In Antalya, the pine-clad Toros (Taurus) Mountains sweep down to the sparkling clear sea resulting in an irregular coastline of rocky headlands and secluded coves.
Oceanus Mosaic, Antakya Archeology Museum
The region, bathed in sunshine for 300 days of the year, is a paradise for sunbathing, swimming, and sports activities like windsurfing, water skiing, sailing, mountain climbing and spelunking. If you come to Antalya in March or April, you can ski in the mornings and in the afternoons swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean. Awaiting your discovery are important historical sites set in a landscape of pine forests, olive and citrus groves and palm, avocado and banana plantations.
Alanya Castle and Red Tower, Antalya
The Turkish Riviera is the tourism capital of Turkey. Its full range of accommodations from basic to luxery hotels, and the hospitable people of Antalya will make your holiday comfortable and enjoyable.
Surrounded by amazing scenery of sharp contrasts, Antalya, Turkey’s principal resort, is an attractive city with shady palm-lined boulevards and a prize-winning marina. In the picturesque old quarter of Kaleici, narrow, winding streets and old wooden houses abut the ancient city walls.
Hadrian’s Gate, Antalya
Antalya has been continuously inhabited since its founding in 159 BC by Attalos II, a king of Pergamum, who named the city Attaleia after himself. The Romans, Byzantines and Seljuks successively occupied it before Ottoman rule. The elegant, fluted minaret of the YivIi Minareli Mosque in the center of the city, built by the Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in the 13th century, has become Antalya’s symbol. The Karatay Medrese (theological college) in the Kaleici, district, from the same period, exemplifies the best of Seljuk stone carving. The two most important Ottoman mosques in the city are the 16th-century Murat Pasa Mosque, remarkable for its tile decoration, and the l8th-century Tekeli Mehmet Pasa Mosque.
Nearby the marina, the attractive late 19th-century Iskele Mosque is built of cut stone and set on four pillars over a natural spring. The Hidirlik Kulesi (tower) was probably constructed as a lighthouse in the second century.
The Kesik Minaret Mosque, which was previously a church, attests to the city’s long history in its succession of Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman renovations.
When Emperor Hadrian visited Phaselis in Antalya province in 130 AD a beautifully decorated three-arched gate with Corinthian columns was built into the city walls in his honor.
It was the only entrance through the city walls. The two towers flanking the gate, as well as other sections of the walls, are still standing near the marina.
The clock tower in Kalekapisi Square was also part of the old city’s fortifications.
Yivli Minare (Fluted Minaret), Antalya
In the Ataturk and Karaalioglu Parks, the colorful exotic flowers and the shimmering water in the bay with the mountains behind demonstrate why Antalya has become such a popular resort. At Aqua Park, on the eastern coast, every kind of water sport is available, including exciting water slides.
The award-winning Antalya Kaleici Marina and Leisure Center is considered one of the loveliest marinas in Turkey with its many souvenir shops, friendly cafes and restaurants as well as yacht moorings and services.
Sail in the morning and enjoy the relaxed conveniance of the marina in the afternoon. The old city walls, lit up at night, lend an atmosphere of serenity and timelessness.
Icon in the Antalya Archeology Museum
The Archeological Museum, with artifacts from the Paleolithic Age to Ottoman times, offers a glimpse of the area’s rich history.
Two-colored ceramics dated at 5400 – 8500 B.C. are worth seeing.
The Ataturk Museum displays objects used by the founder of the Turkish Republic.
(Both open weekdays except Monday).
The Antalya Altin Portakal (Golden Orange) Film and Art Festival, held in the autumn, attracts many participants and visitors.
The ancient theater in Aspendos makes an impressive setting for some of the festival’s plays and concerts.
Antalya also hosts annual jewelry fairs.
Kaleici Yacht Harbor, Antalya
A Culture, Exhibition and Congress Center dominated by an impressive glass pyramid was opened in 1996 in the Konyaalti Quarter.
What could be more appealing than dreamlike landscapes, a rich variety of flora, grand mountains, and the magnificent colors of the sea? Add to that the lively resort life with the quiet of ancient ruins and you have a perfect vacation. From Antalya there are many possibilities for day-trips:
Karain Cave, Antalya
At the Upper Duden Waterfalls, 14 km northeast of Antalya, you can walk behind the rushing cascade for a thrilling experience. On the way to Lara Beach, the Lower Duden Waterfalls plunge straight into the sea. The nearby rest area offers an excellent view of the falls and the vista is even more spectacular from the sea. Kursunlu Waterfalls and Nilufer Lake, both 18 km from Antalya, are two more places of superb natural beauty.
