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Izmir to Antalya - seeking your input!

I have a trip to Turkey coming up (in March), and I'm looking for input, specifically on one section of the trip: starting in Izmir and ending in Antalya.

We will have 5-6 full days to spend between Izmir and Antalya (not counting our arrival day in Izmir nor our departure day from Antalya). We will have a car. We already have 2 nights booked in Izmir and 2 nights booked in Antalya (we can see things in/near those places from those bases). Looking for 3 locations in between that make logical overnight stops, and tips on how to prioritize our sightseeing along this route.

This is a pretty large area with plenty of worthwhile things to see and do. I've got a long list of potential stops (including some fairly obvious "must see" items) that could easily fill many days - the challenge of course is to choose things along a logical route, allowing us to hit the highlights, without turning it into just a blurry fast drive-by. So I know we will need to prioritize (I suspect one could easily spend a couple months wandering this corner of Turkey).

For context: This is our first trip to Turkey. We are going in March (so not planning any beach time!). We will fly in to Istanbul, upon arrival we will push on (fly) to Izmir, our first base. I'm not planning much for our arrival day in Izmir as I expect we will be worn out after long flights. I plan to rent a car there (next day) explore around Izmir for our first full day, then work our way south and east, with 3 overnight stops, finally dropping the car in Antalya. We will fly from Antalya to Cappadocia. After a few days in Cappadocia we will fly to Istanbul, and have 4 nights there before flying home.

Our likes/dislikes: We love historic things, ruins, nice scenery, culture, taking photos (give me a pile of old rocks and I'm happy taking pictures all day), good food. We dislike: Crowds, manufactured-for-tourists experiences, package tourism, resorts that isolate you from the place you've gone to see, being hassled by touts, no interest in "night life" or partying. We prefer seeing places on our own rather than taking an organized tour.

I have a long list of potential stops (way, way longer than we could ever get to). I'll list some of those below, looking for input on the best of those (or anything critical that I've missed).

So…if you had 5-6 days to spend between Izmir and Antalya, with 3 overnight stops in between, where would you suggest? Thank you for your input!

Posted by
5017 posts

Follow up to my intro post above, with more granular details...

We are starting in Izmir, and driving to Antalya. We need to choose: which attractions to prioritize, what route to take, and where to stop overnight (3 nights). Seeking your suggestions for all of that.

Along the way, I see many places that look intriguing. Which of these would you make your top priorities?

The process I typically use for trip planning is to assign each potential attraction/stop a priority:
Must See <- (in BOLD)
Hope To See…but skippable in a pinch <- (in ITALIC)
Nice To Check Out…if we have time and energy <- (in plain text)
(these map roughly to the symbology used in Rick's books: 3 triangles, 2 triangles, 1 triangle)

Remember, this is just the MENU we're choosing from. We are not expecting to order everything on the menu! Some of these places require hours to explore, some might just require a quick stop and a photo or two. OK, here's my list (ordered roughly from NW to SE). Which would you prioritize (and why)?

Pergamum
Izmir (we have 2 nights here)
Selcuk
Kusadasi
Ephesus
Priene
Miletus
Pamukkale
Hierapolis
Laodicea
Aphrodisias
Kaunos
Dalyan
Fethiye
Kayakoy
Pinara
Saklikent Gorge
Tlos
Kas
Kekova
Demre
Phaselis
Mt Chimera
Antalya
Termessos
Aspendos

(Places that I was initially considering, but have probably ruled out for this trip since they would take us well off our intended route: Cesme, Bodrum, Side, Alanya)

So....have I missed anything I should include? How about priorities?

I'm guessing we can check out Izmir itself on our arrival day. Places nearby on the following day.
Next day hit the historic sights south of Izmir (Selcuk, Ephesus, maybe Priene, Miletus), head east/inland, overnight (first of 3) somewhere near Pamukkale?
Next day Hierapolis, Pamukkale, Laodicea, Aphrodisias...then head south towards Dalyan, overnight (2nd of 3) near Dalyan?
Next day, Kaunos, Dalyan, Fethiye, Kayakoy, Pinara, spend the night (3rd of 3) in/around Kas?
Next day, Kas, Kekova, around towards Antalya, spend the night in Antalya (we have two nights there).
Next day, Antalya and possibly other spots nearby within "day trip" distance. Drop the car in Antalya end of day. Sleep Antalya.
Next day, morning flight to Cappadocia.

OK, that's the rough plan. Your input is solicited. Thank you!

Posted by
106 posts

You must see Ephesus and Pamukkale. Pirene and Didyma are great, but are second tier compared to .Ephesus and Pamukkale. On your drive, Dalyan is beautiful. Göcek is gorgeous. And Ölüdeniz is a gorgeous beach you really should see... even though you won’t be swimming. The natural beauty is stunning.

Posted by
5017 posts

Thank you, Michelle, appreciate the input.

Others - what do you think?

Posted by
1802 posts

If you like piles of rocks, there's a large archeological site called Knidos at the end of the Datca peninsula, where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean. You can clearly trace the city walls and see ruins of several temples. I'm not sure if this could fit in your itinerary but you might do some research on it. You don't need a lot of time there but it's worth seeing.

I would definitely stop overnight in Dalyan. It gets a lot of British tourists but is not overwhelmingly touristic. We loved seeing the sea turtle hospital on Iztuzu Beach. Also the Lycean Tombs carved into the cliffs along the river. You can see them from a private dock at your hotel if you stay at the lovely Kilim Hotel.

We didn't stay in Fethiye but stopped there one day and were not impressed. Too big and busy for us.

Saklikent Gorge is an interesting sight. You can walk along a walkway beside the gorge to an entry place where you can climb over slippery rocks and actually wade uphill through the gorge, or watch people attempting it. It might be good for a short stop on your way from Dalyan to your next stop, which I suggest is Patara.

Patara is a tiny town which boasts Turkey's longest sand beach, a chunk of the Lycean Way footpath, and some of the area's finest ruins ... the ancient city of Patara, once a major seaport. You walk through a 2nd century triumphal arch to enter the ruins. Excavations have uncovered a theater and columns lining the main street. Plus many types of Lycean tombs. You walk or drive through the ruins to get to the beach; I think there's a small fee? But the amazing part is that at both Knidos and Patara we saw virtually no other tourists (this was September 2013). We stayed at Akay Pension which we highly recommend. Rooms were very basic (and very inexpensive) but meals served there were among the best we had in Turkey. And the owner, Kazim, couldn't be more helpful.

I would then recommend a final stop in Kas, where you can catch a day-trip ferry to the tiny Greek island of Kastellorizo (around 10 am to 4 pm??). We think Kastellorizo is one of the most beautiful places we've seen. It's a deep water port with sea turtles swimming around. And if it's a sunny day, you can take a boat to see a brilliantly blue cave.

From Kas, I think it's just a couple of hours to Antalya. You can probably tell that we loved this section of the Turkish coast. Have fun!

Posted by
76 posts

Pamukkale and Isparta would be my choice. I would visit carpet museum in Isparta and its famous for roses.