This article first appeared in Time Out Istanbul in English

On the beach

The sun has got his hat on which means it’s time for us all to come out and play. With 8,300 kilometers of coastline, Turkey certainly has plenty of sandy beaches to choose from, but how to decide where to spread your beach towel? Here to help you is a round-up of the best beaches, the ones with the most sand, the least development and the best general ambience. Don’t forget to pack the Gucci shades and the factor 25!

Patara, nr Fethiye

Well-known for its 20-kilometer-long stretch of glorious sand, Patara is also home to the dramatic remains of an ancient Greco-Roman settlement, including a remarkable theater which re-emerged from the dunes that fringe the beaches. Watch the sun set here through the eucalyptuses and you could be forgiven for thinking yourself in Australia.

Plus: Sheer quantity of sand means you can find a spot for yourself even at busiest times of year.

Minus: Beach is five kilometers from the accommodation, although there’s transport to and fro in summer.

Best beach bunkers: Flower Pension (0242) 843 5164, Golden Pension (0242) 843 5162, Patara View Point Hotel (0242) 843 5184

Kızkalesi, nr Mersin

Big sweep of sand in the lee of a dramatic medieval castle (the “Maiden’s Castle”) that seems to float serenely above the Mediterranean Sea. Plenty of forgotten ruins waiting to be discovered in the surrounding countryside if you can bring yourself to move from the beach.

Plus: Perfect for families.

Minus: Characterless modern village developed for tourism.

Best beach bunkers: Club Hotel Barbarossa (0324) 523 2364, Hotel Rain (0324) 523 2782, Hotel Hantur (0324) 523 2367

İztuzu, Dalyan

A 4.5-kilometer-long strip of sand at the mouth of the Dalyan River accessible by boat or dolmuş, İztuzu won fame as the scene of frantic campaigning to protect one of the last nesting places of the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) from would-be developers. Rather surprisingly the battle was won although Dalyan itself is now swamped with loggerhead-this and caretta-that tat.

Plus: Boat ride past the rock-cut tombs of the Lycian kings makes a wonderful intro to the beach.

Minus: Lack of shade.

Best beach bunkers: Happy Caretta (0252) 284 2109, Çınar Sahil Pension (0252) 284 2402, Asur Hotel (0252) 284 3232

Ayazma, Bozcaada

Lovely drifting sand dunes facing onto the Aegean to the north of Bozcaada, a small island also known for its fine Ottoman Greek architecture and fine wines. Get there by ferry from Yükyeri İskelesi, near Geyikli, 55km south of Çanakkale.

Plus: Beach accessible by bike or dolmuş.

Minus: Water can be cold even in summer.

Best beach bunkers: Rengigül Konukevi (0286) 697 8171, Otel Kaikias (0286) 697 0250, Otel Ege (0286) 697 8189

Şile, nr İstanbul

String of Black Sea beaches within easy reach of İstanbul. Şile itself is increasingly built-up although the fishing harbor, the lighthouse and the cafes overlooking the ruined castle are picturesque. Over summer weekends expect bedlam on the beaches – you’ll need to travel to their furthest reaches to escape the crowds.

Plus: Proximity to İstanbul  – bus no. 139 will get you there from Üsküdar.

Minus: Dangerous undertow results in annual fatalities.

Best beach bunkers: Değirmen Hotel (0216) 711 5048, Dedeman Hotel (0216) 712 2424

Ölüdeniz, nr Fethiye

Picture-postcard-perfect sandy beach ringing a lagoon makes a less commercialized alternative to Belcekiz Beach which is backed with cafes and shops touting paragliding jumps off nearby Baba Dağ (Mt Baba).

Plus: Out of season this is one of Turkey’s most exquisite natural locations.

Minus: In season the lagoon beach is just as jam-packed with roasting bodies as Belcekiz.

Best beach bunkers: Oyster Residence (0252) 617 0765, Jade Residence (0252) 617 0690, Sugar Beach Club (0252) 617 0048

Side, nr Antalya

Side itself may be an over-developed eye-sore but it’s still home to some spectacular Roman ruins, and its beach is still a wonderful strip of soft white sand far enough away from the worst of the rampant commercialism to be bearable.

Plus: Easy access to ruins at Perge and Aspendos, and rafting possiblities in the Köprülü Kanyon.

Minus: Having to run the gauntlet of the Side salesmen whenever you relinquish the haven of the beach.

Best beach bunkers: Side Hotel (0242) 753 3824, Hotel Lale Park (0242) 753 1131, Beach House Hotel (0242) 753 1607

Olympos, nr Antalya

Wonderful strip of sandy beach linking two local settlements – Olympos with the famous treehouses, and Çıralı with more conventional hotels and bungalows. Just behind the beach the ruins of ancient Olympos are entangled in dense undergrowth. On the hillside the Chimaera is an extraordinary flame that can never be extinguished, a wonder to behold on a moonlit night.

Plus: When sunbathing palls, the atmosphere amid the treehouses more than compensates.

Minus: Bouts of the Turkey trots are attributed to communal meals or sewage released into the sea from passing gülets.

Best beach bunkers: Olympos Lodge (0242) 825 7171, Arcadia (0242) 825 7340, Kadir’s Yörük Top Treehouse (0242) 892 1250, Bayram’s (0242) 892 1243

Altınkum, Çeşme

Wild dunes just a short bus ride out of Çeşme with windsurfing facilities and a few simple cafes. Threatened with development so head there soon before the  “Golden Sand” goes the way of the rest of the coastline. The best local accommodation is in upscale Alaçatı, with its many gourmet restaurants, rather than in Çeşme.

Plus: Complete lack of development.

Minus: High winds mean that the sea can be rough for swimming.

Best beach bunkers: Alaçatı Taş Otel (0232) 716 7772, O Ev Hotel (0232) 716 6150, Lale Lodge (0232) 716 6108

Cleopatra’s Island, nr Marmaris

Formally called Sedir Adası, Cleopatra’s Island is a glorious retreat in the Gulf of Gökova. Legend has it that Mark Anthony had the talcum-powder-fine sand brought from Egypt to please his lover, Queen Cleopatra. Modern visitors are advised to leave every grain behind them when they return to their holiday homes in Marmaris.

Plus: Sea like a natural hot tub to which oil has been added.

Minus: When boat tours drop anchor the beach is completely overwhelmed.

Best beach bunkers: Pupa Yat Hotel (0252) 413 3566, Ayçe Otel (0252) 413 3136

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