Tired of conventional sailing destinations like Croatia, Greece or Italy? Head to Turkey — the local charter companies are professional with a diverse range of boats, the marinas are modern but less expensive than in the Mediterranean, and due to stable weather conditions, the sailing season lasts from April until the end of the year. And when you drop anchor, you can explore the sights, sample the excellent cuisine or go snorkelling to discover the vibrant underwater life.
Most sailors agree that sailing conditions in Turkey are comparable to those in Greece. So you won't have to be concerned about encountering anything too out of the ordinary.
Turkey is a country that spans both Europe and Asia, with the larger 'Asian' part (historically Anatolia) lying on the Asia Minor peninsula, bordered to the south by the Mediterranean Sea, to the west by the Aegean Sea, and to the north by the Black Sea. It is separated from the smaller European part, sometimes called East Thrace, by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorus Strait and the Dardanelles. For sailors, this beautiful country offers over 500 islands and over 7,000 km of coastline to sail, anchor, swim or simply sunbathe on deck. The most popular destinations are the Aegean Riviera and the southern coast, especially Antalya. Because the Aegean Riviera lies virtually right above the Greek Dodecanese, you can also easily visit the islands of Rhodes, Kos,...
Weather and climate in Turkey
From May to November, the weather conditions are perfect for sailing which makes for a longer season than in the Mediterranean. Some sailors even head to Turkey in early December or early spring, but the most attractive months for sailing are October and November when the weather is stable, the sun is shining and the sea is still pleasant enough to take a dip. In spring and autumn, the temperature on the Aegean coast tends to be around 25 °C, with it being at least five degrees higher in the summer months.
A specific feature of the region are the north to northwesterly Meltemi winds which are largely in the southern part of the country. In season, the Meltemi is normally 2–4 degrees Beaufort and can be well utilised for sailing. Occasionally, however, it produces gusts of around 7 degrees Beaufort and that's not much fun.
In the open sea, the Meltemi causes unpleasant swells, so keep that in mind when you plan your route. Generally speaking, the Meltemi tends to be weaker in the morning and mid-morning, stronger in the afternoon and evening, and dies down at night with a night breeze occasionally taking its place. It's a good idea to allow for this in your daily schedule — set sail early in the morning and anchor in the afternoon to indulge in other activities, such as swimming, hiking, sightseeing, etc.
Panoramic view of the Kas resort on the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey
Sailing infrastructure and practices on the Turkish coast
The charter companies here work great and you don't have to worry about unprofessionalism or finding your boat in bad condition. One interesting characteristic of this region is that it offers an abundance of owner-operated boats to charter — this is no cause for concern either, as they are usually in good condition and meticulously maintained.
From the modern marinas in Bodrum, you can easily reach Kos
Turkey's harbours and marinas are comparable in quality and service to those in Western Europe. The nicest and newest of them are located in the area between Istanbul and Antalya. We recommend the Bodrum Marina, where you'll find luxury yachts, gulet berths and maybe even be lucky enough to catch the start of a yacht regatta. Turgutreis Marina, 20 km from Bodrum, also has an excellent reputation. From Bodrum, you can easily sail to the Greek islands (Kos is just a stone's throw away). However, sailing to another country's waters does have its own specifics, which we'll talk about later.
Göcek in the Gulf of Fethiye: start point to the southern Turkish coast
Göcek in the Gulf of Fethiye makes the perfect starting point for the Turkish Riviera, where several excellent marinas are to be found. The region is known for its pleasant Mediterranean climate, mountainous landscape and amazing ancient monuments. Plus, the coast lined with countless bays and jagged coves simply invites exploration. If you head south, go around the coast to reach Antalya.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Caution! It is strictly forbidden to discharge your sewage tank (black water) into the waters of Turkey. By law, every boat here is obliged to empty the sewage tank at least once per stay at an official pump. At check-in, you should be given an electronic card called a "Blue Card" which monitors the amount of wastewater deposited ashore. Don't forget to use it as it is checked carefully and you risk a high fine.
Beach in Alanya, Turkey
Anchoring at harbours and bays in Turkey
As we have mentioned, Turkey's marinas are well-equipped but you'll always find the staff extremely helpful and accommodating, even at the smaller ones. "The harbours — both at the marinas and restaurants jetties — were a pleasant surprise. Everywhere people are there to help you and most of the time they are already waiting for you on a dinghy. When the crew didn't quite have the confidence, we often saw them take over the helm and drive to the spot themselves or use their dinghy to push the boat to the jetty where other helpers jumped on and got the whole boat perfectly moored". The locals don't ask for anything in return, but it's always nice to give them something or at least offer them a beer.
