The days when Turkey was something of a well-kept travel secret may seem like a lifetime away now, with the expansion of everything from serious golf tourism to increasingly chi-chi beach resorts. However, the beauty of Turkey is that since it’s such a vast and varied country, you can often stumble across little undiscovered nooks even in traditionally touristy areas.
Often a short drive or dolmus ride (packed local minibuses that are an essential rite of passage for any Turkish trip) inland pays dividends for those wishing to escape the clamour of Turkey’s populous coastline.
Take for example Cirali, a one street coastal village just off the Antalya Highway and near the far more commercial resort of Olympus. In summer you can indulge in a spot of turtle watching, laze around in one of the public hammocks strung between ancient trees or take the gondola to the peak of Mount Tahtali, the tallest in the Beydagları mountain range.
Similarly, near the thriving resort of Fethiye you’ll find the village of Uzumlu, where traditional Turkish life carries on unabated, as small clusters of octogenarians play board games with no great urgency in the squares and tea houses, and fruit sellers slowly wheel ripe barrows of pomegranates around the cobbled lanes.
Just fifteen minutes’ drive from Kalkan you can reach the village of Islamlar where the biggest industry in evidence is the trout farms which supply the local restaurants. From here you can look out over the spectacular bay of Kalkan and Patara from the serenity of the Taurus Mountains, amid greenery and cool mountain air that provides a welcome respite from the blazing Mediterranean sun.
Not so far away lies Gelemis, on the way to the justly famous Patara beach and lighthouse and near to Roman and Lycian ruins, this serene, low key place offers up a small handful of eateries serving authentic, delicious pide (Turkish flatbread).
Further inland is Cappadocia, whose lunar landscape is dotted with an extraordinary patchwork of cave houses and fairytale chimneys carved from pink volcanic rock; for many years inspiring long pilgrimages and once-in-a-lifetime hot air balloon trips. Seek out the region’s Goreme and Zelke Valleys and make sure you take a tour of these magical subterranean buildings.
A visit to a truly Turkish market should grace any itinerary, such as the one found in the riverside resort of Akyaka on the River Azmak, where you can haggle for fresh fruit and intricate ceramics in an atmosphere worlds away from western shopping sensibilities.
In the Bodrum peninsula, head away from the party mecca of Bodrum town and try Gumusluk. This upscale resort is popular with honeymooners and wealthy urban Turks alike, thanks to its parade of fine fish and seafood restaurants lining the promenade, art galleries and underwater archaeology sites.
There are certainly more unusual options in Turkey than the its more famous resorts might suggest, but from Antalya to Izmir, it’s possible to see the best of both worlds. Pick your starting point from our round-up of Turkey destinations and start planning your adventure into the Turkish hinterland today…