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This page gives a short general description of Turkey, and briefly lists the main differences between the cruising regions as you journey south and east from Istanbul to Syria. Turkey, outside the EU, is surprisingly green and fertile after Greece. Magnificent mountains back most of the coastline. Byzantine, Roman, Greek and even pre-Hellenic ruins are everywhere. Sophisticated marinas and world class hotels (with world class prices!) sit close to dirt roads, hamlets, and herds of goats. Everywhere, slender minarets call the faithful to prayer - a sharp wake-up at 0500. In quieter spots, food is good value, beautifully presented by courteous owners. With these attractions, major tourist destinations have been developed. Night long noise in a few bays are some of the symptoms. Pestering salesmanship (and some very subtle carpet salesmanship!) are others. Sections of the south west coast have been badly scarred with large quadrilaterals of dense, low rise house developments. The good news is that Turkey has adapted to make its visitors comfortable - and uses Latin script.
A comfortable sailing season extends from May to October. The Sea of Marmara and Black Sea are wetter and colder, with a shorter season. Summer on the west and south west coasts is dominated by northerly quadrant meltemi winds, which follow the coast around; NE near the Dardanelles, and westerly from Marmaris to Kas, becoming light further east. Strength? Periods of F6 to F7 should be expected, lighter as you round the Bodrum peninsula and head east, but a big swell does not develop. During summer there will be two or three periods when temperatures become uncomfortably hot, over 38C for three to four days at a time.
Turkey is extraordinarily rich in archaeological treasures. See Rough Guide or Lonely Planet for details. Imray's Turkish Waters Pilot gives details of most of the interesting places easily accessible from harbours which are worth a visit. The Rough Guide lists Places which you really should not miss while in Turkey. Not all are close to the sea!
The coastline, around 3,000 miles, is deeply indented in the south west, and includes areas rich with small anchorages, though you'll quite often be fighting for space with fish farms. Others are very popular and become crowded with boats and Gülets (large Turkish tour boats). Marina facilities, many excellent, dot the coasts just a day sail apart. New ones spring up every year. Some justify international prices, as do an increasing number of hotels and restaurants. Chartering is well developed. However, escaping the crowds is always possible, especially for those prepared to cruise further afield. Going east of Kalkan, or north of Ceşme, will show an older take on Turkey, little affected by tourism and with few visiting yachts. For those with 4 weeks or so in hand, a cruise first along the Turkish coast, then returning through the Greek offshore islands (or vica versa), is a rewarding experience of contrasts.
Formalities. There are plenty of ports of entry which must be used when entering or leaving the country. Entry and exit bureaucracy takes time. Entry costs around €100, and there's strong pressure on you to use an agent. Agents do save time. See Rules and Regulations, Turkey for the full story.
Yacht Support. Except east of Antalya, yacht support is good, some of the best value in the Mediterranean, especially for wood work. Some 30 marinas offer a wide range of services - at a wide range of prices. These are generally good value compared to equivalent services in the West Mediterranean. Winter layup is easily arranged, and many marinas in the south support large live-aboard communities. Fuelling berths are rare in quieter regions, away from marinas, so top up when you can.
Importing Spares. Yacht spares which have been imported are more expensive than in Greece. Attempts to import goods un-accompanied as "duty free, yacht in transit spares" will usually involve a nightmare of bureaucracy, with customs and shipping agent's fees often doubling the cost of the goods. Far better to import (for instance, even outboard engines) as accompanied luggage, paying the weight excess.
