With vast swathes of golden sand hugging a ragged sea cliff, and the smooth waves of the Mediterranean lapping beneath a looming fortress, it’s easy to explain ALANYA’s booming popularity among tourists. The beachside sprawl of uninspiring yet all-encompassing restaurants, shops and nightclubs serves merely as a colourful fringe to the charismatic old city; peel yourself away from the watersports and overpriced cocktails and you’ll find a city heaving with historical gems, atmospheric places to eat, and hiking possibilities.
Little is known about Alanya’s early history, but it’s thought to have been founded by Greek colonists who named it Kalonoros, or “beautiful mountain”. Things were pretty quiet until the second century BC, when Cilician pirates began using the town, known by now as Coracesium, as a base to terrorize the Pamphylian coast. Eventually, the Romans decided to put a stop to things and sent in Pompey, who destroyed the pirate fleet in a sea battle off Alanya in 67 BC. In 44 BC, Mark Antony gave the city to Cleopatra as a gift. Romantic as this might sound, there was a practical reason for his choice: this area was an important timber-producing centre, and Cleopatra needed its resources to build up her navy. In 1221, the Byzantine city fell to the Selçuk sultan Alâeddin Keykubad, who gave it its present name and made it his summer residence. Most buildings of historical importance date from that era.