Love at first sail: Sailing Turkey's turquoise coast with MedSailors
After spending a week sailing the turquoise coast of Turkey with MedSailors, it’s safe to say we’re now sailing converts. Here’s why.
‘Pool’s open!” comes the call from Hector, our trusty skipper – prompting a near-stampede to the back of the yacht as we all race to be first into the unfathomably blue sea around us.
I dive off the side of the boat, the sudden coolness soothing the fierce Turkish sun from my skin. Below, a school of silvery fish scatter amongst the coral, startled by my sudden intrusion.
Breaking the surface, I float on my back under the wide blue sky, and the salty Aegean sea holds me up with ease.
We’re only a few days into a week-long sailing trip along the Turkish coastline with MedSailors, and already I’ve lost track of what day it is, what time it is, and heck, even where we currently are on the map.
What I do know, however, is that somewhere between the lazy days on board, being rocked to sleep by gentle waves, the deliciously long lunches with our boat-mates, and the multiple ocean swims each day, I’ve decided that the sailing life is absolutely, unequivocally, 100% definitely for me.
No one is more surprised by that revelation than me.
See, for the longest time, both Mark and I had naively considered sailing holidays as ‘not really our jam’. In fact, to us they’d fallen squarely into two categories:
A party holiday for 20-somethings; each evening disappearing in a haze of cheap alcohol and questionable decisions, each day marred by a thumping hangover. While we obviously don’t look a day over 21 - right guys?! - our days of heavy drinking are definitely behind us (and the thought of recovering from the night before while being rocked on a boat had always filled us with horror).
Worse, sailing was something we’d do in our ‘Golden Years’; that sweet time in your life when you can comfortably pull off those fancy-looking boat shoes, chinos and nautical stripes. We’d pictured sailing off towards the horizon with a boat full of expensive champagne and a bunch of equally golden-age friends, seeking ‘adventure’ mixed with a comfort that our years befit.
If there was a middle-ground (or water), we definitely hadn’t found one that felt like a good fit for us yet - until the legends at MedSailors reached out to see if we wanted to experience the Med on board one of their sailing boats and our curiosity was piqued.
For a start, they’re interested in getting beyond a destination’s nightlife and actually discovering what makes a place really tick. Their itineraries promised an adventurous week of exploring secret bays as well as the best-loved spots, kind of like a cultural overland trip - except by sea.
But the real clincher for us was finding out that they actually take the time to match every single guest with other like-minded, similar-aged travellers on board. Keen to chill? They’ll put you with a relaxed crew who have the same travel style. Likewise, if you want to tear up the dance-floor each night, there’s a fair chance all your boat mates will have the same aim too.
It's not just sales jargon either – we knew the minute we boarded our yacht and met our awesome boat-mates that it had been a great match, and we were in for an awesome week of chilled out fun and lots of laughs. The number of Aperol Spritzes (it ain’t a week on a boat in the Med unless it involves Aperol every day!) and inside jokes shared with them all by the end of the week is a true testament to that!
While MedSailors run tours all over the Med and the Caribbean, it was their Turkish coastline tour that first caught our eye. We already knew sailing the Greek islands would be beautiful, Italy delicious, and the Caribbean utter paradise, but we were craving something a little unusual. A place we hadn’t already seen all over social media yet, and experiences we felt we could still be surprised by.
Still, we’d had no idea, when we’d arrived at the Göcek marina a few days earlier to the fluttering blue flags of our 5-boat strong MedSailors flotilla, that we were about to sail into the most enjoyable and memorable week of our entire year.
Firstly, the whole coastline is stunning beyond belief, like one overly dramatic travel cliché after the other. Crystal blue waters, charming terracotta-roofed mediterranean villages, sunshiny days and deliciously moreish cuisine - it’s genuinely impossible to describe without using too many adjectives and coming off like an old-school travel brochure.
The Turkish coastline is also yet to suffer the overcrowding that much of the rest of the Med faces; boats glide through the waters each day with intrepid guests aboard - but the towns and bays aren’t overrun by poorly-behaved tourists or tacky souvenir shops. Quiet cobbled laneways lead us to more ancient Greek ruin sites than in Greece, many lying totally empty during the day, sparkling beaches and family-run tavernas and shops offer an authentic insight to Turkish life and hospitality.
Turkish custom says that a stranger at one’s doorstep is considered “God’s guest'“, and between the genuine interest in who we are and where we’ve come from and some of the warmest smiles we’ve seen we’re constantly blown away by their kind hospitality.
