Usually overlooked in favor of more established Mediterranean destinations, Turkey's coast offers diverse, beautiful and affordable lifestyle options. Many villages and port towns along the "Turkish Riviera," as this stretch along the Mediterranean is known, are already home to good numbers of expat retirees.
One attraction is the very low cost, both of living and of real estate. Compared with other Mediterranean retirement options, Turkey's Turquoise Coast is a bargain. You could live here on a budget of $1,500 per month or less, including rent.
For this low cost, you get access to the warm seas, white-sand beaches and 300 days of sunshine every year. The people are friendly and hospitable, and the lifestyle is laid-back and low-key.
Turkey's Mediterranean coast is relatively unspoiled, although in spots along this 1,000-mile stretch, you can find sleek resorts and modern medical facilities, sometimes just yards from the monumental remains of ancient Greece and Rome. Turkey is a place where the modern and the traditional are dramatically juxtaposed, making life here at once familiar and excitingly exotic. In the North Aegean region, you'll find sleepy villages where life is traditional and quiet, while small fishing ports like Bodrum and Alanya have been transformed into international resorts with marinas and trendy clubs.
This southwestern coastal region of Turkey was home to the Lycians, a proudly independent people whose imposing cities and famous rock tombs are dotted all around. This is a yachter's haven of secluded coves, secret islands and underwater temples. Legend has it that Mark Anthony gave this coast to Cleopatra as a wedding gift. When you see it, you know that Mark must have been truly out of his mind in love with Cleopatra to give it away.
Bodrum peninsula is more interesting than the town. Dominated by a massive castle, a reminder of its time as a crusader base, Bodrum town (the ancient Halicarnassus) is today a large resort with a big airport, good local services and modern health care facilities.
Small towns dot the peninsula. Formerly the Bodrum area's main fishing port, Yalikavak is a top lifestyle option. It has a bustling center, particularly on market days, sandy beaches and good restaurants. A 40-minute drive away, the fishing village of Gumusluk has retained its original character and has a lovely long beach.
Another of the larger towns on the coast, Marmaris, is home to the biggest marina in Turkey and is the departure point for the ferry to the island of Rhodes. It's also become something of a sprawl, with development stretching for miles. Legend has it the nearby island of Sedir Adasi is made up of sand imported from Egypt by Mark Anthony, and scientific analysis of the grains has proven it's not from around these parts.
About 46 miles from Marmaris down the Datca peninsula is the small town of the same name where prices are much lower and the pace of life is slower. This coastal village would make for pleasant retirement living, with orchards of almond and fig trees all around.
The airport at Dalaman acts as a gateway to this part of the Turquoise Coast, and the town, along with the nearby villages of Daylan and Sarigerme, is home to a burgeoning community of expats. Planning restrictions at Daylan, 30 minutes from Dalaman, mean developments are smaller and more controlled. The seven-mile stretch of sandy beach at Iztuzu is a famous breeding ground for turtles, and much of this area is a wildlife sanctuary.
Surrounded by mountains, the village of Gocek, a half-hour from Dalaman, has become a second home to the Turkish elite, celebrities and politicians, and property prices have risen accordingly. Not to worry, though. Unless you're passionate about yachting (this is an important international boating center), you have better and certainly more affordable options.
Fethiye, for example, is a thriving market town of 60,000 spread along the coast beneath pine-forested mountains. The nearby beaches of Calis, Kidrak and the lagoon beach of Oludeniz are beautiful enough to have made it on to Turkish travel brochures, and 12 small islands speckle the turquoise bay. This is close to the Xanthos Valley, the heartland of ancient Lycia, with dozens of ancient cities to explore.
The abandoned Greek village of KayaKoy offers opportunities for renovation projects. If you are interested in this idea, engage a good attorney who is experienced vetting the history of property ownership.
Just over 50 miles down the coast from Fethiye, the dramatically situated cliffside village of Kalkan is home to about 4,000 people, more than a quarter of whom are expats. Joining them, you'd enjoy a good selection of cafés and restaurants and a still very affordable property market. You could buy a two-bedroom apartment with great views of the sea and the mountains for $150,000 or less.
Yet another town to spring out of the ruins of one of the region's classical age cities is the small, picturesque port of Kas, which is sprinkled with tombs and other archaeological remains. It's a laid-back place that is popular among scuba divers and water sports enthusiasts. Prices here are in line with those in Kalkan.
Not too many years ago, there was no property market in Turkey for foreign buyers. Not only was foreign ownership restricted, but the process of purchasing property as a foreigner was complicated. All that changed as part of Turkish reforms designed to ease entry into the European Union. Now your purchase of property in this country as a foreigner can be completed in a matter of two weeks or less, rather than the months it took in the past.
Property values along this country's Mediterranean coast saw steady appreciation in the years leading up to 2008, when they, like property values in many markets worldwide, were shaken, though not as dramatically as elsewhere. Prices recovered within a year and a half and have since been slowly rising again. Despite this recent appreciation, Turkish coastal real estate remains a regional bargain and is expected to continue to appreciate in value for at least the next several years.
Note that some restrictions remain in place on foreign ownership of property in certain areas, including those deemed strategic by the Turkish military and archaeological sites. In addition, as a foreign national, you can't own more than 30,000 square yards of land without the approval of the Turkish Council of Ministers. But these rules shouldn't bother retiree buyers.
It also used to be difficult for a foreigner to establish full-time residency in Turkey. Like a property purchase, residency was a complicated, drawn-out process. Now it's possible to obtain legal residency through the purchase of real estate in a much more straightforward way. Still, Turkey is best suited as a part-time retirement option. If you live here more than six months of the year, you become liable to the Turkish authorities for tax on your worldwide income.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 28 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her newest book, "How To Buy Real Estate Overseas", published by Wiley & Sons, is the culmination of decades of personal experience living and investing around the world.
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