As many countries impose new restrictions due to rising COVID-19 cases, you may feel the need to have a relaxing, yet somehow COVID-19-safe, vacation to rest your mind after being locked indoors for months.
The hard part is deciding where you want to spend your much-awaited holiday and making sure you will be safe there.
While there are plenty of places around the globe that can easily satisfy any visitor, they are likely to be filled with tourists and that might make you feel uncomfortable as a seemingly never-ending pandemic lingers on.
When busy cities and crowded metropolises grow overwhelming, slow cities may be the perfect answer to this conundrum. And in Turkey, there are many slow cities, most of which are in the picturesque Aegean region, that offer a calm and peaceful vacation experience.
Located on the Aegean coast, Köyceğiz is the definition of peace and quiet. Despite being a district of southwestern Muğla province, which is one of Turkey's main tourist destinations, especially in the summer season, Köyceğiz manages to remain hidden.
Surrounded by high mountain ranges in the north and northeast, little Köyceğiz has managed to protect its serene lifestyle and historical architecture that reflect the rare small-town feel of the Aegean region.
Instead of dancing until the wee hours of the morning at a beach party, you can go on a relaxing boat ride on Lake Köyceğiz or chill by the sandy shore and enjoy the outstanding view. As the town banned the use of coal for heating many years ago, its clean and fresh air and untouched nature will not leave you feeling indifferent.
For those who can’t imagine a summer vacation without going to the beach, Köyceğiz offers a nice coastline in Ekincik village as well.
In addition to its beautiful natural sights, Köyceğiz is home to many civilizations, some dating back to 3,400 B.C. You can visit the ruins of the ancient city of Kaunos to see traces of some of the first people to have lived in Anatolia. In a glimpse, you can spot traces of Persians, Assyrians, Carians, Ottomans and many more.
One of the most peaceful, natural and historical towns, Seferihisar is a coastal district of Izmir and another calm vacation spot on Turkey’s Aegean coast.
People go to Seferihisar to enjoy its delicious local food or drive to the nearest beach, enjoy a quick dip in the cool waters of the Aegean or spend the night at a village in a house-turned-motel.
For history lovers, Seferihisar offers some unique attractions too, with its 4,000-year-old settlement named Teos, an ancient city believed to be originally founded around 2,000 B.C. by Cretans. The ancient city was one of the 12 cities that formed the Ionian League, a confederation of 12 Greek city-states. The ruins of Teos are expected to be open to visitors in the Sığacık neighborhood this summer.
Located in Turkey’s Muğla province, just a two-hour drive from Marmaris, the town of Akyaka is the perfect place for those in search of complete peace while enjoying the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean.
You will be able to enjoy sandy beaches and take a stroll in a beautiful pine forest without disturbing people, or annoying music blasting in your ears. With its red-roofed wooden houses, flower gardens and motorized fishing boats, Akyaka offers you plenty of opportunities for selfies and photos.
It's not just peace that Akyaka offers though, as the small town is also perfect for adrenaline-seekers with its 3-kilometer (1.86 miles) surfing course, sandy shallow waters and constant thermal winds, which make the city a favorite destination for surfers.
Located at a special spot where the Gulf of Saros and the Dardanelles Strait meet in the Aegean Sea in northwestern Çanakkale province, Gökçeada is Turkey’s biggest and, arguably, most beautiful island. Once you arrive at the island, make sure to spend a few nights, chat with the locals, have some local food and soak up the sun as well as the island’s rich history as much as you can. Locals mix the island’s former Greek cuisine with Turkish and Mediterranean cuisines, making a fine mixture for your palate.
If you visit Gökçeada in the summer, you can sunbathe on the beaches of Kefalos and Aydıncık, located on the southern part of the island, or enjoy a mud bath in the salt lake adjacent to the beaches.
The island is also popular with surfing enthusiasts. Thanks to its prime location, you can surf almost 24/7 on the island. Surfing schools on Gökçeada are generally open at the beginning of April and close at the end of October.
Although most slow cities in Turkey are located on the Aegean coast, there are few others that are scattered across the country. In the north, the evergreen Black Sea region is also worth a visit.
One of the most popular slow cities in this region is Şavşat, which is known for its verdant landscape and clean air that you cannot easily find elsewhere in the world.
The town is also home to Karagöl, which means “Black Lake” in Turkish. The site, which is a protected nature park, is a perfect location for camping and pondering, and houses the historical Şavşat Castle nearby.
Şavşat is a rare sight in an increasingly modern world, offering visitors a chance for self-reflection, and the opportunity to appreciate the purity and beauty of nature. It is not close to a contemporary and lively summer vacation by any means, but it is most definitely worth a visit with its lifestyle, clear waters and pristine nature.