Geographically, Turkey has plenty of options for any lifestyle, but a lesser known fact is that the country is predominantly rural. If you plan it right, you can live immersed in nature close to a central core of city dwellers working remotely or seeking the range life and outsiders and digital nomads seeking a slower pace of life.
These centers in Turkey that I am referring to are certain cities or municipalities located along the western and southern coast of Turkey which also govern a number of villages, some in the dozens, connected to them. While most of the younger generations who grew up in these areas abandon their villages to pursue higher education and eventually careers in the cities, there is a growing trend of reverse migration, in other words an urban-rural movement, which unsurprisingly accelerated. during the pandemic. But it has resulted in a careful balance between newcomers renting abandoned rural houses which, by their nature, benefit greatly from having someone residing there. Nowadays, many villages also have more modern houses and even apartments, but what most of these rural areas definitely have are environments immersed in nature.
So where are these rural community centers in Turkey, you ask? Well…starting from the west and arguably one of the best towns and regions in the country is Çanakkale. Today, while the town itself is bustling with a population of young university students and picturesque to boot as it stretches along the coast overlooking the legendary Gallipoli peninsula and battlefields, the town of Ayvacık Province, an hour’s drive south, has become the main town serving more than 90 villages in the Assos region of Küçukkuyu.
Almost all of Ayvacık’s villages are nestled in the hills, mostly overlooking the Gulf of Edremit, where mythological gods such as Zeus and his daughters Aphrodite and Athena held the first beauty pageant. Nevertheless, the area is spectacular, with villages in forested mountains overlooking the sea. As for the names: From Sokakağzı to Behramkale, Paşaköy, Büyükhüsün, Ahmetçe and Sazlı are just some of the villages where townspeople have turned their lives into a life immersed in nature.
While Urla now belongs to the category of gentrified boutique towns due to its positioning just between Izmir, Turkey’s third most populous city, and Alaçatı, the country’s first boutique town that has become a holiday destination for famous and the paparazzi who follow them. While Urla is thriving and has plenty of pleasantries such as upscale cafes and restaurants, the surrounding villages are again completely hidden in the forested hills. Also, many villages between Urla and the sleepier Seferihisar of Izmir and the coastal town of Sığacık are comfortably habitable and accessible from Urla. The most notable villages are Kuşcular, Yağcılar and Bademler. Or, instead of veering off towards Alaçatı and Çeşme, head north to the more remote towns of Mordoğan and Karaburun, which are increasingly becoming year-round residential destinations.
While Datca is a popular summer destination among well-established Turks, the entire peninsula is home to a dozen villages inhabited by foreigners choosing to live in the region’s spectacular natural surroundings. While Datca is the name of the port town at the tip of the peninsula from where it is served by a regular ferry to Bodrum, the entire Datca peninsula extends to Emecik and eventually Marmaris. Villages such as Karaköy, Kızlan, Mesudiye, Reşadiye and Hızırşah are all potential residential options close to the main town of Datça, which has lively new wave cafes and restaurants all year round.
A fun little town in the sense that not much happens there despite its breathtaking views of the surrounding almost mystical Lake Köyçeğiz; however, the city of Köyceğiz is actually a major hub for agricultural and honey producers. The weekly market is huge and the town has everything one could ask for, including honey houses where you can sample varieties such as lavender and citrus honey. The surrounding villages of Köyceğiz also began to be inhabited by first-generation farmers of specialized handicrafts. At local Slow Food markets, you can find them selling their wares, such as lemongrass teas, sourdough bread, nut butters and more.
Fethiye is actually a town at the Mediterranean end of Muğla. However, the region it governs encompasses a wide range of geography and history, from the abandoned ghost town of Kayaköy to the stream-laden Recluse of Yanıklar, which is also home to a musical “village” with concerts and workshops on Turkish instruments. Fethiye is also home to the natural wonders of Ölüdeniz and Faralya, a village with literally breathtaking views of the ancient Lycian way. But there are also villages like Üzümlü which are well equipped for remote workers. The area is visually stunning and the town of Fethiye is an active hub with all the amenities anyone could ask for.