Cleopatra Island Sedir Adasi
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Akyaka: The Hidden Gem of Turkey

Akyaka is located in Southwestern Turkey and nearly 240 kilometers south of my home in Izmir. My husband and I have visited Akyaka five times and we will continue to visit as often as we can, because we love it so much! We have gone just the two of us, we have gone with a large group of friends, and we have gone with family. My husband’s dream is to buy a house and live there forever, but for now we will have to do with weekend trips!

So, what makes Akyaka so wonderful?

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A view of Akyaka, the tiny village in the center of this photo, before coming down the mountain

It is a quaint beach city untouched by foreign tourists

Part of what makes Akyaka so special is that not that many people know about it! Places like Antalya, Bodrum, and Oludeniz get all the attention of foreign tourists vacationing in Turkey. Just in the last few years, Turks themselves have started noticing Akyaka as a prime place to vacation with family. When you are in Akyaka, you get a feel for Turkish beach city culture. Everything is more relaxed than usual, and it is primarily a family atmosphere. You see mom, dad, baby and most likely aunt, uncle and grandma, too. Family is integral to Turkish culture, and it is not unusual to see entire families, including children, staying out late. While the parents sit enjoying tea or Turkish coffee, the children are playing nearby. Since it is a beach city, all the cafes and restaurants are mainly outdoors. If you want to go somewhere where there are not many foreigners, this is a great option!

Azmac River in Akyaka Turkey
Walk alongside the beautiful Azmac River in Akyaka, Turkey

Lots of fun activities & beautiful beaches

Azmac River (Azmac Nehri)

One of the most unique features of Akyaka is the Azmac river (Azmak Nehri) that runs alongside the entire town. You can walk alongside the river and enjoy some ice cream or shaved ice, sit and feed the geese, or even take a dip! The water is totally clear and actually pretty cold. For a mere 10 Turkish Lira you can take a 15-minute boat ride up and down the river. It is well worth the price and a fun thing to do with your friends and family. Each boat can fit up to 15-20 people at a time.

Azmac River Akyaka
Boat Rides on the Azmac River
Azmac River Akyaka
View of the cute houses on the Azmac River
Boat Trip to Cleopatra Island & Coves
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The view from our boat looking at the Akyaka harbor and the surrounding mountains. So lush!

Akyaka Turkey Mountains and Sea

Like every great beach city in Turkey, there are daily boat tours, called a tekne tur. These usually cost about 45-50 TL per person and lunch is included in the fee. You spend the day exploring different coves and Cleopatra Island, or in Turkish Sedir Adası. Cleopatra Island is not free to enter, but the entrance ticket is not too expensive (about 10-12 TL). After a short walk, you come to a beautiful beach where you can either wade in the water or swim out further. It is not too deep, nor are the waves strong, which is ideal for younger children. The sand is white and extremely soft, unlike any other sand I have ever felt. The sand is apparently in the shape of a perfect sphere and was said to have been brought for Cleopatra herself by Mark Anthony, her secret lover, from North Africa by ship. While the legend may or may not be true, the monetary fine that the Turkish government will give you for trying to take any of the sand with you is very real. So note to tourists: don’t try to take any of the sand or else the guards will give you a ticket and make you put it back.

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Pathway to Cleopatra Island’s beach and ruins

If you’re not in the mood to swim just yet, you can follow the pathway to an ancient amphitheater and some other really cool ruins. After sitting on the boat for a while, the walk feels pretty good. It is mostly under the sun without much shade, so you’ll probably be ready to swim afterwards. The boats usually dock at the island for about an hour to let you explore and swim before heading elsewhere. All of the coves they stop at are beautiful, as well, and just watching the scenery from the boat is nice, too. For lunch, your typical options are between fish and chicken, with a side of salad and pasta noodles. While lunch is included, drinks and snacks are not, so you should come prepared or be willing to purchase them on the boat. There is also Efes or Turborg available for those who want to enjoy a beer. The boats are always multi-leveled, so if you don’t want to sit at the tables you can sunbathe up top. It is truly a relaxing time and a great way to spend a day in Akyaka.

Cleopatra Island Sedir Adasi
Amphitheatre at Sedir Adasi/Cleopatra Island
Camping

Another cool place I discovered on a jog with my two friends is the Akyaka Ormanı (Akyaka Forest) Campgrounds. This large area is full of pine trees and located right next to Gökova Bay, so you have a sea view when you step out of your tent in the morning. You can rent tents for a great price, about 35 Turkish Liras per day. However, these prices might change at different times throughout the year. There are restroom facilities and electricity available for when you need it, and a little market to buy snacks and drinks from. I haven’t had the chance to camp there yet, but it is on my list for next time!

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Feeling pretty hot and accomplished after our jog!
Iskele Beach (Plaji)

One of our favorite spots is Iskele plaji, which means pier beach. We randomly stumbled upon this one day, because me and my friends saw it from the mountain on our jog from the day before and wanted to check it out. It is almost wrong to call this a beach, because there is not technically much of a beach, rather a number of small piers. You can swim and lounge on a beach chair, as long as you purchase something from the adjoining restaurants. We’ve been to this spot twice, and we really like it because it is totally empty! Nobody knows that it is there except for the people staying in the few boutique hotels located right next to it. We like to choose our spot, order two beers and a plate of fries, and swim in the water. The water at iskele beach is quite a bit colder than the other beaches in Akyaka, which makes it really refreshing on a hot summer day. It is fairly deep, so this is not an ideal place for children who don’t know how to swim. Lounging on the beach chair, enjoying a beer, looking at the sea on one side and large, gorgeous green mountains on the other, is one of the reasons why Akyaka has become one of our favorite places.

