With a long Mediterranean coastline, charming resort towns and villages, warm, hot summers and fascinating seaside cities, Turkey is one of the most popular countries in Europe for family holidays.
The Turkish Riviera’s just over four hours flying time from the UK and between May and September there are direct flights from several UK airports to Bodrum and Antalya.
Spring’s a good time to visit for trekking and climbing in the Taurus Mountains or walking part of the legendary Lycian Way. And the weather’s still warm and sunny well into October for inexpensive half-term beach breaks.
Istanbul is one of the world’s most remarkable cities and a fantastic experience with teenagers but check UK government advice before booking travel.
Direct flights from UK to Istanbul and Ankara all year round, and flights to Antalya, Bodrum during summer months. Flight time is just over four hours.
UNESCO World Heritage sites
Turkey has 16 UNESCO World Heritage sites including Hierapolis-Pamukkale, the historic centre of Istanbul, Xanthos-Letoon and Ephesus.
July and August temperatures of 30 – 40˚C on Mediterranean Turquoise Coast.
Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle both Asia and Europe.
The Turquoise Coast or Turkish Riviera contains two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the Mausoleum of Maussollos in Halicarnassus.
For active families
The 540km long Lycian Way from Ölüdeniz to Antalya is one of the world’s top 10 great walks.
Where to go
Turkey’s fifth largest city and capital of the stunning Turquoise Coast, Antalya’s a perfect Mediterranean holiday with older kids or teenagers. Think huge, sandy beaches with views of the Beydağlan Mountains balanced by one of Europe’s loveliest walled old towns, major museums and galleries, teeming markets and shiny malls.
Antalya’s magnificent Konyaalti Beach is one of Europe’s urban greats.
At the centre of the Teke Peninsula, Antalya was founded in 150BC, conquered by the Romans in 133 AD and one of grandest cities of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.
Don’t miss: Hadrian’s Gate, Yivli Minaret, the Karatay Medrese and Kesik Minare and the Yat Limani Roman harbour.
Several family resorts overlook Lara Beach, one of Turkey’s longest stretches of sand just to the east of the city centre.
Just over an hour’s drive east of Antalya, Side is quite probably the loveliest resort on the Turquoise Coast. Legend has it that Mark Anthony and Cleopatra had trysts in Side and, looking at the ancient Greco-Roman temples today, it’s not hard to believe. Aside from the historic quarter, the resort’s famous for flawless white sand beaches, lively markets, good seafood restaurants and water sports.
Good choice of beachfront four and five star family resorts.
Don’t miss: the Devlet Arogasi, Roman amphitheatre (used for outdoor concerts in summer), Temple of Apollo, Manavgat Waterfall, Side Museum and the Nymphaeum.
Sitting above the Mediterranean against a backdrop of the mighty Taurus Mountains, Alanya is one of the most popular resorts in Turkey. It’s mix of historic city and lively, action packed resort is a great balance for families and older kids will love the water sports and big, lively beaches.
Wide variety beachfront hotels and resorts spread out to the east and west of the city centre.
Plenty of history from Roman pirates to warring Crusaders, Byzantine grandeur and Ottoman nobility.
Don’t miss: the Damiataş Cave, Kizil Kule, Alanya Castle, Turkey’s largest go-kart track, cliff trekking the Alanya Peninsula and the romantic Seljuk Tersane.
The Bodrum Peninsula, to the west of the Turkish Riviera and centred on the pretty town of Bodrum, is a string of lovely beaches, pretty little villages, seaside resorts and glorious mountains and forests.
Bodrum’s the liveliest resort town on the peninsula, very popular and good for self-catering villas and boutique resort hotels.
Gümüslük is a lovely traditional fishing village with good beaches about 30 minutes from Bodrum.
Torba is a smaller, quieter resort just to the north of Bodrum with a charming bay and a good range of family holiday villas.
The regular car ferry sailing from Bodrum to Kos takes just over an hour.
Dalyan’s famous for its marvellous river setting, the Byzantine rock-cut Kaunos tombs and Iztuzo beach’s loggerhead turtle conservancy.
Good for eco-hotels, family holiday apartments and spa resorts.