The sandy Lara Beach lies about 12 km to the east. Closer to Antalya, but to the west, the long, pebbled Konyaalti Beach offers a view of the breathtaking mountain range. A little farther along, the Bey Daglari Olympos National Park and Topcam Beach provide more splendid vistas. Sican is a lovely nature island. There are camping grounds at the north end of the park, should you decide to linger amid the natural beauty. For a panoramic view of the area, drive to the holiday complex and revolving restaurant on top of Tunektepe Hill.
Termessos Amphitheater, Antalya
Saklikent, 50 km from Antalya, is an ideal winter sports resort on the northern slopes of Bakirli Mountain at an altitude of 1,750 to 1,900 m. In March and April you can ski in the morning, eat a delicious lunch of fresh fish at Antalya’s marina and sun bathe, swim or windsurf in the afternoon. You can see wildlife – deer and mountain goats – that are under a conservation program in Duzler Park, north of Antalya. On the way, you can stop at the astonishing 115-m deep Guver Canyon.
On the eastern side of Can Mountain, 30 km from Antalya, the Karain Cave, which dates from the Paleolithic Age, is the site of the oldest settlement in Turkey. A single entrance, lit by the morning sun, opens onto three large interconnecting chambers. Although the little museum at the entrance displays some of the finds, most of the artifacts are housed in various museums throughout Turkey. Some of them date to 160,000 B.C.
Kursunlu Waterfall, Antalya
The ruins of the city of Termessos are perched on a 1,050-m high plateau on the west face of Gulluk Mountain (Solymos) found in Mt. Gulluk National Park northwest of Antalya. A wild and splendid landscape surrounds the monumental traces of this city. A nature and wildlife museum is found at the park entrance.
Renowned for its unspoiled landscape, flora, and fauna, the Goller Bolgesi (Lake District) lies in a mountainous area 150 km north of Antalya. The city of Burdur is known throughout Turkey for its beautiful lakes, as well as for its carpets and kilims. The Bakircilar Carsisi is a shopping area where you can find fine hand crafted copper. This city also preserves excellent examples of Ottoman regional architecture, in particular the Tasoda, Kocaoda (also known as Celikbas). and Misirlilar Konaks, or mansions, dating back to the 17th century. Both the interior and exterior decorations reveal much of the Ottoman aesthetic. (Open everyday except Monday). The Burdur Archeological Museum houses some very important artifacts from around the region. (Open everyday except Monday).
Burdur Lake, with nice beaches for swimming, is a superb location for water sports. A climb to the top of Susamlik Hill gives you a panoramic view over the city and lake. The Insuyu Cave, 10 km south on the road to Antalya, is 597 m long, with nine distinct pools, and chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Kremna (Camlik) is 60 km from Burdur and 15 km from Bucak near Camlik village in Bucak County. It wasan important Pisidian city and contains Roman and Byzantine era ruins. The Incirhan Caravanserai is located seven km west of Bucak in lncirdere (Derekoy). It was built in the 13th century by the Seljuk ruler Giyasettin Keykubat.
A hundred m southwest of Burdur, in Golhisar (Cibyra), are ruins, mostly from Roman times, of an important ancient north Lycian city with a stadium, lower and upper agora, theater, necropolis and large aqueducts. Also in the region, trapped in the mountains 1,050 m above sea level, is beautiful Lake Saida, a delightful location for relaxation and cooling off on the sandy beaches or in the lake side cafes, hotels and restaurants. Also in the region is Hacilar Hoyuk (Hacilar mound) containing ceramics dating from 5400 to 8500 B.C. excavated in 1950.
Egridir Lake, Isparta
The ancient site of Sagalassos is 33 km east of Burdur and seven km south of the town of Aglasun. It was the Pisidian capital city and has ruins from Roman times that included a memorial entrance gate, colonnaded street, lower and upper agoras, temple and magnificent theater.
High in the Taurus Mountains is Isparta, a city of lakes and lovely coastal areas overgrown in the spring and summer with an exuberance of wild flowers. In the city you should stop at the Ulu Mosque built in 1417 by the Seljuks. The Bedesten, or covered bazaar, dates from 1561. Firdevs Pasa Mosque, also called Mimar Sinan Mosque was also built in 1561 by the great Ottoman architect Sinan. Be sure to see the 14th-century Isparta Castle. Rose gardens that produce rose oil for the cosmetic industry surround the city and fill it with their sweet scent. Other souvenirs include a thickly piled Isparta carpet. In the nearby hills, the districts of Kirazlidere and Sidre are popular with visitors who want to relax and enjoy the view. South of Isparta, Golcuk Lake, encircled by aromatic pine forests, rests at an impressive 1,405 m above sea level.
