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The Mediterranean coast of the fascinating country of Turkey – the point where west meets east, Europe meets Asia, and hence offering a heady mixture of both – is a great spot for family holidays: it offers loads of great child-friendly beaches and ideal waters for sailing but also charming inland villages that haven’t changed in donkey’s years, and more Greek ruins than there are in Greece itself! The Mediterranean province of Antalya in the southwest (part of the Aegean province of Mugla) is the heartland of ancient Lycia, which thrived in the 4th century BC.
As everywhere in the country, kids are welcomed and spoilt rotten by locals in southern Turkey, and you’ll feel even more at home if you join in with one of the many local festivals that take place year-round. And Turkey remains outside the Eurozone, making it one of the best-value family holiday options around.
Marvel at the sunken city of Kekova, on a small island and preserved by salt-water after being partially submerged during successive earthquakes. Adults and older kids can canoe over parts of it, or you can dock in a boat and explore the remains of a church, shops, houses, staircases and more.
Hop from Kekova to the pretty, jasmine-scented seaside resort of Kas, relatively unspoilt and offering tranquil cafés, bars and guesthouses. This is one of Turkey’s best sites for diving, with courses for ages 13+ offered by the likes of Nautilus. As well as dramatic dive sites (including shipwrecks), there’s a wealth of sealife to encounter, from octopus to dolphins.
Seek out the number of ruined Lycian cities in this area – Pinara, Myra and Xanthos. Or, if the ancient sites are too exhausting a prospect for family holidays, this is a region of rocky inlets, turquoise seas and pretty harbourfront towns – an ideal way of exploring them is by gulët, traditional wooden yachts.
Spend time in the provincial capital of Antalya, an elegant town with a seaside setting and a dramatic mountain backdrop. Its boulevards are lined with palm trees, and it is famous for its shops and parks. It is also a good base for exploring a number of classical sites: Termessos, Perge and Aspendos.
Venture further down the coast to the picturesque resort of Side, where ancient remains are interspersed among traditional village streets. In this region to the east of Antalya, the Mediterranean coast becomes considerably less developed, and the ambience becomes much more Middle Eastern.
The food in southern Turkey is like other Turkish cuisine, but with an even greater emphasis on fresh local produce, fish and olive oil – in short, healthy, tasty and great for family holidays! In larger towns, international staples can be found on many menus.
The Mediterranean coast has mild winters and hot summers – you can swim from late April into October, so southern Turkey is a good destination for family holidays in the May and even the October half-terms if you’re lucky. Avoid high summer, especially July and August, if you don’t fancy the crowds or the temperatures (up to 45°C).
There’s an international airport at Antalya. The frequent flights from the UK – taking about 4hrs – are increased by charter flights during high season.
You’re also within relatively easy reach of the international airport at Dalaman on the Aegean coast.
Turkey remains one of the cheaper destinations in Europe because it’s outside the Eurozone. Count on a spend of £2000–4000 for one-week family holidays for 4, depending on the time of year and standard of accommodation.By Liz Wyse
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