Visiting Antalya - What to See and Do
(Antalya Airport AYT, Turkey)
The largest city on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey
. It serves as the hub for travellers heading to the resorts of the Turkish Riviera, but is also a worthy destination in its own right. The Old Town and its harbour have been around since 150 BC, being a strategic base for maritime commerce and military strongholds for the reigning Mediterranean powers of the day.
In the 1970s, Antalya shifted gears and became the hottest place in Turkey for seaside holidaymaking. Today there are literally thousands of resorts, hotels and pensions (traditional guesthouses) in and around the city, catering to the hoards of travellers who come to enjoy some genuinely wonderful beaches, coastal villages and related attractions.
Enter the Old Quarter through Hadrian's Gate to escape the bustle of the modern city and imagine life here some 2,000 years ago. Antalya has a superb archaeological museum and lots of ancient ruins within easy striking distance. This is one destination where you can get the best of everything - sun, sea, sand, ancient sites and modern amenities.
Ten things you must do in Antalya
- Your first stop here should be the impressive Antalya Museum, a comprehensive repository of Turkey's rich heritage. More than 5,000 fascinating artefacts are on display in 14 well-arranged exhibit halls, from classic mythology in the Gallery of the Gods to the Sarcophagus Gallery with its intricate tombs. Another notable attraction is the Byzantine collection, containing priceless religious icons and other marvels of the Christian era.
- The finest ancient monument in Antalya is Hadrian's Gate. It serves as a gateway into the Old Quarter neighbourhood of Kaleici. It was built in classic Roman style to commemorate the visit of Emperor Hadrian in 130 AD, and it is a miracle that this beautiful piece of architecture is even standing today.
- A great day adventure is to climb to the ancient Mountaintop Citadel of Termessos. Even Alexander the Great could not conquer this impregnable fortress. You can make the steep climb up the steps to wander the beautiful ruins of the city that include the Greek Theatre overlooking Antalya below. It is a bit of an effort to get up here, but absolutely worth it.
- See the coastline and the Old Town of Antalya from a special perspective aboard one of the pleasure boats running cruises along the coast. They run for two, four or six hours and sail around little islets. Each trip varies, from party boats to quiet cruises, so ask about the package and boat before joining. You can show up at the harbour right before morning departures or book a seat the evening before - hawkers ensure you know where to find them.
- For a day of modern fun, head to the entertaining Antalya Beach Complex at Konyaalti, which comprises the attractions of Dolphinarium, Aqualand and Aquapark. Between these three big popular amusement parks you will have all the fun and company you could ever want. Around ten beach clubs are also onsite, providing beachside amenities and services to take any hassle out of a day on the sea.
- The ancient port town of Phaselis is one of the most inspiring excursions from Antalya. It is just 14 km / 9 miles away, and offers a fantastic blend of nature and ancient ambience. Three pristine coves are here for swimming, while pine forests cover the rocky headlands. After a swim, wander the ancient streets of this charming city and dream of days long past.
- An alternative to bustling Konyaalti is Lara Beach, a 45-minute minibus ride in the opposite direction. Here you will find a dozen beach clubs providing all the usual amenities and water sports. The long sandy stretches of beach here are perfect for strolls, and the swimming is warm and calm. Minibuses provide easy transport from Antalya throughout the day.
- Spend the evening strolling the waterfront promenade of Konyaalti's Beach Park, where sea breezes create the ideal environment for the sunset. Plenty of cafés line the pathway and suit those looking for an al fresco dinner. Alternatively you can just have a few drinks on the grassy lawns of a local tavern backed by soft cushions and beautiful moonlit views over the sea.
- The highest concentration of historic character is to be found in the Kaleici neighbourhood, where ancient narrow lanes wind past cafés, shady squares and inviting shops. There are dozens of appealing attractions to be found within this large district, and the place takes on a whole new feel on a moonlit night.
- Take a day off the beach to visit the ancient ruins of Perge and Aspendos, within comfortable reach of Antalya. Both can be toured in a single trip and together they will give you a good sense of how the ancient residents once lived. Perge is famous for its huge stadium, while Aspendos has an impressive theatre.