A Local’s Guide to Urla, the Hidden Gem of Izmir

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Urla is a place you can enjoy all year and has much to offer in the offseason. It is a lovely town with wineries, museums, excellent gastronomy stops, historical sites, festivals, and much more.

Urla is a local secret, and it is mostly free from the tourist crowds. Urla is a hidden gem, and I will reveal its hidden locations one by one.

The main thing that separates Urla from other Aegean towns is its people.

It is one of the sanctuaries of Turkish intellectuals. For this reason, the education level is very high. These highly creative people changed this old fishing town into something rare to discover.

Urla is close to the metropolitan city of Izmir. This lovely fishing town is 10 minutes away from the Izmir city center.

Urla is also an excellent summer destination. In Urla, you can relax on the beaches or learn diving, kitesurf or windsurf and enjoy many events.

Urla Port Area
Photo Credit Mehmet Ünver

1. Before coming to Urla

1.1. Nearest Airport to Urla

The closest airport to Urla is Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport (ADB), which has many domestic and international airline routes.

The distance between the airport to Urla is 46.3 km (28 miles). I use Expedia and Skyscanner for buying airplane tickets.

1.2. Things to consider before coming to Urla

The destinations in Urla are also very scattered. You should try booking accommodation in the town center.

I definitely recommend Pintura Urla Boutique Hotel & Art Gallery. It is located on Art Street in Urla and is one of the unique places to stay.

If you are not coming to Urla in your private car. I also recommend that you rent a car. If you have a car, you can book anywhere and enjoy a more private and unique holiday.

The best beaches of Urla are in the south, and they are not close to Urla town. You need a car to access these beaches and many other spots.

Even the winery route is tough to complete with a bike especially after you taste those delicious wines.

To get the best price for car rental, you should compare the prices of different car rentals. I use Rentalcars.com and Discovercars.com for my car rentals.

Now, if you are wondering what to do and what to see in Urla? Urla can surprise in a very good way.

Let me enjoy Urla with local tips 🙂

2. My Map of Urla

This map summarizes points of interest in Urla. You can find a detailed review of each site further down in this post.

Map pins contain the websites and contact information of all sites.

Urla Wine Route – Wineries

MMG Şarapçılık

Urla Şarapçılık

Urla Bağevi Vineyard Hotel


Mozaik Şarapçilik Winery

Urlice Vineyards

Limantepe Şarapcılık / Winery

My Best Food Spots

Od Urla

Yengec Restaurant

Akin’s Fish Restaurant

İstifci Restaurant


Places to Visit in Urla

Uzbas Botanical Garden

Klazomenai Ancient City of Olive Presses

Urla Surf House

Kocluoglu Diving Center

Kostem Oil Museum

Barbaros Village

Bademler Village

Ozbek Village

Balikliova Village

Art Street

Arasta Street

Malgaca Bazaar

Urla Port

Things to do & Things to see in Urla

1. Explore Wine Route

Photo source: Usca Winery

The vineyards are the leading energy that transformed Urla from a simple fishing town into a thriving community. Urla has a 6000-year-old wine production tradition.

In Roman times, Urla’s wines were so high quality that Roman Emperor Domitianus (who lived between 51 AD- 96 AD) got jealous. He ordered the destruction of all vineyards in Urla. Fortunately, philosopher Skopelianus convinced him to turn back from his decision.

Urla Wine Route is one of the top things that you should experience in Urla. There are 7 wine producers in Urla.

You can walk in the vineyards, witness wine production, explore wine cellars and taste the delicious local wines.

The wine route is marked with road signs, and all wineries are easy to find.

Yet, the route is impossible to follow without a car or motorcycle. You can try it with a bicycle, but I would not recommend it.

You can easily spend a day in these vineyards. I pinned all the locations of the wineries on the map.

At the end of August and the beginning of September, you may also witness grape harvest festivals.

