Turkey Travel Guide: Day trips by boat in the south

One of the most exhilarating and enjoyable experiences in Turkey is to take a boat trip along the clear sapphire coastlines that ring the country. While a week-long trip along Turkey’s azure coast may be the most ideal way to travel, don’t let the costs and commitments put you off, as nearly every holiday destination in Turkey offer daily boat trips that will take you to pristine coves, mud baths, desert islands and even ancient sites. Boarding a boat to be taken out to sea for the day with a group of unfamiliar faces may seem daunting to a visiting foreigner, but I’m here to tell you that taking a boat for a day trip along from the southern coast of Turkey is one of the most enjoyable and relaxing ways to spend the day in Turkey.

As a visiting foreigner, when it comes to boarding a boat in Turkey for any duration, there are two choices: arrange an organized private excursion or jump on an already scheduled daily boat trip. . The first option is ideal for visiting groups of friends and family. However, keep in mind that in high season many boats will have been pre-booked. My mom and other seasoned expats will have established their own favorite boat charter and can book their boat trips months in advance. Sometimes expats post possible privately arranged boat trips on social media sites, which makes it easy to accompany and ensures that there will be other English speakers on board. The price of a boat chartered by an individual is generally fixed and the sum is therefore divided between the participants, which means that the more the merrier, the more affordable it is. But, again, don’t worry because boating might seem like a luxury, it’s an affordable and very accessible activity here in Turkey.

Which brings me to the hundreds and thousands of daily boat trips, the routes and costs of which have been pre-arranged and for a fixed price, usually between 100 TL and 200 TL ($11-$20), will take you on a adventure equipped with a complete barbecue buffet. The lunch provided on these day trips can be a big part of the draw, as usually there will be grilled meats and a wide variety of salads and Turkish spreads. Cooking on board ships has become so synonymous with sailing excursions that racing events such as the annual Bodrum Cup, which takes place this week, will have separate competitions devoted entirely to culinary specialties prepared on board.

In all fairness it is rare to board a fully rigged sailboat in these scenarios as these are usually reserved for overnight and week long trips and of course dependent on wind direction. Most of the time, the boats used for these excursions will be a ‘schooner’, which is usually a double-masted wooden sailboat with plenty of seating and lounging areas on board. These types of boats are specific to Turkey, and in particular to Bodrum, and have been developed in this sense to be more comfortable for the tourists who embark them. Every year, the Bodrum Cup, which is a multi-day schooner race, celebrates this sailing tradition as well as those special boats that the region is famous for. Some of the racing boats will also host guests, so you can be part of the excitement of this regatta simply as a spectator on board. Throughout the winter, yachtsmen in Bodrum will compete in the Tirhandil Cup, a race focused on the Tirhandil, which is the ancestor of the schooner and a serious long-distance sailboat.

A tour boat in Bodrum, Turkey. (Photo Shutterstock)

What to know and where to go

So you want to embark on a boat, but you don’t know where to start… Above all, it is important to choose the right trip and the right boat. While schooner is the predominant choice of ship in Bodrum, in Fethiye for example most boats going on day trips will be large motor boats with table and cabins, whereas boats in Dalyan are all Shallow and smaller bottom to protect against damage Caretta turtles that nest in the area every year. Another important point to note that could make or break any trip is that different boats cater to different clientele and will play music accordingly. Be sure to ask if music will be playing and what type as there are a number of notorious party boats which will turn into a disco in the middle of the day and the sea. This of course might not be suitable not to all, and especially to families or strangers seeing a relaxing respite at sea. So, be sure to ask the average age and number of guests who will be boarding and if so, what type of music will be played.

While a lunch is usually included in the price of a boat trip, additional drinks will not, so be prepared to purchase drinks on board, the count of which will be added to your bill at the end of the day. Most boats serving customers on these types of day trips will have restrooms and even changing rooms, but it’s always a good idea to check that everything is running before boarding. As the main objective is mainly to swim in the crystal clear waters of Turkey, be sure to bring your bathing suit, a towel, sunscreen, possibly a hat and something to wrap yourself up in if the wind picks up when you are at sea. Also keep in mind that a day at sea and in the breeze can take its toll and you could be exhausted by the end of the trip. The general rule among sailors is to wear shoes with plastic soles to avoid possible marks on sinking wood, so don’t be surprised if you are asked to take your shoes off if this is the case.

Oh, the places you’ll go

There are countless options when it comes to day trip destinations, as Turkey’s southern coast is steeped in history, desert islands, secluded coves, hot springs and mud baths. From Bodrum, popular routes will be to Aquarium Cove, where, as the name suggests, you can swim among fish in clear turquoise water. “Meteor” is a cove famous for a meteor that created a deep hole, “Pigs Cove” is an area where you can spot boars frolicking by the seashore while “Rabbit Island” offers the same, but in this case , it’s about stray rabbits you might see. At “Camel Beach” you can potentially ride a camel and “Cleopatra’s Beach” is famous for its mud baths which were an integral part of the Egyptian queen’s beauty routine. Starting from Datca or Dalyan could take you to Knidos or Kaunus, two spectacular ancient sites dating back thousands and thousands of years. From Fethiye, the boats will take off for the beautiful lagoon of Oludeniz and head to Butterfly Valley, a secluded cove and canyon that is home to over 100 different butterfly species and has become a camping paradise. One of the most popular is the ’12 Islands’ tour, which takes you to a dozen small islands and secluded coves that dot the southern coast between Turkey and Greece.

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