Antalya or Marmaris? Which Turkish Resort Should I Visit?

antalya or marmaris

If you’re planning a getaway to sun-splashed Turkey this year and it’s come down to Antalya or Marmaris, then you’ve come to the right place. This guide will separate the two ever-popular Turkish resorts on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, take a look at what sets them apart, and reveal what ties them together.

The good news is that we think you’re in for a pretty darn fantastic trip no matter the place you pick. Both these spots come surrounded by epic beaches with sparkling white pebbles, see-through Mediterranean waters that are wonderful for yachters and snorkelers alike, and buzzy strips of bars and mezze eateries. But they also have their own unique points of interest, so it’s worth weighing the two up before you press book.

Here, we’ll run through nine key aspects of both destinations. We’ll take a look at the sort of beaches you’ll encounter as you hop to the lovely Turquoise Coast and the Turkish Riviera, explore which destination is the pricier, and even reveal how easy it will be to get there in the first place. Let’s begin…

Antalya or Marmaris for atmosphere?

palm trees in Marmaris
Photo by Envato Elements

Antalya and Marmaris might look like they’d be pretty similar on paper – the towns are relatively close to each other on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, and both are known as major summertime getaways. But they’re actually rather different…

The first, Antalya, is a full-on city, with a history that goes back nearly 2,000 years. It’s got a historic core that was laid out in ancient times, a Roman harbor, and a heritage-rich array of buildings to match its age. That’s all bolstered by the fact that Antalya is very much lived in – it’s no out-and-out resort reserved for tourists in the summertime. Here, you’ll find locals thronging the eateries and shopping malls filled with more than beach volleyballs.

Marmaris is different in that it really rose to fame as a tourist hotspot. It’s home to just 30,000 people but draws in upwards of a quarter of a million when the summer gets into full flow. That should give you an idea of what it’s like between the shot bars and discos of Bar Street in mid-July! There is some history in the form of Marmaris Castle, and you can make the trip out to Ephesus, but really the town is about chasing the good vibes and the R&R. It’s a meeting place for yachters, summertime revelers, beach bums, and sunbathers.

Winner: Antalya – this one’s far more than just a summer resort.

Antalya or Marmaris for beaches?

woman on beach in Turkey
Photo by Envato Elements

Both Marmaris and Antalya are located in a part of the Turkish Riviera that’s known as the Turquoise Coast. The clue is in the name – expect uber-blue waters that ripple like a pool more than a sea. 

Of course, both towns have beaches, but we’d probably say that Marmaris just about tips it on the looks front thanks to a select few mega stunners. They include the likes of Cleopatra Beach, sat 10 miles from the center on its own island, complete with glimmering coastal lagoons. Then there’s Ciftlik Beach, a rugged bay nearly 20 miles away that’s got high cliffs falling to a pebbly shore. The beaches nearer to Marmaris’s downtown core suffer from overcrowding. Like, serious overcrowding. It’s hard to get past that when the hordes descend in the summer.

Antalya isn’t short on gorgeous bays of its own. However, you will need to be ready to travel a little to reach them. One of the closest to town but still jaw-dropping is Konyaalti Beach, which runs for several miles under the gaze of the rock-ribbed mountain ranges inland. Lara Beach is to the east, offering a little more action in the form of coastal clubs and bars on the sand. For something stranger, we’d recommend making the trip out to either Patara Beach, for Mars-like dune landscapes, or to Ölüdeniz in the west, for its gorgeous lagoon beach (it’s one of the most-photographed in Europe!).

Winner: Marmaris, but not so much for the main urban beaches, which always get busy.

Antalya or Marmaris for hotels?

Turkish hotel lobby
Photo by Envato Elements

Antalya offers two different sorts of hotels. The resort area to the east of town is known as Lara Beach. There, clusters of highly rated all-inclusive hotels are what draw the crowds. Visitors to those might never even leave the compound, but they also hardly need to – stays usually come with massive coast pools, open bars, full board, and more. Back in the city is where you can discover the more historic accommodation options, especially around the Roman harbor and in the old town. Some of the top overall options that we like are:

  • Royal Wings Hotel ($$-$$$) – A perfect example of the stylo all-inclusive hotels that wait over in Lara Beach, Royal Wings has multiple pools, its own waterpark, and even a pier jutting into the Med.
  • Laren Family Hotel & Spa – Boutique Class ($$) – Good for families and close to the main urban beaches, this one’s simply fantastic for exploring Antalya’s more historic side.
  • Zeynel Hotel ($$) – A more casual hotel that’s close to the remoter beaches on the south-west side of town.

