You are relaxing on the polished wooden deck of your own private boat in a beautiful secluded cove on the Aegean Sea. Lush vegetation and exotic flowers tumble down the rocks to the edge of the clear turquoise water.
It sounds like a holiday fantasy – but with a gulet charter in Turkey it can easily come true.
The country of Turkey has gradually become famous as a tourist destination for more discerning visitors – those looking for a serious opportunity to enjoy history, great food and wonderful natural beauty. Turkey offers some of the Mediterranean’s most celebrated ancient remains, great sandy beaches and a chance to experience its own unique mix of the cultures of the east and west.
Travelling on a charter boat means you can enjoy the country’s magnificent coastline – whether you’re quietly relaxing at a quiet mooring in a remote cove or tied up alongside a busy ancient harbour surrounded by buzzing restaurants, vibrant bars and lively party spots.
As it’s such a renowned sailing destination you can find all sorts of boat charters around the Turkish coast. Expect leading charter operators like Borrowaboat to have a huge range of vessels, from very affordable bareboat yachts to fully crewed luxury motor cruisers.
At the time of writing, Borrowaboat has more than 800 different vessels available for charter around the coast of Turkey. This means you have a huge choice of different boats to suit any budget or party size.
Like Borrowaboat many operators offer one-way charters, meaning you can travel further without having to double-back to your starting point. You simply agree to collect the boat at one port and sail to another, where you leave it.
Others offer flotilla holidays. This means you can have the private challenge and thrill of sailing your own boat –but at the same time let the lead boat deal with all the problems of navigation and bureaucracy.
Whatever type of boat you choose, exploring the Turkish coast is easy: there are hundreds of harbours and usually great sailing winds. The anchorages are safe, sheltered and very affordable.
There may be modern catamarans, sailing and motor yachts available for charter – but for many visitors the only way to explore Turkey’s glorious coastline is on a traditional gulet cruise.
A gullet is a traditional sailing boat, made of wood and usually with both sail and diesel motor power available. They originated in the port of Bodrum as a way of helping tourists see parts of the coast only accessible from the sea.
Gulets were adaptations of the local Aegean fishing boats – with the fish holds converted to guest berths and desks cleared for sunbathing and dining.
This means that the classic gullet is a handsome boat with a raised brow and a broad flat stern. There are two masts and a broad beam to allow plenty of space on deck and generous cabins below.
You can take day trips on gulets from the major Aegean resorts like Bodrum and Mamaris. These often ferry visitors to see the fantastic sights of the area, like the ancient city of Ephesus and the Lycian tombs in the cliffs at Dalyan.
Chartering a gullet for a holiday takes the adventure even further. You can hire a boat with a skipper to handle the navigation or with a full crew to take care of everything from cooking to cleaning.
But which are the best areas to take a gulet charter in Turkey?
• The Lycian Coast is based around the charter hub of Gocek. Highlights around here include the popular holiday destination of Fethiye Bay.
Dalyan offers the chance to see the ancient carvings in the riverside cliffs, take natural spa mud-baths and feed the local loggerhead turtles.
On a one-way charter booking you could collect a boat in Gocek and sail all the way to the resort of Marmaris.
Gocek makes a great start point because Dalaman Airport is so close by, offering direct flights to the UK and other European destinations. You can also start your charter in Fethiye, a popular tourist town with plenty of shops, hotels and attractions.
Marmaris is another possible charter collection point. It’s a bigger busier tourist hub with all the nightlife and facilities available.
• The Carian Coast is sometimes called the Turkish Riviera. It lies between the two major tourist honeypots, Marmaris and Bodrum.
But it’s not all buzzing. There are plenty of very quiet one-restaurant bays between them – and a fabulous chance to enjoy traditional Turkish cuisine in a relaxed quiet spot.
Start a Carian charter in either Marmaris or Bodrum – although the latter is the home of the traditional gullet.
Between the two resorts, boats are also available in the quieter port of Orhaniye.
• The Marmara Sea near Istanbul offers a different vision of Turkey. It’s a chance to sail between the west and east, between the ancient Greek and Ottoman world right through in to the Black Sea and the modern Russian empire.
Some of the waters around here are among the world’s busiest but it’s a chance to visit both Europe and Asia in the same journey.
You can collect your boat in Istanbul, a huge city that offers all sorts of exotic sights and adventures. It offers several days sightseeing at one of the world’s great cultural crossroads.
• List of the best places/beaches to visit via charter in Turkey
o Ölüdeniz Lagoon