Sailing in Turkey
Sailing the Turquoise Coast
Turkey – not so long ago the undiscovered gem of the Med – is becoming hugely popular as a holiday destination for northern europeans. The more well-known areas are becoming “touristed-out” fast – yes, the ubiquitous McDonalds is there already!
Happily for us on sailboats – there are still lots of hideaways scattered along the coast which have very limited road access. Designed to protect the sailing & fishing fleets of old, these ancient ports are now the haven of yachties looking for the more traditional Turkey and her people.
Our main cruising grounds are around the Datca peninsula – a stunningly pretty coastline, scattered with reminders of long-ago cultures. Although Greece is often termed the “cradle of western civilisation”, Turkey actually has many more truly ancient sites. Step ashore from your boat and within a 5 min hike, you’re viewing the bay from the same amphitheatre as the local residents of 300 BC did.
And then there’s modern-day fun stuff too – Turkish Baths, hot springs & mud baths – the lively waterfront nightlife in Datca – practising your bartering skills in the bazaars.
But best of all, we think, are the little out-of-the-way anchorages, and their very entertaining and idiosyncratic local characters. We’ve been sailing here for 15 years now and are pretty much part of the family – as a SeaScape sailor, you’ll be welcomed like visiting cousins too!
10 Days Sailing in Turkey
This is an example of a typical itinerary on one of Turkish sailing trips.
Day One - Your yacht will be awaiting you at 10am in at Leros marina, in Lakki. Leros is our home base in Greece, and a wonderful island to spend a day beforehand, if your travel time allows!
For those of you joining us after a week's sailing in Greece - you'll be transferring boats here. Once everyone has settled in, we'll be heading south for our first destination of Vathi; a relaxing downwind sail to ease those landlubberly legs into shape slowly! About 3 hrs sail time. sailing
Vathi is a dramatic little spot; a well-hidden and very narrow fjord-like entrance, opening up into a tiny fishing village at the head of the bay. It boasts one main street and a collection of houses scattered into the valley; an unexpected patch of lush vegetation on an otherwise very dry and arid-looking island. Vathi is the only place on the entire island that is lucky enough to have itʼs own spring water supply, and they use it carefully to cultivate citrus fruits, figs, grapes and anything else that can be persuaded to grow.
Day Two - An early morning departure - yes, we’re talking sunrise here (it’s gorgeous out on the water, it will be worth it, honest!). A couple of hours downwind sail to Kos, the big “touristy” island of the area. Kos is where we officially clear out of Greece, which – Greek bureaucracy being as it is - can take a while. However, its only the skipper who needs to hassle with paperwork; everyone else is free to wander off and explore the island for a few hours; the 12th century castle, with it’s walls overlooking our yachts; perhaps visit the famous Hippocrates ancient oak tree, where he reputedly taught his medical students.
Once paperwork is cleared, we'll be sailing for Turkey and Ova Buku that afternoon. It’s a little, out-of-the-way village, which is not exactly on the main tourist map; road access is not easy. For us yachties, however – it’s a little paradise on earth. A rickety wooden dock, half a dozen tavernas, one shop and super-friendly locals. There's a lovely sandy beach, perfect for diving straight off the boat to cool off! A short 15 min hike over the hill and through farmland, is another long, quiet beach – for those with more energy to burn, there is a circular route coming back through the village; a glimpse into traditional Turkish life far removed from the tourism glitz.
What defines Ova Buku most of all is a wonderful little spot called “Ogunʼs Place” - our SeaScape home-from-home. A wonderful little beachfront taverna, hang-out-and-chill-out spot for afternoon beers - Semraʼs home-cooked Turkish food, quite different to the usual tourist fare. On top of this, there is the very fun and entertaining ambiance created by our young and lively host, Ogun, who often has a few practical joke surprises up his sleeve!
Day Three - Datca - A very fun little town! The waterfront is lined with bars and tavernas; great shopping for loca crafts & jewellery. Walking towards the beach, there is a tiny lake, with a surprisingly powerful “mini-waterfall” as it runs into the ocean; a very cooling massage experience. For those wanting to dance the night away, Datca has several lively bars and nightspots – and a “hamam” (Turkish baths) , to ease any aching muscles the next morning!
If carpet-buying is on your agenda - Datca is a great place to do it. There is not the over-abundance and confusion of the bigger towns (nor the elevated prices), yet still plenty of variety to choose from. Thereʼs also a couple of other interesting inland trips we can organize; visiting a local olive farm and a chance to see a very pretty old Greek town which was abandoned when the Greeks and Turks did their “swap” post WW2. Weʼll usually do these in the morning, before setting sail.
Day Four - Sailors Paradise - a beautiful bay with just one little restaurant. There is no road access here, so everything comes in by little fishing boat, or else they grow their own produce in the surrounding garden. Great swimming in deep clear water.