Marmaris has no shortage of places to stay. When the booming crowds sail in come June, the top-rated sea-view hotels will fill up fast. That means booking early is key if you want to secure a place during the warmer months. As far as the hotels themselves go, there are some excellent midrange options that have suites with balconies, morning breakfast terraces under the sun, and on-site swimming pools. Capping that off is a handful of pretty luxurious resort hotels with the full five stars. Our picks would include:

  • Labranda Mares Marmaris Hotel ($$$) – A frontline hotel on the coast south of the main town, peacefully tucked away from the action and boasting epic views of the Med from its oversized lane pool.
  • Motto Premium Hotel&Spa ($$-$$$) – A modern hotel with indoor and outdoor pools.
  • 8 oDa Marmaris ($$-$$$) – A stylish boutique hotel in the Marmaris old town with terraces that overlook the bobbing yachts in the harbor.

Winner: Antlaya, because the resort hotels in Lara Beach are among some of the best all-inclusive options in Turkey.

Antalya or Marmaris for things to do?

Street in Antalya
Photo by Envato Elements

Let’s face it, there’s one main reason that people will look to this corner of Europe for their holiday: Sun. The good news is that you should get plenty of that no matter which destination you choose. Beaches to the west and east of both major resorts are excellent for soaking up the rays and getting that fix of vitamin sea.

However, Antalya does come with a rich historical center (known as the Kaleici) that’s ripe for wandering. Look one way and you’ll see an old Roman harbor. Look another and there’s a Turkish bazaar brimming with shisha pipes and oriental carpets. The city also happens to host the very fine Antalya Museum, which holds ancient relics from the surrounding region. There are more modern enjoyments, too. Take the TerraCity mall in Lara Beach, which is packed with high-street boutiques, or the family fun Aqualand, a full-on summertime water park for the whole crew.

Marmaris is a proudly in-your-face resort with a stretch of sun-soaked urban beaches that are every inch the sort of thing you’d expect of the Mediterranean. That means banana boats, jet skis, yacht charters, boat trips, booze cruises – you name it. When evening draws in, the promenade bars by the main sands get super lively, before the crowds head back into Bar Street to party until the early hours (more on the nightlife later, though). There’s a duo of water parks here, and the town reigns as a top base for day trips throughout the region – outings to Pamukkale (for bathing in natural springs) and ancient Ephesus (for 2,000-year-old ruins) are both musts if you ask us!

Winner: Marmaris.

Antalya or Marmaris for budget?

old town Antalya
Photo by Envato Elements

Travel price collator Hikersbay estimates that you need around 2,100 TRY ($250) for a week’s stay at a moderately priced hotel in Antalya. On top of that, you’ve got food expenses and drink costs. So, factor in that meals come in at around 75 TRY ($9) per head and the fact that a cold domestic beer at a bar will set you back 15 TRY ($1.70). Then, you’re looking at anything between 3,000-4,000 TRY on average for a seven-day holiday. Naturally, that will go up if you want to stay in an all-inclusive down in Lara Beach or do loads of day trips to nearby attractions.

Marmaris is far more seasonal than Antalya. That means prices tend to skyrocket in the summer months. They can be more than double in August than what they are in December. That cranks up the average cost of accommodation to around the 500 TRY/night ($59), so you’re already looking at spending around 3,500 TRY ($418) before you’ve even hit the venues of Bar Street for an all-nighter. Food can be cheaper, especially for families, as lots of places will offer free dining for younger patrons.

Winner: Antalya – especially in the peak of the summer.

Antalya or Marmaris for nightlife?

nightlife in Turkey
Photo by Envato Elements

Marmaris is the party hub of the Turkish Riviera. Things can get positively hedonistic here when the season is in full flow. Most people begin their session in the beach bars around Urban Beach, where rows of sunbeds spill right onto the sand (look out for the wallet-friendly happy hour deals on beers and cocktails). Then, the action shifts to Street 39 – also known affectionately as Bar Street. That’s ground zero for the laser-lit disco bars, the mega clubs, the DJ-spinning all-night venues. It’s mainly an 18-30s crowd with a few yachters thrown in for good measure, and the whole place stays wild until around October time.

Antalya isn’t dull when the sun has dipped. It’s a proper city, after all. That means you can pick from a whole host of different nighttime activities – Antalya State Opera and Ballet, anyone? For partying, the resort area around Lara Beach is a great place to begin, in the sand-side beach bars or in the chic bistros of the all-inclusive hotels. Then, hit the area that rings the old town. It’s packed with everything from British-themed pubs to sleek cocktail lounges, with just a slightly toned-down scene compared to Marmaris.

