Where to Stay on the Aegean Coast of Turkey

SD › Best Places to Stay along Turkey’s Aegean Coast
Updated: September 15, 2020
By Santorini Dave

The Best Areas To Stay along the Aegean Coast of Turkey

Kuşadasi neighborhood on Turkey's Aegean Coast.

Kuşadasi is the best place for first-timers to Turkey’s Aegean Coast for its historic and sight-seeing options.

Turkey is uniquely blessed with three coastlines: along the Black Sea to the north, the Mediterranean Sea along the south, and the Aegean Sea on the west, facing Greece and its numerous islands. The Aegean Coast is dotted with towns that tick all the right boxes for the perfect holiday: turquoise waters, golden beaches, extended marina, ancient castle, meandering old town with a Grand Bazaar, and, of course, plenty of other tourists, especially from May to September. All places listed below are easily connected by local buses and boats – though less regularly during the off-season (October to April) – while several airports offer domestic and chartered flights for those on packaged tours.

The Aegean Coast starts at the southern part of the Dardanelle Strait which stretches from Istanbul to beyond Çanakkale, often used as a gateway to the remarkable ruins at Troy. Further south, Bozcaada is one of few islands in the Aegean Sea belonging to Turkey rather than Greece. On either side of the Bay of Edirmet are Behramkale (Behram), with a serviceable beach and fascinating Byzantine ruins, and Ayvalik, which is attractive and charming and proudly retains its Greek heritage. About 80 miles further down, Foça is yet another appealing mid-sized town with well-preserved Greek history and a glorious promenade.

About halfway down the coast, Izmir is Turkey’s third-largest city, but still pleasingly compact. Based along a splendid promenade (but with no beach), Izmir is an obvious base for exploring inland attractions and attending traditional festivals – all without the usual tourist crowds. At the tip of a peninsula from Izmir, Çeşme is also home to a beautiful marina filled with yachts, a dominant castle, and an old town with a bazaar. Barely 6 miles away, the stunning beach at Alaçati is renowned across Europe for its windsurfing conditions.

Particularly lovable is Kuşadasi, with the added appeal of a beach within the suburbs and being a gateway (via Selçuk) to the extraordinary ruins at Ephesus (Efes). About 90 miles further south, Bodrum is very popular for its delightful castle, marina, old-town bazaar, and beaches like Bitez which are packed with resorts along the peninsula. Another 100 miles by road (or shorter by ferry), Marmaris is described separately as the start of the Mediterranean Coast.

The Best Places to Stay along the Aegean Coast of Turkey

Best place to stay in Kusadasi, Turkey.

Paloma Marina Suites (an adults only hotel) in Kuşadasi on Turkey’s Aegean Coast.