2. Uzbas Botanical Garden

Photo Source: Uzbas Botanical Garden

If you are going for Urla Wine Route, a small course adjustment will take you to Uzbas Botanical Garden.

The botanical garden is established on an area of 2 million m2 (2.5 million square yards).

You can walk around and witness little succulents to bonsai olive trees.

This botanical garden also produces many plant types, including tropical and subtropical plant species.

Unlike other botanical gardens, you can buy any plant that you see. They can be as cheap as 1$. Yet, there are some plants here that are each worth more than 100.000$.

One last piece of advice is, the garden can be discomforting in the summertime. For this reason, I advise you to go early in the morning or late in the evening.

Working hours are between 09:00-17:00.

3. Visit the antique city of Klazomenai

Renovated Olive Oil Workshop

Klazomenai is an ancient city that is at least 6000 years old.

Klazomenai is probably the birthplace of olive oil. The city has the oldest olive oil production center.

This antique processing center has been renovated in recent years. Now, you witness how olive oil was produced in ancient times.

Working hours are between 08:00-17:00.

4. Kitesurfing – Windsurfing

Urla is one of the best places for kitesurfing in Turkey. Windsurfing is also available in Urla. Urla Surfhouse is the most well-known.

You can also check my guides for a detailed review of the top Turkish places for windsurfing and kitesurfing.

Alacati is one of the best places for windsurfing in the world. Urla is just a 30-minute ride from Alacati.

Urla has nearly the same wind and beach conditions. As a windsurfer myself, Depending on the wind conditions and time, I sometimes choose Urla, especially on the weekends.

Alacati can be very crowded while windsurfing or kitesurfing. You must always be careful not to collide with other kitesurfers or windsurfers. On the other hand, Urla is quieter.

Just a quick note for those of you who wish to kitesurf or windsurf: these activities take time to learn, and you should at least take lessons for five consecutive days to enjoy these sports.

These sports are worth learning and are very addictive if you are into water sports. They may help you experience the same adrenaline rush as extreme sports, but they are definitely safer.

If your partner does not want to join you in your quest to master the wind and the sea, it is no problem. The windsurf or kitesurf area in Urla has many other activities. You can also try Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUP).

Urla Surfhouse also has alternative options like table tennis, yoga (mornings and late afternoon), barbeque events, and occasional events or concerts.

5. Diving

Monem Cargo Ship Diving
Photo source Kocluoglu Diving

After my first real diving experience in Egypt, diving also became one of my hobbies. I learned diving at Kocluoglu diving school in Cesme.

Cesme is a town 30 minutes car ride away from Urla.

Join the swarms of 300 kg (660 Pounds) Bluefish Tunas
Photo source Kocluoglu Diving

Kocluoglu is the only diving school that I know of and can recommend. Probably, there are other closer ones but I have not tested them.

This region of Turkey has many enjoyable diving spots. Some of my top diving spots are  

  • Monem Cargo Ship – This cargo sunk while on its way to being salvaged. It is 75 meters long and 13,5-meter wide. It currently sits at a depth of 18 meters. Only its Flag pole is above water. It was the biggest ship wreckage in Turkey until recently. The diving site is available to all levels of certified divers.
  • Bluefin Tuna Farms – There are many fishing farms around Urla. One of these farms offers a unique opportunity. You can swim with 300 kg (660 Pounds) Bluefish Tunas. When juvenile tunas are caught, they are put in these sea cages to grow more. Diving with hundreds of these bluefin Tunas can be a frightening but very delightful experience.

6. Enjoy beaches and swimming

Urla Özbek Akkum Beach

Swimming and enjoying the beaches of Urla should be at the top of your to-do lists in Urla. There are excellent beaches in Urla.

The beach here is sandy with some rocky areas, but always with clean crystal blue waters.

Akkum Beach is my favorite in Urla, which is located on the seaside of Ozbek village.

It is not the best beach that I know. The thing that I like about this beach is I never saw it as crowded as other beaches. You can enjoy this beach with serenity.

