ANTALYA: CAPITAL OF TOURISM
ANTALYA: CAPITAL OF TOURISM, Eda Işıkoğlu | 22.06.2016
Antalya, for me, is more of a meeting of cultures than merely a region. It is such an incredible place that I thought long and hard about where to start in describing it. We are talking about a province in which you can find beauty at every step, from its eastern border with Mersin to its western border with Muğla.
When I decided to write about this province that I visit annually in different seasons, I recalled the vast swathes of memories I have here. I am going to give you a roadmap of the area from east to west in short details, even though I could write many pages about it.
ALANYA is a holiday district 2 hours from the city of Antalya that has a very lively atmosphere day and night. The first place you should see in Alanya for me is Alanya Castle. This castle, which has become the symbol of Alanya, was constructed during the reign of Alaeddin Keykubad I in the 13th century by the Seljuks. The castle, located on the top of the peninsula, is preserved as an open air museum. There still are people living within the castle area as well. You can reach the castle on foot or by road; there are places where you can enjoy a little rest with a great view and incredible pancakes if you get too tired on the way up. There are also many vendors selling souvenirs and displaying handicrafts on their stalls along the road. Once you reach the castle you will be captivated by the view, especially if you happen to be there at sunset.
You should also visit Kleopatra Beach, which is famous for its incredible, turquoise water. According to legend, the Egyptian queen Cleopatra stopped at Alanya on one of her trips around the Mediterranean and bathed in this bay. The water off Kleopatra Beach is stunningly clear. However, I must give you one warning about the sea here: The waters get very deep just 1 meter away from the shore, so exercise caution if you are not a strong swimmer. Damlataş Cave, in which you will find stalactites and stalagmites, is right behind Kleopatra Beach and you should visit it to take a breather and feel the cool air inside.
It has become one of the most important tourist stops in the area with the facilities built around the Dim River, which starts in the Toros Mountains and ends at the sea in Alanya. You can enjoy a few peaceful hours in nature at one of the wooden lounges set on the river, eat good food, and swim in the ice cool waters to escape the overwhelming Mediterranean heat, especially during the summer months.
You can spend your evenings walking around the inner market. A wonderfully colorful place, there are plenty of stores, cafés, and restaurants to keep you entertained. Heading towards the sea from the market you will pass rows of brightly lit bars, which cater for all musical tastes.
I strongly advise you to visit the Manavgat Waterfalls, which is in the district of MANAVGAT between Antalya city and Alanya. These falls, which have become a symbol of Antalya as much as a symbol of Manavgat, offer the chance to cool down in hot weather with adjacent recreational areas.
You can stop at Side, a holiday district in Manavgat whose history dates back to the Hittite era, to both bathe in the water and see a unique sunset.
There are many historical sites in the area, including the ancient city of Aspendos, which is in the SERİK region close by. This city, which was founded in the 10th century by the Achaeans and still remains intact after all those years, will fascinate you with its theater, basilica, fountain, and aqueducts. The 15,000-capacity amphitheater hosts many concerts and performances to this day and is in the top 10 places you should definitely see on this route.
If you are an adventure sports enthusiasts, you will want to visit Köprülü Canyon. The canyon, known as one of the best places for white-water rafting in Turkey, takes its name from the bridges (köprü) on the river flowing along Köprüçay Valley. Even though I haven’t crossed rafting off of my list of things to do I know that one day I will try it. It is said that the route’s difficulty level is 2-3. Visitors that wish to just enjoy a nature trip can stay in the bungalows situated alongside the river.
Heading further west you reach ANTALYA CITY CENTER which has the feeling of a proper Mediterranean city. You can enjoy both your days and nights to the full in Antalya after passing by the many greenhouses on the roads outside the city. Lara Beach and Konyaaltı Beach are just the spots to enjoy your days.
If you choose to stay within the city, in spring the best place to stay is Kaleiçi. The Kaleiçi district has a pleasing ambiance with its marina, market, many restaurants, authentic hostels, and guesthouses. If you are thinking about having a vacation of sea and rest away from the city you should stay at one of the many hotels at Belek. Its hotels, which have their own zoos, water parks, and golf courses, are ideal for those expecting comfort and different activities.
When it comes to suggestions for places to eat and drink in this region, you can enjoy fresh seafood and salads at the restaurants in the Lara district. You shouldn’t miss out on the meatballs and haricot bean salad, which are dishes strongly associated with Antalya. The flavor of the haricot bean salad, which is prepared with sesame oil unlike in other places, will stay long in your mind as well as on your taste buds. The pumpkin with syrup, which is a popular regional dessert, is also served with sesame oil and walnuts. Topçu at Kazım Özalp, Piyazcı Ahmet at Güllük, Piyazcı Sami across from the office of the governor, Piyazcı Mustafa in İsmet Paşa Avenue, and Şişçi Ramazan at Yüzüncü Yıl are the best known places to enjoy meatballs on skewers and haricot bean salad with sesame. Burnt ice cream, which is particular to Antalya and its region, is a dessert that must be sampled as well. The various jams of Antalya are worth a try and can make great souvenirs. Eggplant, walnut, watermelon, and fig are just some of the many kinds of jams which may pique your interest.
