Antalya is known for its astounding views of dramatic scenes of ancient ruins of cities, beautiful coastlines with theatrical cliffs and crystal blue waters make Antalya the perfect place for anyone with a camera. Tourists know the well-known attractions, but a worldwide local know how to experience it best. This is an insider guide on some of Antalya’s best-hidden spots.
Visiting Antalya means that you are going to submerge yourself in history. It is everywhere! Take for example the ruins of Aspendos, an ancient city that dates back to 160 A.D. This is a short-day trip away, but you can stand on the stage of a fantastic amphitheater that is one of the best-preserved theaters in the world.
You must visit Antalya’s old town. Tucked away from the tourist hustle and bustle on the edge of the main harbor. Well preserved away from the touches of tourists you can enjoy sitting at street-side cafes sipping on a cappuccino.
For lunch, you can go to an Ev Yemekleri (home cooking place) and choose four courses from the buffet for around 5 Lira (about 3 dollars). This usually includes soup, salad, a casserole of meat, chicken or vegetables, and rice pilaf or pasta.
Even though Antalya is based on the coast, you shouldn’t be bound to just the water. Around Antalya, there is amazing hiking to get out and enjoy the wilderness! The Lycian Way is a 540 km path that reaches from just outside of Antalya and leads all the way to Fethiye. Now, I don’t expect you to hike the whole thing but to take an afternoon to get out of town and enjoy the beautiful coastline of Turkey.
Take a stroll down ‘Inönü Caddesi’. Nicknamed by the locals ‘Şemsiye Sokak’ (Umbrella St) to this pedestrianized lane. The entire street is devoted to kebab shops churning out grilled-meat dishes…oh my goodness it smells like heaven here! You can pick up balık (fish) or döner (spit-roasted lamb slices) sandwiches or a pide (Turkish-style pizza), lahmacun (Arabic-style pizza) and güveç (stew) as well as all the classic kebabs.
Bring out your adventurous side and go explore a prehistoric cave. The Karain Cave, which is in the city limits of Antalya, is said to date back over 25,000 years old. Ruins from Lower and Middle Palaeolithic Eras have been excavated from here. The cave findings include bones, teeth, weapons, etc. Some of the paths in the cave are narrow but all is worth for a peek into the primeval era – how many times can you say you’ve done that?
And since you’ve brought your adventurous side to Antalya, you should take a dive (literally) into the Damlatas Caves. This is an underrated location in Antalya, these caves are formed mostly of spikes and columns that are believed to date back about 15,000 years ago! You will find beautiful patterns within the rocks in various colors, protruding from every surface of these caves make for an adventurous expedition. These caves, according to local belief has the ability to cure respiratory illnesses and even asthma.
While you are doing all this adventuring – you might want to also take advantage of the “turquoise coast”. Sit on the beach and soak up the sun and the view! Visit Konyaalti Beach or Lara Beach. Heads up, Konyaalti Beach is made up of mostly pebbles and not sand. You might want to keep that in mind when you decide which beach to settle on for the day.
If you are looking for a way to relax that isn’t beachside, soak away your traveling pains at Hierapolis. This is a spring with natural healing waters that will make you want to not just spend the day but rent a room for the night. Hierapolis is an ancient city along the Lycus River Valley, has been known since early in the 2nd century for its hallowed hot springs. These baths are known in myth to have the ability to heal all who take a swim there.
A trip to Turkey isn’t truly complete until you sample the wine! Taste a wide range of local wines at Karaf Wine Bistro. This restaurant is located in an old Ottoman house that retained many antique decors from years past. This bistro organizes a wide range of workshops and tasting events for guests to enjoy. The menu is a fine match for such a special venue with cheese plates, fajitas, quesadillas, steaks and soft desserts among its choices.
You will love Antalya, for many reasons but one of my favorite things was the smell of night-blooming Jasmine, the colorful Bouganvilla blooming year-round, a smell I can still recall to today!