The Aegean coast of Turkey is a typical Mediterranean place- with olive and pine trees, ancient history and ruins, a complex coastline with nearby islands, and Mediterranean culture. There are a lot of famous destinations and tourist attractions on this coast, but if you look at something more off-the-beaten-path and less known, you can find such places. One of them is Alaçatı (Alacati)- a small colorful coastal town, full of flowers, with strong Greek influence, although located in Turkey. Let’s go visit, explore and enjoy Alaçatı, getting the best impressions of it!
Let’s first look at the map of Turkey and focus on its Aegean coast. Here, in the middle, you can see a small peninsula in a complex shape stretching deep westward into the sea. Its western part is divided into two other “sub-peninsulas”. The whole peninsula is called Karaburun, and its westernmost “sub-peninsula”- Çeşme.
And here, near the westernmost tip of Karaburun, you can find this gem- the small town of Alaçatı. What does it look like? White stone houses, narrow streets, flowers everywhere, cozy restaurants, souvenir shops, a lot of art…how does it sound?
Add to this the typical Mediterranean vibe, that can be felt almost everywhere around this part of the world. At the same time, it is in Turkey, making it a unique cultural mixture- one of the most traditional towns in the country.
But before we dive into the atmosphere of Alaçatı, let’s first dive shortly into its history.
History of Alaçatı
First, Alaçatı is located in an area with a long history, full of ancient ruins. Not far from it are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and many other cities that flourished during antiquity. During most time of its history, the whole area around Alaçatı has been always inhabited by Greeks. So, the Greek culture has been always dominant here, even until today, when the local population is Turkish.
Karaburun Peninsula in ancient times
The whole peninsula of Karaburun has been a part of various kingdoms and empires. During the Bronze Age, it was under the rule of local Greek and Anatolian kingdoms, partly including the Kingdom of the Hittites.
After the Bronze Age Collapse, the Dark Ages began (in the 12th century BC), bringing a lot of chaos and destruction. But only 1-2 centuries later, the civilization back to these places again. And in the 7th century BC, the Karaburun peninsula became a part of the Ionian League with its main city of Erythrae- at the western front of the Kingdom of Lydia and the Persian Empire.
Then, in 334 BC, the peninsula became a part of the Macedonian Empire, and later- a part of the Pergamene Kingdom- until 133 BC. From that moment on, it has been a part of the Roman Empire and its eastern inheritor- the Byzantine Empire. Many new Greek towns and villages appeared during that long period- until the 11th century AD, and one of them was Alaçatı, at that time still called Alatzata.
Alaçatı during the Medieval and Ottoman times
The first Turkish people came to Karaburun Peninsula in the 11th century AD. They were the Seljuks. At the same time, the age of the Crusaders began too. This led to numerous wars that lasted until the 15th century. The Ottomans came in the 14th century and the peninsula became firmly a part of the Ottoman Empire around 1425.
Nobody can say for sure when Alatzata, called Alaçatı in Turkish (the name obviously came from the Turkish pronunciation of Alatzata) became a town. It happened sometime between the 14th and 17th centuries, and this town was Greek. The locals built those beautiful white stone houses that can be seen today, and in general, the main industry of the town was fishing.
The end of the Ottoman Empire and modern times
A drastic change happened after World War I. The peacefully living Greeks were involved in the Greco-Turkish War that followed. After the initial Greek success (the so-called Greek Administration of Smyrna from 1919 to 1922), the Greek army retreated and the Greek population started leaving the area.
This emigration was accomplished by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. According to the treaty, there was a massive population exchange between Greece and the newborn Republic of Turkey. The Greek population left Alaçatı completely and was replaced by Turkish Muslim people who settled in the white stone houses of the town.
At least, the peace came. And in recent times, tourism also came to Alaçatı. The local citizens evaluated the beautiful architecture and turned it into a tourist attraction. They opened boutique hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops, and decorated the town with art and flowers. They also developed the area, along with the nearby town of Çeşme into a resort zone, full of modern resorts, hotels, campsites, a yacht marina, and more.
Our trip to Alaçatı
All of the above was the reason why we included Alaçatı as a part of our Western Turkey itinerary. Karaburun Peninsula is full of beautiful and interesting places to visit and enjoy. We couldn’t visit everything, and we had to choose at least one of these places. And Alaçatı was our choice.
We came by car from İzmir, after exploring the city and its ancient Agora of Smyrna. Then, we just stopped the car at the town of Alaçatı, not far from the center, and walked around its cozy streets. Read further about what we did in the town and what more we could do if we had more time.
What to do in Alaçatı
In general, while you plan your Alaçatı itinerary, you can divide it into two parts- to explore the town and the best it offers, and to visit the best of the nearby places.