The Sea of Marmara. South of the Greek border, the narrow Dardanelles, crowded with shipping, lead to the Sea of Marmara and Istanbul. This is a quiet and attractive cruising ground with simple fishing harbours and soft, rolling Devonian landscapes. An older way of life pervades the region, and in quieter places women are rarely seen out of doors. Istanbul, at the entrance to the Bosphorus channel is an exception, and can (and must!) be visited from any of three marinas within a few miles of this interesting city. Plan to spend a few days here. The narrow Bosphorus leads to the Black Sea. Challenges in the area are strong SW currents through the narrow channels, and (outside early summer) persistent NE winds. (more)
Dardanelles to Çeşme. The Aeolian coast (Aegean) has over 200nm of coastline. The only decent shelter for the northern 60nm is Bozcaada, worth a visit. South of Baba Burun (opposite Lesvos) is a good cruising area with a sometimes spectacular coastline, several attractive anchorages and harbours, and 4 marinas. Not many charter boats sail here, but it is popular for weekenders from Izmir. The Ayvalık archipelago and marina are a favourite stop. The ruins of Pergamon (unmissable) are in the hills behind Dikili. (more)
Çeşme to the Bodrum Peninsula. The Ionian coast (Aegean) from Çeşme to Gümüslük includes about 110 nm of coastline. The whole coast 30nm north of Kuşadası has been comprehensively raped by holiday villages. Kuşadası itself is an unrepentantly brash tourist resort, served by massive cruise liners bringing visitors to Ephesus, just 10nm north east. Don't miss Ephesus, probably the most impressive ruins in Turkey. Away from the worst developments there are quieter anchorages. The Gulf of Güllük (south) offers a maze of choice, but you will competing for space with charter boats and fish farms. (more)
Gümüslük to Marmaris. The SW corner (the Carian coast), includes both Bodrum (a most attractive town) and Marmaris, two major charter centres for all types of yachts. Although these towns are only 40nm apart, there is nearly 200nm of coastline between them, deeply indented with gulfs and headlands. Yes, there is villa sprawl, noise, and dense tourism around the Bodrum peninsula, but there are quiet anchorages to be found, especially in the gulf of Hisaronü. Yacht support is excellent. Marmaris bay, large enough for Nelson’s fleet, is exceptionally beautiful, but heavily developed on the Western side. (more)
Marmaris to Antalya. The Lycian (Mediterranean) coast, from Marmaris east to Antalya (about 180 miles) has rather lighter winds. Sometimes called the Turquoise Coast, this is perhaps the most popular cruising area – popular with flotillas and charter boats too. With the coastline backed by pine-clad mountains, there are many beautiful harbours and anchorages. In particular there is the spectacular but crowded Gulf of Skopea, with Göçek and Fethiye at the head; and the lagoons of Kekova Roads, East of Kas. 5 marinas and 2 airports make the area very convenient. Antalya is also a major tourist resort, but perhaps has better manners than those further West and certainly has a well-restored Ottoman district overlooking the old harbour. (more)
Antalya to the East. The Pamphylian and Cilician coasts, east from Antalya to the Syrian border (about 300 miles) have noticeably lighter winds. Apart from the resort of Alanya, there is little tourist development. There are no marinas, no charter boats, and only few cruising yachts, so you can enjoy a gentle amble all the way to Mersin, calling in at little coves among the pines or small fishing harbours. For supplies, visit the relatively busy ferry port of Tasucu. Mersin is a big commercial harbour but has a corner for yachts. Further east yachts are rare, and you must take your chances among the trawlers at Iskenderun (more)
The Black Sea. The Black Sea coast east to Hopa (about 550 miles) and west to Midye (about 60 miles) is sterner, undeveloped stuff, and with less detail in the Pilot books. The weather in the Black Sea is cooler, more subject to depressions and fronts compared with the Mediterranean coasts, and winters are fiercely cold. Perhaps not to be undertaken lightly. (more - skeleton page only)
Ports of Entry: Mediterranean: Ayvalik, Bodrum, Bozburun, Cesme, Datca, Dikili, Gulluk, Izmir, Kusadasi, Marmaris, Fethiye, Finike, Kas, Kemer, Antalya, Alanya, Iskenderun, Mersin, Tasucu. Sea of Marmara: Canakkale, Bandirma, ,Mudanya, Tekirdag, Istanbul. Black Sea: Bartin, Eregli, Giresun, Hopa, Inebolu, Rize, Samsun, Sinop, Trabzon, Zonguldak.
Layup or Wintering. Spoilt for choice, with many winter live-aboard communities in the southern areas
Transport Links. Scheduled flights from Istanbul and Izmir. Summer charter flights from Izmir, Bodrum, Dalaman, Antalya. Convenient airport transfers from "resorthoppa". Internal transport by Dolmus (stuffed . . .) - unscheduled frequent minibuses.
Reviewed Jun 2014