Antalya is undoubtedly the most famous Mediterranean resort of Turkey. The city is located in the south of the country, at the edge of a vast fertile plain, and is the administrative center of the province of the same name. The area was called Pamphylia in ancient times. The picturesque bay of Antalya, buried in the lush greenery of palms, oleanders and lemon trees, reflecting in the azure-blue sea, Antalya is surrounded on three sides by high ranges of the Taurus Mountains, whose snow-capped peaks as if crowning it with a royal crown.
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“The most beautiful city of the Turkish coast” is how the father of the nation Mustafa Kemal Ataturk called Antalya. This is a true paradise, created by nature and the hands of the city, where the exotic gardens scattered on the cliffs over the sea, and parks and slender avenues of palm trees generously give shade and coolness.
Antalya has a mild stable climate, which makes the tourist season here lasts three hundred days a year. The resort has a unique look due to its romantic sailing harbor, the Old Town with its Roman and Seljuk buildings, surrounded by a rampart and the ancient city wall, minarets and mosques of the Ottoman period, noisy shopping areas with their inexpressible Oriental flavor.
Streets in Antalya
Antalya is famous for its first-class hotels and grand tourist complexes, which look like mini-cities, where there is even a landing pad for helicopters. The picture is complemented by excellent beaches, a clear turquoise sea, and even the widest possible opportunities to engage in any of the existing water sports.
The old port of Antalya
History of Antalya
After the epic Trojan War, praised by Homer, a great Hellenic civilization swept over Asia Minor. The Greeks built a number of cities here that became centers of trade between east and west. Among these polis was Antalya, founded 159 years before the new era by the King Attaliu of Pergamon, also known for his love of art. The city, originally named after its founder-king Attalia, got not only a sonorous name from him, but also a well-fortified harbor.
In 133 BC, the Kingdom of Pergamum, and with it Attalea, were conquered by the Romans and eventually became part of the Byzantine Empire. In the first and second centuries A.D. Christianity spread and took hold here. In the 12th century the Crusaders set out from the port of Antalya, which they called Satalia, to conquer the Holy Land. The city also served as their base for surprise attacks on Muslim coastal fortresses in the Eastern Mediterranean.
At the end of the twelfth century the Byzantine Empire began to decline, and the Seljuk Turks established themselves in the region. In 1207 they besieged Antalya and finally conquered it in 1216. In the middle of the XIII century the Mongols invaded Asia Minor and displaced the Seljuks. The era of beyliks – small feudal possessions ruled by beys who paid tribute to the Mongols – began. The center of one of them was Antalya.
In 1423, the Beylik was conquered by the Ottoman Turks and Antalya became the center of the Sanjak, an administrative unit of the Ottoman Empire. It was the Ottomans who gave the modern name to the city and throughout the following centuries, until the First World War, it was an important sea trading port from where ships were equipped to sail to the eastern borders of the empire and to neighboring countries. At one time Antalya was also known as the largest slave market in the region.
In 1919, after the defeat of the Ottomans in World War I, the Italian army occupied Antalya: the victorious allies allowed the Italians to claim the territory as part of their plan to divide the state, claiming that Rome had controlled the empire as early as 2000 years before. However, the Turkish national liberation movement, led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, resisted the allied occupation by force and the Italian army was forced to leave the area.
Half a century ago Antalya was a small, unremarkable city on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. However, a tourism boom swept across Turkey and in just a few decades transformed a provincial area into a super modern resort of international class. The funds invested in the first hotels, roads, stores, restaurants, promptly returned to the owners with a decent profit, and they invested again in the further development of tourist infrastructure. Hotels, apartments, offices, supermarkets grew like mushrooms after the rain, gradually reaching beyond the borders of Antalya and predatory “taking over” the neighboring fishing villages. During the tourist boom the number of hotels grew at such a rate that the three or four-year old buildings were called “old” by the locals.
Attractions in Antalya
Antalya is planned very intelligently, compactly, with great taste, and a walk through it will give you an incredible pleasure. The old quarter of Antalya with its Roman, Byzantine, Seljuks and Ottoman traces is one of the most beautiful parts of Antalya.
