A Beach Trip From Izmir to Cesme and Ilica
This destination guide covers a day trip from Izmir to the beautiful beach at Ilıca and a visit to the lively seaside town of Çeşme.
Izmir beach trip
The Turkish city of Izmir has an amazing potential for day trips.
There are a couple of interesting historical and cultural sights you can visit from Izmir such as the ruins of Ancient Ephesus and the lovely little hilltop village of Sirince.
Unsurprisingly, there are also a couple of great beach destinations within easy reach of Izmir.
Kusadasi is the most famous of all the beach resorts in the wider Izmir area.
Tens of thousands of mostly European tourists flock to Kusadasi each year to stay in one of the many beach resorts of the area as part of a package holiday.
However, if you are an independent traveller visiting the Izmir area, Çeşme makes for a better beach destination.
Day trip to Çeşme
Çeşme can easily be visited on a day trip from Izmir.
There are plenty of Çeşme-bound buses departing from Izmir’s bus station as well as from other points in the city.
It takes about one-and-a-half hour for the bus to complete the 80-kilometre journey from Izmir to Çeşme over a modern motorway.
The Çeşme peninsula has three main points of interest: There is the town of Çeşme proper, the traditional town of Alaçatı and Ilıca, which has the best beach of the area.
Although you can visit two out of these three places on a day trip from Izmir, I think visiting all three is really pushing it as it will be stressful with transport and you will have too little time on the ground to actually enjoy the surroundings.
If you only visit one of these three particular places, make sure that you bus does indeed stop there as some buses continue straight to Çeşme Town without a stop in Alaçatı or Ilıca.
However, once you are in the Çeşme area you will find that the local transport network is good.
There are plenty of minibuses (called ‘dolmus’ in Turkish) running around the entire Çeşme area, connecting Çeşme Town to places like Alaçatı and Ilıca.
The first destination of my day trip was the beach at Ilıca, which is a sort of suburb of Çeşme proper.
Ilıca Beach is one of the best beaches in the wider Izmir area as the sand is soft and the water is clear.
As the beach is facing towards the north, there will be some waves in the sea, although in my opinion it makes swimming all the more fun.
The sea at Ilıca Beach is however quite shallow and you have to walk or swim dozens of metres until you reach the point that you cannot stand up straight anymore without going underwater.
This makes Ilıca Beach a safe swimming environment for families with children.
Indeed, the beach crowd at Ilıca seemed to be mostly Turkish families with there being relatively few foreign tourists around.
A visit to Çeşme
After a couple of hours at the beach in Ilıca, I took a dolmus towards Çeşme proper.
Like so many other towns in the Izmir area, Çeşme was heavily influenced by the Greeks throughout its history.
In 1922 up to 90 percent of the inhabitants of Çeşme were Greeks – although this changed after the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 and the subsequent population exchanges.
The ethnic Greeks of Çeşme were forcefully relocated to Greece while Muslims from the Veroia area of Greece moved in the other direction and settled in Çeşme.
There are a couple of interesting historical sights to see in Çeşme such as its Ottoman-era castle.
Çeşme castle has a prime seaside location and was built to protect the town and harbour from enemy powers such as the Venetians.
Throughout the town centre you can find some fine Greek mansions and typical Ottoman houses as well.
From the main square of Çeşme you can either walk inland on a busy pedestrianised shopping street or walk along the seaside promenade running in both directions along the harbour.
It is a pleasant walk along the waterfront and there are plenty of cafés, pubs and restaurants to stop for a meal or drink.
Although Çeşme is touristy in summer, it has more of a local than an international crowd, so the atmosphere does still feel very Turkish.
One thing which Çeşme has in common with the Greek island of Chios across a narrow strait is the abundance of mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus), which only grow in this part of the world.
The locals use the aromatic resin of the trees in literally everything.
There is mastic soap, mastic chewing gum, as well as mastic-flavoured Turkish coffee and ice cream.
The Greeks on Chios even make some amazing mastic liqueur.
Make sure to try some of the mastic products when you visit Çeşme as it’s a highly unique flavour!
Ferry to Chios
Çeşme is also the jumping off-point for those who want to continue their travels in Greece.
From Çeşme, you can take a ferry across the strait to the beautiful Greek island of Chios.
Although there is at least one daily ferry to Chios in high season, departures are less frequent in the low season.
The Çeşme area makes for a pleasant day trip from Izmir or even a destination in its own right.
There are a couple of interesting places to visit in this area, such as the traditional town of Alaçatı and the lively seaside town of Çeşme itself.
The best beaches in the Çeşme area can be found in the suburb of Ilıca.
In Ilıca you can find some perfect patches of sandy beach and warm, shallow water, making it a great destination for those who want some seaside rest and relaxation.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Khachapuri & Kebabs: A Summer Trip to Georgia and Turkey‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Wizz Air Bucharest to Kutaisi (Airbus A320)
2. A Day in Kutaisi, the Charming Capital of Imereti
3. Caves, Churches and Monasteries – A Kutaisi Day Trip
4. Review: My Warm Guest House, Batumi, Georgia
5. Beautiful Batumi – The Pearl of Georgia’s Black Sea Coast
6. From Georgia to Turkey: Batumi to Kars by Bus
7. Review: Kars Konak Hotel, Kars, Turkey
8. A Day Trip From Kars to the Ancient Armenian City of Ani
9. Goose, Cheese and Russian Remnants: A Visit to Kars, Turkey
10. Review: Dogu Express Night Train Kars to Ankara, Turkey
11. Review: AnadoluJet Ankara to Izmir (Boeing 737-800)
12. Review: Ege Palas Business Hotel, Izmir, Turkey
13. Izmir: Turkey’s Most Liberal and Liveable City
14. Ancient Ephesus: An Easy Day Trip From Izmir
15. A Visit to the Hilltop Wine Village of Sirince
16. A Beach Trip From Izmir to Cesme and Ilica (current chapter)
** rest of the chapters to follow soon **