7. Kostem Oil Museum

Photo source: Kostem Oil Museum

The Museum claims to be the biggest olive oil museum in the world. The museum covers an area of 20.000 m2 (215.000 ft²).

There are different kinds of olive trees in the garden of the museum to demonstrate the diversity of olive trees.

Kostem Olive Oil Museum is designed to provide many activities for kids. Museum also has areas specially designed for children. In these areas, children learn the basics of agriculture.

Another part of the Museum is a functioning modern olive oil factory.

There are many activities museums also offer for adults. The museum also organizes woodwork and ceramic workshops. There is also a restaurant in the museum complex which serves dishes with locally grown products.

Visiting Hours: Monday the museum is closed. The Museum is open Tuesday – Friday between 10:00-17:00 and weekends between 10:00-18:00.

Contact Phone:+90 212 411 13 00

8. Olive Tree Route

A new project started in Urla is the Olive Tree route. There are 68 ancient olive trees. The youngest of these trees are 200 years old while the oldest is 2000 years old.

If you have spare time to spend in nature, you could try this route.

I am strongly advising this activity because it is a new project and the route is not clearly marked as the Wine Route.

9. Manej Urla

Photo courtesy of Manej Urla

Manej Urla is a hotel with an excellent restaurant and a horse riding area. There are riding classes for seniors as well as kids.

If you are a family dad like me, you can chill at their top tier restaurant while your kids enjoy horse riding classes.

Manej Urla’s Garden

Also, seasonal activities are organized by Manej Urla. Some of these activities are;

  • Yoga and breath therapy
  • Food and beverage workshops with Manej Masa chefs
  • Seasonal harvests (olives, grapes, lavender)
  • Getting acquainted with farm life (milking, collecting eggs, feeding farm animals)
  • Horseback riding lessons

Here is the link to their website. Manej Urla is open 24 hours.

10. Explore the Unique Villages of Urla

There are 15 unique villages of Urla.

To list them all, they are Barbaros, Birgi, Bademler, Balıklıova, Demircili, Golcuk, Kadıovacik, Kuscular, Nohutalan, Ozbek, Ovacik, Uzunkuyu, Yagcılar, Zeytineli and Zeytinler villages.

Among these villages, the most popular are Barbaros, Balıkova, Ozbek, and Bademler villages. If you have a day, you could visit them all. These are not the typical villages you will encounter anywhere in Turkey.

Let me introduce you to the most popular ones and you will understand why they are unique.

One thing common for all these villages is their cleanness and nature awareness.

Barbaros Village

Scarecrows Barbaros Village

The most famous village in Urla is Barbaros, because of its scarecrow festival.

This festival takes place around the last week of August, and the scarecrows continue to fill the streets in the coming months.

Barbaros believes in sustainable development while preserving their culture and nature.

For this reason, the tourist attention has not changed the village like other places in Turkey.

Another practice lately they implement is allowing local & foreign tourists to join their dinner tables.

You can join a local family and eat dinner with them by contributing a small fee to cover their house expenses.

Bademler Village

Bademler Village Theatre

Bademler is the village for its intellectuals. This is the first village in Turkey that has a public theater. The theater continues to be active for more than 80 years.

Villagers fund and operate the theater themselves. All the cast of plays are also people living in this town. 

Bademler Village Theater generally prepares two major plays every year. One of them is usually performed on 27 March, World Theatre Day.

Bademler also has a toy museum and a library that they created. Flower greenhouses in this village create a wonderful sight to see.

Ozbek Village

Fish, mezes (tapas), and raki are Turkish classics. Photo Akin’s Place.

This is the place that I have visited frequently since my childhood.

The main part of the village is in the hills and there is a small port area with tranquil beaches and stone houses.

If you are looking for a family vacation away and safe from the crowds, Ozbek is your answer. This is a place that is close to all attractions and yet remote to all distractions.