The main entrance to the old town is the Hadrian’s Gate. This majestic construction of white marble was built in 130 AD in honor of the visit to the city by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who was known as a passionate traveler. The monumental and elegant structure, with three arched doorways and columns topped with Corinthian capitals, was originally a two-tiered structure decorated with statues of the emperor and members of his family. Previously this solemn portal, guarded by two powerful stone towers, was entirely faced with marble. Traces of the rich decoration can still be seen today. Among them is the emperor’s coat of arms on the left side of the structure.
The Kaleici is dominated by the Yivli Minaret, a 38 m high red brick tower, which is the landmark of Antalya. The minaret was erected in 1230 by the Seljuk Sultan Ala ad-Din Kay Kubad, presumably to commemorate the conquest of Antalya.
The shape of the structure is unusual – eight densely adjoining columns create a relief circle, due to which the minaret was called Yivli, translated from Turkish as “fluted”. Each protruding facet is decorated with brick-and-tile mosaic, in some places remained unique in its historical significance, the remnants of mosaic of turquoise and cobalt glass, and crowns the construction of a conical roof. The minaret is one of the earliest examples of Muslim architecture in Antalya.
The mosque was destroyed but in the second half of the 14th century another mosque called Eski Jami was erected near the minaret, in the style of the Byzantine architecture.
Behind the mosque are the tombs of one of the rulers of Antalya, Mehmet Bey (a place revered by believers as a shrine) and the wife of Sultan Bayezid II, Nigar Hatun. Not far away are the ruins of the Koran school of the Seljuk period.
Nearby is a modest building of the same period, which from the 13th century housed the monastery of Mevlevihane, named after Mawlana Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Rumi, the outstanding Persian poet. He was an apologist for the esoteric current in Islam preaching asceticism and spirituality – Sufism. This religious movement is still one of the fundamental ones in the Muslim religion.
Although today Mevlevikhan houses a modern art museum, every year in December a festival of dancing dervishes (dervishes are ascetic monks, followers of Sufism) takes place here. The mesmerizing dance of the dervishes represents the ultimate human approach to Allah. The ascetics whirl with their heads back and arms outstretched, their white robes swirling in a whirlwind of air like a bell. On festival days, the place is jam-packed with people who want to see this action! It is worth mentioning that the dervish dance, though stylized, can be watched during the folklore shows in the majority of big hotels and restaurants of Turkey. But even in such a secular entourage, closely following the movements of the dancers, you can get quite close to the trance.
In the Old City, a hundred meters from the Yivli Minaret, there is another architectural structure that has become a symbol of Antalya, the Clock Tower (Saat Kulesi). It is the youngest historical attraction of the city. It was built at the turn of XIX-XX centuries by the German Emperor Wilhelm II, and was a gift of the allied state to the Turkish sultan Abdul Hamid (the last autocratic ruler of the Ottoman Empire) for the 25th anniversary of his accession to the throne. The almost fifteen-meter high tower consists of two tiers: the first is higher than the second, and is made of unhewn stones, while the upper floor, where the clock is set on four sides, was built with smooth polished stone.
Another historical structure in Antalya with an interesting biography is the Kesik Minaret. It was erected in the early 16th century at the behest of Shehzadeh Korkut, son of the Turkish Sultan Bayezid II, as part of an ensemble of mosques built on the ruins of a 5th century Byzantine church dedicated to Our Lady, which Christians in turn erected on the site of a dilapidated ancient pagan temple. The mosque, first damaged by an earthquake, was destroyed by a fire in 1846, probably caused by a lightning strike on the top of the minaret. The minaret itself survived, but it lost its upper part, and as a result was called “Kesik”, meaning “truncated cone”.
Now it’s time to head down to the harbor. You can take the high-speed panoramic glass-walled elevator (it’s free), but it’s better to walk through the narrow city streets with houses that impress with their original facades. On the way, look for souvenirs for sale in local shops, buy locally harvested fragrant tea and spices from local vendors, stop by one of the courtyards where hand-woven carpets are offered, and you can also watch Turkish craftswomen at work in the weaving business.
