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We Found The Best Beach Town In Türkiye

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5 months ago

This year I searched for the best beach town in Türkiye. The criteria: first class Mediterranean beaches, top-notch Turkish food and all the best trappings of visiting Türkiye (sweet tea, lazy cats and lots of evil eyes).  

Like me, maybe you have avoided the Turkish Riviera and tales of the mass resorts of Marmaris and Antalya, or you don’t think the glitzy clubs of Bodrum are exactly your scene.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love these spots too, but let’s be honest – these aren’t the places where the artists and musicians of Galata and Izmir go for their summer vacation.  

The best beach town in Türkiye (+ natural pools!)

After rummaging through blogs, guidebooks and all my nearest and dearest in Istanbul, I received a coastal town name which I think I may be the ultimate local secret gem: the best seaside town in Türkiye.  

Could this be the best beach town in Türkiye?

I quickly booked flights to Dalaman and drove about an hour north. I soon found myself checking into my little room surrounded by fields of pomegranate and olives. Within hours, I am sipping gin sours, barefoot on a dance-floor of Turkish rugs surrounded by palm trees and indie Turkish sounds.

neo-ottoman architecture of Akyaka
The iconic architecture of Akyaka, set against the magnificent backdrop of Türkiye’s coastal mountains

The crowd is cool – perhaps even too cool and I feel a little out of place. Artists, DJs, surfers, digital nomads and chefs. One guy rode his motorbike down from Izmir for the weekend, another relocates here from Istanbul every summer to work remotely. Had I found the best place to go in Türkiye for a beach holiday?  

the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean make Akyaka the best small beach town in turkey
Could this be the best beach town in Türkiye?

And yet, there were no huge resorts in sight, no market touts calling me ‘Sir’ or offering me Turkish delight (okay, I may like that part…). Had I finally achieved the impossible and found the best coastal town in Türkiye? Do untouched gems still exist on the Turkish Riviera?

Akyaka straddles between a number of private Mediterranena beaches and freshwater rivers and springs. Despite being only a short hop from Marmaris or Bodrum, most restaurants and hotels don’t speak any English.

mosque in ottoman style against mountains on turkish riviera

Neo-Ottoman architecture is mandated through the town, with small balconies and terracotta tiles on most homes. In my opinion, Akyaka retains the small-town atmosphere often lost amid the mega-complexes and beach hotels in Bodrum. Akyaka may even be one of the most beautiful towns in Türkiye.  

man fishing alone on cliff in akyaka turkey
pure serenity in Akyaka

I am still extremely hesitant to share Akyaka, the ultimate Turkish hidden gem and my soon-to-be annual summer escape.  

Getting to Akyaka, Türkiye

By plane

Akyaka is about one hour and five minutes from Dalaman Airport (DLM).  

For North American travelers to Türkiye, Turkish Airlines offers a one-stop option to Dalaman (via Istanbul) from most major U.S. and Canadian cities.

table and chairs against streams
With freshwater streams, its very common to have waterside dining in Akyaka

Dalaman is well connected to major European and Middle Eastern hubs, with regular connections from Istanbul’s airports too. With high competition on most routes, flights to Dalaman are generally very affordable.

Getting to Akyaka from Dalaman Airport

Renting a car is certainly the easiest way to get from Dalaman Airport to Akyaka. Having your own wheels is also useful to visit some of the remote and most beautiful beaches in Türkiye (most are just a short drive from Akyaka).

mezze fish salad at yengec akyaka
Having your own wheels also helps to visit restaurants on the outskirts of town, like Yengec

Taxis from Dalaman can be expensive (about 1650 Lira or US$60). But if you’re traveling in a group, a taxi from Dalaman to Akyaka might make sense. If you are planning to take a taxi, I would recommend booking a private transfer beforehand. The taxi drivers at Dalaman Airport are very on board with haggling and inflating prices – I would always prefer someone waiting with my name!

Public bus is also an option. There are regular buses from Dalaman Airport to Marmaris, which pass through the town of Gokova. From Gokova, you can find a taxi to Akyaka (about a 15-minute drive).  

