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This Vibrant Coastal City Is One Of The Top Mediterranean Destinations This Spring

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A turquoise-colored sea steeped in history and bordered by some of the oldest nations, the Mediterranean may be one of the most popular sunny destinations worldwide, home to the glamorous Côte d'Azur, Amalfi, the Greek islands, and many more vacation hotspots.

As expected, the Med will see an uptick in bookings this spring as it awakens from its winter slumber, but there is a not-so-obvious resort city in particular that's leading recovery in the region, with a cruise tourism boom and an 8% increase in airside arrivals.

Aerial View Of A Coastal Area Near Izmir, On The Aegean Coast Of Turkiye, Western Asia, Mediterranean Sea

The thing is, it is not even located in the European side of the Mediterranean. Well, at least not technically:

The Pearl Of The Aegean

The largest city on the Mediterranean coast of Turkiye (formerly spelled Turkey), Izmir has historically hosted on average 2 million tourists per year, yet for 2024, local authorities are aiming for double that figure.

This makes it one of the fastest-growing destinations in the Mediterranean basin, but if your knowledge of Turkiye is restricted to the minaret-dotted Istanbul or the cave towns of Cappadocia, you may be wondering what's so special about this unheard-of port city.

Izmir Ottoman Clock Tower Flanked By Palm Trees, Turkiye, Western Asia

If we may give a short introduction, Izmir is simply one of the most culturally charged cities in the ancient sea and a jewel coveted by many empires throughout recorded History: despite its Greek origins, it was also a Roman colony and later a part of the Ottoman Empire.

It sits on the Aegean coast of Anatolia, and it's built atop a sprawling archaeological zone: this means you get both the vibrant coastal metropolis vibes, and the Ancient World flair that is so commonly associated with the Mediterranean.

One Of The Warmest Destinations In The Mediterranean

Panoramic View Of Izmir, Turkiye, Bounded By The Aegean, A Section Of The Mediterranean Sea, Western Asia

Izmir's expansive list of historical sites includes the Agora of Smyrna, the Greco-Roman settlement that preceded Izmir, the hilltop Velvet Castle, built at the peak of Alexander the Great's reign, and the iconic Ottoman Clock Tower, the city's main landmark and a symbol of the Mediterranean.

Other than strolling the lively streets and visiting exotic bazaars famous for their spice shops and hand-knitted, colorful rugs, tourists have a number of beaches where they can relax, either in the city proper or the wider Aegean province.

Wooden Pier In Beach Near Izmir, Aegean Coast Of Turkiye, Western Asia, Bounded By The Mediterranean Sea

The coastline extending from Izmir to Bodrum is interspersed with luxury resorts and fine white sands, and the weather is typically a lot warmer than in other parts of the Mediterranean: spring hasn't even started yet, and it's already 69.8°F on the coast.

This upcoming season, you can expect temperatures to rise further to 84°F, and rarely drop below 57°F, making Izmir one of the warmest destinations in Europe – yes, we know it is technically Asia, but in these parts continental boundaries are blurry, to say the least.

A Portal To Ancient Greece

Remnants Of The Ancient Agora Of Smyrna, In The Aegean City Of Izmir, Turkiye, Western Asia

Plus, have you seen those Greek islands lying just offshore? Basing yourself in Izmir, you can access not only the gorgeous beaches on the Turkish mainland but also board cross-border ferries to Chios, Mytilene, and Samos, three lesser-known gems of Greece.

On the Turkish side, popular day trips from Izmir include the UNESCO-listed Ephesus, an archaeological zone visited by 2 million tourists in 2023, the nearby town of Selcuk, packed with Ottoman and Byzantine-era monuments, and the ruined Ancient Greek city of Pergamon.

Celsus Library In The Ancient Ruined Greek City Of Ephesus, Turkiye, Western Asia

Turkiye and Greece may be close neighbors, but they're definitely worlds apart in terms of pricing: while Greece is a member of the European Union and a Euroized country, which means it has the highly-valued euro as its currency, Turkiye is none of those things.

Izmir Is Dirt Cheap By European Standards

It has always been a marginal European state, seeing much of it is in fact located in Western Asia, and its national currency, the lira, is significantly weaker than other global currencies, and especially the dollar: 1 U.S. dollar equals roughly 31 Turkish lira at the current exchange rate.

Aerial Panoramic View Of Izmir, A City In Turkiye On The Shores Of The Aegean, A Section Of The Mediterranean Sea, Western Asia

While inflation needs to be taken into account, and Turkiye has definitely gotten more expensive over the years, it is still a great bargain for a holiday, as it is possible to eat cheap in a local restaurant in Izmir for less than ten bucks, and accommodation is not that expensive, either.

There are 9 five-star listings on Booking.com, and prices for deluxe rooms in a beachfront property, overlooking the azure Mediterranean, start from only $148 this spring: check out the chic Izmir Marriott, or the landmark Swissotel Buyuk Efes Izmir.

Nonstop Flights To Izmir From Europe

Aerial Panoramic View Of Ilica Beach Near Izmir, Bounded By The Aegean, Mediterranean Sea, Turkiye, Western Asia

Izmir's Adnan Menderes Airport is one of the busiest in Turkiye after the two Istanbul airports. It hosts nonstop flights from several European and Middle Eastern hubs, with intra-continental low-cost flights averaging $114 in spring.

Unfortunately, Izmir does not yet host nonstop Transatlantic flights, but Americans can always fly a one-stop route via Istanbul when headed to Izmir straight from the States (the good thing is, you no longer need a visa to enter Turkiye).

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