When returning the boat on Friday or Saturday at the end of the charter, at some marinas, for example in Göcek, they even require you to radio ahead so they can send an assistant to your boat to moor it for you.
Mooring in the bays and coves is almost universally done at anchor or anchoring with a line to the shore. In some of them, there are mooring bollards or rings on the rock that you can use to tie up. What may come as a bit of an unpleasant surprise, however, is the great depth in the bays that can make dropping anchor problematic.
If you want to stop off for a short while, use the jetties at the restaurants because if you have a meal, you can moor there for free.
Sailing boats for charter in Turkish marinas
The range of boats in Turkey may not be as wide as it is in other destinations, such as Croatia, but there is something for every sailor — from beginner sailors to those who prefer a sportier sailing experience.
There are classic Bavaria cruisers, elegant Oceanis and comfortable Dufour boats. The beautiful First 50 also caught our eye. From our own personal experience, we highly recommend the Dufour 382 Grand Large (the Calypso), which is privately owned and in perfect condition. Also worth mentioning is the Sun Loft yacht, a monohull with an interior layout reminiscent of a catamaran — the Sun Loft 47 is a great choice.
A well-maintained boat is the foundation of a good holiday
Of course, in addition to sail-powered boats, a range of motor boats can be rented in Turkey. For example, the Azimut 55 or Azimut 75 Flybridge will enable you to cruise the local seas at incredible speeds. Or indulge in some real luxury with the Maiora 24 superyacht.
Gulets are a Turkish speciality. These are ships that resemble pirate ships or ships from a bygone era. Most of them are original pieces that can't be found at sea anywhere else. So if you're looking for a nice wooden double or triple mast, give it a try. We recommend the Golden Princess, Santa Maria, Elifim 11, Perla Del Mar or the Serenad.
The gulet Santa Maria is based in Bodrum Marina.
What is a must-see when sailing in Turkey
Where to head in Turkey? There are countless beautiful spots to discover but it's all about choosing the best ones for sailing, anchoring and having the best experience on land. Most charters depart in Göcek, Marmaris or Fethiye on the Turkish Riviera and they are all definitely well worth a visit.
A town considered by many sailors to be the most beautiful in the Mediterranean. See for yourself at the town's Kadinlar Plaji beach, in the historic streets, the pine forest or at one of the 6 marinas located here. Göcek is also surrounded by 12 beautiful islands to cruise.
Lying within an area of lush greenery, you'll find a fantastic marina in this city as well as a museum of ancient artefacts dating from 3000 BC. Modern Fethiye is located right in the heart of ancient Lycia, with a large number of rock tombs still preserved to this day. It is definitely worth a visit.
Lycian tombs in the ancient city of Kaunos, near Dalyan in the Turkish province of Mugla
Bodrum is a tourist hotspot, holding numerous regattas, with luxury yachts and gulets at anchor. In addition, the harbour has a beautiful old town — be sure to check out the magnificent Bodrum Castle and the local market.
Here you'll find vast picturesque sandy beaches that stretch for 5 kilometres. In the evening, you can witness a breathtaking sunset.
Originally a fishing village, Marmaris has gradually become a popular tourist resort. Its incredibly long coastal promenade (some 11 km) takes you past restaurants, bars, marinas and hotels. But if you'd like a bit more privacy, leave your boat in one of the smaller marinas that only take 5 to 7 boats — there are toilets, showers and refreshments there, and an atmosphere much more charming than that of the large marinas. Tranquillity can also be found on the nearby Bozburun peninsula, at the beaches of Icmeler or Kumlubük, or in the bays of Serce Limani or Bozuk Bükü. On your way from Marmaris to Fethiye, be sure to check out Ölüdeniz, supposedly Turkey's most beautiful beach.
Laguna Oludeniz — supposedly the most beautiful beach in Turkey
In Turkey's most famous tourist destination, you'll discover plenty of hotels, restaurants and clubs, as well as historical sights and gorgeous long beaches. As Antalya is also surrounded by mountains, the scenery is truly breathtaking.
The panorama of Antalya is really wonderful
Recommendations for trips inland
For travel lovers, we definitely recommend taking a trip inland. The most interesting places include the famous Pamukkale (incredible white travertine terraces formed by hot natural springs) or the burial mound from 62 BC — Mount Nemrut, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Stone heads of the eagle, King Antiochus and the goddess Tyche at Mount Nemrut, Kahta, Turkey
Can you sail from Turkey to Greece?
Many sailors wonder whether it is actually possible to cross from Turkey to Greece by charter boat, particularly to the nearby islands of Kos and Rhodes.
However, the question is not a simple one and there is no definitive answer. In practice, of course, you can simply take the boat and sail it across the ocean, but not all charter companies allow this crossing. In fact, some boats only have insurance that covers one country and not international waters or abroad.
