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Sailing In Turkey: 2 Days On The Stunning Turquoise Coast
As I was planning my epic 35th birthday trip, there were two specific things that anchored the itinerary as must-dos—visiting Cappadocia (#1 on my bucket list) and some sailing in Turkey along the Turquoise Coast.
I found a way to make both happen within a week’s trip, and I’m totally stoked to share both the experiences and a few of my favorite photos from the 2 days I spent on the boat. The real question is how many different ways I can try and find to describe the amazing colors of the water…let’s see, shall we?!
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What is the Turquoise Coast?
Also called the Turkish Riviera, this is Turkey at her most gorgeous. Stretched all along the southwestern half of the country, you’ve got the rugged pine-lined mountains and sun-kissed sand with turquoise sea. The area was occupied once upon a time by the ancient Lycians (more on them later), and is absolutely idyllic.
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Options for sailing in Turkey
The coasts of both the Mediterranean and Aegean in Turkey are world-famous for their clear aqua water, beautiful coastlines, and interesting history. So it’s no surprise that boat trips are a popular way to experience it. There are many different routes, and many of the trips are at least 4-7 days long (though day sails from Fethiye and Göcek are also popular).
One of the most iconic ways to do this is a gulet boat trip. Gulets are classic wooden yacht, traditionally two-masted. They’re especially associated with Turkey, but you can find them in Croatia and Greece as well.
Since I only had two days for the sailing part of my itinerary, I had trouble finding the right boat and itinerary fit—finding a 2-day boat trip in Turkey seemed impossible! I ultimately chose to sail with a host off Airbnb. I was sailing alone, but the boat could have held up to four guests. Here is the listing for the boat that I rented. [2022 note: Sadi has taken a break for a couple years but is hoping to buy a new boat sometime in 2022]
(Yes, I know it’s not technically “sailing” as there are no sails, but we’re just going with it…)
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I grabbed a taxi from my amazing hotel in Fethiye over to Göcek, marveling at how they basically drive like they’re in a “The Fast & the Furious” movie 🙂 The driver dropped me off at the main Göcek marina, which is super cute. It was easy to meet up with Sadi and Meryam, my captain and first mate for the next couple days!
They welcomed me onto their boat, the “Nirvana S”. I’d found this specific boat after INTENSE Airbnb searching, and chose them for a number of reasons, but most importantly since I was a solo female traveler, I liked that Meryam (Sadi’s wife) was traveling with us rather than just a crew of all guys. They were a very warm and hospitable couple in their 50s/60s, and I absolutely loved my time with them.
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They sent me off to go get any snacks and drinks that I wanted to bring (they had stocked all the meal food), and then we headed out to sea…
It was SO wonderful being out on the water again! We couldn’t have asked for more gorgeous weather, and at first I just enjoyed sitting at the bow and watching the coastline, sipping hot black tea and soaking up some sun.
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A huge part of my sailing in Turkey was definitely about the journey, not the destination—but there were a few specific islands and sights that were worth calling out (and that I remember the names of…), and I’ve highlighted those below!
Our first main stop of the day was Paradise Island, where Sadi docked and then sent us on our way. Meryam led me up a trail to the top of the island, where you had a gorgeous view of the teal water, the other little islands and mainland, and a few other lucky fellow boaters.
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It really is hard to beat that view, and we had it all to ourselves.
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Out on the water…
Later that afternoon, we sailed around a number of other islands, but didn’t stop anywhere. Sadi kept asking me if I wanted to stop and swim, but honestly I’m not super into swimming…I love being by the water, seeing the water, but am not really as into being *in* it! I instead enjoyed this great area on the boat for laying out and grabbing some sun.
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By about 3pm we stopped at the place where we’d stay the first night, to make sure we snagged a good spot for anchoring. It gave me all the late afternoon and evening to sit and listen to the water, read my Kindle, sip a glass of ice-cold rosé, and then watch the sun set.
Meryam made me a lovely fresh fruit plate and I poured myself a glass of rosé (and also tried a nice rich stout beer).
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I was a little surprised that the sunsets were kind of quiet and pale (though still pretty), so I just watched as the sky faded to orange and then purple.
And had another glass of wine…BECAUSE.
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The next morning was rainy, so I let myself sleep in awhile, and then had a delicious giant breakfast and enjoyed my tea and Kindle for a few hours while it poured.