For those feeling like a little aerobic workout - there's a chance to join the local goats and scramble up a steep, craggy hlllside - the views over the bay make it all worthwhile! In the wee small hours of the morning, a traditional wood-fired oven provides us with bread as fresh as one could ever wish for. Combine this with the local honey, and it’s a breakfast of kings.
Day Five - Sail to Dirsek . Quiet and tranquil though the bay is, we're rarely lacking in evening entertainment! The local family here are a lively bunch, and impromptu dancing and game playing is often on the menu, as well as their wonderful buffet feast.
It's another anchorage with a fantastic hike up a goat track to a lookout point which spans the entire bay. Highly recommended to pay off some of those calories that you'll not be able to resist - more home-baked bread, straight from the oven. Accompanied with local honey and yoghurt...it's all as natural as it gets, so must be good for you, right??
Day Six - Sail to Dirsek . Quiet and tranquil though the bay is, we're rarely lacking in evening entertainment! The local family here are a lively bunch, and impromptu dancing and game playing is often on the menu, as well as their wonderful buffet feast.
It's another anchorage with a fantastic hike up a goat track to a lookout point which spans the entire bay. Highly recommended to pay off some of those calories that you'll not be able to resist - more home-baked bread, straight from the oven. Accompanied with local honey and yoghurt...it's all as natural as it gets, so must be good for you, right?? Bozburun crewed sailing boats in Turkey
Day Seven - Sail to Bozburun. This little village is home to a thriving wooden boat-building industry – all the old craftsmanship lives on here. We dock just outside of the town, on a wooden jetty owned by a family-run pension right on the waterfront. It is a shady, tranquil little spot to hang out in – their hammocks and sun loungers are all ours to enjoy too.
Our friends at the Afrodite pension will do a boat ride for us into town, or it's an easy 15min walk along a waterfront path to go exploring the local market and a variety of little craft & jewellery shops.
Sail to Bozuk Buku A wide, sweeping bay which used to be home to the ancient city of Loryma. The fortress walls were clearly built to last! - they still stand guard over our cosy little taverna, which nestles on a small, sandy beach below. There's no road access here either, so it's very much a yachtie hangout; and another apparently sleepy spot that's been known to burst into merry international life in the evening!
Day Nine - Sail to Datca - Rise and shine early this morning! We'll be off at dawn, sailing back to Datca. It will be just a couple of hours lunchtime stop here, to deal with paperwork....then we'll be sailing on to the little village of Palamut. From here, it's possible to organise a minibus trip to Knidos - a major harbour in it's time, and home to thousands of people. You can wander round freely, no crowds, no gates, no guards - it's a real time warp experience.
Day Ten - Sail to Kos - A good run of about 25 miles, and we are back in Greece! And back to "civilisation" - Kos is a busy, bustling Greek harbour, popular with many northern Europeans. It's quite the pot pourri of ancient and modern. One can go sit under the same tree which (reputedly!) shaded Hippocrates'students as he taught medical class, many centuries ago; or wander around the remains of amphitheatres and the old fortress.
For the less historically-inclined, there are plenty of our day-and-age's entertainments - beaches, tavernas, "bar street", and lots of fun trinket shopping. Great place for a last night farewell party! Day Eleven Disembark 9am in Kos
There are multiple flights per day from Kos-Athens, and also direct flights to various cities in Europe. It is also easy to get to other islands in the Dodecanese, from Rhodes up to Patmos on a fast catamaran. Overnight ferries also go to Athens (takes approx 8-9hrs).
What is the sailing season in the Med?
The best time to sail in Greece and Turkey is between late May and late Oct.
Earlier in the season is possible, but those glorious sunny-all-day Med conditions are not guaranteed; we can still get some dodgy weather early in May. The Turkish season tends to extend a little later than Greece; it stays warm and calm longer, the “lights-off” time for most tourist businesses in Turkey is Oct 30. In Greece, conditions can be a little unpredictable late in Oct (but it can still be a great time to sail, for those who hate crowds!)
Winds – the typical meltemi pattern of summer winds tends to follow the temperature. It blows the strongest in mid-summer, and is calmer in early and late season. In some parts of Greece (notably the Ionian), it’s a nice, predictable afternoon breeze; anywhere mid-Aegean or further east, forget any such reliability – the meltemi will blow when it feels like it!
Do I need a visa for Greece or Turkey?
For Greece, most nationalities do not need a visa. One notable exception is South Africa, where you must apply in advance. If you at all in doubt, pls check with your local Greek embassy. Most non-EU residents get an automatic 3 month visa-on-entry.
Turkey – most nationalities do need a visa, but it is a very simple online process. The cost varies according which nationality you are, usually from around 15 euros to sometimes up to 50 euros. The most common is around 20 euros.
Please note, your passport must be valid for 6 months AFTER your overseas travel is completed.
Is Turkey really safe for Westerners?
Of course! We feel way safer in Turkey than we do in London or Los Angeles, for example…