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Me and one of my best friends Des
tiny crabs
We found these tiny crabs underneath the pier!
Akbük Beach (Akbük Köyü)

If you’re willing to go for a thirty minute drive and have access to a car, a nearby secluded beach called Akbük Köyü is a great spot. Like much of Akyaka, it has clear blue waters on one side and mountains full of green pine trees on the other. There are minimal waves, so it is a good family spot. When me and Ozzy went our first time, it was still pretty early in the season, so the weather was a bit cooler than it is in the middle of summer. While we were driving there it started raining, but I was so determined to swim that I decided to get in anyway. It was barely sprinkling, so it didn’t bother me. There were only two other cars of people there and they were waiting out the rain in their car. Swimming all by myself in the water that day is probably one of my favorite memories. Ozzy opted not to get in on account of the rain…

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Akbük Köyü
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Swimming in the rain

Great (and one not so great) Restaurants

West Cafe & Bistro

West Cafe Bistro Akyaka Turkey

One of our favorite places to stop by is West Café & Bistro, which serves a variety of great dishes and desserts. It sits right on the Azmac River and only has outdoor seating. I have never ordered anything I didn’t like there. They have a shop within their restaurant where they sell olive oil, olives, and olive-based soaps made by Olive Farm based in Datça, Turkey (another great place that I will write about another time!). We purchased a jar of green olives, as well as a thyme-flavored olive oil, and they were some of the best olives and olive oil I have ever had. You cannot cook with the flavored olive oils, but they are amazing on top of salad or to dip your bread in with balsamic vinaigrette!

West Cafe Bistro Akyka
The West Burger from West Cafe & Bistro

On one of our visits to West Cafe, Ozzy recognized a famous Turkish musician, Emre Aydin and took his picture with him. I had no idea who he was, but Ozzy was pretty stoked about it!

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Ozzy with the musician, Emre Aydin
Vira Vira Restaurant

Vira Vira Akyaka

Another great option if you really love fish is Vira Vira Restaurant. We have eaten there a few times and I have been very pleased. Ozzy, on the other hand, does not love fish and wasn’t very happy with his meatballs (köfte), so I recommend only going to fish restaurants if you and everyone else is going to eat fish. This is a general rule of thumb for most fish restaurants in western Turkey! Fish restaurants tend to only do their fish and appetizers very well, and don’t spend much energy on making their meat dishes something special. I ordered Çipura (seabream), which is my favorite fish. Their levrek (seabass) is also very good!

Orfoz Restaurant

One place that looks amazing online, but had terrible service when we tried it out was Orfoz Restaurant. It looks awesome, because some of their seating extends to the water. You can sit at a table where you keep your feet in the water from the Azmac river, because that area is very shallow. When we went, though, this option was not available. We got there around noon, which is a time that many Turks are barely starting to eat breakfast on the weekends. We had gotten up early and already had breakfast, so we ordered lunch. We ordered a simple dish, köfte (Turkish meatballs) with ayran. We sat and watched several people come, sit, order and receive their breakfast, but our food never arrived. We asked our waiter a few times when it would arrive, and he said “it’s coming out, just a few more minutes.” After 45 minutes passed, we decided to get up and leave, just paying for our drinks. We were so disappointed that they couldn’t just tell us the truth; more likely than not, their cook hadn’t arrived yet, or they didn’t have the meat to make meatballs. That was the day we discovered West Café! So, it worked out in the end. Feel free to give this place a try, but our experience has led us to never go back.

Cinar Restaurant

Lastly, Cinar Restaurant is an amazing restaurant that is about 20 km from Akyaka towards Marmaris. It is a restaurant among beautiful trees and a small pond. It is away from the coast and into the mountains. It is certainly worth stopping by and I recommend the kuzu tandir! It is soft and tender baby lamb cooked tandir style. Ask anyone in Akyaka about it, they will highly recommend it and help you with directions.

Great Memories

This quaint Turkish beach city has stolen my heart, because I have had so many wonderful memories there, like swimming at the beach in Akbük, jogging with my friends through the forest, swimming at Iskele beach, boat tours, and going with Ozzy’s family to Cleopatra Island. Our hope is to create many more memories in Akyaka for the years to come!

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Halk Plajı, aka the main public beach in Akyaka

Whether you are planning a summer vacation or an expat living in Turkey, Akyaka should be high on your list of beach cities to visit. There is certainly way more to do and see than I am able to share. If you’ve ever been or want to go, share in the comments some of your favorites or places you would want to see!

Other Posts by On Her Journey:

Best Places To Stay in Akyaka, Turkey

A Day Trip to Dilek National Park in Kuşadası, Turkey

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7 thoughts on “Akyaka: The Hidden Gem of Turkey”

  1. Wow! Turkey had been on our wish list for ages. It’s so good to learn about secret places in Turkey and your information has been so helpful. Thanks for sharing your story with us. 🙂

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