Why Turkey is the real summer holiday alternative to France and Spain this year


With countries the world over striving to revive their tourism industries after two years in the doldrums, nowhere looks better placed to make a strong comeback than Turkey. Britons have traditionally flocked to this peerless Aegean-Mediterranean destination in their millions (2.5 million in 2019 alone) in order to take advantage of the superb weather, some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the Mediterranean, a hinterland littered with stunning ancient sites and one of the finest cuisines in the world.

Early signs of a tourism boom are already very promising – a fact that will not surprise some, given that the country worked extremely hard at the height of the pandemic to keep things ticking over. Tourism forms 12 per cent of this uber-hospit­able nation’s GDP, so it’s hardly surprising that they have their own government department, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Mehmet Nuri Ersoy, the current minister, recently announced that passenger levels at Turkish ­airports rose by an impressive 77 per cent last month, and that numbers passing through Antalya – the major gateway airport to the resorts of the sun-blessed Mediterranean region of Turkey – reached 558,000, close to pre-pandemic levels. 

Of course, it helps that although Turkey may be more expensive to get to than Spain or France, it is considerably less expensive on arrival. According to the cost of living database Numbeo (numbeo.com), a meal out for two at a mid-range restaurant will set you back £43.50 in France and £33.50 in Spain. By comparison, the same dining experience in Turkey costs a mere £12 – that’s £18 less even than Greece, which we often think of as a cheap alternative to the western Mediterranean. The cost of living has been a topic of much debate recently. In France, it is about seven per cent higher than the UK, and while Spain is 22 per cent lower, Turkey is a whopping 57 per cent lower, helping to explain why holidays here are so appealing – particularly for Britons who are facing a year of tightening their belts. 

In fact, prices for visitors in 2022 promise to be even lower than usual, as Turkey is battling rampant inflation, meaning a very healthy exchange rate. If you last visited the country in 2019, you may recall getting a little over seven Turkish lira to the pound, whereas the current rate is more than 18 to the pound. In total, the lira lost 35 per cent of its value against sterling in 2021, giving visitors the kind of purchasing power that really makes a difference to the overall cost of a holiday – especially if you’re looking to treat yourself and indulge a little. 

For 2022, at least, ­Turkey is offering the best value for Britons in the Mediterranean; even though there might be a common perception that you can get just as good value in France or Spain, as shown in the Twitter poll of Telegraph readers below.

Like many countries across Europe, restrictions have all but disappeared in this Mediterranean idyll and life is slowly getting back to normal. There’s no longer a requirement for fully vaccinated British visitors to take a pre-departure test, merely fill in an online passenger locator form prior to travel – making everything that little bit easier. However, mask-wearing remains mandatory in cinemas, museums, concert venues, restaurants and on public transport; it’s also obligatory outside on the street and in public parks – though compliance with the latter is patchy, with many locals sporting their mask on a wrist or under the chin until they spot officialdom. As the warmer months roll in, this could easily change, so if you don’t mind wearing a mask, it could be worth the gamble to see some serious savings. 

Especially because Turkey really does have it all when it comes to a first-class holiday: a Mediterranean coast blessed with 300 days of sunshine a year and correspondingly warm waters; the azure sea and sandy coves of a rocky, breeze-cooled Aegean region; and the historic and gastronomic delights of Istanbul, a city standing astride both Europe and Asia. Plus, it has enough ancient sites to rival Italy and Greece, including the unique geological wonderland of ­Cappadocia, and a tourist infrastructure as good as any. 

So, whether you’re travelling as a family, a couple or independently, love being active or lounging in the sun, like lapping up a little luxury or prefer wandering around ancient sites, ­Turkey has something for you this year – and it’s all an absolute steal. 

Turkey’s appeal lies in its beaches and rich heritage

Why sun-lovers flock there

Antalya, on Turkey’s beautiful Mediterranean coast, has 300 days of sunshine annually, with daytime temperatures averaging 32C in July and August, and the water temperatures of the Mediterranean in the same months around 28C. So, it’s little surprise that the impressive swath of gently-shelving sandy beaches to the east of this gateway city have been developed for 75 miles – all the way to picturesque Alanya. The fertile plain behind the beach is dotted with superb ancient sites, though most people come here to do what sun worshippers do best – sunbathe, swim, eat and drink. Good-value all-inclusive hotels abound here, with TUI offering a number of options. A one-week stay at the Rixos Premium Belek (0203 451 2688; tui.co.uk) costs from £943 per person, including flights. 