Aglasun (Sagalassos) Burdur
Egirdir, at the southern end of Lake Egirdir, is set in idyllic natural surroundings. Among the man-made monuments, Egirdir Castle built by the Lydian King Croesus shows additions and renovations made by Romans, Byzantines and Seljuks. The Seljuk Kemerli Minare has felt the changes of the modern world today it stands in the middle of a road. At lakeside restaurants you can sample white bass, the local speciality. A boardwalk connects the shore to Egirdir Island, where weavers erect their looms and work outside their houses.
Up in the hills, on the western side of the lake, guest houses in Barla provide a wonderful opportunity for relaxation. Kovada National Park, 30 km south of Lake Egirdir, surrounds Kovada Lake, a pristine and cool mountain getaway.
Pisidian Antioch, Yalvac, Isparta
Northeast of Isparta, Yalvac, stands near the ancient city of Pisidian Antioch. The actual time it was founded under the Seleucids is unknown, but it was probably a colony of King Antiochus (281-261 B.C.) of Magnesia on the Meander. Antioch then passed under the control of the Galatian kingdom (39-36 B.C.) and then became “Colonia Caesarea” of the Roman Empire in 25 B.C. and remained so for about 200 years. This is attested to by numerous Latin inscriptions still extant. Under Rome, the city was made to resemble the capital on its seven hills. At the end of the third century the city was a metropolis of Pisidia and continued to be under the Byzantines, who increased the number of sacred sites.
This area was visited by Paul and Barnabas around 46 AD. Among the ruins be sure to see St. Paul’s Basilica, the aqueducts, the Temple to Augustus, the theater and public baths as you walk along the city’s marble streets, all of which was destroyed by Arabs in 713. In the middle of the 13th century most of the inhabitants left the ancient site and founded nearby Yalvac. The Archeological Museum in Yalvac itself displays several important regional artifacts. Tourists will find not only articles of leather clothing but many other interesting traditional souvenirs made of animal hide. East of Yalvac. atop Karakuyu Hill, is the sanctuary to the moon god (called Men), and the view from it is breathtaking. Giant cedar trees grow in Kizildag National Park, south of Yalvac amid one of Turkey’s most splendid landscapes.
The mountains of the Toros (Taurus) Range rise up immediately behind the coast. The entire length from Konyaalti Beach to the Kirlangic Peninsula is national preserve, the Bey Daglari (Olympos) National Park. The history of this ancient Lycian Peninsula can be traced back to the Neolithic Age to the settlements at Beldibi.
Kemer Marina, Antalya
The 42 km of road from Antalya to Kemer pass through spectacular mountain scenery. This resort town has been carefully designed to blend in with the surrounding scenery and offers a lovely environment for a wonderful holiday. The fully-equipped Kemer marina allows yachtsmen to enjoy the unspoiled bays and beaches south of the town. Shoppers will delight in the wonderful range of high quality souvenirs for sale. A beach promenade north of the marina has steps down from its cafes and shops to the beach. Kerner Beach is a Blue Flag beach. (The term “Blue Flag” coined by the European Union signifies especially clean beaches.). In the Yoruk (Nomad) Theme Park you can watch traditional crafts people at work. The adjoining bay is a charming spot with many sports and daily entertainment facilities discreetly hidden among the pines. April is the month for the colorful Kemer Carnival. Also in the spring are the yacht races between Kerner and Girne in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and between other locations.
Kiziltepe, Goynuk (Blue Flag) and Beldibi (Blue Flag) north of Kemer and Camyuva and Tekirova (Blue Flag) to the south, are tourist centers that offer various activities. The holiday villages are all designed to blend into the forest that surrounds them. At the foot of 2575 m high Mt. Tahtali (Olympos), 15 km south of Kemer, the three harbors of Phaselis were once a major commercial center. The ruins of aqueducts, agoras, baths, a theater, Hadrian’s Gate and an acropolis reveal the city’s historical importance. From the south harbor, look up to Mt. Tahtali for a spectacular view. The sheltered sandy beaches make a superb playground, and the waters are calm and safe for swimmers.
The ancient city of Olympos is situated on the southern side of Mt. Tahtali Oleander and laurel bushes shade the Olympos Valley, which can be approached by land or sea. The light playing on the quiet pools of water enhance the mosaics in the bathgate possibly built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), part of a bridge, and a Roman theater also remain from antiquity. The outer walls and towers around the bay date from the Middle Ages.
