81km (50 miles) west of Izmir

Given the density of cultural riches on the tried-and-true paths of the Anatolian "mainland," few foreigners venture out to Çesme, Izmir's sun-kissed western peninsula. Perhaps now with the completion of the new superhighway, driving those scant 81km (50 miles) won't seem so insurmountable.

Çesme, named after the many springs found in the area during the 18th and 19th centuries, is a world-class Aegean resort, blessed with picturesque beaches and thermal spas both numbering well into the double digits. When tourists discovered the haunts of the Bodrum Peninsula, the smart set migrated north to the crystalline beaches of Çesme. Çesme still manages to remain relatively untarnished, offering a perfect balance between sybaritic and simple pleasures, such as the appreciation of unspoiled stretches of fertile fields of aniseed, mastic trees, and olive groves. And each corner has its own character. In Çesme proper, you'll get the widest choice of food, shopping and history and easy access to car rentals, ferry excursions or day trips. Alaçati town, with its density of historical restored Greek houses, wins hands down for charm, and thanks to all of the restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and bougainvillea, you may not even want a car to drive out. Windsurfers and watersports enthusiasts prefer the wind-swept Alaçati Bay, gifting athletes with high winds, shallow waters, and deep blue expanses. Ilica Beach has long attracted visitors seeking out the healing thermal waters of the Sifne Springs and one of the more scenic expanses of sand on the north side of the landmass. The arrival of a number of first-class hotels with spas, and a vibrant resort center, makes Ilica a worthy stopover. The enclosed harbor of Dalyan is a quiet and serene fishing port, where you can shut out the world until dinnertime, when you'll show up at one of the waterside restaurants very, very hungry. There are a few pensions here and one boutique hotel.

If you're planning on basing yourself in Çesme proper, or for that matter, any of the developed centers of leisure (Ilica, Alacati Beach), you can probably do without wheels or at least rent them at will. You'll definitely need a car if you plan on doing any exploring. Plan on a minimum of 2 full days to explore the beaches and baste in a thermal pool. You'll want more time if you plan on sleeping late and visiting any of the culturally rich villages.