The Aegean coast of Turkey is generally less developed than that found to the east of Antalya, and it is appreciably cooler too, with chic Bodrum’s hottest month, July, averaging 28C and sea temperatures 25C at their August peak. Bodrum, currently one of the Mediterranean’s hottest places to see and be seen, is hardly unspoilt, but the region’s mix of rocky shores and sandy coves has restricted development somewhat. A one-week stay at the suitably sophisticated beachfront Bodrum Edition starts from £2,071 per person with British Airways, including flights (0344 493 0787; britishairways.com). 

Patara Beach in Antalya turkey

Ocean’s heaven: Patara Beach in Antalya promises miles of firm, golden sand

Credit: getty

If it’s peace and quiet you’re looking for, the Lycian shore between Fethiye and Kaş is far less developed than either Antalya or Bodrum and is as attractive as anywhere in the entire Mediterranean. Its centrepiece is Patara Beach. An impressive eight miles long, it promises firm, golden sand, towering dunes and a view scarcely troubled by development. This is real Robinson Crusoe territory – bar the municipal facilities at the beach’s southern tip, there’s scarcely a sun-lounger or café in sight. Set in an olive grove, Bademli Apartments (00 90 24284 35184; apartmentsinpatara.com) are just a mile from the beach and the spectacular ancient ruins at Patara. A one-week stay costs from £375 for a one-bed and £475 a two-bed apartment. 

You can fly to Dalaman Airport, a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Patara, with easyJet (easyjet.com; from £109 return).

Why it delivers for families

Much of Turkey’s 5,000 miles of coastline is beautiful; the Teke Peninsula in the country’s balmy south-west is sublimely so. The serried ranks of peaks rising to 10,000ft behind resort towns such as Fethiye, Oludeniz and Kas are spectacular enough to impress even the most cynical teenager, the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean lapping at their feet tempting enough to draw even the most reluctant child into their warm embrace. 

turkey boat family holiday summer 2022

Turkey has plenty of activities to keep younger family members happy

Credit: Getty

Older children can launch themselves from the summit of a 6,000ft peak and tandem paraglide down to the beach at Oludeniz, sea kayak over a sunken city at Simena or leap into rock pools on a canyoning expedition above Kas. Equally, there’s plenty of opportunity to simply play in the children’s pool in an all-inclusive resort hotel or follow turtle tracks and 
collect shells and driftwood on unspoilt beaches like those at Iztuzu, Patara and Cirali. 

The mysterious remains of the ancient Lycians, dotting the landscape from sea level to mountain flank, are often a surprise hit with children of all ages – few can resist peering into one of the many “flesh-eating” sarcophagi of a Lycian necropolis, or scampering up the rock-cut seats of an ancient theatre. 

Luxurious Hillside Beach Club (00 90 21236 23030; hillsidebeachclub.com) near Fethiye offers rooms from £192 per person per night. The price excludes flights but the resort offers a spa, watersports, private beaches and activities for kids aged 0-15. 

If a multi-activity week of gorge-walking, kayaking, snorkelling and more in Cirali is more your thing, opt for an adventure with Families Worldwide (01962 302062; familiesworldwide.co.uk), which offers trips from £1,079 per child; £1,379 per adult; including flights. 

To really make the most of those crystalline waters, charter a gulet (a traditional wooden sailing boat) for an ultra-relaxing way to see this glorious coastline. Blue Cruise (020 8968 7770; bluecruise.co.uk) offer gulets sleeping up to 12 from £10,000 per week full-board – ideal for families with multiple generations in tow. 
Sun-bathing, swimming, diving and turtle spotting are the order of the day, though there are trips ashore. Family members should be competent swimmers.

Why couples will love it

The laid-back town of Dalyan on Turkey’s gorgeous Turquoise Coast is ideal for an ultra-relaxed holiday for couples. Nightlife is confined to simple cafés, bars and restaurants – some romantically situated right on the reed-fringed river on which the town is set. Who needs Lyon? There are boat tours upstream to the hot springs at Sultaniye, or across the river to explore ancient Kaunos and its fabulous temple-like tombs set in a cliff-face. 

