Formerly known in history as Pamphylia, modern Antalya is now a treasure chest of historical ruins, sandy beaches, and attractive landscapes. Add these to the variety of amenities such as international marinas, European designed golf courses, large shopping malls plus impressive transport networks; it is easy to see how this cosmopolitan location has formed the miraculous ability to suit everyone. Antalya is the fifth-most populous city in Turkey and is the largest city on the Mediterranean coast and is considered the hub on the Turkish Riviera as it’s commonly referred to. One in three visitors to Turkey stay in Antalya such is its popularity.
Antalya is one of the most visited Turkish resorts by locals and foreigners who arrive in their droves for their annual summer holiday. It’s the gateway to the beautiful vast coastline of the Mediterranean in southern Turkey. This picturesque coast is often called the Turquoise Coast due to its array of inviting clear blue waters. Once a Roman port, various remnants can still be seen today including Hadrian’s Gate which was built for the Roman Emperors visit to Antalya in 130 A.D to honour him. There is also Hidirlik Tower which was built in the 2nd centrury.
History of Antalya
Founded in 158 BC by the king of Pergamon, the Antalya region fell under Roman rule in 133 BC, therefore joining the Greco-Roman period to enjoy much wealth and success. The profitability and peaceful times continued until the Arab invasions in the 7th century.
Although the battles were fierce, the Byzantine Empire maintained control until 1206 when the Seljuk Turks invaded and seized their land. Their reign was short though, because by 1390, the Ottomans arrived and they ruled until their empire crumbled at the beginning of the 19th century.
The Ottomans were on the losing side at the end of World War 1 and the Allied forces, carved up their territory between them, resulting in the Italians assuming command of the region. After the Turkish War of Independence, control returned to Turkey and despite many years of uncertainty, Antalya grew to become the second most important destination in the country for tourism
First-time visitors instantly notice the lustrous views of the domineering Taurus Mountains, fronted by the crystal blue sea. Coupled with the Mediterranean climate and an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, this environment provokes a relaxed and laid-back lifestyle in the coastal areas. It is a popular resort for families and groups of friends having the ability to cater for all needs. Foreigners who wish to hold their wedding in Turkey mainly opt for Antalya as their preferred resort with Indian weddings proving the most popular by far – for now. Venues in Antalya are able to host extremely large wedding receptions and this is popular with the Brides and Grooms from India who like the Turkish population, tend to have very large families. Understandably, the back drop of both the Mediterranean Sea and the Taurus Mountains make for fabulous wedding photographs.
Antalya has a prominent position on the all-encompassing Turkish Riviera; therefore, marinas and yachting are a profitable source of income for local companies. It also holds the crown as the starting location for the official Lycian Way trekking route. This trekking route was highlighted by the Sunday Times as being in the top ten walks in the world. The official trek is 516km starting in Antalya and ending in Fethiye. Walkers take in some of the most picturesque landscapes plus hundreds of historical sites built by the Lycian Empire.
The government approved trek along the Mediterranean coast showcases major historical ruins including that of Aspendos, which has one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in the world. Antalya is also the starting point for Saint Paul’s trail, a marked long distance walking route following the footsteps of the 1st century missionary.
Regions of Antalya
Antalya City Centre is the most populated seaside location in Turkey, with more than a million people residing within its boundaries. All modern facilities exist including large shopping malls and a transport network that extends to the rest of the region and other locations within Turkey. Regarding tourism, the most popular place is the old town known as Kaleici, which boasts of the marvellously intact ruins of Hadrian’s Gate and the rustic and appealing harbour area. To the Northeast of Antalya is the lofty resort of Saklikent that is popular for skiing from January to March and is just 50km from the centre of Antalya. It is excellent for skiing and snowboarding with10km of slopes at an elevation of 1,850 – 2,547m with 5 lifts. There are 5km of easy slopes, 3km of intermediate and 2km for the advanced skier. The season is from mid December to early April depending on the snow conditions. Where else can you ski and then swim in the Med? It’s a two centre resort offering snow and beaches and is an excellent choice for lovers of both.
In previous years, tourists have turned away from Gazipasa, to the East of Antalya, but efforts have been made lately, to increase foreign visitors to the region. A new airport was built but with limited incoming international flights and this has hampered the campaign, which is a shame because this stretch of coastline has spectacular scenery and maintains its traditional Turkish roots. Gazipasa is just 41.2 km from Alanya and a 45 minute transfer. It is 175.8 km from Antalya taking 2 hours and 38 minutes to reach Antalya city centre.
