Turkey’s secret seaside hotspot: Why Alaçati should be on your radar

Photo of Anna HardyPhoto of Anna Hardy
By Anna Hardy

7 June 20246 min read

A view of Ilica beach and coastline in Alacati, Turkey

You may wonder if there’s such a thing as a secret seaside spot in Turkey, especially when its Turquoise Coast is regularly in the holiday limelight. But drive an hour west of Izmir and you’ll find Alaçati, a little town nestled on the Aegean Coast with beaches as beautiful as its bougainvillea-covered houses.

With unique wine, thrill-a-minute watersports and windmills, it’s a compelling alternative to busy Bodrum and Antalya, and a hit with holidaymakers already in the know. Our advice? Join them. Here’s why…

It’s beaches tick all the boxes

Straddling two coastlines with clear blue waters, hip beach clubs and some of the best conditions for windsurfing in Turkey, Alaçati’s beaches are the town's biggest trump card.

Ilica is the main public beach on the north coast. Its silky soft sands sweep around the bay and the sea is calm, shallow and notably warm on its western side thanks to the thermal springs that lie along the coast.

On the south coast, Cark Beach is popular for its golden sands and handful of beach clubs and bars. Head to Alaçati 11 or Zio Beach Club for chilled-out tunes and cocktails.

Whichever you choose, the sails of wind- and kite-surfers pepper the horizon, riding the reliable sea breezes. If you fancy giving it a go yourself, you’ll find several rental shops and windsurfing schools around Alaçati Marina.

The town is postcard-perfect

Any time away from the sand is best spent in Alaçati town. Originally settled by the Ottoman Greeks, you wouldn’t be alone in feeling like you’ve wandered into a fairytale Greek village – the roads are charmingly cobbled, the houses made of rustic stone with cobalt blue shutters, and the streets spill with a myriad of colourful cafe tables and chairs.

For the greatest choice of restaurants and local shops, make a beeline for the main street, Kemalpaşa – best explored with a cup of fresh lemonade in hand. Its connecting streets are a hub of boutique hotels, art galleries and Turkish coffee shops, too.

Come evening, lights glow among the bougainvillea vines and the town’s bars, clubs and live music venues begin to buzz.

And it’s architecture is just as charming

Dating back to 1850, Alaçati’s stone windmills are an icon of the town and its oldest structures. Standing proudly in a park above Kemalpaşa street, they give Santorini’s windmills a run for their money for Instagram-worthy pictures and sunset views over the town.

The marketplace mosque is a highlight of the old town square. Originally built as a Greek church in 1874 before it was converted, its structure uniquely combines both Ottoman and Turkish designs. The intricate black and white mosaic stone courtyard mirrors the ornate decorations within.

For more Ottoman history, take a trip to Çeşme Castle. The fortress was built in the 16th century to defend against invading Venetians and lies just 15 minutes north west of Alaçati by car.

You won’t leave hungry

If there’s one thing Alaçati isn’t short on, it’s good food. Pull up a seat at any of the cafes or restaurants and you can expect hearty portions of ​​menemen (a dish made with eggs, tomatoes and peppers), kurus fit to burst (loaded sandwich buns) and other staples such as grilled octopus and stuffed courgette flowers.

That’s if you’ve still got room after breakfast – aka, an endless buffet of fried eggs, cheeses, cucumber, olives, tomatoes, homemade jams and bread.

Anyone with a sweet tooth will leave satisfied, too. Imren Tatlicisi bakery has some of the best desserts going and you won’t go far without finding a shop that sells dondurma, Turkey’s deliciously sweet mastic ice cream that’s both creamy and chewy in one. The show that the vendors put on while serving this sticky treat is almost as good as its taste.

If you’re visiting on a Saturday, don’t miss loading up on local fruit, veg, cheeses and conserves from the market stalls at Alaçati Bazaar.

The wine is as guzzle-worthy as the food

Just 30 minutes from the Urla vineyard route – a trail of award-winning wineries and vineyards – Alaçati’s wine menus are pretty impressive. Alongside international grape varieties such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, the region also produces several indigenous grapes including bornova misketi, boğazkere and sultaniye (the sultana grape).

Wine tasting experiences at Urla Winery are hard to beat. The winery has won over 150 awards for its winemaking and is home to over 350 acres (141 hectares) of stunning vineyard. Wines range from narince (a dry white with citrus and floral notes) to mourvedre (a rich, earthly red). The reintroduction of Urla karasi and gaydura grapes (formerly extinct regional varieties) is also underway here.

Equally as impressive, USCA Winery uses chateaux-type production techniques to produce over 45,000 bottles of wine a year. You can pick from tasting packages that include food pairings or premium presentations in the winery’s cellar.

Festivals are a whole town affair

Filling the streets with herbs and spices of every colour and flavour, the Alaçati Herb Festival is the town’s largest and most unique celebration. Held in March or April each year, the three-day event showcases the huge array of herbs grown in the region and local recipes made from them – with a competition for the best tasting dish. There’s also lots of other edible goodies to try, including olive oil, jams and pastries, plus cookery workshops and handmade gifts for sale.

Spring also welcomes the Kite Festival. Participants come from across the Çeşme Peninsula to fly their best-designed kite in Alaçati’s trusty coastal winds. It’s a great one for families, with craft workshops and face painting on offer, too.

Come summer, watch surfers battle it out on the waves in Alaçati’s Surf Festival (usually in July), or if you’re visiting in September, don’t miss the town’s Big Fish Tournament, where over 300 fishermen head out from Port Alaçati to compete for the best catch.

Adventure is on your doorstep

Head east from Alaçati to the ancient city of Ephesus, just a 50-minute drive away near the village of Selƈuk. Once considered the most important trading centre in the Med, it's one of Turkey’s most impressive archaeological sites, with highlights including the Library of Celsus and Temple of Hadrian.

Go west and Çeşme is a great place for scuba diving trips. Take the plunge underwater to discover dolphins, turtles, reefs and wrecks. There’s a direct bus to Çeşme that takes about half an hour.

Or, you can hop on a ferry from Çeşme Harbor to the Greek Island of Chios. Spend a day exploring the museums, monasteries, black-sand beaches and mastic gum trees before taking the boat back early in the evening. You’ll need your passport for your ferry ticket and crossing.

How to get to Alaçati

From the UK, the easiest way to reach Alaçati is to fly into Izmir Airport and then either drive, taxi or take the Havas shuttle bus to Alaçati town. The drive time is approximately one hour.

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