Most couples will be content to spend their days taking one of the regular cheap and cheerful co-operative boats 30 minutes downstream to the glorious white strand of undeveloped Iztuzu beach, spotting terrapins en-route. Cachet Travel (020 8847 8700; cachet-travel.co.uk) offer a one-week stay in a one-bed apartment in the idyllically situated Osmanli Hani Apartments from £729 per person including flights. Alternatively, unwind at the BC Spa Hotel (00 90 25228 42101; bcspahotel.com) for a spot of pampering; doubles from just £33 per night.

Further afield is Cappadocia in central Anatolia, a unique landscape of deep canyons, table mountains and weirdly sculpted rock cones known as fairy chimneys. What could be more romantic than staying in a “cave” hotel cut from the soft volcanic rock, enjoying a day’s horse-riding through this fabulous landscape or floating above it in a hot air balloon? Diamond Star (033 0390 0999; diamondstarexperience.com) has one-week stays in the boutique Cappadocia Cave Suites from £968 per person including flights. Drink wine from a local vineyard, try the delicious testi kebab – cooked to perfection in a sealed clay pot – and admire some stunning sunsets. 

cappadocia turkey summer holiday

Riding high: leave real life behind and travel on horseback through age-old rock formations in Cappadocia

Credit: Jamie McGregor Smith

For couples who can’t sit still and want to be active all day long then chill out in the evening, a specialist water sports holiday is the solution. Kite-surfing at Aegean Alacati, windsurfing off the Bodrum Peninsula or diving from Kas are just some options. The sea is warm and the wind just right at Foca, north-west of Izmir on the Aegean Coast, which is why Mark Warner (033 3220 4613; markwarner.co.uk) offer a one-week water sports holiday at Phokaia Beach Resort from £1,798 per person, including flights. Try sailing, windsurfing, paddleboarding and kayaking as well as tennis and cycling.

Why history and culture fans can’t get enough 

Visitors flock to Italy for the Colosseum and Pompeii, and to Greece to the Parthenon and the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. Rather less people know that the land that is now Turkey was once settled by both the Greeks and Romans, and that both civilisations left behind a staggering number of atmospherically situated and marvellously preserved ancient sites. 

Troy, Ephesus and Pergamon are among the most famous, but there are myriad more, including Unesco-listed Aphrodisias and Hierapolis-Pamukkale. Victorian-era Britons were in the know – if you visit the British Museum, you can see the beautiful works of art brought back from Xanthos, in Lycia, by archaeologist-explorer Charles Fellows. Turkey is home to an array of remains from a huge range of time periods, spanning from the 12,000-year-old Gobekli Tepe in the south-east of the country, to the Byzantine churches and Ottoman Turkish mosques of continent-spanning Istanbul. At the heart of this modern city is a historic Unesco-listed core, containing buildings such as the Hagia Sophia (Church of the Holy Wisdom) and the famed Blue Mosque. 

If it’s all about the history for you, Cox & Kings (03330 601813; coxandkings.co.uk) offer an eight-day Spotlight on Aegean Turkey tour that costs from £1,295 per person, including flights. Archaeological highlights include Ephesus, Aphrodisias and Hierapolis-Pamukkale as well as wine-tasting sessions and a Turkish bath experience. Stay in one spot for the duration of this centre-based tour at a boutique hotel in the lovely, Ottoman-era village of Sirince. 

If you’d like to explore for longer, Exodus (020 3811 5440; exodus.co.uk) has a Highlights of Turkey adventure that includes some of country’s finest spots – Troy, Ephesus, Hierapolis-Pamukkale and Xanthos, as well as Cappadocia and Istanbul. The 15-day tour costs from £1,399 per person, excluding flights.

Why it’s the perfect spot for a bit of luxury and pampering

The settlement of Halikarnassos was once home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the magnificently ornate tomb of its then ruler, Mausolus. Fragments of the famed Mausoleum of Halikarnassos remain, but today the town is known as Bodrum. A wonder it remains, attested to by the often well-off and sometimes famous visitors who flock here to enjoy its whitewashed cuboid houses, Crusader castle, breeze-blessed shores, azure waters, sophisticated restaurants and panoply of luxury hotels. 