North of Olympos up from Cirali Beach is Yanartas (at a height of 300 m) where Greek mythology tells us the Lycian hero Bellerophon mounted his winged horse Pegasus and slew the fire-breathing Chimaera.
Gas seeps from the earth and burns brightly at night at this site. The Byzantines also considered this a religious area.
South of Olympos, tranquil waters and sandy beaches line the Bay of Cavus where you can water ski on calm waters, discover the colorful marine life or explore the incredible sea caves on the northern shore.
Finike, an entry port west of Olympos, is surrounded by citrus trees and gardens. A sandy beach stretches to the east, and to the west are rocky bays and coves.
Limyra, an ancient Lycian city, is 10 km inland from Finike, via Turuncova. The fourth-century B.C. Pericles mausoleum, decorated with caryatids, is a magnificent example of ancient art. The city walls, necropolis, and Roman theater are also of interest.
Farther along this road is the Lycian city of Arikanda. It was inhabited at least by 500 B.C. and was destroyed several times by fire or earthquake. It was called Akalanda by the Byzantines. Set high on the mountain overlooking one of Turkey’s most beautiful valleys, the extensive ruins include an agora, a theater with seven sections, a stadium, bouleuterion, water system, gymnasium, baths and scattered sarcophagi. The baths are still in good condition.
The ancient city of Myra, now called Demre or Kale, is 25 km west of Finike. It was inhabited as early as 500 B.C. Many splendidly carved rock tombs dating from the 4th century B.C. overlook the magnificent Roman theater. St. Nicholas, who was born in Patara, was the bishop of Myra during the 4th century, and died there in 326. Every year in December the St. Nicholas Commemoration Ceremony attracts many tourists who spend their Christmas holidays on the sunny Mediterranean coast of ancient Lycia.
Dalyanagzi, the ancient harbor of Andriace, west of Demre, has a good beach for swimming and sunbathing.
Kekova, an island an hour from Dalyanagzi by sea, gives its name to a whole ensemble of picturesque islands, numerous bays and ancient cities. These bays provide natural harbors in all seasons, and yachtsmen particularly enjoy exploring the unspoiled landscape. Along the northern shore of Kekova Island at Apollonia, earthquakes have disturbed the land causing some of the ancient houses to sink under the clear water, thus creating a sunken city. Kalekoy Castle (Simena) offers a birds-eye view of the bays, inlets, islands and colorful yachts sailing peacefully over the glassy water.
Continuing west out of Kekova, you come to Kas, a lovely spot surrounded on three sides by mountains. The friendly local fishermen are happy to run a water taxi service to take you to a favorite bay, cove or beach along the coast. The swimming and diving are excellent in the clear cool water around Kas, which was founded in the 4th century B.C. as Antiphellos. Now only the Lycian rock tombs, sarcophagi and a theater are left. But the charm of the town remains, and it is a pleasure to wander through the streets, stopping to examine souvenir shops that offer Turkish handicrafts, leather goods, copper and silver items, cotton clothing and the inevitable handmade carpet.
Harpy and Semerdam Memorials, Xanthos – Antalya
After shopping stroll, along the flower-lined Akdeniz Promenade or relax under the shade of a palm tree. The mountains that surround the town provide their share of activities and sights, while the bars and restaurants offer plenty of nightlife. You can walk through forested hills to visit remote villages and ancient ruins. The energetic may want to attempt the highest peak in the area, Mt. Kizlar Sivrisi (3,086 m), or the second highest, Mt. Akdag (3,030 m).
Along the scenic Kalkan road, Kaputas has a beautiful beach, at one end of which is the Turquoise Grotto. A little distance to the west is Kalkan, a lovely small hilltop town that overlooks a tiny bay. Its quaint, traditional, white-washed houses, shuttered windows and balconies with brilliant flowers that cascade to the streets below, make it the ultimate in a peaceful holiday town.
Narrow winding streets lined with souvenir shops lead down to the charming marina. Every morning boats are busy taking tourists to one of the nearby beaches or small bays. As the sun sets, it is Kalkan tradition to meet on the roof terraces for a drink before dinner and enjoy the comings and goings of the yachts, the business of the marina and the panoramic view.
Belek – Antalya
Once a principal harbor of ancient Lycia, Patara is now reached by following a winding mountain road before descending to the site. According to Greek mythology Apollo was born here. More concrete history reveals that this town was the birthplace of St. Nicholas. The ruins are, of course, numerous and interesting. A second century theater has been partially excavated, and there is a gate with three arches built in 100 . But Patara is also a place for beach lovers. Its 22 km of pure white sand stretches as far as the eye can see, making it a natural choice for all types of beach sports. The remoteness of this undiscovered comer makes it feel like a private paradise.
