From the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean to the rugged, rocky shores of the Black Sea, Turkey abounds in beaches (plajlar) along its coasts, which border four different seas.
The Mediterranean Sea is the warmest for swimming and the most popular with sun seekers, while the Aegean coast is mostly lower-key and less developed. The often rough Black Sea isn’t as inviting, but the scenery can be striking. Beaches around the highly urbanized Marmara Sea can provide a quick getaway from Istanbul.
Whether you’re looking for water sports or family fun, peace and quiet, or party time, here are our dozen top picks for beaches to visit in Turkey.
Best beach for long walks
Near the town of Gelemiş, the beautiful 11-mile-long Patara Beach on the Mediterranean is one of Turkey’s finest, with white sand and soft dunes. (Sea turtles like it too: when they’re nesting here, parts of the beach are off limits.) The beach backs onto the scattered, evocative ruins of ancient Patara, which include a 5000-seat theater. The Lycian Way long-distance hiking trail passes through here as well.
Best beach for windsurfing and kitesurfing
A sheltered bay with steady winds and flat water give the Aegean beaches of Alaçatı top appeal for windsurfers and kitesurfers of all levels. An assortment of laid-back surf clubs and schools offers lessons and equipment rentals. The town itself is known for old stone houses that have been converted into boutique hotels and chic restaurants.
Best beach for swimming
This long sandy beach near Dalyan remains unspoiled thanks to its status as a protected natural reserve. The water is clean, generally placid and free from boats, jet skis and the like. At one end of the beach is a sea turtle rescue center that’s open to visitors. You can drive to İztuzu, but the best way to arrive is via a boat trip on the reed-lined river that wends its way to the sea from the center of town.
Best beach for natural beauty
The backdrop to this Black Sea beach in Bartın province could hardly be more dramatic: massive basalt columns formed by a volcanic explosion some 80 million years ago. Wooden walkways wind below the columns, and the sandy beach itself is clean and welcoming.
Best beach for partying
The beaches of the Çeşme Peninsula are hugely popular with city dwellers from nearby İzmir as well as Istanbul, and Ayayorgi Koyu (Ayayorgi Bay) is one of the top spots for the svelte set to see and be seen. Chic beach clubs around the tranquil turquoise cove get the crowds dancing with live music and DJ sets after nightfall.
Best beach for city access
This popular beach stretches right along the coast of Alanya, one of Turkey’s largest resort towns. Both the sand and sea get high marks from travelers for cleanliness, and there’s an extensive array of hotels, restaurants, cafes and other facilities right at hand. If you get tired of sunbathing, wander over to the stalactite-laden Damlataş Cave or explore Alanya’s impressive 13th-century waterfront fortress.
Best beach for that perfect Instagram shot
With white rocky cliffs tumbling down to clear turquoise waters, the small Kaputaş Beach, just off the winding road between Kalkan and Kaş, is picture-perfect – and much photographed. Get there early to beat the crowds.
Best beach for backpackers
It’s a steep walk down to the seaside at Kabak, where the beach sits picturesquely at the end of a small bay with verdant cliffs rising up on either side. This secluded spot along the Mediterranean is popular with backpackers, who pass through while hiking the Lycian Way or settle in for a few days of laid-back revelry at one of the campsites or simple cabins near the beach.
Best beach for diving and snorkeling
Sunken ships, half-buried amphorae, caves, tunnels and rock formations draw divers to the waters around Kaş, a relaxed seaside town on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast with good underwater visibility and mostly pebble beaches. Boats tour around the area’s nearly three dozen dive sites, many open to snorkelers as well. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of an endangered loggerhead turtle or Mediterranean monk seal.
Best beach for sunsets
People drive from all over the area to watch the sunset from Gümüşlük, a tiny village at the western edge of the Bodrum Peninsula. The beach here isn’t anything special, but it’s lined with a bevy of charming (and mostly pricey) waterfront fish restaurants with romantic seating areas and camera-ready views.
Best beach for family-friendly resorts
Close to the Antalya airport and city center, this nine-mile-long sand beach is lined with all-inclusive resorts that cater to families with kids’ clubs and other activities and entertainment for all ages. The water here is warm, shallow and calm. You can take a banana boat ride or visit Sandland, an open-air display of sand sculptures.
Best beach for peace and quiet
At the end of winding roads on the already relaxed and remote Datça Peninsula, the pebbly Ovabükü Beach sits on a small bay surrounded by olive and almond groves. The water is clean, if a bit wavy, and small restaurants and cafes offer sun-lounger and umbrella rentals along with food and drink.