Türkiye is the prom queen of 2023 – a beloved rising star with a few jealous haters, possibly too popular for her own good, and wearing a crown.
The latest jewel on that crown? Antalya, Türkiye is now one of the most popular beach cities in the world.
When Türkiye was ranked the most popular destination in Eastern Europe and the Middle East for U.S. travelers this season, plenty of people expected that Istanbul or Cappadocia were getting all the love. But that’s not the case.
The Turkish Riviera is the one stealing the spotlight this year, with a record-breaking number of airport arrivals this summer and an estimated 10 million visitors by the end of the season.
The uber-popular Antalya region is geographically huge, but lots of visitors stick to Antalya city. Let’s just say that approach isn’t for everyone – especially if you’re not a big fan of the huge crowds, overdeveloped beaches, and that general sterility that comes with top tourist destinations like this one.
The city of Antalya doesn’t have a monopoly on cultural dilution, though. Nearby Alanya evokes an elongated Malaga that traded in Spanish wine for a Russian tourist invasion, while long-time British favorite Kalkan feels like a miniature Monte Carlo with kebabs.
We promise – there’s a better way to enjoy the Turkish coast.
There are still a few small beach towns in Türkiye’s greater Antalya region that promise a culturally rich, slow-paced beach holiday. Kaş is the crown jewel among them.
1. A Beach Town That Holds On To Its Authentic Culture
Kaş (pronounced “kash”) is one laid-back seaside highway stop that retains its authentic personality. The town is still the working home of everyday Turks, with a vibrant local community that hasn’t compromised for the tourist infrastructure just yet. This is where to find “old Türkiye” vibes on the coast.
Visitors are drawn to Kaş’ cultural bona fides and unique character just as much as they are to its turquoise waters and bohemian cafe-bars. After just one stroll down the cinematically entangled cobblestone lanes to the buzzing harbor, it’s easy to see why this undiluted Turkish town continues to capture visitor’s hearts.
It wouldn’t be difficult to spend your days getting lost in the open-air markets, backstreet family restaurants, and colorful neoclassical mansions that give Kaş its genuine vibes. When the sun goes down, live music spills out of vibrant bars onto the streets while relaxed eateries serve typical meze platters and raki.
This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of tourists or any big glitzy hotels in Kaş. But, the luxury properties and resorts in Kaş are out of sight and out of mind about four miles from town in Çukurbağ. This leaves the charming architecture and persona of Kaş’s beating heart intact.
Whether you’re into chats with locals over tea, unadulterated Turkish food, or beach days and adventures that don’t skimp on the culture, Kaş is the place to be.
2. Turquoise Waters And White Sand
30 minutes into the winding cliffside drive between Kaş and Kalkan, you’ll find the white sands and turquoise waters of Kaputas Beach.
This Mediterranean paradise spot has recently blown up on social media – and rightly so. Timing really is everything for a visit to Kaputas these days. Try for a morning swim before 10am or a late sunset picnic to avoid the crowds.
The other beaches in Kaş, like most of Antalya, are mostly accessible by over-water decks at beach clubs and restaurants.
3. Two Birds With One Stone
Lots of travelers are surprised to find out that Greece is only 20 minutes away from Kaş by ferry. A day trip to the Greek island of Meis (known in Kaş by this Turkish name, but called Kastellorizo in Greek) is as scenic as it is convenient, and a long-time favorite among tourists.
Idyllic pastel homes line the island’s waterfront and welcome you to Greece, just a mile away from the Turkish coast. The island’s style varies between Italian facades, Greek neoclassical arches, and gothic columns leading to ancient cathedrals. The charm of Kastellorizo’s eclectic and colorful streets is sure to make you want to stay longer than a few hours.
While the island became a bit more popular in the 1990s after the Oscar-winning film “Mediterraneo” was filmed there, it’s still full of hidden treasure for travelers seeking a bit of mystery.
4. Adrenaline In Antalya
Kaş is the place to be for international adrenaline seekers. Like many other Antalyan seaside towns, Kaş is a fantastic hub for adventure sports like paragliding, canyoning, and diving.
Paragliding is especially popular here, since the hills above town make for a great jumping-off point. You’ll get a breathtaking birds-eye view over fields of goats, rocky coves, and deep blue waters on a once-in-a-lifetime ride through the sky.
For something a bit more tame but equally scenic, visitors can enjoy snorkeling or kayaking at Kekova. Here you can marvel at the sunken city of Dolikisthe, which was banished to the sea floor by an earthquake two thousand years ago.
There’s nothing quite like swimming among the fish in crystal clear waters over a maze of ancient ruins!
5. Ancient Footsteps And Sunset Views
Just 45 minutes from the center of Kaş lies an access point to the Lycian Way (“Likya Yolu” in Turkish).
This epic trek between 18 ancient cities along the Turkish Mediterranean coast was created by British adventurer Kate Clow in the late ‘90s. Even though it’s won a few prizes for top global trails from the likes of The British Sunday Times, it still flies under the radar among most international tourists.
The winding coastal path runs through quaint villages, UNESCO-protected archaeology sites like Xanthos, the untouched sandy beaches of Patara, medieval castles above Kaleköy, the mysterious Eternal Flames of Chimaira, and ancient seaside ruins of Olympus.
Visitors to Kaş don’t have to trek the whole Lycian Way, though. From Kaş, you can hop on one of the easiest and most scenic sections for just 3 miles – the Limanagzi section. This path is the perfect combination of ancient history and breathtaking views.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com