Best Areas along the Aegean Coast of Turkey for…

  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Sightseeing: Kuşadasi
    Like many other towns along the coast, Kuşadasi offers plenty to see and do: a compact beach (which is more convenient than many), a wonderful old town with a sprawling bazaar along a hillside, a marvelous castle, as well as boat trips to nearby coves and bays. Kuşadasi is also very convenient for day trips to the remarkable ruins at Priene, Miletus, and Didyma; the amazing landscapes at Lake Bafa; and, a little further, Pamukkale. What’s more, one of Turkey’s prime attractions, Ephesus (Efes), is even accessible by public bus and train (via Selçuk), and the Greek Island of Samos is only 1.5 hours by regular ferry.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Beaches: Bodrum
    Many beaches along the northern part of the coast are pebbly and/or difficult to reach, but further south they’re more appealing and developed. The waterfront along Bodrum, which is historic and popular yet still charming, is packed with yachts, but there are plenty of places to swim, snorkel, and snooze along the peninsula. Top-class resorts along the extended beaches of white sand and blue water at Bitez, Ortakent, Aspat, and Turgutreis are accessible by taxi or public buses which leave from the remarkably convenient station in downtown Bodrum.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Water-Sports: Alaçati
    Less than 50 miles along the peninsula from Izmir, Alaçati is renowned as one of the world’s finest spots for windsurfing and other water-based activities such as paddle-boarding. From May to October, the beach is used for competitions attracting participants from across Europe, and several companies offer rentals and training. Very few motorized water-sports are offered anywhere along the Aegean Coast, but scuba-diving and snorkeling (mid-April to mid-November) are particularly good at Ayvalik.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Boating: Bodrum
    Mainly during the warmer months of May to October, sailing is popular along the coves, islands, and coastal villages of the Aegean Sea which is shared by both, Greece and Turkey. Most major towns and tourist areas are lined with modern marinas where yachties tie up their boats while enjoying the several bars, bistros, and boutiques along the waterfront. The largest and, arguably, most attractive marina along the Aegean Coast at Bodrum stretches several miles along two sheltered bays separated by a peninsula with an ancient castle.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Nightlife: Çeşme and Alaçati
    Boasting a majestic setting facing a bay at the end of an extended peninsula and overlooking a Greek Island, Çeşme and nearby Alaçati are classic tourist destinations. They’re also very popular among those living in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest and most progressive city less than 50 miles away. Music festivals, primarily established for the younger set, are often held at Çeşme and Alaçati in the summer. There is also no shortage of bars, clubs, and restaurants, often with live music, along the picturesque waterfront and bustling old town – and most don’t close in the off-season or during the month-long Islamic commemoration of Ramadan.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Food & Restaurants: Bodrum
    Of course, every tourist region is crammed with places to eat – from authentic kebab stands to European-style bistros. What sets many apart are the location and views: those along the promenades and marinas will usually feature sea views (which may be obstructed by boats), while in the old towns, they’re often along cobblestoned paths and perfect for people-watching. Many restaurants in Bodrum are very inviting, especially along the extended marina stretching across both bays, while the town’s size and popularity ensure a broad range and competitive prices.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Families: Bodrum
    Bodrum can be overcrowded during peak season (June to mid-September), but is still manageable. The streets are often too narrow for traffic, and the bus station, which offers regular services to glorious beaches along the nearby peninsula, is within walking distance of most hotels. What’s more, the old town and castle are fun to explore, and trips to inland attractions can be easily arranged. Many resorts along the peninsula are particularly family-friendly, offering special rooms, fun activities, and, often, rates which include all meals and drinks.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for History: Kuşadasi
    The Aegean Coast is dotted with remains of former invaders and empires – from vast Roman ruins to village houses still retaining a Greek heritage. Like many towns along the coast, Kuşadasi is dominated by a meandering old town and majestic castle beautifully positioned in the harbor, and it is also very convenient for day trips to so many historical sites, including Priene, Miletus, Didyma, and, the crème de la crème, Ephesus (Efes).
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Vibe & Culture: Bodrum
    Although large and hugely popular, Bodrum still retains a likable, laidback charm. The two bays on either side of the old town, which is dominated by a magnificent castle, are chock-full of old homes, converted guesthouses, and waterfront cafés – all attractively painted identical shades of blue and white. Bodrum is also home to several food, folk dancing, ballet, and traditional music festivals, and from the station in downtown, buses speed across the Bodrum Peninsula and elsewhere to old-fashioned villages with traditional markets.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Festivals: Izmir
    Many festivals along the coast are designed for tourists, so they’re often lacking in authenticity, always crowded, and only held during the peak months of May to September. Izmir is Turkey’s third-largest city and is particularly vibrant and progressive, so numerous events are held here focusing on, for example, jazz and film, including the extensive International Izmir Festival which spreads across June. Many festivals are internationally known and recognized, extensions of those held in Istanbul and Ankara, or focus on local food and harvests. Because of Izmir’s size and attractive position along the seafront, public events, such as National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, are especially interesting and photogenic.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Shopping: Izmir
    Every town and tourist region has a bazaar overwhelmingly catering to tourists, so authenticity can be debatable, while prices are always high and discounts rare during the peak season (June, July, and August). In contrast, Turkey’s third-largest city features an extraordinary old town where tourists are very uncommon and the tiny lanes are filled with stalls selling (among many other things) fresh produce, jewelry, and baked goods – all made and priced for locals, not foreigners. Also, Izmir is large enough for several western-style malls in the suburbs and a vast array of modern shops are lined along extended streets, often vehicle-free and accessible by metro.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Transport: Izmir
    Turkey’s third-largest city has a major domestic/international airport that is also used by tourists visiting coastal regions like Foça, Çeşme, and Kuşadasi. Turkey’s railway network is not as extensive as most European countries, but Izmir is connected by train to Istanbul, Ankara, and nearby towns of Manisa (for mosques and museums) and Selçuk (for the ruins at Ephesus). Located about halfway along the coast, Izmir also offers regular services from the massive bus station all across the country. And Izmir itself is easy to explore on foot, while ferries cross the bay, the metro spreads through the suburbs, and bike-sharing is available along the esplanade.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for Romantic Holidays: Bozcaada Island
    Although small, Bozcaada is the third-largest island in Turkey. (Most others in the Aegean Sea belong to Greece.) Distant from major airports and packaged-tour crowds, the island can get busy on weekends with city folk from Istanbul, but even at peak times, Bozcaada is charismatic and finding an almost-empty stretch of beach isn’t too hard. Along cobblestoned paths within the old town, which is dominated by a medieval castle, are numerous gorgeous guesthouses, and several waterfront cafés offer a particularly intimate setting and serve the famous locally-made wine.
  • Best Area along the Aegean Coast for First-Timers: Kuşadasi
    Kuşadasi has it all, so some may find little reason to venture much further out – meandering stone paths along an elevated old town with a sprawling bazaar, modest beach in the city center and a far better one in the suburbs, ancient castle dominating the harbor, and extensive marina of yachts – all linked by the very efficient minibus service. Kuşadasi is also safe, not overcrowded, easy to reach, and convenient for day trips to some of Turkey’s major attractions: the ruins at Ephesus, Priene, and Didyma, as well as festivals at Izmir.
  • Safest Area along the Aegean Coast: Bozcaada Island
    Over recent years, Turkey has suffered some sporadic political unrest, but this is generally limited to Istanbul, Ankara, and, to a far lesser degree, Izmir along the coast. Possible serious conflict involving Kurdish separatists and neighboring Syria are restricted to border areas in the far west, over 700 miles from Bodrum. No areas along the Aegean Coast are particularly unsafe, and most trouble that tourists get into is self-inflicted, e.g. not swimming between flags and drinking excessively. In crowded areas, opportunistic petty crime is always possible, so take the usual precautions. Probably the safest area is Bozcaada Island, distant from the package-tour crowds and with far less traffic.

