The largest Turkish city on the Mediterranean, Antalya is the biggest sea resort on the Turkish Riviera. Whether you’re a city lover or want to head along the pristine Turquoise Coast to smaller fishing villages, the city and province make for an excellent getaway.
It’s easy to understand why Antalya is a year-round favourite: the nearby Taurus Mountains shield the city from winds, and the hot summers are complemented by mild winters. Most importantly, there are around 300 days of sunshine per year, not to mention sparkling waters.
The city of Antalya was always considered a gateway to the Mediterranean and changed hands several times over the course of its history. Ottoman-era homes and cobblestone streets give the old city its charm. The historical past is mainly concentrated in the walled city known as Kaleiçi, and it’s easy to see the remnants of this city’s fame as a port. Hadrian’s Gate, for example, is a triumphal arch built for the Roman emperor of the same name. The second-century Hidirlik Tower is another popular landmark and affords excellent harbour views.
Shopping lovers will also have plenty to explore, from the modern Terra City mall to the traditional bazaar, where it’s possible to find anything from colourful bags and skirts to handmade pottery.
For fine dining, try Seraser Restaurant which has a range of Aegean specialties with a French twist, pastas and even sushi, in addition to more refined Turkish specialities featuring roasted meats, octopus and other seafood, plus a range of mouth-watering desserts. Also noteworthy is Calista Resort in Belek, just outside Antalya, which has been hailed for its eco-friendliness and restaurants serving up local produce.
Sunken cities, hidden tombs
If you want to get out the main city for a while, a drive along the Lycian coast is well worth it.
One good itinerary is to head to Kaş, roughly a three hours’ drive. A small fishing town with excellent hospitality and a local flavour, it has its own sites to explore including ancient tombs, a Hellenistic theatre, and the Lycian Way passing by the town. The Gardenia Boutique Hotel is a good base for a sand- and fuss-free beach experience: sun chaises are set up just below, so you can lounge next to the sea, sipping Turkish tea and popping into the water before using the hotel’s open-air shower and then dipping into a good book. The town is buzzing in evenings, where locals mix with tourists and fill the flowered terraces for dinner before grabbing an ice cream of heading into shops selling antiques, colourful lamps, pottery and jewellery.
From there, it’s possible to book private (tourist-free!) boat tours to the sunken city of Kekova, an ancient town destroyed by an earthquake and which now affords a fascinating snorkelling experience.
Just east of Kaş is Demre, known for its Myra Rock Tombs with a very particular style, in addition to being a pilgrammage site because of its association with being the home of St Nicholas, better known by many as Santa Claus! A Byzantine Church now stands in his honour.