One of Turkey’s fastest growing cities, ANTALYA is blessed with an ideal climate (except during the searing heat of July and August) and a stunning setting atop a limestone plateau, with the formidable Beydağları looming to the west. In the heart of town, the pretty yacht harbour huddles below the Roman walls, while behind the new buildings the crescent of Konyaaltı bay curves to the industrial harbour 10km west of town. The main area of interest for tourists is confined to the relatively tiny and central old quarter within the Roman walls, known as the Kaleiçi (or “within the castle”). Three or four days in town – including half-day excursions to the nearby ruins of Termessos, Perge and Aspendos – should be sufficient.
Antalya was founded as late as the second century BC by Attalus II of Pergamon, and named Attaleia in his honour. The Romans did not consolidate their hold on the city and its hinterland until the imperial period, at the conclusion of successful campaigns against local pirates. Christianity and the Byzantines got a similarly slow start, though because of its strategic location and good anchorage Antalya was an important halt for the Crusaders. The Selçuks supplanted the Byzantines for good early in the thirteenth century, and to them are owed most of the medieval monuments visible today (albeit some built on Byzantine foundations). Ottoman Antalya figured little in world events until 1918, when the Italians made it the focus of their short-lived Turkish colony.
The best place to start exploring the old town, Kaleiçi, is from the old harbour, where the once-crumbling quays have been rebuilt, gardens laid out and the harbour walls and a mosque restored. Most attractions are within walking distance of each other, but jump on the tram or a dolmuş to visit the excellent archeological museum.Read More
Inevitably, the authentic atmosphere of the old harbour has been sacrificed to the redevelopment – the harbour is now mainly home to day-trip boats, some charter gulets and a very few fishing boats, but on balance, the venture seems to have been a success, and the area is popular with tourists and locals alike, who frequent the quayside restaurants, cafés and clubs.
From the harbour, head uphill along Uzun Çarşi Sokak, past souvenir and carpet shops and the eighteenth-century Mehmet Paşa Camii. Along the way, you might want to stop off at the tiny garden of the local arts society, known as ANSAN, for a cool drink or to check notice boards advertising concerts, slide shows and even Sunday treks. At the northern end of Uzun Çarşi Sokak is Kalekapısı (Castle Gate), the main entrance to the old town. Nearby the Saat Kulesi, a Selçuk tower with inset Roman column drums, is built into a section of the old walls. Kalekapısı is overlooked by the Yivli Minare or “Fluted Minaret”, erected during the thirteenth-century reign of the Selçuk sultan, Alâeddin Keykubad, and today something of a symbol of the city. Facing the Yivli Minare is an early, plain Selçuk han whose crumbling walls have been “restored”, a rather grand term for encasing the ruins in glass and filling the interior with souvenier shops. Above this area, but accessed from Cumhuriyet Caddesi, is an old baths, and a pyramidal mausoleum from 1377.
From Kalekapısı, bear right and right again onto Atatürk Caddesi, and you’ll soon draw even with the triple-arched Hadrian’s Gate (Üç Kapılar), recalling a visit by that emperor in 130 AD. Hesapçı Sokak, the quietest entry to Kaleiçi, also begins at Hadrian’s Gate and if you follow it through the old town, you’ll pass its restored Ottoman houses, many of which have been turned into pensions, trinket shops or restaurants and bars. Left off Hesapçı Sokak, on Kocatepe Sok 25, is the Kaleiçi Museum (wwww.kaleicimuzesi.org), set in two restored Ottoman houses built around courtyard gardens. Behind one house is the restored garden church of St George, which is used for exhibitions often made up of items from the private collection of the Koç family, Turkey’s richest, who sponsor the institute. The second house contains a marvellous library; treasures include original editions of the engravings made by the archeologist-cum-explorer Texier when he investigated Asia Minor for the French government in the 1840s.
About halfway along Hesapçı Sokak stands a tower and attendant buildings known collectively as the Kesik Minare (Broken Minaret), an architectural anomaly that’s done successive duty as temple, church and mosque: compare the reused Roman capitals with later Byzantine ones.
Beyond the Kesik Minare, you emerge above the sea and turn left to reach the adjoining Mermerli and Karaalioğlu parks, which contain a number of pleasant tea gardens as well as the Hıdırlık Kulesi in the northwestern corner. This round Roman tower is the best place in town to watch the frequently spectacular sunsets over the snow-capped mountains across the gulf of Antalya. Return to the harbour past the Mermerli restaurant, which has a private staircase down to the only city-centre beach, Mermerli (8TL buys you a day pass). Alternatively try the Adalar swimming area (7.5TL), reached via steep steps from Karaalioğlu park, with decking on the rocks and ladders into the sea. The staff are friendly, drinks and snacks reasonably priced, and the views across the bay magnificent.
Antalya’s Pazar, at the southeast corner of Şarampol, sells mainly gold, clothes and shoes. There are also daily bazaars throughout the city, the most interesting of which is the Cuma Pazarı (Friday Bazaar), with local produce stalls and clothing vendors packed into the streets west of Murat Paşa Camii.
The Köprülü Kanyon national park (Köprülü Kanyon Milli Parkı) makes a good full-day outing from Antalya. There is little public transport to Selge (the ruins of which are scattered amongst the modern village of Zerk, also referred to as Altınkaya) or to the national park – one elusive afternoon dolmuş (ostensibly in the late afternoon) passes by each day between Serik, on the coastal highway, to Selge/Zerk, returning early the next morning. However, many companies operate half-day rafting trips down the Köprülü River, allowing time for a stop en route for a swim and lunch. Be warned that in peak season up to 45,000 rafters a day are bussed into this area, making both the road and river very crowded places – serious rafters should look elsewhere.
The Golden Orange
The Golden Orange
Antalya plays host to a major film international film festival, the Altın Portakal or Golden Orange, for a week each autumn, usually around the beginning of October. Overall, around 150 films are screened throughout the week, culminating at an award ceremony at the Atatürk Kültür Merkezi where golden statuettes of Venus carrying an orange are handed out. Throughout the week, directors, screenwriters and producers of Turkish and Eurasian cinema hold panel discussions and workshops and parties are held across the city. All films are subtitled in English as well as in Turkish. For the festival programme visit wwww.altinportakal.org.tr.