Akın’s fish restaurant in the port area is one of the best fish restaurants in Turkey.

Balıklıova Village

Balıklıova means fields with fish. This small village is famous for its shortbread, fish restaurant, and crystal clear waters.

This is another great retreat for a family vacation or daily visit.

11. Festivals of Urla

There are many festivals in Urla, the most well-known Artichoke festivals. I will also outline the other with their estimated dates.

Artichoke Festival

Artichoke Festival takes place around the last week of April in Urla. Artichoke became the symbol of this town, and Urla grows many varieties of Artichoke.

There are kitchen workshops, food tasting events, cultural activities, art exhibits, and lots of street music as part of this festival.

Food Stands – Artichoke Festivals

Lately, this festival has brought international attention to Urla. Many chefs from Turkey and abroad will gather to host food events during this festival.

In this festive time, you will see artichoke everywhere, probably more than you have seen in your lifetime.

Here are the other festivals in Urla and their estimated dates.

Herb FestivalLast week of March
Artichoke FestivalLast week of April
Kite Flying Festival (Kuscular)Last week of May
Tanju Okan Yacht RacingMay-June
Art FestivalLast week of June
International Theatre Festival (Bademler,
Balıklıova, Uzunkuyu, Yagcılar, and Ozbek)
Last week of July
Izmir Youth CarnivaleBeginning of August
Barbaros Scarecrow (Oyluk) FestivalSecond week of August
Nohutalan Watermelon FestivalLast week August
Grape Harvest FestivalLast week of August
Urla Festivals and their estimated dates

12. Discover Unique Local shops, Antique

The most wonderful spots to shop in Urla are Art Street, the historical Arasta, and the Malgaca markets.

Moreover, if you want to enjoy a different shopping experience, you should visit the local food markets open on specific days.

Art Street

Art Street is the most lively part of Urla, it is a great place to chill in cafes or bars as well as lose yourself in unique shops.

The name of the street comes from art shops opened on this street. You can find many artist shops that sell ceramics, art pieces, or designer clothes. Also, you should check antique shops in this street.

Arasta and Malgaca

Arasta and Malgaca markets are the old commercial center of Urla.

Today, these markets continue to function with their old stone buildings. There are many local shops and some traditional Turkish cafes to chill and enjoy the atmosphere.

Local Markets

Local markets are my favorites, many come to this part of Turkey.

You will see different Mediterranean herbs, handmade arts, and many different things that you will not observe near tourist centers.

If you want to blend in with locals, you should definitely check these food markets.

Days of Local Food Markets in Urla and Cesme

I included Cesme as well because Cesme is very close to Urla.

Day of the WeekPlace of Food Market
TuesdayDalyan (Cesme)
WednesdayCesmealtı (Urla), Reisdere (Cesme)
ThursdayZeytinalan (Urla), Ilıca (Cesme)
FridayUrla, Ciftlik (Cesme)
SaturdayAlacati (Cesme)
Sundayİskele (Urla) , Cesme
Days of Local Food Markets in Urla and Cesme Source

13. Fishing Boat trip

One of my favorite activities is to go on fishing tours with my friends.

On these tours, you usually bring your own fishing equipment and your snacks. The boat owners may also serve some meals, but it depends on your agreement with him.

The ship will visit several hotspots for you to enjoy fishing in solitude.

These tours are only available in cold months between September and April throughout the fishing season.

15. Enjoy the food in Urla

Where to eat in Urla? The answer to this question can be problematic but in a good way. There are many options to try. There are traditional options as well as western-style gourmet restaurants.

Even the locals from surrounding cities come here to dine in Urla. In the high season, I would strongly make a reservation.

Firstly, you would not find kebabs in Urla. Yet, you would taste the finest Mediterranean food. The main ingredients you will find are fish, sheep meat, and locally grown vegetables and herbs.

Locals mostly prefer fish dishes and mezes (tapas). Mezes are mostly vegetarian or made with delicious sea products. Try local wines or locally brewed Efes beer.