The 8 Best Areas along the Aegean Coast of Turkey for Tourists

Çomça Manzara Hotel in Bodrum, Turkey.

The pool overlooks the stunning bay at the Çomça Manzara Hotel in Turkey’s Bodrum town on the Aegean Coast.

1. Bozcaada Island

Turkey’s third-largest island is small and one of few in the Aegean Sea not part of Greece. Off the usual package-tour itinerary, it’s close enough to Istanbul to become busy during summer weekends, but still delightfully laidback. The main town features cobblestone paths, a huge Byzantine-era castle, and many adorable guesthouses – but there’s nothing in the luxury category or really suitable for families. Across the island are several lovely beaches (some remote and almost deserted) and lots of vineyards crafting the island’s renowned wines. Note: during the off-season (October to May) many tourist businesses close or are only open on weekends.

2. Behramkale/Behram

Also still known by its ancient Greek name, Assos, Behramkale retains a village vibe and historic charm that has long disappeared in more tourist-oriented towns. Spread across a hill offering sweeping views across the Bay of Edremit, the ruins of Assos are easily accessible and dramatically located. There are no notable places to swim or sunbathe, but it’s an ideal base for visiting other delightful towns like Ayvacik, famous for its produce markets and traditionally-made carpets. (Not to be confused with Ayvalik, detailed below.) While often busy with visitors from Izmir and Istanbul, Behramkale is not on the regular international tourist trail, so few luxury hotels are available.

