Lycian: 𐊓𐊗𐊗𐊀𐊕𐊀 Pttara; Greek: Πάταρα), later renamed Arsinoe (Ἀρσινόη), was a flourishing...

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    Aperlai & Apollonia

    0 votes

    Sight

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    Olympos

    4 votes

    Sight

    Discover the ruins of ancient Olympos conceiling the secrets Lycian and Roman times. The ruins of...

  • 17
    Mount Chimaera

    2 votes

    Sight

    An eternal flame, ascending from Mount Olympos - subject to various myths. According to Greek myth...

  • 18
    Termessos Ören Yeri

    3 votes

    Sight

    Termessos (Greek Τερμησσός) was a Pisidian city built at an altitude of more than 1000 metres at ...

  • 19
    Aspendos

    14 votes

    Sight

    Well-preserved Roman amphitheatre about half an hour from Antalya. The site includes other ancien...

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    Antalya Müzesi

    3 votes

    Museum / Gallery

    The Antalya Museum or Antalya Archeological Museum (Turkish: Antalya Müzesi) is one of Turkey's l...

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