On the peninsula to the north of Bodrum town is one of the country’s finest hotels, the Mandarin Oriental (00 90 25231 11888; mandarinoriental.com). With doubles from £324 per night it is dear, but it is good value considering just how exclusive and cocoon-like the experience here – it has arguably the best spa in Turkey, two private beaches and as many staff as guests. It also comes in at £46 per night cheaper than its Barcelona counterpart, giving you extra money to splurge elsewhere. Alternatively, Six Senses Kaplankaya (00 90 25251 10030; sixsenses.com) is situated on an attractive, olive-grove studded stretch of Aegean coast north of Bodrum. While also noted for its superb spa and treatment rooms, doubles here cost a little less, from £246 per night. If you can tear yourself away from the facilities and beach, make sure to visit the fabulously massive and ancient Sanctuary of Apollo at Didim. Both hotels are easily reached from Bodrum-Milas Airport (approx. 35 mins to Bodrum; 50 mins to Six Senses Kaplankaya) which you can fly to from Gatwick with Corendon (corendonairlines.com; from £97 return, starting in April). 

mandarin oriental turkey

A beach cabana at Mandarin Oriental

If you’d like to be away from the city, the pretty, former Greek-inhabited fishing port of Kalkan is an attractive resort set out around a deep bay, a four-hour drive to the south of Bodrum. The exclusive Turquoise Collection (01449 770811; turquoisecollection.com) has several beautiful villas and hotels here, the pick of which is Hotel Villa Mahal. Smaller than others of its kind, it has just 13 rooms of varying sizes and serves extremely well-regarded food in a stunning setting that drops down a rocky hillside over the deep blue waters of the bay. Doubles cost from £192 per night and you can fly direct to Dalaman, the nearest airport less than a two-hour drive away, with easyJet (easyjet.com; from £109 return).

Why it’s great for budget-conscious independent travellers

The language is tricky, distances vast (it’s over 1,000 miles across) and the culture gap is broad in rural areas, yet Turkey is an easy and incredibly worthwhile place to travel around independently. The infrastructure is superb – new roads, bridges and tunnels have proliferated in recent years; the newest is a 1.2-mile-long suspension bridge spanning the famous continent-dividing Dardanelles Strait which opens in March, making it easy to get around. 

Most towns have a decent variety of accommodation offerings, hire cars are cheap (from £20 a day) and fuel is almost 50 per cent cheaper than France. Comfortable air-conditioned coaches link most towns, with a ticket from Istanbul to Van (a driving distance of nearly a thousand miles) only £21. There are also nearly 60 airports spread across the country, with a flight on the same route from Istanbul to Van costing from just £28. You can also grab a hotel room from as little as £20 for a double and with meals out costing less than a tenner, it’s easy to see why Turkey is an inexpensive place to travel in. 

Beginners looking to fill a week should fly into Antalya with easyJet, (easyjet.com; from £109 return), hire a car (holidayautos.com; from £136 per week) and drive west across the mountainous uplands to Fethiye (around four hours). 
Return slowly to Antalya via the coastal road linking the resorts of Fethiye, Patara, Kalkan, Kas and Cirali. This route will take you along exhilarating coastal drives, past beautiful beaches and incredible ancient sites such as Patara, and promises a range of hotels to suit every budget. 

If you have a sense of adventure and two weeks to spare, fly into Van via Istanbul with Pegasus (flypgs.com; from £140 one way). From here, you can visit the Armenian island-set church of Akhtamar before heading north by local bus across volcanic peaks to Dogubeyazit to see the biblical Mt Ararat (16,800ft). 

Continue north to remote highland Kars, close to the Unesco-listed Armenian ghost city of Ani, and cross the Pontic Alps in the footsteps of Xenophon to reach the fabled ancient city of Trebizond (Trabzon) on the Black Sea. You can fly home direct from here with Turkish Airlines (turkishairlines.com; from £97 one way).

Why adventurers will find it the ideal destination

A predominantly mountainous country, with only two-fifths of its surface lying below 1,500ft, Turkey is a paradise for walkers. Most favour the Aegean and Mediterranean regions, hiking long distance trails such as the Carian Trail, Lycian Way and St Paul Trail (cultureroutesinturkey.com). For a more alpine experience, the Kackar Mountains – the highest section of the Pontic Alps running parallel to the Black Sea in Turkey’s north-east – are superb. Spend eight days trekking across the range from south to north (including an ascent of 13,000ft up Mt Kackar itself), enjoying flower-spangled meadows, alpine lakes, Georgian churches and Greek monasteries with World Expeditions (0800 074 4135; worldexpeditions.com). The trip costs from £1,190 per person, excluding flights, and there’s a mix of accommodation for those that like to balance their camping (two nights) with hotels (five nights). 

