Discovering historical Antalya

By | Category: Travel destinations
Antalya's Hadrian's Gate

Hadrian’s Gate

Situated on the Mediterranean, and known as the Turkish Riviera, the region of Antalya is also an archaeologist’s paradise with one of the oldest settlements in the world dating back to 1059 BC.

I stayed in Kaleici (citadel) the old city centre of Antalya that was originally surrounded by walls. Parts still remain, with Hadrian’s Gate as its main entrance.  Our hotel, the Alp Pasa was configured from old traditional houses with courtyards. Narrow cobbled streets lead to the harbour where visitors can pay to sit on loungers by the water. Along the coast are the more modern hotels fronting onto pebbled beaches. The best and cheapest way to get around is by tram or renting a bicycle.

heracles statue

Te statue of Heracles (Hercules) in the museum in Antalya

Turkey is mainly a Muslim country and we could hear the call to prayer at various times during the day from the minaret next to the mosque. Visitors are welcome but we had to take off our shoes, and as a female I had to cover my head. Fortunately scarves are supplied. Inside the mosque we could see the excavations of a heating system from the second century, and remains of when the building used to be a church. Anatolia is another name for Turkey, and the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations charts the history of the different ages of civilisation going back to the early Palaeolithic Age 500.000 BC. It was particularly interesting to see recent archaeological finds as it wasn’t until after the Second World War that archaeologists started researching the region.

Depending on how much time you have there is a lot to see. Up a rather tortuous and windy road, high in the Taurus Mountains at 1,050 metres is the ancient city of Termessos, originally built during the Hellenistic period and added to in subsequent years. As the ruins are within a national park it has not been extensively excavated, as this would destroy the vegetation and disturb the wildlife. A bonus however, is that as it is not well known, and not that easy to get to, the site is not over run with visitors. Sensible shoes are a must as there is lots of climbing. Stock up on water and take a picnic as, to do it justice, requires the best part of a day. Signs are in Turkish so its important to take the English leaflet at the park’s entrance 5 lira (under £2.00) or have a guide.

Side ruins

the ruins at Side

If you can ignore the tourist shops, although its great for copy designer handbags and jewellery, on the coast the ancient city of Side is amazing as so many buildings have been unearthed, and there is a lot to see. There are plans to reconstruct the city back to its original state, and although this was supposed to have happened, it didn’t look as if the work had started.

Perge within the boundaries of the town of Aksu is believed to date back to the Hittite period although most of the antiquities are from the Roman period. Statues unearthed and now in Antalya Museum are deemed to be one of the most important collections of its type in the world. High towers, monumental fountains, bathhouses and column-lined streets can be seen as well as a 15,000 seat theatre and stadium built in the second century BC. Excavations are still ongoing.

Aspendos theatre stage

Aida at the Aspendos Theatre

Forty minutes drive from where we were staying, Belek is home to five star hotels and a haven for the keen golfer. This is also an area where football clubs come to train, as the resorts have lots of amenities including football fields. Starting in 2014, for the peak October/November season, the Regnum Hotel has introduced night time (flood lit) golf on their 9 hole course, and the other hotels in the area are waiting to see how successful this is.

At Aspendos, one of the highlights of the summer season is attending the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival, held in one of the most well preserved Roman theatres in the world. I was fortunate enough to be there on the first night at the end of August, and sitting under the stars in such a dramatic environment is an amazing experience. Built around 161 – 180 AD and restored as time has gone by, it has excellent acoustics, seating well over 10,000 people.

ruins at perge

Perge

A boat trip is a must particularly in the height of the summer when temperatures go well over 30 degrees. It is an opportunity to see some of the coastline and even better, swim in the clear blue, warm Mediterranean Sea. If there are a group of you it is worth chartering a boat so that you have the freedom to do, and go where-ever you want. Ours had a canopy where we could enjoy the wonderful weather without fear of getting burnt. Lunch too was special, sitting around a table in the cabin eating fresh sea bass and salad. Sometimes the simplest food, in the right surroundings, can be one of the most memorable meals of your holiday. If you can’t muster up a crowd, it is still possible to join one of the larger boats that have excursions although it is important to research the right one for you as some are party boats playing loud music or themed as pirate ships.

ruins at termessos

Termessos

For a bit of retail therapy, it’s worth investigating the clothing outlets situated on the strip near the airport. Smoking isn’t taboo in Turkey, and hotels still have smoking rooms so it’s important to stipulate your choice when booking.

The Turkish currency is lira. I was advised that I would get a better rate in the country, and there are a lot of ATMs. British Nationals are required to have a VISA which can be bought online at  www.evisa.gov.tr

From London Victoria the quickest way to Gatwick Airport is with the Gatwick Express. Southern Rail is slower but cheaper.

I travelled on the national carrier, Turkish Airlines with a break in Istanbul although there are charter airlines that fly directly to Antalya.

For more information about Turkey, click here.

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