One of Turkey’s fastest-growing cities, ANTALYA is blessed with an ideal climate (excluding 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 the crescent of Konyaaltı bay curves to the industrial harbour 10km west. Interest for tourists is largely confined to the relatively tiny and central old quarter within the Roman walls, known as the Kaleiçi (or “within the castle”). The city’s renowned Archeological Museum, however, west of the old town, is home to one of the finest collections in the country.
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Antalya was founded as late as the second century BC by Attalus II of Pergamon, and named Attaleia in his honour. The Romans only consolidated their hold on the city and its hinterland during the imperial period, following successful campaigns against local pirates. Christianity and the Byzantines had 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.
Antalya to Alanya
The stretch of coast between Antalya and Alanya is among the most developed in Turkey. With a four-lane highway running right behind many beaches, flanked by all-inclusive hotels and holiday-village complexes, it’s hard to imagine this was once ancient Pamphylia, a loose federation of Hellenistic cities established by incomers from northern Anatolia. Home to a busy international airport, the booming city of Antalya is the gateway to the region. Now a fully-fledged resort, it is worth visiting for its restored old town and marvellous archeological museum. The nearest (and most fascinating) ruined city is Termessos, perched on the saddle of Mount Solymos overlooking the Antalya gulf. East of Antalya, the surviving ruined cities of Pamphylia also rival the beaches as tourist attractions, with Perge and Aspendos the best preserved and most evocative sites. Further along the coast, Side is a major resort, though the striking ruins of its ancient city are fast being overshadowed by package tourist facilities. Alanya, the next sizeable centre, has also seen an explosion of hotel building and tourism-related commerce over the last few years, but has retained an attractive old quarter.