If you need something strong, you could try Turkish Rakı. Rakı is the Turkish national drink that is also nicknamed lion milk by Turkish locals.

I could write a separate article solely talking about Urla and food you can eat there. For this reason, I will try to be as brief as possible.

Here are my favorite spots for eating out in Urla.

Urla İskele – Urla Port

Urla port area is a convenient place with a lot of food options. You could go for dinner with traditional fish, meze, and raki dinner or just chill drinking your beer with chips near the seaside.

I would recommend Yengec on Urla İskele. They have excellent traditional dishes. I usually have my spontaneous guests there because I usually can find a place without reservation.

Urla World Class Restaurants

These restaurants deserve Michelin stars, yet they don’t have it because the Michelin program does not cover Turkey

There are also lots of world-class restaurants in Urla. My personal favorite is OD|urla. The chef is Osman Sezener, who is a high school friend of mine. His family owned one of the best pizza places in Izmir. Now he surpassed his family legacy. In every Turkish guide I read, everybody is talking about him and his restaurant.

My second favorite restaurant is Akın’s Place. I have been to hundreds of fish restaurants, this one is at the top of my list.

Nightlife in Urla

Urla’s Night Life is not active with parties. This is a place for more senior audiences. There are some quality bars, the ones I recommend are;

  • Istifci-It has a very big open-air backyard that is used as a restaurant. You can enjoy live music on the weekends.
  • Berlin’s -It is a cozy Irish bar with a German name. It is located near the Urla port.

Best Time to Visit Urla

The top season for Urla is between June and September, yet even in the top season, it is not as crowded as other touristic centers like Cesme.

My favorite time for Urla is either spring or autumn. Especially September and October is the best time to enjoy a walk around vineyards and enjoy yourself with the tranquility that Urla offers.

Urla has a magnificent, welcoming, and highly intellectual population. For this reason, even in the winter months, Urla continues to be lively and enjoyable.

Climate of Urla

Urla is a fine example of the Mediterranean climate. In the summer, it is hot and there is no rain.

The summer temperatures will be around 25-35 Celcius (77-95 °F). Luckily, Urla is very windy, and the wind makes you less likely to feel the high temperatures.

In the winter, Urla never gets too cold.

The average temperature for the winter days will be around 10-15 °C (41-59 °F). In the winter months, you should expect rain. Every month there are at least 11 rainy days.

How can you travel to Urla?

Urla is exactly 37 km away from Izmir city center. From Izmir Uckuyular you can take city buses (Bus number 984) or white-colored Urla minibuses to come to Urla. Traveling this way will take around 40-60 minutes depending on the traffic.

Coming to Urla is easy, yet if you do not have a car, you may not enjoy it as much as I do. Renting a car is another option to consider.

If you are driving to Urla;

  • Ankara to Urla is 640 km and the travel time will be around 7 hours.
  • İstanbul to Urla is 528 km and the travel time will be around 5 hours.
  • Mugla to Urla is 243 km and the travel time will be around 3 hours.
  • Balıkesir to Urla is 254 km and the travel time will be around 2,5 hours.
  • Manisa to Urla is 78 km and the travel time will be around 1 hour.

If you are coming from Istanbul, daily buses from many companies like Ulusoy, Nilufer, Kamil Koc, and Metro, can take you to Urla).

If you are coming by plane to Adnan Menderes Airport. You should use public transport routes (Izban or Havas) to reach the city center. Then from Uckuyular, you need to take public transport to Urla.

2 thoughts on “A Local’s Guide to Urla, the Hidden Gem of Izmir”

  1. I highly recommend Seyhan Et restaurant in Urla. I have lived in Izmir and Karşıyaka and now Yelki since 1994 and have not ever eaten better beef than Seyhan’s.

    • I have not tried Seyhan restaurant, because I am more of a fish and meze person. I can’t imagine myself eating beef near the seaside.


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