The Aegean Coast is a particularly agreeable place to do some fine road cycling in attractive landscapes and a benign climate. There are gentle climbs through olive groves, winding roads above a turquoise Aegean, and quiet unspoilt coves perfect for a refreshing dip. You can pedal to little-visited ruins and sleep in charming boutique hotels along the way. Biking in Turkey (00 90 38427 12559; bikinginturkey.com) offers guided and self-guided trips from five to 12 days. Their 10-day self-guided Aegean Coast Luxury Cycle Tours costs from £1,211 per person, excluding flights. You can bring your own bike or hire one for £125 per week. 

turkey summer holiday diving

Dive in and marvel at Turkey’s underwater paradise

Credit: Kalkan Diving School

If being by (and in) the water is more your speed, the attractive Turquoise Coast resort of Kalkan is perennially popular with Britons for its attractive marina, whitewashed old houses, plentiful quality restaurants and relaxed ambience. It’s also a great place to dive in some of the Mediterranean’s clearest waters. A three-day Padi Open Water Diver Course at Kalkan Diving (00 90 24284 42361; kalkandiving.com) costs from £230; subsequent dives £25 each. You can fly to nearby Dalaman Airport with easyJet (easyjet.com; from £109 return) and stay at the Courtyard Hotel Kalkan (00 90 24284 43738; courtyardkalkan.com), a boutique hotel offering double rooms from £109.

Five of the best value hotels in Turkey

Hotel Villa Turka, Alanya

This stylish 19th-century Ottoman mansion set in its own lush grounds on the slopes of Alanya Castle on Turkey’s Mediterranean shore is what a real boutique hotel is all about. It offers comfortable rooms, wonderful cooking (think home-made jams and fresh fruit from the hotel’s own trees), a small beach just below the property, plus delightful strolls through a fortified castle area – and the bustling town centre is a mere 10-minute walk away.

Doubles from £37pn (00 90 53054 74641: hotelvillaturka.com)

Pera Palace, Istanbul

Hotels don’t come more history-filled or atmospheric than this. The Pera Palace opened in 1895 and was originally built to host passengers of the Orient Express, with subsequent famous guests including Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie and Greta Garbo. Behind the neoclassical facade, opulent interiors feature period furniture, Turkish rugs spread on immaculate wood floors, damask drapes, Moorish-style arches, French bronze figurines and potted palms. The spa and destination dining venues are stylish, but for visitors who value eating out and enjoying Istanbul’s vibrant nightlife, it’s right on the western fringes of the city’s bustling Beyoglu district. 

Doubles from £106pn (00 90 21237 74000; perapalace.com)

Hillside Beach Club, Fethiye

Set around secluded Kalemya Bay, this big, cheerful resort offers value in its extensive facilities and an idyllic, pine-clad setting. Three sandy beaches (two of them adults-only), three restaurants and several bars, a nature trail and a spa are perfect for kicking back and relaxing. Regular fitness classes and wellness programmes are designed for active guests, as are diving and sailing lessons.

Doubles from £118pn (00 90 21236 23030; hillsidebeachclub.com)

Kekik Hotel, Selimiye

A rustic, adults-only hotel in the hills above Selimiye – where people come to enjoy total peace and quiet, a laid-back atmosphere and a sweeping panorama. The long, two-storey stone house contains 10 bedrooms, an open-air restaurant and bar, and a small infinity pool with a sunbathing terrace, parasols and sun loungers. The emphasis here is on sustainability: solar panels heat the water, as much as possible is recycled and breakfast eggs come from the hotel’s hen coop.

Doubles from £80pn (00 90 53736 57172; kekikotelselimiye.com

Tuvana Hotel, Antalya

Some Antalya hotel owners over-egg the Ottoman Turkish pudding when it comes to restoration, but at Tuvana the finely carved wooden ceilings, dark wood floors and sash windows have been kept, the walls have been painted a simple off-white, and the paintings chosen with care. The result is restrained elegance: if you are seeking a calming getaway in the heart of Antalya’s old quarter, this is it. Marvellous bougainvillaea gardens, a swimming pool, a bar and a restaurant popular with locals complete the picture. Considering the quality of the accommodation, the friendly atmosphere and great location, this place is great value.

Doubles from £52 (00 90 24224 76015; tuvanahotel.com)

Covid rules

Entry without testing for the fully vaccinated and under-12s; via PCR or antigen test, or proof of recovery, for others. Online form (register.health.gov.tr

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