The aim of this study was to find an alternative to synthetic fungicides currently used in the control of devastating oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans, causal agent of late blight disease of tomato. Antifungal activities of essential oils obtained from aerial parts of aromatic plants such as oregano (Origanum syriacum var. bevanii), thyme (Thymbra spicata subsp. spicata), lavender (Lavandula stoechas subsp. stoechas), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), and laurel (Laurus nobilis), were investigated against P. infestans. Both contact and volatile phase effects of different concentrations of the essential oils used were determined by using two in vitro methods. Chemical compositions of the essential oils were also determined by GC-MS analysis. Major compounds found in essential oils of thyme, oregano, rosemary, lavender, fennel and laurel were carvacrol (37.9%), carvacrol (79.8), borneol (20.4%), camphor (20.2%), anethole (82.8%) and 1,8-cineole (35.5%), respectively. All essential oils were found to inhibit the growth of P. infestans in a dose-dependent manner. Volatile phase effect of oregano and thyme oils at 0.3 microg/ml air was found to completely inhibit the growth of P. infestans. Complete growth inhibition of pathogen by essential oil of fennel, rosemary, lavender and laurel was, however, observed at 0.4-2.0 microg/ml air concentrations. For the determination of the contact phase effects of the tested essential oils, oregano, thyme and fennel oils at 6.4 microg/ml were found to inhibit the growth of P. infestans completely. Essential oils of rosemary, lavender and laurel were inhibitory at relatively higher concentrations (12.8, 25.6, 51.2 microg/ml respectively). Volatile phase effects of essential oils were consistently found to be more effective on fungal growth than contact phase effect. Sporangial production was also inhibited by the essential oil tested. Light and scanning electron microscopic (SEM) observation on pathogen hyphae, exposed to both volatile and contact phase of oil, revealed considerable morphological alterations in hyphae such as cytoplasmic coagulation, vacuolations, hyphal shrivelling and protoplast leakage.