Explore the town of Alaçatı
Alaçatı is a small town. You can walk around the whole town on foot, and enjoy its beauty. And this is what you can do there:
Roam around the old streets
Alaçatı is one of those towns where the whole center is a place to visit, not just one point at one address. So, even if you don’t aim at a specific point and specific activity, just roaming around the streets of Alaçatı is already a must when you go there.
This town is like a museum. It has its own special image- white color with flowers, a strong Greek vibe. And this is only the background. On it, you can see a lot of art- shapes, colors, designs, and again- flowers. Flowers everywhere!
So, roaming around Alaçatı is your basic activity there, even if you don’t do anything else. Then, you can add to your walk something more, like the additional activities below.
Have lunch or drink some coffee
While you walk around the streets, choose one of the local restaurants or cafes. Do it not just for eating and drinking. You can eat and drink everywhere, but here in Alaçatı, you can add to your meal or drink the local vibe. It is like a special fragrant spice- to eat or drink among art, traditions, and history. Try it!
Shop local souvenirs
Every tourist place in Turkey is full of souvenir shops or stalls. But the souvenirs can be different for the specific destination. The same is true for Alaçatı.
So, if you like souvenirs, why don’t you buy some while walking around the streets of the town? You can find them everywhere on the main streets- cups, plates, wooden or metal works, and many more.
And you can also notice that there are windmill figures or images on many souvenirs. Why is this? Because windmills are one of the main Alaçatı symbols. This is the unique feature of Alaçatı souvenirs. And while you buy them, why don’t you go and see the real windmills?
See the town from the windmills
Four windmills were raised on a small hill near the center of Alaçatı. They were built in the middle of the 19th century, to use the fresh breeze from the nearby Aegean Sea.
Now they are not functioning. They were gradually decaying, but in recent years were restored to become the most notorious symbol of Alaçatı. And one of them is even turned into a restaurant.
The windmills of Alaçatı are just 5 min walk from the central market street. You just have to ascend to the top of the nearby hill. And when you go there, you can see the town from above, taking photos of the windmills and the panorama around.
Dive into the art
Let’s back to the streets of Alaçatı. While you walk around, you can add something more. This is the local art. Alaçatı is a great place for art, and the locals have enriched the town with art that can be seen in houses, cafes, and even some galleries.
So, you can dive into the local art in some café or a gallery. The best gallery in Alaçatı is Kirli Ciki Sanat Galerisi. Here you can see modern art. And you can do it while you drink some coffee.
Enjoy the nights in Alaçatı
Finally, you can do all of the above but in the evening. At that time it has a different vibe. Everything looks differently colored and strewed with lights. In addition, you can hear a lot of music, you can feel the parties around while you smell the fragrance of meals, flowers, and the nearby sea.
And when your evening walk ends, if you have arranged your night in Alaçatı, in one of the authentic guesthouses or boutique hotels, you can feel like you are lost somewhere in time, in another world, or a fairy tale.
This is the town of Alaçatı. But if you stay more in this area, use the opportunity to visit the nearby places of interest.
There are a lot of things to do and places to see around Alaçatı. But let’s start with the obvious one- Çeşme.
Çeşme is the “big brother” of Alaçatı and the administrative center of the area. Unlike Alaçatı, Çeşme is located exactly at the seacoast (while Alaçatı is about a few kilometers far from the coast).
Çeşme is a resort town. Here you can also see some white stone houses with flowers, but not like in Alaçatı. Anyway, you can still feel the vacation atmosphere, especially in summer. The town is a good place for relaxation and a starting point for enjoying the seacoast- going to the beach or windsurfing.
But apart from this, Çeşme also has some history. And this can enrich your experience in this beautiful area. The first place to explore history is Çeşme Castle.
Go to Çeşme Castle
This is the main landmark of Çeşme. The castle is built in 1508 by the Ottoman Sultan Bayezit II to protect the town from the Venetian raids. It has been attacked during the war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in 1770. Later, it lost its military function, and in the 20th century, it was restored.
Today, it is located almost in the center of Çeşme and contains a small museum with historical and archaeological artifacts. To explore it well, you have to plan for about 2 hours. Entrance fee: 60 TL.
This castle brings you to the late Medieval times. But if you want to go further back in time, you have to visit the ruins of the ancient Erythrai city.
Explore the ancient Erythrai
This has been one of the 12 Ionian cities during the 1st millennium BC. It contained the typical Hellenistic and Roman constructions like Agora and an ancient theater. The city passed through blooms and decays but was never fully abandoned. Even today, its ruins are located almost in the urban area of Ildiri.
Erythrai is located about 17 km northeast of Alaçatı and 25 km from Çeşme. There is no entrance fee, and the site is not developed for tourism. So, to visit it and make a trip in time to the ancient past, you have to be a bit adventurous.
We can’t say everything about Alaçatı without mentioning windsurfing. It may sound a bit weird (Alaçatı is not located near the big ocean), but the conditions around the town have created a perfect environment for windsurfing, kite surfing, and other sports related to wind and water. There are constant and stable winds, great for these water sports.