3. Ayvalik

Ayvalik is on a peninsula facing the southern curve of the Bay of Edremit from Behramkale (see above). More of a port than a major tourist destination, the esplanade is, nonetheless, particularly attractive and the town is far enough from Istanbul and major airports to retain its charisma and heritage. Only a few miles by regular ferry from the Greek Island of Lesbos, the Greek legacy (e.g. the town’s cathedral and food) is obvious. Also famous for its olive oil and dive sites nearby. The beaches are a few miles further down the coast and around Alibey Island, connected to Ayvalik by a bridge. Plenty of good-value accommodations in all price ranges.

4. Foça

Less than 40 miles by road from the major city of Izmir, Foça is less touristy than Ayvalik and far quieter than Izmir, so it’s ideal for exploring inland attractions such as the ruins at Pergamon/Pergamum, which are much less crowded than Ephesus. Spread around a scenic bay and promenade, with the usual castle backdrop, Foça is popular for boat trips in the summer (May-September) around nearby Turkish islands – some home to colonies of endangered seals. Better beaches are further up the coast and most accommodations include inexpensive guesthouses and boutique hotels rather than upmarket resorts.

5. Izmir

Without a beach, marina, castle, or spectacular coastline, Izmir is not trendy or fancy, but Turkey’s third-largest city still offers a great deal of panache. The city center is compact and the metro system excellent – even linking downtown with the airport. There are a few museums, churches, and even synagogues to check out, but the main attractions are the extraordinary market in the old town and very lengthy promenade with a dedicated cycling path and bike-sharing facilities. The other advantages are the hotels, which are mostly priced for locals and not tourists, and the excellent transport: frequent domestic and international flights, regular buses along the coast, and daily trains to Ankara and Istanbul.

6. Çeşme and Alaçati

Only about 45 miles from Izmir, Çeşme is popular among city folk (especially the younger set) on weekends and European package-tour crowds during the peak season (June to August). Facing a bay at the end of a peninsula overlooking Chios, a major Greek Island, Çeşme is dominated by a magnificent castle (now a museum) on a hilltop overlooking the winding cobblestoned lanes of the old town. Çeşme is also popular for its nightlife and boat trips to nearby Turkish islands offering more relaxed swimming and snorkeling. The best beach, however, is at Alaçati, about 6 miles away and renowned for windsurfing. Plenty of gorgeous boutique hotels and top-class resorts in both areas, many suitable for families.

7. Kuşadasi

This adorable town has three distinct sections, each with a separate personality. (1) In the suburbs, Ladies Beach is a narrow but compact stretch of golden sand (over)crowded with sunbeds, lined with budget-priced amenities, and backed by forested hills. (2) The old town facing the pretty bay is very steep in parts and sprinkled with heavenly guesthouses. (3) Further along the bay, the newer and broader marina area is packed with bistros and hotels, including several top-end resorts. And all three areas are easily connected by frequent minibus. Kuşadasi is also a perfect base for organized day tours to the remarkable landscapes at Lake Bafa and Pamukkale, and the ruins at Priene, Miletus, and, especially, Ephesus, one of Turkey’s major attractions.

8. Bodrum and Bitez

Bodrum is larger than all the resort towns along the coast and no less appealing – especially the whitewashed walls and blue doors of all the family-run guesthouses and waterfront cafés. The old town and tourist areas are spread across two bays separated by a peninsula that’s dominated by a remarkable castle, but sea views from ground level are, sadly, obstructed by port-to-starboard yachts. There is no beach in the town center but buses from the remarkably convenient station head to all the beaches (including Bitez) along Bodrum Peninsula, where there are several spacious resorts, many suitable for families.

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Santorini Dave Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loves Greece and Europe, travel and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers dedicated to providing the best travel content on the internet. We focus on Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece, offering recommendations for top hotels, neighborhoods, and family-friendly hotels worldwide. Dave can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.