So, the most important thing is to find out in advance whether a particular boat can sail to Greece from Turkish ports. If this is something you'd like to do, simply tell our sales team when booking the boat and they will check and arrange everything with the charter company for you. When crossing, you must next check your captain's license (whether it allows sailing in both areas) and especially your insurance. When you rent the boat, the charter company staff will then tell you on the spot the exact procedure for checking out and checking in when leaving and entering Greek/Turkish waters.
When you decide to sail from country to country, expect some time-consuming formalities. Since the 2014 migration crisis, controls have tightened slightly. Boats smuggling illegal refugees are not your primary concern, but on the other hand, you may encounter them in the part of Turkey closest to Greece.
Prices and currency in Turkey
In Turkey, payments are made in Turkish Lira (TRY) and we recommend exchanging money in advance as you can't rely on paying for everything by card during your holiday. Although the big supermarkets do accept cards, restaurants do not.
Prices here are generally lower than in Europe, both for food and for mooring in marinas. For example, you can pay up to 50% less for a marina than in other destinations, such as Croatia. You'll also save considerably on mooring fees, as most of the time anchoring in a bay is free of charge. However, alcoholic beverages are more expensive, about 25% more than European prices, and because Turkey is a Muslim country you can't get hold of it everywhere.
Shops have fixed prices, so there is no haggling. But you can utilise your bargaining skills at the market and bazaar — here haggling skills are a basic requirement and the Turks love it. If you don't haggle over the price at all, the locals will be deeply disappointed.
If you want to save money on food, eat at the street stalls. A delicious kebab will set you back less than 100 lira (under 4 euros). Fresh fruit and vegetables are worth buying at the markets, where they are at their freshest. In Fethiye, for example, fresh produce can be bought for a fraction of the price at the market, but it does sell out in the afternoon.
Getting to the Turkish coast
There are several airports in Turkey, but not all of them are located on the coast. There are direct flights almost daily from major cities to Istanbul or Antalya where you can transfer to get to Bodrum, Dalaman, Izmir or Ankara.
From the airport, you can easily get to the port by taxi (the most expensive option) or by bus (the cheapest). A great mid-range option is a dolmuş — a shared minibus which runs along a predetermined route.
Dolmuş in Marmaris.
YACHTING.COM TIP: It takes about 20–25 minutes by car or bus to get from Dalaman airport to the port at Göcek, but it takes up to 3 hours to get to Marmaris port. From Bodrum airport, it's 40 minutes to Bodrum port and 2.5 hours to Marmaris port.
5 leisure activities while sailing the Turkish Riviera
1. Windsurfing: around Bodrum and Antalya
Windsurfing is popular here and the area around Bodrum and Antalya offers ideal conditions. It's possible to rent equipment and even if you are a beginner, you'll find plenty of schools with instructors.
Windsurfing in Bodrum
2. Recreational scuba diving off Gallipoli: the wrecks of warships
Although sport diving is forbidden in Turkey, recreational scuba diving isn't and you'll discover plenty of dive sites to admire the fauna and flora. As a result, there are a large number of diving schools. Off the Gallipoli peninsula, you'll discover underwater shipwrecks from World War II, and archaeological sites at Bodrum. But no matter where you go, you'll find an abundance of underwater life.
3. Fishing in coastal waters
Sailors who like fishing are in for a treat. The sea in Turkey is abundant in fish and you can land some really big ones. Fishing is recommended in the evening or early morning in deeper waters (30 metres or more). A secret trick of the local fishermen is to buy small shrimps in the market to use as bait. Alternatively, cut up a chicken breast, salt it and leave it in the sun for a few hours. This dries out the meat slightly and makes it tougher, so the big fish don't bite it off immediately — as they have to chew at it more, they're easier to catch on the hook.
YACHTING.COM TIP: Beware of fish with spines, they are usually poisonous. If any of the crew gets stung by one, it helps to soak the affected area in hot water, and it is always advisable to seek medical attention. Check out our article on the dangerous creatures that inhabitant the Greek seas to find out all about the 8 most poisonous you can encounter there.
4. Rafting on the Coruh River
Turkey has long, deep and wild rivers surrounded by beautiful countryside. Rafting is possible on the Manavgat, Dragon, Barhal and Coruh rivers. The latter is even ranked one of the ten best rivers for rafting in the world.
5. Golf in the Belek area
Feel like topping off a day's cruising with a round of golf? Surprising as it may seem to some, there are actually a large number of golf courses around the coast. Highlights include the National Golf Club in Belek, Antalya. Interestingly, Istanbul Golf Club was one of the first golf courses in continental Europe.