Forget Turkey's teeming resorts. Here are 10 crowd-free beaches, from hidden bays to pristine secluded coves. If a summer holiday in Turkey makes you think of crowded beaches and heaving resorts, think again.
Scattered among the mountainous peninsulas lie hidden arcs of sand, pretty shingle bays and unspoilt villages with simple restaurants opening out on to the beach. Most can only be reached by car or boat, meaning they are rarely busy, even in the height of summer.
Tucked away on the Datça peninsula, Ovabükü is the prettiest in a chain of three bays, along with Hayitbuku and Kızılbük. The beach is a relatively small stretch of creamy shingle, backed by a cluster of small restaurants and pensions, while the countryside around has a lush beauty; pine forests mixed with oak, myrtle and carob trees. It's not the beach itself that makes this such a fantastic find, it's the whole package: peace, authenticity and a real sense of escape.
2. Butterfly Valley
Spectacularly situated between two towering cliffs, Butterfly valley stretches out in a v-shape, ending in a sweep of pristine beach. Most visitors access the beach by boat from Ölüdeniz or Fethiye, but for adventurous trekkers there is a rocky path that leads down from the road (around 40 mins down and an hour back up). There is no electricity, roads or buildings in the valley but camping is allowed and there are shelters in the trees. Alternatively, stay in the peaceful hamlet of Faralya and gaze down to the beach, hundreds of feet below.
Hidden between the resorts of Turunc and Kumlubuk on the Bozburun peninsula, Amos is a small cove tucked between two headlands. It's a bit rough and ready and the pebbles are scattered with ancient wooden loungers, but there is an unspoilt beauty that makes a stark contrast to the bling and bright lights of Marmaris, which lies across the bay. Amos was once a sizeable Roman settlement and there are some remains, including a small amphitheatre with breathtaking views. Better still, there's an excellent restaurant right on the beach, serving up fresh fish and meze.
It's hard to believe that Gemiler lies just a short way away from the heavily overpopulated Ölüdeniz beach; it's rarely crowded and reached by boat or bus ride from Hisaronu, through the fertile Kaya valley, past tobacco and wheat fields and out to the very tip of the Fethiye peninsula. Surrounded by pine and olive trees, the beach looks across to St Nicholas Island, and there are a couple of good restaurants serving up fresh meze and cold Efes beers.
Olympos beach, famed for its treehouse accommodation, has been on the backpacker trail for years, but neighbouring Çıralı has managed to avoid the same level of development. The 3km sweep of beach is a protected area, thanks to the loggerhead turtles who clamber out of the sea to nest on the sand. Flanked by two huge mountains, the whole area around Çıralı is dramatically beautiful, while the village behind offers simple restaurants and pensions, with a pleasingly hippyish atmosphere.
6. Kaputaş Beach
On the breathtaking road between Kalkan and Kas, the beach at Kaputaş is formed by a gorge that opens out into a stretch of sand. The long flight of steps down from the road means there are no facilities on the beach, so take water and a parasol if you're planning to stay a while. It's a popular beach with locals, which gives it a very different feel to many of Turkey's more accessible stretches of coastline. Dolmuses (minibuses) between Kalkan and Kaş stop off at Patara, and if you go on a windy day there are fabulous waves.
7. Hisarönü Bay
Not to be confused with the neon-lit nightmare resort above Ölüdeniz, Hisarönü Bay has two small beaches that look out towards the Datca peninsula. Behind the beach lies the kind of resort that feels like Turkey 20 years ago; a clutch of restaurants and simple pensions dotted along quiet country lanes. The beaches are popular with windsurfers as there's a permanent breeze and if you fancy a change of scene, the equally unspoilt beaches at Selimiye and Orhaniye are a short dolmus-ride away.
Lying mid-way along the Bodrum peninsula, Ortakent is not exactly a secret, but its delightful beach, backed by market gardens and the agreeable quiet bustle of a rural village. Ortakent is a great option for a family holiday with older kids in tow, as the beach offers a range of watersports, from wake-boarding to kayaking and sailing. The Bodrum peninsula is scattered with picturesque coves and bays and a self-hire boat is the ideal way to find your very own hidden beach.
Avoid Günlüklü on the weekends, as locals flock to this stretch of beach, to camp and watch the sunset over campfires and barbecues. On weekdays, however, it remains peaceful – hidden down a long track from the Fethiye-Göcek road, surrounded by pine forests and sweet gum trees. Günlüklü is an ideal option if you want a feeling of total escape, with the option of a bit of a bustle if you feel like a night out or shopping spree – Fethiye is just a short drive away.
10. Kabak, Faralya
If you're staying in Faralya but the trek down (or boat trip across) to the beach at Butterfly Valley seems a little like hard work, head instead for Kabak – a totally unspoilt stretch of shingle beach that is surrounded on three sides by lush pine forest. There is nothing on the beach, and only a few secluded campsites behind it; if you're looking for a back-to-basics beach experience this is the perfect spot. Visit at night and the lights of Ölüdeniz twinkle across the bay; 15 minutes' drive and a whole world away.