In Antalya harbor, dandy yachts and unpretentious barges find shelter among the beauties that rival the Riviera. Back in 1984, after meticulous restoration work, the picturesque harbor brought the resort capital of Turkey the Golden Apple award from the World Federation of Travel Writers and Journalists.
In this romantic place it is pleasant to sit in one of the cafes, taste seafood, eat delicious Turkish ice cream, and even just drink a cup of coffee or a glass of freshly squeezed juice. The sea air can do wonders for your sense of adventure. Boats and yachts, some in the style of pirate schooners, are at your disposal. You can take one of these boats on a boat trip. Local captains usually charge from $10 for a 45-minute trip. You can take spectacular pictures of the harbor by climbing higher up the stone stairs along the ancient fortress wall.
From the marina walk along the promenade, and relax in Karaalioglu Park. The park stretches along the cliff above the sea and is full of greenery. It is one of the most picturesque places in Antalya with its numerous tea gardens, shady alleys, and miniature fountains.
On the border of the park, above the southern part of the city bay, rises the Hıdırlık Tower. It is a round building on a square plinth, dating back to the late antique period, built of large stone blocks. It is about 13.5 metres high. Presumably it was part of a port fortification and also served as a lighthouse. It is believed that the foundations of the tower were once a tomb. The idea was suggested by historians and archaeologists because of the tower’s grim appearance, reminiscent of Roman mausoleums. Fresco fragments were found on the structure’s interior walls and their content led to the conclusion that in the Byzantine period the building had been used as a chapel. One can enter the Khydyrlyk tower from the east side. A narrow staircase leads up from a small hall. If you go up it you will see a great view of the sea and the city. The tower is surrounded by restaurants and cafes, from the platforms of which you can also enjoy wonderful panoramas – one more beautiful than another.
At the northern edge of Karaalioglu Park is the Karatay Madrasah. The building was erected in 1251 by the order of Jelaleddin Karatay, the Grand Vizier of Sultan Kay Qavus II, and housed a Muslim theological school. The architecture of the building combines different architectural traditions: slender columns are made in the style of a Greek temple, massive domes reminiscent of the roofs of Byzantine cathedrals. From the Arabs masters of the Seljuk period borrowed the art of marvelous stone carving. They achieved great mastery in making ceramic tiles with intricate patterns, decorating the facades and interiors of madrasahs. Particularly striking are the magnificent mosaic floors, laid out of millions of colorful pieces of smalt, a durable fired ceramic painted with glaze. The artfully selected smalt is folded into small but very distinct patterns. The floors are as if covered with rich carpets.
All this beauty was carefully restored not so long ago. Today in this beautiful building is a museum of ceramics. There are collected articles made by artisans who lived in the region in different historical epochs.
The Antalya Archaeological Museum is a 10 minute bus or streetcar ride from the Old City and is considered one of the best in Turkey. It preserves finds from prehistoric times to the Ottoman period, including the famous gallery of gods from Perge and sarcophagi with fantastic sculptures from the Roman Empire period.
In the garden surrounding the museum, as well as in the hall, one can see statues, sarcophagi, ritual figurines, fragments of architectural structures, as well as ceramics and mosaics. Of the mosaics of particular interest are those that came from the excavations of the city of Xanthus. Here you can see the image of the goddess Thetis – the mother of Achilles, who holds her son by the heel, immersing him in the waters of the Styx to make him invulnerable to enemies. The Archaeological Museum has a curious ethnographic collection, where you can examine the household items, clothing and tents of the nomadic Yuruk Turks.
A visit to the museum will cost you 20 Turkish Liras, admission is free for children under the age of 10. Audio guide services, also in Russian is 10 Turkish Liras.
Antalya: recipe for a great vacation
Our tips on how to have a great vacation in the resort metropolis and tourist reviews.
We have prepared this guide with the support of the service of unusual excursions Tripster. There we easily found experienced guides who helped make our vacation in Turkey vivid, and had an incredible experience from the locals. Thank you Tripster for the experience!
Impressions of the resort.
