The Turkish Riviera via Instagram

I grew up the middle of nowhere with a 20 kilometer distance to the next (terrible) small town coffee shop and almost no public transportation, especially not after 7pm. That little village lies next to a lake and is surrounded by soft hills and lush forests, but all I could ever dream about was the bustling energy of big cities that never sleep.

I’d consider myself a city girl, but the funny thing is, that I’ve never even truly experienced a “real” city. The towns I lived in after high school graduation were small towns, with around 100,000 inhabitants. And even my Lisbon stint doesn’t count, as Lisbon is one of Europe’s tiniest capitals and I ran into people I knew on the streets and in the metro all the time.

Nonetheless, I feel drawn to cities — Paris, Berlin, and London are places I can’t get enough of. I love that there is always something new to discover, you’re never just done with an ever-changing city like that. Thus, I when I book a getaway, I will always choose a city — for the museums, the coffee scene, the cultural clashes, the street art, and everything else that rural places can’t provide.

Not once in the last decade of independent travel I chose nature or beaches as my number one priority. I do appreciate cities with close-by beaches like Barcelona, Porto, or Amsterdam, but I always knew that I’d get bored with a beach as my only option.

But then I ended up visiting the Turkish Riviera before I ever saw Istanbul (a city that I’ve been dying to visit!), and I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing vacation.

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

How that happened? Well, I owed the boyfriend. In the last eight years of traveling together, I was, let’s say, umm, very dominant when it came to picking our travel style and destinations. I picked cities with rich medieval histories and churches that I’ve been dreaming to see, I convinced Steffen to stay in hostels. I gave him pushy Christmas and birthday presents to make sure we weren’t putting certain destinations off for “some day”.

But I knew that I had to give in eventually, and let Steffen choose what we were going to do for our first real summer vacation together. And he wanted to try something he had never done before, and thus chose my worst nightmare: An all-inclusive vacation in a resort in a town consisting of other resort hotels on the Turkish Riviera, where literally every German goes for their beach vacation. The classic package vacation with as little cultural immersion as possible.

Me, the girl who has never even been on a hop-on-hop-off-bus no matter how much her feet hurt, in the epicenter of unsustainable, exploiting mass tourism!

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

I was afraid that I was going to visit a country famous for the smells of coffee and spices, maze-like market streets and colorful mosques, traditional dance and ancient ruins — but I wouldn’t experience any of it, because I was stuck in a resort.

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Ultimately though, I accepted that sometimes you’re done running around and your body needs to rest. After so many trips with little time and too much to see this year, it felt so good to just spend time on the beach and read a crime novel.

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

And after all, I did get to see some Roman ruins in Turkey, I paddled on a lake in the Taurus Mountains, I got scammed (and semi-inappropriately touched) by a spice shop owner, I visited mosques, I tried not to lose my balance riding a dolmuş, and saw many amazing sunsets.

I drank a fresh pressed pomegranate juice from a street vendor, Turkish coffee (in the airport), and my fair share of Efes beer. But most importantly: I understood that I can’t get to know a huge country like Turkey in a week anyways — so I might as well dip my toes in the salty water of the Mediterranean and just enjoy the sun on my skin.

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Karacaoren Baraji, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

Kursunlu waterfalls, Antalya, Turkey

Side, Turkish Riviera, Turkey

I still have very mixed feelings about all-inclusive resorts and package vacations as I can see all the disadvantages, but I want to be honest: It was a great vacation. Although I didn’t leave my deck chair all that often, I still got to see how gorgeous Turkey is — and this is what I travel for in the end.

Karacaoren Baraji, Taurus Mountains, Turkey

Also, I’ll definitely come back for Istanbul.

Would you choose a beach resort or a city for the perfect vacation?

PS: You can find me on Instagram as @JulikaSarah