Wide, fertile plains parallel the endless sandy beaches east of Antalya until you come to Alanya. Abundant modern tourist facilities and well-preserved historic sites give you a number of options for a day’s activities.
Perge (18 km from Antalya) was an important city of ancient Parnphylia, originally settled by the Hittites around 1500 BC. St. Paul visited this city on his first missionary journey. The theater stage has finely carved marble reliefs, and other carvings from around the city are displayed in the stadium. Amateur archeologists will want to see the handsome city gate flanked by two lofty towers, a long colonnaded road once paved with mosaics and lined with shops, a large agora, public baths and a gymnasium.
Aspendos Ampitheater, Antalya
Swimmers and sun-bathers alike enjoy Belek, a modem luxurious holiday center and golfer’s paradise, 40 km from Antalya. The National Golf Club located in Belek features a wide variety of water sports, as well as a championship 18-hole golf course and 9-hole academy course. Visitors may sample some of Turkey’s finest cuisine and enjoy open air discos.
A photogenic Seljuk bridge crosses the Kopru River from the road to Aspendos. The road continues past the Aspendos Jewel Center to the Aspendos Theatre, the best preserved theater of antiquity, with seating for 15,000. Still used today, the theater’s galleries, stage decorations and acoustics all testify to the architect’s skill. Nearby, stand the remains of a basilica, an agora and one of the largest aqueducts in Anatolia.
Temple of Apollo, Side – Antalya
And if you have ever wondered how gold dust becomes a fine piece of art or how precious stones are engraved, be sure to visit the Aspendos Jewelry Center, where jewelry making can be observed at every stage in the large workshop.
Northeast of Antalya, at the turn off for Tapgil and Beskonak, is the scenic route that leads to the 14-km-long Koprulu Canyon National Park. The twisting road winds over mountain streams and passes through virgin cedar forest. It is often a slow drive because the view at every turn is more beautiful than the last. The park, 92 km from Antalya, is a valley of wild beauty rich in flora and fauna.
Fish restaurants dot the rest areas. The Roman Oluk Bridge, which spans the canyon, and the Bugrum Bridge over the Kocadere stream, are engineering feats of antiquity. From this park you can take two excursions – to the ancient city of Selge or to the Dedegol Mountains. Dedegol the highest peak in this mountain range rises to 2,992 m. An important city of ancient Pisidia, Altinkaya (Selge), northwest of Koprulu Canyon National Park, is reached by a winding mountain road. The city walls, tower, cisterns, temple to Zeus, agora, stadium, theater carved into boulders, gymnasium and necropolis still remain from this commercial city that stood at an elevation of 950 m. Historians verify that Selge had direct trade with Antalya, which brought it prosperity. Selge was ruled by Lydians and others.
Koprulu Canyon, Antalya
Although the Manavgat Waterfalls are not high, milky white, foaming water rushes powerfully over the rocks. Next to the waterfalls, shady tea gardens and restaurants make the falls a pleasant, cool resting spot, especially welcome after a day of sighseeing. You can take a delightful boat trip up the Manavgat River to explore this lovely area further.
Alanya Castle, Antalya
Side, one of the best-known classical sites in Turkey, was an ancient harbor whose name meant pomegranate. Now a pretty resort town, its ancient ruins, two sandy beaches, numerous shops and extensive tourist accommodation attract throngs of visitors. There are numerous cafes and restaurants with a view of the sea, and the shops that line the narrow streets sell typical Turkish handicrafts including leather goods and Turkey’s famous beautiful gold jewelry. The magnificent theater of the ancient city, built on colonnaded arches, is the largest in the whole area. Other monuments include the agora, the Temple of Apollo, which is situated near the sea, a fountain and necropolis. The extensive Roman baths, now a museum, house one of Turkey’s finest archeological collections.
Manavgat Waterfall, Antalya
Tucked in pine forests east of Side, the resorts of Sorgun, Titreyen Gol (Blue Flag) and Kizilagac are popular for their sandy beaches and sparkling sea. The atmosphere is relaxed, the accommodation plentiful and the activities endless.