Antalya is surprisingly very clean and well maintained. I was expecting to see a rambunctious tourist town a la Anapa, but this is a European-Turkish resort and everything here is neat, tidy and beautiful. There are nice parks, a cozy harbor, historical buildings. Good thing my stereotype is shattered!
Antalya is such a convenient and versatile resort, it is amazing. It is a resort megalopolis where every tourist without exception can find a vacation to his/her liking and interest! The old town of Kaleici is for those who like narrow streets with cozy cafes, antiques and oriental flavor. The Lara district is popular with families because it has a lot of big hotels and a sandy beach. The Kepez area has the popular Düden waterfalls, a zoo and large shopping malls, and Konyaalti is generally a resort in a resort with good beaches and developed infrastructure. This is usually where our compatriots come.
Read what tourists say about their holidays in Antalya:
MonSherAlbina: “The cleanest streets, pleasant landscapes. The city of bronze sun and tropical greenery. The hazy mountains on the horizon are a delight to look at, and the streets are lined with well-nourished furry cats and kind dogs. It’s a case where the depth of the sea, and the beauty of the mountains, and on the background of modern high-rise with incredible views are shabby villages with a frantic history.
The old town consists of cozy hotels, cafes, bars and stores. A restaurant street with umbrellas in the center of Antalya.
How to get to Antalya
Vacationing in Antalya is convenient because the airport is right outside the city. See ticket prices on Aviasales.
Most tourists fly to Antalya on a trip, and transfer to the hotel is already included in the price – it’s most convenient. If you are an independent tourist, it’s easy to get to the center of the resort: there are express streetcar and buses. Find out how to get from the airport to Antalya.
If you want more comfort, book a cab or an individual transfer. In Turkey we book transfers on three websites: Intui.travel, Gettransfer.com or Kiwitaxi.ru – compare prices for the desired date and choose the most convenient and inexpensive. With an individual transfer you can save a few hours of vacation, especially on the last day of vacation not to leave for the airport too early.
What hotels to stay in
The choice of accommodation at the resort is unimaginably huge! There are great resort hotels by the beaches in Lara and Konyaalti, nice Ottoman style guesthouses and mansions in Kaleici, and regular city hotels in the downtown area.
From personal experience we can recommend two hotels in Antalya. For a family or just a beach romantic vacation, look out for the Aska Lara Resort & Spa 5*. He has a sandy beach, water park, spa, a large tennis court, “all inclusive”. We had the most pleasant memories of the hotel!
For those in Antalya renting a car and sightseeing in the surrounding area, we recommend Sare Suites Downtown in the bedroom community. It is such a cozy and clean apartment that I didn’t want to leave. We chose these apartments because they have good reviews, have parking, easy access from the highway, and Kaleici is about a 30 minute walk.
If you are planning a holiday in Antalya in the high season, book a hotel a few months before the trip. And you can also save a lot if you come to Antalya in the off-season, at the beginning or end of the season. For example, at the end of April we paid half as much for a 5* hotel as we did in summer.
Check out what all-inclusive hotels in Antalya tourists consider the best:
Look for a hotel in advance on Hotelluk. That way you can choose the best accommodation based on tourist reviews. We also buy tours only online at services Travelata and Level.Travel – they quickly find the most profitable trip, plus you can read reviews on the sites.
Every year in Turkey, new resort hotels are opened. If you like to live in rooms with modern technology and new furniture, in rooms where no one has been before you – then you urgently need to read about new hotels in Turkey.
Conclusion: book a hotel in advance, and buy cheap tickets at proven online services. If you want to save money or stay in a great hotel inexpensive, rest in the off-season, at the beginning or end of high season. For a beach holiday, settle in Lara or Konyaalti.
Our hotel Aska Lara Resort & Spa 5*. Our hotel Sare Suites Downtown.
Where to swim in Antalya
The coast of the resort almost entirely consists of good sand and pebble beaches. Just imagine – more than 160 beaches in Antalya have been awarded the Blue Flag for their cleanliness and quality of service! Tourists leave only positive feedback about the beaches. Of course, the beaches are clean, there are toilets, showers, umbrellas and sun loungers, cafes and bars are nearby, there is entertainment and comfortable hotels by the sea. Almost all beaches are free. If you do not want to pay for a deck chair, you can safely arrange with the towel.