Winner: Marmaris.

Antalya or Marmaris for ease of travel?

Airport terminal at sunset
Photo by Envato Elements

Antalya Airport reigns as the third largest in Turkey. It’s a huge hub for travelers looking to reach the Mediterranean coast of the country, and there are all the flights to match – everyone from Russian Aeroflot to Qatar Airways to charter flier Smartwings head here on regular routes. Loads of the connections run in line with the main tourist season, so there are way more flights into Antalya between May and October. There are also long-distance coaches from Istanbul to Antalya and from Ankara to Antalya. There are no direct trains on offer.

Marmaris doesn’t have its own airport, but it is near enough to two other international airports at Dalaman and Bodrum for incoming passengers. They’re both less than 100 miles away (the transfer takes up to two hours in light traffic) and offer a combination of arrivals on low-cost carriers and full-on flag carriers, including BA, easyJet, Jet2, and others. You can also arrive at Marmaris by boat, coming across from Rhodes in Greece. That goes across an international border but takes around just 1.5 hours in all – a popular route for island hoppers keen to add in a bit of the Turkish coast.

Winner: Antalya, because it has its own airport.

Antalya or Marmaris for nature and adventure?

Marmaris scenic views
Photo by Feyza Dogan on Unsplash

It’s no secret that the main playground for adventurers heading to Marmaris is the sea. The Aegean starts right on the doorstep of the town, spreading south across a wide bay and washing the whole of the long, finger-thin Datça Peninsula that pokes westward. That Datça Peninsula is a haven for sailors. Hoist the ropes and you can glide from cove to cove from morning until night. On dry land, the peninsula also hosts sections of epic walking routes like the Carian Trail, which peak over dusty hills and showcase ancient windmills on high.

Antalya is really where it’s at for those looking to get out and about in nature, though. Soaring Tünektepe hill is right on the edge of the town. It’s 600+ meters high and has panoramas that will take the breath away – literally, as the hike up is challenging. Talking of hikes, Antalya is one terminus of the legendary Lycian Way, the best-known long-distance trek in Turkey. It’s 470 miles all told, weaving through pine-filled valleys above sparkling Aegean beaches, showcasing ancient sites and rugged mountains as it goes.

Winner: Antalya, the home of the Lycian Way!

Antalya or Marmaris for day trips?

Boat trip in Antalya
Photo by Dragana Novoselska on Unsplash

What might come as a surprise is that you can visit some of the mainstay attractions in southern Turkey from either Antalya or Marmaris. Take Pamukkale, the iconic white-hued travertine bathing terraces and their adjoining Roman town. They’re about 87 miles from Marmaris but only 110 from Antalya, so day trips are possible from either.

Where Marmaris will shine is if you want to hop across an international border and visit Greece for a day. Rhodes is within easy striking distance and it’s 100% worth it, you’ll rock up on a stunning isle in a stunning old town that’s got UNESCO status for its medieval castles and whatnot. Just be sure to allow some extra time on the ferry crossing for passport checks.

The most popular outings from Antalya really align themselves with beach lovers. You can cruise across the strait to Suluada Island, for example. Known as the Turkish Maldives, this bone-shaped rock in the Med is a indescribably gorgeous place to sail to. It’s got pebble beaches and water as clear as glass. You could also go as far as the Ölüdeniz lagoon (one of the most famous beaches in the country), which is about 2.5 hours’ drive to the west.

Winner: Draw – you can get to Greece from Marmaris in a day but have spectacular coastline outside of Antalya.

Verdict

So, is Antalya or Marmaris best for you this year? That all really depends on what you’re after from your vacation. If you’re looking to enjoy the classic vibes of a resort on the Med, with evenings of drinking and dancing followed by days of sailing from pebble cove to pebble cove, we’d 100% recommend Marmaris. To delve into an historic cityscape where Roman ruins loom above cobbled lanes, and the nearby beaches host some truly fantastic all-inclusive hotels, it’s got to be Antalya.

Reece Toth

Reece is the creator and editor of Travel Snippet. He has visited more than 38 countries over a 10-year period. His travels have taken him through the majestic mountains of Italy, into the cities of central Europe, across the islands of Indonesia, and to the beaches of Thailand, where he is currently living. He is passionate about travel and shares his expertise by providing the best travel tips and tricks to help you plan your next adventure.

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