You will be able to find local cabs around Akyaka town. Always insist on the meter or agree on a price beforehand!  

the backdrop to Akyaka: olive tree fields, mountains and laundry
Quintessential Turkish Riviera: olive trees, laundry lines and majestic mountains.

The ideal itinerary in Akyaka – the best beach town in Türkiye 

Akyaka moves to its own tune and I recommend you get into the rhythm quickly. Here is an ideal one-day itinerary in Akyaka.

Do yourself a favour, though: stay a few days and repeat.  

Morning

As all good vacations in Türkiye go, start your day with an elaborate Turkish breakfast. Controversial opinion: Türkiye may have the best breakfast spread in the world.  

For the best Turkish breakfast in Akyaka, visit Halil’in Yeri (Halil’s Place). I am guilty of trying almost every Turkish breakfast in Akyaka and Halim’s managed to find the right balance of excessive cheese options, fresh vegetables and the most stunning location.  

the turkish breakfast spread at halil'in including plates of cheese, fresh olives, fried eggs and cheese cigars
After eating breakfast in every country in the world, I think Turkish breakfast could be the best!

Set right on the river, enjoy your Turkish breakfast spread alongside sparkling clear water and the friendly local ducks – who will come right up to your table!

fresh water stream in turkey

For your 3-day itinerary in Akyaka, check out some of my other favorite restaurants in Akyaka.

Afternoon

There is a reason we all come to the Turkish coast: the beach!  

With Akyaka’s geographic location, you really are spoiled for choice here – you can visit a different beach every day.  

After asking around Akyaka, I was pointed towards this little strip of beach called Ufuk Plaji on the map. If you really want to get into the local Turkish vacation vibe, I would recommend driving here:

Think local families on camper van holidays, barbeques roasting fresh fish and lots of little pockets of private sand and sea. The parking area can be a little dirty, but after a short walk you will find yourself surrounded by the best of the Mediterranean. 

olive trees in turkey with mountain in background
Your backdrop: mountains and olive trees

Bring a book, enjoy the Mediterranean breeze and count more shades of blue than you knew existed. There is a reason Türkiye is one of Europe’s best beach destinations, and you have now found it.  

a hammock overlooking the clear blue waters of akyaka - the best beach town in turkey
Find your own little piece of paradise (Ufuk Plaji, Akyaka)

For your 3-day itinerary in Akyaka, check out the top 4 beaches in Akyaka

Evening

After freshening up, the evening is yours and perhaps the real reason Akyaka wins the title of best coastal town in Türkiye. 

A seafood mezze feast at Yengec

For dinner, make sure you reserve ahead and book a table at Yengec restaurant, a favorite Turkish food restaurant in the area. The waiter will guide you through the slightly overwhelming array of fresh Turkish mezze before recommending the catch of the day.

For a real treat, ask if they have sea bass kebab and, always, save room for dessert!

crispy layers of filo in the baklava cheesecake at yengec.
The legendary baklava cheesecake at Yengec

It’s time to head back into town for a night of revelry. If you ask me, Akyaka may be the best place in Türkiye for nightlife.

In my opinion, the best bar in Akyaka is Mekan Akyaka. Entirely outdoors, the bar is home to an indie cinema set, a boutique clothing shop and world-class cocktails. The décor is Istanbul meets Tulum (but in a tasteful way!) and the Turkish-rug dancefloor means barefoot dancing is highly encouraged.  

Take a moment on the dance floor to look up. If Akyaka hasn’t won you over yet, let the evening stars above the Turkish coast convince you.

eclectic djs in akyaka - the best place in turkey for nightlife

Where to stay in Akyaka

Akyaka has a core town center and, if you don’t have a car, you will probably want to stay there. However, I think a lot of the better accommodation options (such as eco-resorts, or glamping options) are spread out towards the outskirts of town.

HotelBudget ($=US$30)Best for
Deger Apart$Home away from home
Kerme Ottoman Palace$Cheap and cheerful
Mervehan Residence$$Great service
Iskelem Otel$$Relaxation
Gokova Hotel$Exceptional value (and homemade cake)
Yucelen Otel$$Immaculate gardens
Elif Hanim Hotel & Spa$$Azmak river at the rear
Otel Azmakhan$$Popular with locals

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