Lara, in my opinion, the most comfortable beach. Spacious, with yellow sand, you can safely enter the water, even children.
Konyaalti beach is sandy and pebble and loved by tourists, but it has a rather sharp entrance, so the water is often come out almost on your knees. I advise you to wear aqua shoes.
When we were walking in the harbor, we came across a very cinematic beach Mermerli with a cafe, where the sun beds at high tide are in the water. I had never seen anything like this before and I fell in love with this beach immediately!
I will not list all the beaches here, just read our article on the best beaches in Antalya.
Conclusion: Lara – the most comfortable beach, Mermerli – to feel like a hero of a French movie.
Mir2010: “The water is from bright blue to light turquoise, the shore is dotted with colored pebbles. The beach in Konyaalti is one of the best in Antalya, very clean and atmospheric. Since there are not many hotels in the area and a lot of sunbathers, it is the locals who are interested in cleanliness). I am impressed, I recommend this area to everyone.”
Mermerli beach in Antalya – one love! Lara Beach. Konyaalti beach. In this photo from the drone you can clearly see how quickly the depths begin.
Is it expensive to relax in Antalya?
Antalya is a fairly budget resort. I think the hotels in Antalya are a little more expensive than in Alanya. And we did not notice a big difference in prices for food, transportation and tours in 2022, compared with other resorts in Turkey. Everywhere can be adjusted rest according to your budget!
Here’s how tourists talk about the prices in Antalya:
Sstojkova: “National food is insanely delicious and not expensive at all. For example, a huge kebab cost 110 rubles for our money. The legendary kebab ekmek is 10-12 liras. Lentil soup in a cafe 3-5 lira for a plate. Mussels with rice 1 lira apiece. Alcohol in Turkey is not cheap. A bottle of beer cost 8 lira. Wine from 35-45 and above.
Leparda777: “I advise you to eat in Antalya. For a week of rest – ate delicious, nourishing, walked, swam, went up to the observation points, drove around Antalya freely by bus, spent 25,000 rubles for everything.”
The old city of Kaleici in Antalya has beautiful streets with cozy restaurants and cafes.
What to see
Kaleici is the old city of Antalya. It consists of cozy hotels, cafes, bars, and stores. There we wandered through the narrow streets, admired the old buildings, looked at oriental carpets in the shops, watched the mosques and minarets and at the end went through a beautiful Hadrian’s Gate. If you look closely, you can see ancient tracks of carts and horses on the sidewalk below them!
From Kaleici, take the stairs down to the port. Excursion ships depart from here, and strollers are actively encouraged to get on them. From below you can see the fortress wall. And then there are a lot of the cutest cats, which patiently await the catch of fishermen.
Be sure to visit the Lower Dyuden waterfall, which falls directly into the sea. There is always a rainbow next to it.
Take a ride on the retro streetcar, which is called nostalgia. It goes from archeological museum through city center and many points of interest to Zerdalilik stop.
What else to see and do:
- Aquarium and terrarium.
- Observation sites and beautiful parks.
- Museums: archaeological, ethnographic, maritime, toy museum.
- Singing fountains.
- Cableway to Tahtali.
- Boat trip.
From Antalya visit the ruins of the ancient cities of Perge, Termessos, Aspendos, Phaselis, and Olympos, the Karain Cave. You can get there with a tour, a cab or a rented car. As far as I know, it’s complicated with public transportation. On excursions read below.
Conclusion: A whole vacation is not enough to see everything in Antalya and its surroundings! We will have to go back. Take a look at our Antalya sightseeing guide to plan your itinerary.
There are deep wagon tracks under Hadrian’s Gate. The amphitheater of the impregnable city of Termessos, which Alexander the Great himself could not take! The lower Duden waterfall.
What excursions to take
Antalya is good not only for beach holidays and just living, but also in terms of excursions. There are a lot of interesting sights, plus it is convenient to go from here to Pamukkale and Cappadocia. As a consequence, there are plenty of excursions in and out of Antalya!
