A swathe of culinary delights, wineries, attractive beaches, music and more prove the gorgeous Turkaegean coastline is one for the ages, and the senses.
WORDS BEN GROUNDWATER
A swathe of culinary delights, wineries, attractive beaches, music and more prove the gorgeous TurkAegean coastline is one for the ages, and the senses.
WORDS BEN GROUNDWATER
Think of a destination, a place you love, and what comes to mind? It’s usually an image, a picture in your mind of what somewhere looks like. Scenic beauty. Gorgeous views.
The funny thing, however, is that the truly great destinations offer so much more than the vision in your mind’s eye. The world’s most amazing places touch every sense you have, they spark joy in so many different ways. Yes, they look beautiful, but they also fire your sense of taste, of smell, of touch and of sound - a whole kaleidoscope of experiences and sensations.
Boats docked next to the 15th century Bodrum Castle, in Bodrum, on the coastline's southern section.
Türkiye’s Aegean region, a richly cultural and island-strewn coastal area stretching from Çanakkale in the north to Datça in the south, is just such a place. Yes, the scenery here is jaw-droppingly beautiful, but there are also a myriad of attractions to stoke and inspire every sense you have.
Boats exploring the bay at Fethiye.
You will see amazing things on Turkaegean coast, of course. There are some truly extraordinary landscapes to witness, though not just the ones you are probably imagining. There are gorgeous beaches and rugged coastal stretches, the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean. But, this region is also known for its vast forests and rolling hills, not to mention numerous ancient ruins, including UNESCO heritage-listed sites, such as Troy, Ephesus and Pergamum.
The turquoise waters of Fethiye.
Theatre at Halicarnassus. Ruins from centuries gone by are regular.
There are so many ways, too, to appreciate the beauty of the Turkaegean. Begin with the myriad hiking paths, highlighted by the incredible Carian Trail, an ancient pathway nearly 500 miles in length, traveling via coast and inland through the provinces of Muğla and Aydın. The Turkaegean is also ideal for watersports, with opportunities to go scuba-diving and windsurfing, as well as spend time on live-aboard yachts that explore the islands and coast.
Freshly caught fish is a common sight throughout the Turkaegean coast.
Get your tastebuds ready: the cuisine of the Turkaegean is one of the true highlights of a journey through this region. It’s all fresh, delicious, and easily accessible. The local specialties will bowl you over: kumru, a toasted sandwich with cheese, tomato and Turkish sausage, found in İzmir; stuffed marrow blooms (squash blossoms stuffed with onions, tomato, dill and rice), a specialty of the Turkagean coast, and the high-quality Milas olive oil with EU Geographical Indication from Muğla province. These are but a few of the many gastronomic attractions here – don’t forget, too, fresh fish from the Aegean Sea, mushrooms from the forests, and more.
A number of vineyards have banded together to create the Urla Bağ Yolu (the Urla Wine Route).
Turkaegean region is also known for its viticulture. The town of Urla, nestled between İzmir and Çeşme, is a hub for both wine and olive oil production. Visitors here can follow the Urla Vineyard Route, soaking up more than 6,000 years of history, calling into graceful winery estates, boutique restaurants and olive oil workshops. An hour from Urla is the ancient city of Teos, also appropriately known as Dionysos (the god of wine). A temple dedicated to Dionysos is located here and is the biggest temple dedicated to the god of wine in Anatolia.
A Turkish man on the accordion. Traditional folk music is popular and easy on the ear, with a number of unique Turkish instruments.
Pause for a second. Stand still and just listen to the sounds of the Turkaegean: the wind rustling leaves, the burble of diners at street-side restaurants, the wash of waves against the shore, the joy of kids playing in local parks, the whir of pottery wheels and olive oil presses. A journey through the Aegean is a feast for those who love to stop and listen, to take in the sounds that match the amazing sights.
A journey through the Aegean is a feast for those who love to stop and listen, to take in the sounds that match the amazing sights.
And these are just the everyday noises. Make the effort, and there’s more to hear. Listen to tales of folk heroes and struggle from guides in Aydın. Hear traditional folk music played on unique Turkish instruments in Denizli, and visit the İbrahim Alimoğlu Music Center in Afyonkarahisar - the biggest music museum in the country. Then there are the classical music concerts in İzmir at Ephesus (The International Ephesus Opera and Ballet Festival) and İzmir European Jazz Festival, which attracts many famous local and international jazz artists. Bodrum too, has a range of award-winning festivals throughout the year.
Hammams are traditional Turkish bathouses, and they are spread throughout the region. It is a quintessentially Turkish experience.
Turkaegean is a region in which you can feel connected to your surroundings, but also connected to yourself. It’s a place to let experienced hands relax you in ways that are ancient and cherished, or to indulge in more modern wellness practices.
Begin with the classic experience, visiting a Turkish bathhouse. These hammams are spread throughout the region and range from the historic and traditional, to the more modern and upmarket. Regardless of your choice, you will feel the heat of hot stones, the expertise of practiced hands, the glow of being cleansed by your treatment.
The famed Pamukkale terraced hot springs, not far from Denizli, slightly inland.
Everyone has heard of Pamukkale, where you can blissfully melt into hot springs set on travertine terraces. But there are plenty of other wellness experiences to be had. To the inland, visit spectacular Afyonkarahisar, known for its thermal springs with medical spa facilities and natural therapies, plus mud baths, steam rooms and more.
Pomegranates turning into juice at a market.
Breathe deep while you’re touring around the Turkaegean: there’s always something good to smell and arouse the nostrils. It might be the scent of citrus from nearby trees, the pomegranates being juiced by local vendors, the thyme and other herbs that grow wild in the fields and forest. Smell the hint of salt in the air at the waterfront. Breathe in the spices and the smoke of charcoal grills as you pass local restaurants.
Gümüşlük is a unique bay in the Bodrum area, one where you will catch the scent of salt and pine needles, but also the aromas of the town’s famous fine-dining cuisine. In inland Uşak, the extensive Lavender Gardens provide yet another olfactory sensation. And Büyük Menderes Delta National Park, in Aydın, is a wonder of natural scents. Pause, and breathe deep.
A lavender bush in Uşak.