West of Side, the holiday centers of Kumkoy, Colakli and Kamelya also offer sun and sea, in close proximity to ancient sites. At Seleucia of Parnphlyia (Bucaksihlar), 15 km northeast of Side, are the remains (in good condition) of Roman baths, temples, churches, a mausoleum, theatre and agora. One of the most interesting and well known caves in Turkey is located in Altinbesik Cave National Park situated 12 m southeast of Aydinkent (lbradi) and 55 m north of Manavgat. Lakes and interesting rock formations within the cave area as well as travertines and streams make this area especially fascinating. Altinbesik Cave is situated on the western slopes of the Manavgat River Valley and can be reached via the village of Urunlu, which is an authentic village and a must-see when traveling through this area.
The Alarahan caravanserai was built by Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in 1230 on the banks of the Alara River. On the top of a nearby hill the Alara Fortress commands a view of the whole area.
The large and popular resort center of Alanya lies at one end of a rocky promontory, which juts out into the Mediterranean between two long sandy beaches. A fortress repaired by the Seljuks in 1231, one of the most magnificent sights on the coast, crowns the headland. Nearly 150 towers punctuate the walls of the well- preserved, doublewalled citadel. Within the outer walls are ruins of mosques, a caravanserai and covered bazaar, and within the inner walls are a ruined cistern and a Byzantine church. Although Alanya’s history dates back to the Romans, it rose to prominence under the Seljuks, when in 1220, Alaeddin Keykubat made it his winter residence and naval base. The surviving buildings reflect the importance of the city in Seljuk times. Besides the impressive citadel, tourists should explore the unique dockyards and the octagonal Kizil Kule (Red Tower).
Ulas Beach, Antalya
Alanya is a beautiful holiday center of modern hotels and motels, as well as numerous seafood restaurants, cafes and bars. The cafes that ring the harbor have become popular gathering places for tourists. There are also three Blue Flag beaches. From the town’s lovely park, the road runs along the coast to the harbor, lined with countless boutiques that tempt tourists with handicrafts, leather, clothes, jewelry, handbags and the amusing painted gourds that are a symbol of the area. In August, when Alanya hosts a colorful International Folklore Festival the atmosphere is charged with vitality.
If you enjoy exploring you should visit the Damlatas Cave to see the eerie misshapen rock formations. Nearby is the Archeology and Ethnography Museum (Open weekdays except Monday). A boat can take you to three sea grottoes: Fosforlu Magara with its phosphorescent rocks; the Kizlar Magarasi, where pirates imprisoned their female captives and the Asiklar Magarasi.
When the intense sun overpowers you, take a day trip to the Dim Cayi Valley, 15 km east of Alanya, where you can relax in the shade of this scenic valley and listen to the stream rushing by. Thirty km east of Alanya is Aytap, the historical harbor city of lotape and a great excursion site with Roman ruins, secluded beaches and bays.
If you travel east from Alanya towards Gazipasa you will discover and, no doubt, linger on the exceptional beaches. The attractive Gazipasa County was awarded its name by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Near Gazipasa is Yalandunya Cave with many natural water pools. Also discover the Korsanlar Ask Magarasi (Pirates’ Love Cave). The royal graves at Doganma on Mt. Adanda and Mt. Guney are also worth seeing. Near the ancient city of Solinos there is a comfortable vacation locale. Be sure not to miss the picturesque Turkish houses at Hasdere.
Iotape Ancient Harbor, Gazipasa – Antalya
Avsallar (Incekum), about 25 km from Alanya to the west, is a resort center with fine sandy beaches.
EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN COAST
Mark Antony gave the lovely Cilician shores between Alanya and the Syrian Border to Cleopatra as a wedding present. Also associated with the region’s past is St. Paul, a native of Tarsus. Today the area is known for its fertile soil which produces abundant crops, and for the hospitality of its residents.
Surrounded by densely cultivated market gardens, Mersin, the provincial center of Icel, lies midway on the eastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Its shady palm-lined avenues, city park and modern hotels create a pleasant ambience from which to visit the nearby historic sites and numerous beaches. A rapidly developing city and the largest free-trade zone port on the Turkish Mediterranean, Mersin has a regular car ferry service to Gazimagosa (Famagusta) in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. In the fish market, sample the daily catch in one of the several inexpensive restaurants. Other local delicacies include cezire, a local confection made of carrot rolled around a walnut center, and biberli ekmek, a small pizza topped with a spicy meatless sauce. Despite its very modern appearance, Mersin (ancient Zephyrium) occupies the site of an extremely ancient city. It was called Kizuwatna by the Hittites. At the Yurnuktepe tumulus, three m west of town, continuing excavations have unearthed several successive settlements dating back to 6000 B.C. to the Neolithic Age. It has also been learned from a letter from the Hittite queen, Puduhepa (1282-1275 B.C.), to the Ugarite king in Syria, Niqmepa, that the residents of Ura (Hyria) at the head of the Goksu (Calycadnos) River in Icel were engaged in sea trade with the Ugarites. There are remains of various civilizations throughout Icel, but the majority of remains are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Turkish eras.
