One of the most enjoyable ways to see Turkey’s beguiling Mediterranean coastline – known alternatively as the Turkish Riviera or the Turquoise Coast – is on board a gulet, a type of traditional double- or triple-masted wooden sailboat (some have motors these days, and are more like wooden yachts).
“Blue cruises,” or “blue voyages,” as trips on these boats have become known, take passengers on a leisurely jaunt around picturesque bays and inlets, secluded islands, half-submerged archaeological sites and charming fishing villages – many of them only accessible from the water. You’ll rock gently to sleep aboard the boat each night and fill your days with swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing on deck or checking out ancient ruins.
With nearly 1,000 miles of Mediterranean coastline in Turkey waiting to be explored, it’s impossible to see everything on your first – or even second, third or fourth – blue cruise, but you’re sure to have a great time no matter where you go. Most travelers opt for cruises of a few days in length, although these voyages can last as long as a couple of weeks.
Fethiye is an excellent starting point for blue cruises, with four-day, three-night trips offered on two main itineraries: west to Marmaris or east to Antalya.
The eastern route usually includes stops at the gorgeous lagoon of Ölüdeniz and the nature paradise of Butterfly Valley, followed by visits to popular beaches like Kalkan and Kaş and the sunken ruins off the island of Kekova before winding up in the resort city of Antalya.
Heading westward to Marmaris offers even prettier scenery, though the attractions along the way are somewhat less famous. You’ll cruise through the Gulf of Fethiye to Göcek, with its attractive bay, then cross the open sea, perhaps stopping at lovely Dalyan Beach and the nearby archaeological site of Kaunos, before ending your adventure in busy Marmaris.
If you’re pressed for time, you can still get a taste of a blue cruise with a daylong boat trip that leaves and returns from the Fethiye harbor. Especially popular are the “12-island cruises” that make their way around the Gulf of Fethiye, stopping along the way at islands and other points of interest. Or take a day cruise from Ölüdeniz to Butterfly Valley, a steep-walled cove that’s home to rare butterflies and can only be reached by boat or on foot.