Alanya is probably the second strongest area in Antalya because of its population size and diversity of amenities and attractions with one in ten visitors to Turkey opting to stay in Alanya. There is much to offer tourists in Alanya apart from its award winning Blue Flag beaches. However, the beaches are popular, even the Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra is rumoured to have bathed there and it’s why Alanya’s most famous beach is called after Cleopatra herself. It’s the perfect setting for those who want to relax and soak up the rays and enjoy a cool swim in the Med. Sightseers will be delighted to visit Alanya’s Castle which was built in 1229 and stands majestically overlooking the bay. Alanya attracts the rich and famous and the harbour area is buzzing as nightfall’s with the owners of the luxury yachts leaving their havens to dine at one of the many upmarket restaurants. All along the marina you will find trendy cocktail bars and a smattering of nightclubs, many of them open air so guests can enjoy the balmy evenings. The Mahmutlar area is especially popular with expats who purchased property in the region; they opted to live just 10km away from the vibrant city centre of Alanya.
Manavgat is just 72km (45 miles) from the city centre of Antalya; it has a strong farming community taking advantage of the fertile plains in the area. It also receives many daily visitors who flock to see the unremarkable but pretty and fast flowing Manavgat waterfalls. Visitors who yearn for an adrenalin rush can go water rafting through the Koprulu Canyon and take in the breath taking scenery, or simply go shopping in the local market and haggle for some tempting souvenirs to take home.
Kemer is a man-made resort that has expanded to accommodate mainly all-inclusive hotels. In the height of summer, it is popular with all nationalities but especially domestic Turks. Its pebble beaches and its large harbour attract many as do its pretty back drop of the pine forests of Olympos Beydağları National Park. Here the biggest attraction in this region is the cable car ride up Mount Tahtali. In the near vicinity are the vast Greco-Roman ruins of Phaselis and the eternal fires emitted by dozens of vents in the rocks on the side of the mountain at the Yanartaş rock formation.
Finike in ancient times was known as Phoenicus and then Phineka, it is found to the west of Antalya along the Mediterranean Sea. Located on the southern shore of the Teke Peninsula is a stopping point on Gulet cruises sailing the Turkish Riviera. It’s most known for its production of local fruit and vegetables however it is fast becoming a popular tourist destination for those wanting a more relaxed location.
Kas is an attractive seaside resort that still maintains its typical Mediterranean fishing village vibe. The town is transforming into a fairly modern area, although saying that it is retaining its traditional theme with whitewashed houses covered in bright splashes of colourful bougainvillea. History lovers will be delighted with the ruins and ancient sites in this area including the ancient site of Antiphellos with its theatre and ruins. One Lycian Rock tomb in this area is the 4th-century-B.C. Lion Tomb, with two carved lion heads which can be seen as the trail passes through Kas. Although it has a distinctive lack of in-town beaches, scuba diving, and paragliding are popular pastimes for locals and visitors.
Side is a relaxed family friendly resort just 45 minutes east of Antalya Airport and a couple of kilometres from the town of Manavgat. It is well known for the historical ruins existing within the modern day urban development. Often referred to as a living open-air museum, it is blessed with a charming seafront promenade and the small but impressive landmark of the Apollo Temple. The Taurus Mountains are the backdrop to its pretty beaches and harbour with water-front restaurants. Its cobbled streets are lined with shops and the area is positively brimming with local history. If you like to golf the golfing resort of Turkey is Belek, which is just a 30 minute drive away. You can go trekking or mountain bike riding in the Taurus Mountains, raft down the River Manavgat in the Koprulu Canyon National Park which is also home to the ancient city of Selge. How about horse riding in Sorgun Forest or ski in the nearby mountain resorts of Davraz and Saklikent.
Belek is just a short distance from Antalya Airport only a 30 minute transfer. In previous years, it was labelled as a rustic resort with basic facilities, therefore most hotels in the area operated on an all-inclusive basis. These days, it has become a golfing mecca, with numerous award-winning golf courses and the real estate market is awash with luxury golfing properties and villas. Belek offers much more than golf courses though, in January through to March, you can ski in the morning and swim in the Mediterranean Sea in the afternoon as the Saklikent skiing centre is only 90 minutes from Belek. Why not try horse riding along the beach or through the mountain trails of the pine forests or sailing, windsurfing or maybe even water skiing?
The Mediterranean Climate
During the summer season in July and August the temperature can top round 34°C and in the winter can drop in January to a still mild 15°C. In the summer there will be an average of 30 or 31 days of sunshine (depending on how many days are in the month). During the winter in January and February there are still 20 or 22 days of sunshine. The climate is typically Mediterranean with 300 days of sunshine per year with hot dry summers and mild winters.
The Mediterranean Diet
Is a very healthy one, it’s full of fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, olives, fish and white meat plus good extra virgin olive oil. Fresh bread accompanies most meals and to a large extent it’s basically a vegetarian diet. Salads and winter salads with vegetables again is eaten with most meals plus a variety of cheeses. Eating out is a great experience with a choice of traditional Turkish eateries offering good local dishes, fine dining and international cuisine.
Antalya offers so many wonderful resorts catering for every type of person, the beach lover, keen sightseer, sporty person and those simply looking for a picturesque haven with amazing views of the Mediterranean.