Don’t miss: the Kaunos Tombs, Iztuzo Turtle Beach, Sarsala Cove, thermal springs, Dalyan Saturday market and Ekincik Bay.
Party town Marmaris is as famous for relentless nightlife as big, water sport beaches and good value resort hotels. Not a choice for families looking for the peaceful beauty of the Turkish Riviera, but it’s great to visit with older kids and packed with attractions.
Icmeler is a lovely resort, good for families with a pretty bay and just 20 minutes west of Marmaris.
Don’t miss: tours to the ‘cotton castle’ of Pamukkale, Marmaris Waterpark, Cleopatra Beach on Sedir Island, Icmeler beach and caves, Turunc Village, Marmaris Castle and Museum and Marmaris Grand Bazaar.
What to do
The stunning mineral forest and ruins of Hierapolis-Pamukkale (the cotton castle) are one of Turkey’s greatest wonders and just over three hours drive from Bodrum.
Iztuzu Turtle Beach, Dalyan
The 5km sand beach at Iztuzu is an hour’s sail from Dalyan and the Mediterranean’s most important loggerhead turtle nesting site.
Atlantis Waterpark, Marmaris
Fun family waterpark with mid-size chutes and slides, its own private beach and stunning ocean views.
Sedir Island, 18km from Marmaris, is famous for the unusual powdery sand on Cleopatra Beach and ruins of the ancient city of Cedrae.
Kaleiçi Museum, Antalya
A fascinating collection of antiquities and domestic artefacts and a good place to start exploring the ancient history of Antalya.
Koprulu Canyon National Park, Antalya
The 14km round, 400m deep Koprulu Canyon is the centrepiece of this great park which has everything from white water rafting to ziplining, horse riding, canyoning, jeep safaris and abseiling.
The Lycian Way
The entire 549km Lycian Way between Fethye and Antalya isn’t for the fainthearted or unfit. But the route’s divided into sections and well marked so doing a few shorter day treks with older kids is good fun.
Damlatas Cave, Alanya
This enormous stalactite filled cave is said to cure asthma and thousands of sufferers visit every year to sit for up to four hours a day in the C02 rich chamber – you can simply visit to see the 15,000 year old rock formations.
Dim Cay River, Alanya
Pack your swimming things and head 8km into the Taurus Mountains overlooking Alanya for Sunday lunch on the floating Dim Cay River restaurants. It’s a favourite local outing at the weekend and the water’s lovely.
Turquoise Coast Cruise, Alanya
One of the best ways to see almost all the magnificent Turkish Riviera coastline, possibly spot dolphins and turtles and visit legendary beaches like Cleopatra’s and Ulas.
Educational value for kids
Antalya’s old town bazaar is nothing like the size and grandeur of the Büyük Çarşı in Istanbul, but it’s still pleasantly exotic, colourful and a good first taste of polite haggling for kids.
As the gateway between Asia and Europe, Turkey has been touched by almost every culture in the past. Ancient art, architecture, monuments and antiquities are as common as sand on the Turquoise Coast and a simple day at the beach is often a history lesson by default.
Take the tram from the seafront to Antalya Museum, the collection’s vast and varies from breathtaking to eccentric (dog sarcophagi) – the audio guide is good for kids.
Mid to late August is the time to see loggerhead turtle hatching on Iztuzu Beach.
Single trail mountain bike routes along the Mediterranean coast are an adventurous way to explore for older kids and teenagers.
Turkey has dozens of cultural walking routes, GPS coordinated, waymarked and graded by level of difficulty the best known coastal routes are the Lycian Way and the Alternative Fethye Route.
The quieter beaches, coves and sea caves to the east and west of Marmaris have some of the coast’s best dive sites. Several are shallow enough for beginners and local PADI schools run diving classes for kids of six and over.
Getting around with kids in Turkey
Regular and inexpensive dolmus services run between most of the resort towns and villages along the Mediterranean coast. Public transport in cities is the best way to get about with private taxis in the evening – agree the fare before you head off. Hiring a car is the best way to explore independently but there are excellent and very reasonable tours to major attractions like Pamukkale and Iztuzu Beach. If you do hire a car in summer and you’re driving inland, take plenty of water and watch your fuel – garages are few and far between.