I was bummed that the weather wasn’t perfect, but it was actually really lovely and cozy just to sit and chill with the sound of the rain outside.
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By mid-morning it was starting to clear up, and Meryam brewed up some traditional Turkish coffee to pass the time, and she always had all these beautiful little extra touches…trays, pretty accents, and the like. It made me feel so special and welcomed!
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Okay, let’s take a quick break from gorgeous turquoise water (waaaay more on it further below) and talk about the food. Now, when people think about sailing in Turkey or anywhere else, the food is rarely what people rave about. Sure, you might have some fresh seafood, but otherwise it’s kind of “roughing it”. But not on this boat!
For breakfast, I had a huge selection of different Turkish cheeses plus bread and honey. And then one morning she made me eggs with sausage, and another a sort of omelet.
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Meryam’s home cooking was so yummy, and unique from the Turkish food I’d had previously. Below are a few examples, including some delicious spiced chopped beef, yummy beef kofte, roasted chicken, and a whole pan-fried fish.
She always made a few interesting little salads and side dishes for each meal too. It was WAY more food than one person could eat, but it was all so good!
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Okay, now back to the sailing bit…
Finally, the rain cleared up a little before lunch and we headed out to explore. This type of a day is exactly what sailing in Turkey is all about! Blue skies, blue waters, and some good sun for tanning!!
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Once we got going again, we stopped at Cleopatra/Hamaam Bay, where there were a few Greek (or Roman??) ruins. The color of the water here was absolutely nuts. We didn’t stop or anchor here, though…just skimmed through and grabbed some pics.
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Then we pulled in at Seagull Bay, where Meryam and I went on another adventure!
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We hiked over the top of the island to the other side (quite steep!), passing by this cute little herd of donkeys and luxuriating in the deep forest smells. I can’t quite put my foot on what smelled so good (besides spicy, fragrant evergreen needles), but it was awesome!
Down by the water there were olive, pomegranate, and orange trees all around, and I even picked a pomegranate that became my snack later.
And WHY did we hike to the other side, you ask?? Um, to find our own little private beach, of course!
The water was just unbelievable colors…the most intense blues, greens, and sparkling turquoises you can imagine.
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I went for a quick swim and took loads of photos. I mean seriously, like a hundred pics in a very short amount of time. Then we tried to dry off and climbed back over the island to the boat.
The rest of the afternoon was spent sailing around. I had a delicious kofte lunch and then finally did do some swimming off the side of the boat—Sadi was so happy! Can you even believe the color of this water?!
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Lycian tomb ruins
Later in the afternoon we sailed past a coastline packed with Lycian tomb ruins. We don’t know a ton definitively about the Lycians, but we believe they were ancient peoples who lived along the coast of Turkey.
They were known for being sea-going peoples, having a more democratic form of government, an a matrilineal society (lineage and names through mothers rather than fathers). From what we can tell they may have had Hittite origins, and occupied this coast for multiple millennia BC.
They believed their dead were carried into the afterlife by magical winged creatures, and so placed their tombs in high-up places…often cliffsides. These can be ornate and look like temples (like in Fethiye), or older ones that are little more than little caves dug into the rock face.
One of the great reasons to sail along—or hike—this coast is to be able to see a lot of the ancient Lycian tombs tucked away in the rocks.
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We had tucked ourselves into a little cove for the night, and I was really hoping for a real sunrise the next morning!
On the morning of my 35th birthday, I woke up to a clear morning, having set my alarm for a half hour before sunrise. I pulled on a sweatshirt and climbed up onto the deck. The night’s dark hadn’t quite let go, but the dark indigo blue was starting to creep over the sky. The a rich violet, and finally some pinks and oranges.
Sadi made me some hot black tea and I sat and watched the bright sun creep over the islands’ horizon…bringing with it the beginning of another year!
As soon as I’d eaten another delicious breakfast, we headed back toward Göcek’s marina so I could catch my flight from Dalaman to Istanbul. It had been an amazing 2 days of sailing in Turkey, the perfect chance to explore the Turquoise Coast for a short time!
I would rent with Sadi and Meryam again in a heartbeat, and if you’re looking for a short trip option to sail in Turkey, this boat is exactly what you should be looking for!
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