In Demircili (the ancient Imbriogon), north of Silifke on the way to Uzuncaburc, there are well-preserved memorial tombs of the early Roman period.
Anamur Castle, Mersin
The drive up the mountain road to the magnificent ancient site of Diocaesarea (Uzuncaburc) at 1200 m is lined with large tombs. The remains of the impressive Temple of Zeus Olbius from the Hellenistic period, the Temple of Tyche, the god of luck, a monumental arch, a theater built between 161-180 AD, a Byzantine church, and a tower are outstanding. Four m to the east are the ruins of Olba (Ura) where the Roman aqueducts, theater, and fountain make a quick tour well worthwhile.
Continuing along the coastal road south from Silifke you come to the 5th century Meryemlik (Ayatekla), a Roman necropolis with the tomb and church of St. Thecla, the first female martyr / saint.
Tasucu, with good accommodation for tourists, is a resort town with sandy beaches and a harbor. Regular sea bus and ferry service connects the town with Girne in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Ovacik, 44 km west of Tasucu, is a quiet spot well-known for its fisherman’s wharf and beach. The Peninsula (ancient Cavaliere) of Ovacik is one of the natural highlights of Turkey, an ideal area for diving. If this sport interests you, visit Kosrelik Bay (Afrodisias) and Kosrelik Island. Eighteen km southeast of Ovacik off the coast of Kos relik Bay, you will find Roman ruins and beautiful mosaics. Off Aydincik, to the west of Ovacik, the surrounding sailing waters are clearly marked, ensuring crusing safety along this breathtaking stretch of coast. The shore road that clings to the pine-clad mountain slopes, which plunge steeply down to the sea, offers spectacular views of cliffs, coves and the brilliant turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.
Another 36 km to the west of Aydincik, Bozyazi is a holiday center with clean and commodious camping sites along its wide beaches.
Uzuncaburc, Silifke, Mesin
The fine, well-preserved Anamur Castle, set between two curving sandy beaches, commands a splendid view of the coastline. Originally built by the Crusaders in the Middle Ages, it later served as an Ottoman stronghold.
Thirteen km from Bozyazi and a few km inland, the town of Anamur is nestled in the mountains with banana plantations surrounding it. Just west of town on a beautiful beach are the ruins of ancient Anamorium with double ramparts, theater, odeon, bath and necropolis. Situated on terraces above the sea, it is perfect for a climb to the top which overlooks one of the cleanest and most pristine seasides in Turkey.
TARSUS TO ANTAKYA
Karatepe – Aslantas, Adana
Set in the heart of the Cukurova (Cilician) Plain, Turkey’s fourth largest city, Adana is at the center of a rich agricultural region and a thriving textile industry. The 310-m long Taskopru (Stone Bridge) built by Hadrian and repaired by Justinian, spans the Seyhan River which bisects the town; only 14 of the bridge’s original 21 arches still stand. Of interest in the city are the Ulu Mosque built in 1509, the Eski Mosque, the Hasan Aga Mosque, the 19th-century clock tower and the old covered bazaar. To be included in a tour of the city are three museums: the Archeological Museum, which displays locally excavated Hittite and Roman remains; the charming Ethnography Museum; and the Ataturk Culture Museum.
After a day of sightseeing you can sample Adana kebab, a sensational spicy kebab of ground meat. Local beverages include shalgam, a drink made from dark turnips, and shira, a type of grape juice.
Cleopatra Gate, Tarsus
North of the city, at the Seyhan Dam and Lake, are shady walks, quaint tea gardens and restaurants set in a cool place to escape the heat. At sunset, look back toward the city to the peaceful, winding ruby river, lined with twinkling lights.
The nearest beaches with accommodations are at Yumurtalik, where an ancient harbor castle dominates the picturesque fisherman’s wharf. And at Karatas, fishermen will enjoy the scene and the catch at Camlik Park.