Since we had a rental car, we drove around the area on our own. And then we decided to take a couple of excursions around the city. On our favorite service Tripster, which collected author tours, we chose a tour of the Old City of Antalya, a yacht ride to the paradise island of Suluada, and a quest excursion to the archaeological museum. We were guided by the reviews and we did not go wrong – the excursions were very fascinating, we can safely recommend!
Read our review about the walk in Kaleici in the company of a glorious guide Nikita and learn about the best excursions in Antalya.
Although we knew Antalya well, we took an individual tour of Kaleici. The guided walk exceeded all expectations! Just look at that spotless clear water near Suluada Island!
Where to rent a car
If you have the right, desire and time, rent a car for a couple or three days and see the sights around Antalya on your own. It is very easy! The roads in Turkey are excellent, the rules are ordinary, the police are kind, and the driving style of the locals is quite adequate. And it’s also advantageous if you’re vacationing with a family or a company – it’s cheaper than taking a cab. Read our tips for car rentals in Turkey.
We booked a car on the website Localrent and were completely satisfied. We rented a car to drive along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, and to see Cappadocia and Pamukkale. Near Antalya we visited the antique cities of Termessos, Aspendos and Perge on our own. We had lots of impressions!
In Antalya we rented a car to drive along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, and to see Cappadocia and Pamukkale.
Should we go with children?
Antalya is predominantly sandy, so it’s safe to come with children. Moreover, the entrance to the water on sandy beaches is gentle, and there are no strong waves. Holidays with a child is best in June and September, when there is no intense heat. In May and October, choose hotels with heated pools.
Antalya has a lot of family hotels, aimed at children – with animation, babysitters, playgrounds and rooms, water slides and children’s pools. There are so many that you just can’t choose! We recommend Aska Lara Resort & Spa 5*, where we stayed: it has a large water park and a lot of children’s entertainment.
According to tourist reviews for 2021, the resort seems big and noisy to some. However, a lot of entertainment makes up for it. With children of preschool age, settle in the suburban hotels – there is not so noisy. The resort has Aqualand and Dedeman water parks for children, an aquarium, a zoo, an amusement park Aktur Park, Mini City Miniatures Park.
Well and a big plus is the proximity to the airport, especially for parents with toddlers. Learn more about holidays in Antalya with children.
Conclusion: come with children, you will love it! You have to choose a comfortable hotel.
Water park hotel Aska Lara Resort & Spa 5*.
When to visit
In Antalya, a warm, dry climate, so the heat even in the height of summer is easier to endure than in Kemer – we experienced it ourselves! The difference is surprising: the sensation Kemer – a greenhouse, and Antalya – a dry sauna, although they are not far from each other.
The beach season begins in May and lasts until mid-October. Holidays are most comfortable in May-June and September-October. In May, it’s still cool to swim, because the water in the sea is +18. +20 ° C, but in June is already quite good.
The hottest time is August, at this time to go to Antalya is not advised: +36 ° C air in the shade, +29 ° C sea water. In November the weather is capricious, but, according to reviews, some people are lucky and during the whole vacation there are only 1-2 cloudy and cool days. See when it’s better to rest in Antalya.
Conclusion: in my opinion, June and September are ideal months for comfortable bathing and excursions without suffering from the hot sun.
Vetla: “We were at the end of September, for 10 days there was not a single cloud in the sky, the temperature was over 35 degrees. Beautiful sea with huge waves, sandy shore, huge fish swimming right underfoot.”
A view of Mermerli beach. At the beginning of June, people are already swimming here.
Antalya manages to please almost everyone, because everyone finds something to their liking. It is impossible to get bored in Antalya! You will find a place even if you are a hardened introvert and want peace and quiet – you just need to choose the right hotel away from the noisy center.
By the way, about the noise and bustle – perhaps it’s the only complaint to the city. Though with what to compare, of course – many write in reviews that it is very quiet. We too found Antalya very quiet for such a major resort. It’s not night Pattaya for sure!
In general, if you want comfortably and inexpensively rest, see a lot of interesting sights, good shopping and get better acquainted with Turkish cuisine, you are welcome to Antalya!