As a result, Alaçatı became also known as the “Windsurfing Capital” of Turkey, and the third-best windsurfing destination in the world!
The main windsurfing spot is located on the southern coast of the Karaburun Peninsula, where Port Alaçatı Marina is located. There is a small resort here, with water sports centers, and clubs, as well as hotels, restaurants, and more.
Play on the Beach of Cleopatra
Of course, we have to mention the seacoast. The coastline of the Karaburun Peninsula is complex, full of promontories and bays. Most of it is rocky and cliffy, but there are also a lot of small beaches, located in the bays.
Among them, I would mention Delikli Beach, Altinkum Beach, Ilica Beach, Ardic Beach, and more. But the most beautiful of them is Cleopatra Beach, called also Güvercinlik Koyu. It is located in a small bay open to the south. And the bay is limited to the east by high cliffs that descend directly into the sea.
There are also some small arcs and tunnels in the rock, making it not only beautiful but also an interesting place to visit. And the whole bay with the beach and the cliffs is stunning, especially if you look at it from the high coast above.
So, how to explore this beautiful gem? Needless to say, this is a touristy place, and everything is well-developed for travelers.
The best starting point for traveling to Alaçatı is İzmir. You can also come from Kuşadası. There are also direct buses from Istanbul to Çeşme, and they stop in Alaçatı.
However, a better way is to reach Alaçatı by car. There is a good 72 km long highway, connecting İzmir with Çeşme, with an exit for Alaçatı. You just have to buy your toll sticker from a PPT station, stick it on your front window and pass through the exit toll of the highway. It will automatically charge you 25 TL.
But if you want to avoid the highway and its toll, there are smaller roads from İzmir and Kuşadası leading to Çeşme and passing through Alaçatı.
Reaching Alaçatı from Greece
Another way to reach Alaçatı is from the Greek island of Chios. The island is located just in front of the westernmost tip of the Karaburun Peninsula, and there are two daily ferries from Chios to Çeşme. They travel for about an hour and the price is 25 EUR for one way.
Once you arrive in Alaçatı, park your car and start exploring it. The central (and the best) streets of the town are pedestrian, so you can only walk there. But you will need your car to go out of Alaçatı, to the nearby points of interest- Çeşme, Erythrai, Cleopatra Beach, or Alaçatı Port Marina.
Anyway, if you don’t come to Alaçatı by car but by bus, you can visit the nearby places by local public bus (dolmus) or by taxi.
There are a lot of hotels in Alaçatı and around. Most of them are small, boutique hotels, quite luxurious. Some of them are modern, resort-type of properties, but there are also hotels in the old traditional stone houses of the town. As you can expect, all of these hotels are quite expensive- something between 80 and 300 USD per night.
So, if you decide to stay in such a hotel, we would advise you to choose an old-house hotel. At least, you would pay not just for spending the night, but also to feel the old traditional atmosphere of the town.
A better option can be Airbnb. The Airbnb properties are slightly cheaper than the hotels, and many of them are arranged in old-stone architecture houses. Actually, staying in such a place can give you a closer impression of Alaçatı at night.
But if you really want to spend the night as cheaply as possible, you can go camping. There are several campsites at the seacoast, north, and south of Alaçatı, like Çeşme Elit, Çeşme Altinkum, and more. Finally, you can even go wild camping- it is technically allowed.
So, if you want to explore Alaçatı, you would need a minimum of 3-4 hours, at least to roam around its old streets and visit its windmills, because this is the most essential activity there. That’s what we did, and we can say that we got the necessary impression from the town.
But if you want to get deeper and explore it fully, enjoying all the activities described above, you would need at least three days and two nights for that. On the first day, you can just enjoy the town of Alaçatı, during the day and the colorful evening. On the second day, you can visit Çeşme and even Erythrai (meanwhile, you can enjoy the beach in Ilica, if you come between May and November).
And on the last day, you can go to the southern coast of Karaburun Peninsula, and enjoy the Cleopatra and other beaches. Finally, of course, if you are a windsurfer, you must try it at Alaçatı Port Marina.
After we explored Alaçatı for about 2-3 hours, we tried one of the other activities out of the town. We enjoyed Cleopatra Beach. From there, we left Karaburun Peninsula on our way further to the next destination of our itinerary- Kuşadası and the ancient city of Ephesus. And Alaçatı left an impression on us as one of the most beautiful towns that we visited in Western Turkey.
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Hi, we are Krasen and Ying Ying. Krasen is from Bulgaria, and Ying Ying is from China. We are passionate about geography and history, and we believe that the best way to experience it is by exploring the Earth in reality, not in a school, and not virtually.
So, we created this blog Journey Beyond the Horizon, where we share geographical knowledge, travel guides and tips how to experience it when you explore our planet, and a lot of inspiration.
And we wish you a happy journey, not just virtually, but most of all- in reality.