Most of Turkey's best beaches have been snatched up by big hotels or full-service entertainment beach clubs -- leaving less-than-stellar public alternatives. Thankfully, those big operations keep their beaches clean (the public ones with no services are very often littered) and the prices for their lounges pretty low, and they usually are associated with some of the best patches of sand or pebbles anyway. The bonus: Hotels and beach clubs (even the small ones) have snack bars, watersports, and clean toilets; and for the most part, the beaches have been left in their natural states.

  • Suada (Istanbul): Once the private floating playground of the Galatasaray football club, this tiny bobbing Bosphorus island in the center of Istanbul is now a morning, afternoon and evening getaway for the city's denizens.
  • Assos (Çanakkale and the Troad): It's hard to resist the lure of a beach sitting at the base of a steep outcropping backed by historic buildings, even if the result is a beach the size of a postage stamp. Once the sun goes down and the glow of the moon bounces off the calm waters, you'll think you were floating among the stars.
  • Alaçati Bay (Çesme Peninsula): The small beach here opens up to an enormous bay blessed with lofty winds -- paradise for windsurfers. The high winds are attributed to the sizable stretch of shallow water and the absence of anything obstructing it. The beach is backed by hills, hills, and more hills, all topped by dry, barren brush.
  • Pirlanta Beach (Çesme Peninsula): Pirlanta, which means "diamond" in Turkish, describes the creamy whiteness of this sandy stretch of the peninsula. The beach is long and wide and faces the open Aegean. It's also easily accessible by dolmus (minivan-type public transportation) from Çesme's town center.
  • Altinkum Beach (Çesme Peninsula): The golden-colored sand from which the beach takes its name is located in a relatively hard-to-find spot at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. As luck would have it, this only serves to keep this public park blissfully empty and undervisited. Because this beach faces the open sea, the water is a refreshing few degrees cooler than elsewhere on the peninsula.
  • Ayayorgi Beach (Çesme Peninsula): This is not a beach per se, but a few narrow concrete piers jutting out over the water. Nevertheless, Ayayorgi is a charming spot, hidden in an overgrowth of orange and olive groves and open to a small and intimate cove.
  • Göltürkbükü (Bodrum Peninsula): Still waters embraced by the shoreline of twin villages characterize this part of the peninsula. The jet set may need to find alternative haunts now that the mayor has announced the dismantling of all of the private-access beach clubs. By the time you read this, the magical destination of Türkbükü may have opened up its shoreline to the common man.
  • Ölüdeniz Beach (Ölüdeniz): The posters just don't do it justice. On one end is the great expanse of Belcegiz Beach, enclosed by the brittle silhouette of Babadag and the landing pad for paragliders sporting jet-propulsion packs. And on the beach is the jaw-dropper, the Blue Lagoon made real: still waters in no less than three shades of turquoise.
  • Butterfly Valley (Fethiye): After reaching the Blue Lagoon -- the holy grail of Turkish beaches -- it seems odd to want to go elsewhere. But the Fethiye area abounds with stunning scenery. If you can tear yourself away from the main event, take the 30-minute boat ride to Butterfly Valley, a sandy paradise hewn out of a soaring gorge.
  • Iztuzu Beach (Dalyan): There are strict rules of conduct here: Iztuzu Beach is a national preserve and breeding ground for the Caretta caretta, or loggerhead turtle. But at night, after the crowds have gone home, you can watch the lights move out to sea, or listen to the sounds of home life glide over the river from a nearby fishing village. Just don't wander too close to the waterline, and on behalf of the turtles, stay away from the off-limits areas.
  • Kaputas Beach (near Kalkan): Hundreds of years ago, a huge chasm opened up the side of the mountain face. The gorge has dried up, but what's left is Kaputas Beach, a small, sandy patch 400 steps down from the highway that feels like the middle of nowhere. From here, it's just a short swim to some nearby phosphorescent caves.
  • Patara Beach (near Kalkan): Eighteen kilometers (11 miles) of beach backed by dunes and marshlands -- need I say more? The Mediterranean rises to the challenge in the summer, when it turns a deep shade of blue.
  • Konyaalti (Antalya): The newly developed waterfront in center-city Antalya breathes new life into a seaside resort that risked second-rate status. Miles of pebble beaches, waterfront promenades, meandering lawns, cafes, and activities make this one of Turkey's most coveted destinations. Bodrum, look out!

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.