There’s the shopkeeper from whom we purchase a few Turkish towels, who excitedly offers us sweet tea and sits us down to go through a coffee table book of photos from his home region. The ‘pancake lady’ who pulls alongside our boat one morning, cooking buttery and fresh Gozleme for our boat with a wide smile, and the many, many locals who stop to ask, with genuine concern, ask us if we’re having a happy time in their country.
But the best part, by far, was our (not-so) little yacht, Double Vies, and everything that accompanied her. Our home for the week had everything we needed, a surprisingly roomy double-bed cabin and a shared bathroom, a communal living area and kitchen, huge hangout spaces at either end of the boat, and our legendary, multi-talented Skipper, Hector (who also makes the best cheesy garlic bread you will ever eat in your life).
Each day started and ended the same way; waking up to the gentle rocking of the waves as we set sail for a new day, the smell of ocean mingling with fresh coffee and whatever tasty morsels Hector had prepared for breakfast. To call him a wizard would be an understatement, the things he’s able to whip up in a tiny kitchen - while also keeping us afloat and on course - will forever have us and our tastebuds in awe!
Mornings are lazy, made for lounging around the deck reading, napping, or chatting with our boat mates until we pull into the kind of dazzling blue coves you really can only dream of. The anchor’s dropped, and we impatiently wait for Hector’s okay to dive in with our inflatable unicorns and paddle boards, snorkel masks and go-pros at the ready to capture our underwater fun.
These crisp morning swims when the whole world feels quiet and still are my favourite, and they become somewhat of a daily ritual. With barely another boat in sight yet, a calm sea, and almost no noise save for the buzz of insects on the shore, it always feels like we’re the very first explorers to lay eyes on this naturally stunning patch of the world.
Around noon, the scent of Hector’s cooking wafts towards us and we clamber back on board for a feast before weighing anchor again and heading to the afternoon adventures.
Some days we regain our land-legs and head to shore for the extra activities, like wandering little fishing villages or hiking through bone-crunchingly icy gorges (we’re looking at you, Saklikent Gorge!). Other days we snorkel over the ancient underwater ruins of Cleopatra’s bathhouse, spot sea turtles in bays, hold paddleboard running contests, and flop about on our inflatables catching up with new friends from other boats.
By night, we explore markets in Fethiye, or enjoy Turkish casseroles and seafood grilled over open fires in fairy-lit rooftop restaurants. As the stars appear, Shisha pipes are passed around to those willing and toasts to new friends are made with ice-cold beers or shots of Raki, Turkey’s signature spirit. Best enjoyed by the sea, Raki is strong, aniseedy, and definitely not for the faint of heart (or liver) - but we raise our glasses to each other and call “serife” (cheers) all the same.
No two days aboard the Double Vies are the same, and somehow each is even better than the last.
In our final days, we’ll hike up before dawn to the ancient ruins of a Greek city above Fethiye with our new friend, Ryan (follow him at @lostboymemoirs!), and watch as sunlight creeps across the sprawling city below, dripping it with gold and crimson as the sea sparkles behind it. To say we feel in utter awe in that moment would be an understatement; of an already epic week, that sunrise adventure will forever be etched in our memories.
From Göcek to Kas, Kalkan to Fethiye; this part of Turkey is home to jaw-dropping scenery and a welcoming vibe that’s sometime rare to find in travel these days. Long after the salt’s been rinsed from our hair and our sailing tans have faded again, I have the feeling that this special time sailing through it all with MedSailors will stick with us both for a long time to come.
the medsailors sail turkey itinerary
The MedSailors Sail Turkey route is a 7 day sailing trip along the Turkish coastline on board your own yacht. Your breakfast and lunch is prepared fresh each day, and dinners are usually on shore at beach restaurants and traditional tavernas.
In 2019, the route will operate between May - June, and September - October. We highly recommend mid-May and mid-September, when temperatures are still a beautiful 30c each day, but the nights are infinitely cooler than the summer months.
The week starts and ends at Göcek harbour, and takes in a number of key stops along the coastline, including: Fethiye, Kalkan, Kas, the pristine 12km Patara beach, and many more.
You can check out the full trip itinerary on the MedSailors website here.
how to get to Turkey’s Turquoise coast
We’d absolutely recommend spending the night before your trip in Göcek to give you some extra breathing space (and relaxation time!) to organise your snacks + drinks for the week ahead with plenty of time.
*Taxi prices used to be around £22 from Dalaman to Göcek, but recent drops in the Lira meant that ours was actually closer to £11 - so its worth keeping an eye on your exchange rate!
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DISCLAIMER: We were hosted by MedSailors on their Sail Turkey itinerary. A big thank you to the team for making our trip memorable. As always, all views are our own.