With its beautiful, sweeping beaches, intriguing ruins and natural wonders at every turn, we love Antalya. It’s little wonder the region is second only to Istanbul in terms of tourism.
Here are a few reasons we - and more than 12 million tourists each year - can’t resist Antalya City and its surrounding areas.
1. You can relive ancient glories
Around 2000 years ago,
King Attalos I of Greece sent out a group of men to locate “Heaven on Earth”. The story goes that they found it in Antalya. We’ll never know if the story is true. But we do know that King Attalos II eventually founded the mighty Greek city Pergamon.
Pergamon’s ruins - and those of Perge, Side and Aspendos - are incredible examples of Byzantine, Greek and Roman sites that are not only extremely well preserved, but accessible to anyone who cares to take a trip out of the city and explore.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can visit Termessos, the mountaintop city that was one of the few places at the time to defeat the conquering advance of Alexander the Great, who called the city an eagle’s nest, due to its impenetrable location 1000 metres high in the Taurus Mountains.
2. Loggerhead turtles are kind of a Big Deal
At the beginning of September, newly hatched loggerhead turtles make the mission from nest to sea in the tourist town of Cirali. Actually, you’d be lucky to see the event itself because it happens at night - often around the time of a full moon. But it’s worth a trip to Cirali just to see how the town has managed to create a tourist hotspot while preserving the environment for these endangered animals.
Loggerhead turtles - also known as Caretta Caretta - can live up to 60 years and an adult can reach 90cm long and weigh 130kg. They’re unfortunately a rare sight these days but it’s heartening to see that Cirali’s coastal conservation programme, run by locals and backed by WWF, is going strong in the face of tourism.
3. The old town is amazing
Beautifully preserved Kaleici has withstood the ravages of time - and more lately, tourism - and is one of the loveliest old town centres you’ll see anywhere. The narrow cobbled streets, lined with lovely shops and boutique hotels and restaurants, is an absolutely enchanting (and romantic) place to while away the hours.
Wander the streets and take in the red-roofed, wooden Ottoman and Greek homes. Check out the focal point of the city: the Roman triumphal arch, built to mark the visit by Hadrian in 130AD. Gaze up at the 13th century Yivli Minaret. Drop down to the marina afterwards for a seafood lunch or dinner, or take the tram along the seafront to the main city beach, Konyaalti or the Antalya Museum.
4. It’s the start of the Lycian Way
The Lycian Way opened in 1996, the result of years of planning. The 500 kilometre track between Antalya and Fethiye is simply incredible, encompassing incredible coastal scenery and passing by a number of ancient Lycian ruins - including remotely located ruins you’d never reach by road.
Recent upgrades mean the Lycian Way is not only better signposted, but it’s now possible to cycle the path. Of course, you don’t have to walk the whole way - you can jump on and off depending on your level of fitness or enthusiasm.
5. You can watch classical concerts in a 1000-year-old theatre
Aspendos’s theatre is world famous as the best-preserved ancient theatre. And the truly amazing thing about the theatre today is that you can still watch performances there.
The 7000-seater theatre was built in 155 AD, by a Greek architect who was native to the city of Aspendos. The clever design incorporated the hillside behind, and has vaulted arches. The high stage was designed to isolate the audience from the rest of the world. We can safely guess that the ancient architect would never have expected 1000 years after he designed it, audiences would still come to the theatre to watch modern performances.
Each spring and summer, the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival offers an array of performances. Such an incredibly dramatic backdrop to an opera or ballet is rarely seen anywhere else in the world.
6. If you’re active, it’s hands-down the best place to be in Turkey
Go golfing in Belek, where there are around 20 golf courses - many of them international standard and featured on pro-golf tours. Sail along the coast, exploring distant islands and remote coves. Scuba dive and explore ancient ruins. Ski at Davraz or Saklikent ski fields- not many people know this but skiing is growing in popularity in Antalya and you can do it at a fraction of the cost. Shoot grade four and five rapids on a rafting trip that winds through the Taurus mountains. Explore Saklikent Canyon - a cool escape from a hot summer’s day. Ride a horse up a mountain trail. Need we go on?
7. Incredible museums
The city and surrounding areas are home to a wealth of informative, educational and just plain interesting museums. Check out the Saint Nicholas Museum in Demre, and Alanya Castle in Alanya. Or back in the city, check out the Ataturk House Museum, where you can learn about the founding father of modern Turkey.
But the ultimate do-not-miss museum on your to-do list absolutely must be Antalya Museum. Covering an area of 7000 square metres, where 5000 artworks and 30,000 artifacts are exhibited, the museum offers an illuminating look into the history of the Mediterranean and Pamphylia regions of ancient Turkey.