There are many natural wonders and ancient cities in the districts close to Antalya which are not to be missed. Düden Falls, Kurşunlu Falls, Karain Cave, the ancient city of Termessos, and the Lycian Way ranging to Fethiye are just some of these places. Antalya is such a rich city that you will find there is a never ending stream of things to do and places to see, even if you spend many weeks there.
Even though Antalya is renowned for its hot weather it is also a place where two opposite seasons can take place at the same time. To witness this, just go up to the Saklıkent Ski Center or the Mount Olympos. Finding yourself in need of snow coats and beanies at the snow-covered peaks of the Toros mountains when the city has a temperature of 18°C all of a sudden is quite an experience! I recently took a trip up to the peak of Mount Olympos and was astonished at the difference with conditions in the city. :)
The change of climate is not the only point of interest on a trip into the mountains. The Olympos Aerial Tram, which is one of the longest cable car lines in the world at 4,350 m, will take you to the peak (an altitude of 2,350 m) after a thrilling journey where you will be staggered by the altitude, cold, oxygen levels, and the magnificence of the mountain. You will soon forget the cold and the snow once you catch sight of the views of Kemer and Olympos Bays.
The KEMER district is one of the most important tourist centers of Turkey. If you find the time here you should visit the ancient city of Phaselis. Kemer, which has many facilities for tourists and is very crowded during the summer months, can offer a vacation suitable for all budgets. The district is also known for its nightclubs.
If you are looking for a calmer, nature-based, and bohemian type of vacation one of the places I can suggest is the ancient city of Olympos within the district of KUMLUCA. Olympos is reached via an enjoyable and twisting journey (approximately 7-8 km) through the forest once you turn towards the sea from the road. The region, which is a protected area as it is a breeding place for loggerhead sea turtles, also contains the Olympos Beydagları National Park. This area provides both economical and different accommodation options such as tree houses, bungalows, and tents, and is a hotspot for students and vacationers of a more bohemian nature.
If you like trekking you can discover the unique beauty of the bay by climbing a little bit. I would also advise you to see Yanartaş, which is a half-hour climb from the center of Çıralı. In this fascinating area, gas emerges from cracks in the ground and small fires burn constantly. The best time to visit Yanartaş in my opinion is during the sunset and twilight hours. You can experience the day turning into night with this unique view and even take some food with you to cook on the fires. :) It is a good idea to carry a flashlight and wear some comfortable sneakers.
The bay just to the east called Adrasan is another calm and tranquil spot. Here you can stay in bungalows, single-floored hostels; enjoy the silence at the really long bay; walk among the orange gardens; taste the handmade fresh pancakes and Turkish ravioli; and throw yourself in the cool waters of the Mediterranean any hour of the day.
If you have rested for long enough at Olympos, Çıralı, and Adrasan bays you can continue on towards the district of DEMRE (previously Kale). Demre, which is an important stop on the Lycian Way, is generally associated with the St. Nicholas, better known today as Santa Claus. A museum, housed in an old church, dedicated to St. Nicholas is a popular tourist attraction. The church, which was built in memory of St. Nicholas in the 3rd century, has a feel of the middle Byzantine era architecture to it. In Demre you can also visit the ancient city of Myra. The remains, which you will see in an open air museum, are quite interesting, especially for history enthusiasts.
Another reason I like Demre so much is that it is possible to reach Kaleköy and the island of Kekova from here. Kaleköy is truly a hidden paradise. This small, calm, cute, and very special town lies on the coast of the clearest sea you will ever lay eyes on and an untouched nature. The best views are found by going up to Simena Castle.
Similarly, Kekova Island, which you can reach by boat, is another tranquil corner of heaven. Due to the fact that the only sunken city of Turkey is located here, Kekova (along with the surrounding area) is also protected. You will want to spend hours in the water with the cleanliness and clearness of the sea in this region.
Once you head a little further west you will reach KAŞ. This holiday district, so loved by its visitors that it attracts many regulars, will captivate you so much that you will want to come here every year. The first thing that comes to mind when Kaş is mentioned is scuba diving; but the beautiful weather, the sea, and the atmosphere mean there is something for everyone. There is also accommodation to suit all budgets.
The Büyük Çakıl and Küçük Çakıl bays are popular for swimming in the sea. There are dozens of diving clubs offering underwater tours in the mornings and the afternoons for the more adventurous. Undertake basic training to be able to make a half-hour discovery dive, or earn your diver’s badge after weekly courses of more serious training if you prefer. With the sunken wrecks and the variety of underwater flora and fauna, this is one of the best places for diving. If you are interested I would advise you to seize this opportunity.
Diving is not the only thing to do in Kaş, of course; one of the most beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean, Kaputaş, is on the road between Kaş and Kalkan. Even though it is a mix of sand and pebbles, it is one of the most attractive beaches in the world due to the turquoise color of the water. This beach in this small bay is located between two mountains and is accessed by hundreds of stairs, which while tiring is an ascent and descent really worth making.
As you have seen, it is hard to describe Antalya in a few words; the paradise province covers the south of Turkey and offers different beauties at every kilometer. I am sure that there are many more places that can be described in this area, but these were the ones I experienced and loved the most. I hope this has helped you with your plans.