Off the road from Adana to Iskenderun, near Yakapinar, lies Misis, a city which derived its wealth from its position on the Silk Road. There are several Roman ruins at the site, including a beautiful fourth-century mosaic pavement depicting Noah’s Ark and the animals. Further along the road are the impressive ruins of the Yilanlikale (Sahmeran castle) atop a rocky peak that dominates the Ceyhan River. South of Yilanlikale, in the Sirkeli region, a somewhat weathered Hittite relief marks Muvattalish’s stop here on his way to Egypt. North of Ceyhan lies the village of Dilekkaya, (the ancient Anavarza), where you can view the ruins of a Roman-Byzantine city and an impressive castle. The small museum at the site has two particularly fine mosaics from Roman baths. Osmaniye, inland from the head of the Gulf of Iskenderun, is the turn-off for two more ancient sites. The road to Karatepe takes you to the ancient Roman city of Castabala, where a colonnaded street, theater, baths and a fortress on the hill evoke a bygone era. At the Karatepe National Park, (a neo-Hittite site), the remains of the summer residence of King Asitawada, tablets bearing Hittite and Phoenician inscriptions which were important in deciphering the Hittite language and an open-air museum with fine bas-reliefs reveal the importance and astonishing aesthetic of this ancient civilization. There are two statues of bulls, and one with a human body topped by a lion’s head.
Beach in Arsuz, Iskenderun
This region was much fought over during the Crusades and the impressive fortress at Toprakkale was, for a time held by the European armies. Further back in history, Alexander the Great defeated Darius III and the Persian army in 333 BC at the Plain of Issos (Dortyol). Today this area is covered with large citrus groves which supply the country with oranges, tangerines and lemons.
At Yakacik (Payas), off the highway that outlines the coast of the Gulf of Iskenderun, the splendid 16th-century Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Complex includes mosque, bath, bazaar, caravanserai and medrese. Other monuments include the Cinkulesi Tower of Jinns) and a castle.
Iskenderun, formerly Alexandretta, was founded by Alexander the Great after his victory over the Persians on the Plain of Issos. Today it is a busy commercial center and port with a fine harbor. Excellent hotels, restaurants and cafes line the sea front surrounded by parks and palm trees. The culinary speciality of Iskenderun is sumptuous prawns. Epicureans should also try both kunefe, a hot dessert of sweetened shredded wheat filled with melted cheese, and humus, an appetizer of pureed chickpeas, garlic and paprika. Good souvenirs include hand carved wooden tables and chairs and other objects of wood.
On the coast south of Iskenderun, the resort town of Ulucinar (Arsuz) boasts good beaches, hotels, guest houses and restaurants.
On the way to Antakya, off the main road, is the mountain resort of Sogukoluk where you can retreat from the blazing summer sun. After you cross the Belen Pass, stop at Bagras Castle, which was held at various times by the Byzantines, Mamluks and Crusaders. The castle was originally built to control the route to Arabia. There is a chapel in the castle.
Antakya, the biblical city of Antioch, lies on the Asi River (Orontes) on a fertile plain surrounded by grand mountains. Once the capital of the Seleucid kings, it was notorious for its wealth and luxury. In Roman times, the city continued to thrive with commerce and culture. It featured prominently in early Christianity, as the place where the name “Christian” was first coined.
The Antakya Museum houses one of the richest collections of Roman mosaics in the world (Open weekdays except Monday). These fantastic mosaics in stone were uncovered mostly at excavations in Antakya and nearby Daphne. Outside the town is the Grotto of Peter the apostle. In 1983, the church was declared a sacred site by the Vatican. Other places of interest include a bustling bazaar and the Mosque of Habib Neccar.
King Tombs, Antalya
South of the grotto, the iron Gate was one of the actual entrances of biblical Antioch. Strolling through the old part of town, you cannot help recalling that Paul, Peter, Barnahas, and others walked these streets, for little has changed since that time. The Castle of Antioch, set high above the city, offers a magnificent view over the city and the plain.
South of Antakya is Harbiye, the ancient Daphane where, according to mythology, Apollo tried to make the wood nymph, Daphne, his lover. To escape him, she changed into a laurel tree. The city was a luxurious suburb in Roman times. Covered with orchards, gardens, laurel trees, and waterfalls, this is an excellent place for a good meal. In October, delicious Harbiye dates are in season. Wonderful laurel scented soap can also be purchased here.
Samandag, 25 km from Antakya, is a resort town with a pristine beach. Seleucia Peria (Cevlik), north of town, was founded around 300 B.C. and by the time Paul and Barnabas started on their first missionary journey from here it was a busy port. The most interesting monument to see is the Tunnel of Titus, built to divert rain water. Even by today’s standards it is a tremendous engineering achievement. You should also drive to the Temple of Zeus at Kapisuyu village for a spectacular panorama of the ancient harbor, sandy beach and fertile plain.
Two roads lead from Antakya to Syria: the one to the east and Aleppo passes through the frontier town of Reyhanli; the one to the south goes through Yayladag towards Lazkiye, Tripoli and Beirut.