Its unique geographical position has endowed this region with an abundance of natural beauty with the awesome Beydaglari Mountains dominating the eastern horizon.
The city’s location in the Anatolian Peninsula has enriched its tradition and culture as this peninsular land was once the cradle of civilization and it was home to some oldest settlements in the world. Ancient relics of those habitations still exist in and around the city.
Although its population is predominantly Muslim and Turkey was ruled by Islamic Ottoman Empire for over six centuries, it’s a secular and progressive country. Antalya’s liberal profile, in addition to its natural beauty and the attractiveness of this historic city, has turned it into a favorite holiday destination in the tourist-friendly Mediterranean Region.
Antalya is Turkey’s premier holiday resort. It has enormous addictive qualities to attract travelers from different parts of the world for having a gala vacation in this unique Turkish city. Where else can they find a harbor huddled below ancient Roman walls right in center of the city? Ships used to be docked here in ancient and medieval times. It is now being used exclusively for mooring swanky yachts owned mostly by billionaire expatriates. Many of them have bought properties here, enhancing the city’s glamour quotient.
Antalya is a fairly affluent city with a predominantly upper middle-class population. They are often seen driving along tree-lined boulevards in their flashy limousines to ritzy places like Konyaalti on top of the cliff. It is one of the exclusive locations lined with luxury abodes where the rich and famous live. It’s also one of those upscale shopping districts that attract foreign tourists.
Photo Credit: Okey-property.com
There is a fabulous beach along the Mediterranean coast also called Konyaalti and, along with another beach known as Lara, form a vast area just outside the city where locals and tourists go in huge numbers to indulge in water sports during the day and relax in the evening seeping chilled beer or local wines in the many bars that dot the coast.
Oodles of old-world charms
Atalya is indeed a vibrant modern city but it also exudes charming old-world ambience at the same time. This wonderful synthesis of the old and new makes the city most interesting. You will often see old Ottoman houses with elegant facades standing cheek-by-jowl next to sleek high-rise apartment blocks.
Antalya was originally a Roman town in ancient times. Then it came under Byzantine rule followed by the Seljuk Turks. Finally the Ottomans grabbed the town, until Kemal Ataturk ousted the declining Ottoman Empire and established the Turkish Republic in 1921. All those imperial rulers left their legacies on the town.
Top tourist attraction
Kaleici is appropriately known also as Old Town because it’s indeed the oldest part of the city and is undoubtedly its top tourist attraction. It’s an amazing place with narrow cobble-stone streets and narrower alleys lined with some ancient Greek and many medieval Ottoman era Turkish houses. This astounding historic locality now has an abundance of charming boutique hotels, family-owned inexpensive pensions, wonderful restaurants, lively bars and exotic gift shops patronized mostly by tourists.
Much of the historical character of the Old Town still remains and the civic authorities periodically carry out necessary restoration work. Visitors to the city find this area immensely attractive. Although Kaleici hasn’t yet bagged the World Heritage Site recognition from the UNESCO, it has won the next best award – the Golden Apple Prize – which is like the Oscar of tourism.
Exploring the Old Town
Photo Credit: Turkeyholidaysguide.com
The best way to explore the Old Town is walking along its immensely interesting and narrow winding streets. A good place to start your walking marathon is the mammoth the Hadrian’s Gate with three towers resembling a Roman triumphal archway because it was indeed built by the Romans in 130 AD to coincide with the Roman Emperor’s visit to this ancient and tiny Roman settlement. Enter the Old Town through this Gate which is much bigger and more spectacular now.
The 2nd century fortifications with watch towers that almost encircle the Old Town and guard what used to be a busy Roman harbor and now a fancy yacht club are the remains of Kaleici’s oldest structures. Of the 80 towers that were built originally, only one has survived and is known as the Clock Tower because a big clock was installed on it in the 19th century. A beautiful park overlooking the rocks now surrounds this structure.
The13th century Yivli Minare Mosque is one of the first Islamic structures built in the heart of the Old Town. Its fluted minaret decorated with turquoise tiles is the symbol of the city and is another major landmark. It was probably built over an ancient Byzantine church where the Romans and Armenian Christians used to worship. The original mosque was destroyed a hundred years later and the present one was reconstructed in the early 14th century.
At the southern corner of the ancient fortifications and overlooking the Mediterranean is the Hidirlik Tower that you must see walking through the City Park. It was perhaps served as a lighthouse and watchtower for the harbor built by the Romans.
There are many more historic buildings in the Old Town such as the Old Historic Bazaar – Carsi to the locals, Kalekapisi Gate, Iskele Mosque etc. Spend as much time as you can spare and enjoy exploring this enchanting old district. Here you will find many charming boutique hotels and family-owned reasonably comfortable pensions. It also has a number of wonderful restaurants, lively bars and exotic gift shops patronized mostly by tourists. You might consider staying in this area where most major tourist attractions are within easy walking distance unless you prefer to stay in a luxury 5-star hotel like the Sheraton along the Konyaalti and Lara beaches.
There is a veritable galore of hotels in this bustling metropolis – big and small, luxurious and modest, frightfully expensive and reasonably priced. Some of the leading 5-star hotels – besides the Sheraton – are Titanic De Luxe Beach & Resort, Porto Bello, Delphin Diva Premier, Antalya, Sherwood Breezes Resort, Concorde De Luxe etc. Internet is a good source to find more about accommodation available. Prepare a shortlist and negotiate with them for a discount.
Like hotels, Antalya also abounds with varieties of restaurants mostly serving delicious local dishes which are a superb blend of Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine. There are good restaurants in the Old Town area, inside leading hotels where non-residents are also entertained and in clubs and bars where you may wish to spend the night.
The options for having fun in this predominantly Muslim city are very wide. The city has a vibrant and crazy nightlife. Most bars double as discotheques, and most hotels offer nocturnal entertainment – usually belly-dancing – where non-guests are also welcome.
Photo Credit: Picturescolourlibrary.co.uk
Most bars and clubs remain open throughout the night. Club Ally in the Old Town is a lively nightspot for all-night entertainment. Other popular joints are Club Arma and Club Ceila. If you want a quiet ambience, go to the waterfront bars in the Old Town where you can also enjoy the cool breeze coming from the sea while seeping chilled beer or the traditional Turkish alcoholic brew called Raki.
Shopping in most Turkish cities is great. Antalya has the added attractions of open-air markets, covered bazaars and flamboyant boutiques. Antalya’s carpets and kilims, ceramics, copper and brassware, jewelry – including alabaster shell, leather goods and antiques (so skillfully crafted that you won’t realize they are fakes!) are very popular. Bargaining is quite common.
The city has reliable minibus and tram transport systems besides omnipresent taxis. You can also rent a car for visiting neighboring archaeological sites as also for traveling within the city.
Antalya has two international terminals – all located hardly ten km from the city center. The number of international flights far surpasses the touristy Istanbul’s, indicating Antalya’s growing popularity amongst the glove-trotting community. This has officially earned this wonderful city the epithet of the Capital of Turkish Tourism.
Come to this alluring city and enjoy an unforgettable holiday. It’s also a wonderful family holiday and honeymoon destination.