Antalya Attractions Guide

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Nestled in the crossroads between Europe and Asia on the Mediterranean Sea, Antalya has found itself in a fascinating position throughout history. Because of Turkey's place as a crux of the world, this seaside town has been the stopping point for Alexander the Great, the Roman Empire and countless others in the centuries since. Because of this wealth of history and culture, Antalya has a veritable wealth of attractions to offer tourists. From ancient ruins to natural wonders - and fantastic weather to boot - Antalya is a top place to go on holiday

History & culture

Located within the city is Hadrian's Gate. This magnificent structure is only a few metres away from a major pedestrian area within the city of Antalya. The gate was first built in 130 A.D. to honour Emperor Hadrian of the Roman Empire. Since then, modern stores and restaurants have grown around the gate so it has become an icon of the city's history blending with a contemporary area.

For a glimpse of historical Turkish culture, the Kesik Minaret Mosque is a pagan temple turned mosque. This building was first built in the second century by the Romans and in the tenth century became a mosque. Much of the original building was ruined forever in a fire in 1846 but the tower or minaret endured. It now serves as a beacon in the Antalyan skyline.

The Patara Antique Theatre is a must for anyone traveling to the area. This ancient ruin is a former amphitheatre just outside of the city of Antalya. The theatre is also just a short walk from a beautiful beach so you'll get to see some of the natural and historical wonders of the area within the same day. This area was once the hub of Alexander the Great's empire.

The Arykanda ruins are the remains of an ancient Lycian city amongst several acres in the mountains. One of the oldest ruins in the area, the residents of this former city worshiped Greek gods and goddesses and you can still see some of their temple remains here. In addition to the temples, there are an Odeon, stadium, houses and agoras.

No trip to Antalya is complete without a day trip to Perga or Perge, an ancient Greek village. These ruins were once one of the wealthiest cities of ancient civilization, Greek or otherwise. First established as a community around 1000 B.C., this city became powerful during the time of Constantine the Great in the 300s A.D. The ruins are also known as Eski Kalessi or Ancient Perge. The ruins contain a theatre, Pagan temple, two churches and a temple of Artemis.

Termessos is a wonderful short trip from Antalya that typically takes around half of a day. This ancient city is located near a stunning national park so there is something for history and nature buffs alike. Termessos is built into the mountains and have spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. It will seem like an oasis compared to the streets of Antalya.

Also located just outside the city, Hierapolis-Panukkale is a popular site for tourists and an UNESCO World heritage Site. Hierapolis was once a thermal spa that sits on a hill overlooking the Pamukkale or the Cotton Palace. Both structures were built at the end of the second century B.C. when the Attalids reigned. Between the two sites, visitors can walk amid monuments and baths in the once-glorious spa.

Within the city of Antalya is the Kaleici, or Old Town. This historic area is quite impressive and occupies a considerable area of the city. Because of its size and the amount of attractions within its walls, a trip to Kaleici can take up to several hours to explore, which is best spent strolling at your own pace. Spend an afternoon getting lost in the charming streets and enjoying coffee in the local coffee shops.

Treat yourself

The Rixos Royal Spa in the Rixos Hotel is also a great way to spend a day while beating the heat. You don't have to be a hotel guest to pay for the spa services which include a beauty centre, massages, sauna and a Turkish hammam. While in Antalya, contact the Rixos Royal Spa to learn about their rates and availability as they can be quite busy during the high summer season.

The Kaleici Marina, sitting on the Mediterranean Sea, is another spot not to be missed. This portion of the historic area of Antalya has recently been restored to its former glory. This hilly part of town has local shops with exquisite goods and many restaurants that are some of the finest in the city. Even if you don't spend any money in this area, it is a splendid area to stroll through and admire its allure.

The Antalya Bazaar showcases the best of Turkish goods including fresh produce and handicrafts. Whether you'd like to pick up some fresh food to supplement eating out or gifts for loved ones back home, this marketplace will likely have something you'll appreciate.

Get active

If you are one who would like to golf while on holiday, there is a spot that may be perfect for you: the Gloria Golf Club. This golf club is a part of a large, luxurious resort but you don't have to lodge at the hotel in order to golf. The club prides itself on its exclusivity so calling ahead to make sure you'll be able to make a reservation and meet the dress code is recommended.

For some a little more affordable, the LykiaLinks golf course offers a beautiful 18-hole course overlooking the Mediterranean. This course, which has views that cannot be beat, is considered one of the top 100 in Europe and is spread over 80 hectares of land. This course is a part of the LykiaWorld hotel so you can even make resort reservations. The golf course's website provides a detailed breakdown of the course so you can prepare for your afternoon.

Similarly, the Antalya Golf Club is considered one of the finest and more affordable options in the region. This course was designed by professional golfer, David Jones, and a European golf firm so it has good sport in mind. There are numerous courses for you to choose from in this Golf Club, not just one. Whether you're a novice golfer or more experienced, there is a proper course for your skill level.

Headquartered minutes outside of Antalya, the Titanic Diving Company is a popular way to explore the Mediterranean. The diving company is staffed with professional diving instructors and guides; so don't worry about sinking with this company. There are beginner and advanced courses for people of all skill levels.

Or if you'd rather, you can fly above the busy streets and bucolic countryside of Antalya with the Anatolian Balloons company. This well-esteemed tour company picks up travellers from their hotels and escorts them to ride in hot air balloons over Antalya. Tourists will get to see the balloons during inflation while savouring breakfast before taking off over the Taurus Mountains. You will also get to soar over orchards and rivers for over an hour.

Family fun

When travelling with children or animal lovers, the Antalya Aquarium is a fun way to spend a day, and it also gets you out of the heat. This spectacular aquarium is one of the world's largest. There are more exhibits and fascinating creatures than you and your family will be able to remember afterwards. There is even the world's largest tunnel at over 131 metres long and three metres wide that you can walk under. It'll be a time you'll always remember and photos that will never be replicated!

For those who want to explore the countryside without straining themselves in the heat, Antalya 4x4 Tours offers tours that last all day from the comfort of a Jeep.  These tours include driving into nearby Taurus Mountains, swimming in local ponds and rivers, lunch in a mountain top restaurant, time to walk or hike and another chance to swim before returning to the city.

Similarly, the Novaraft Outdoor Adventure, an adventure company, offers tours of rafting, hiking, kayaking, ropes courses and Jeep excursions into the nearby mountain ranges. The tour can be customised to your party's interests and activity level. They even have safer rafting tours are available if you are travelling with children. It won't be a float down a river but you won't have to worry about large rapids.

A popular attraction within the city of Antalya is the Harbour District or Marina. This waterfront area could take up to one or two hours of your day to explore the neighbourhood. If you are walking to the Harbour District from your hotel, it is recommended that you bring good walking shoes or plan accordingly because the walk will be steep at some point as this area is one of the lowest points in the city. Don't forget to stop into one of the local cafes and enjoy a cup of coffee or one of the locally caught fish dinner!

Nature's finest

The Duden Falls, a cluster of waterfalls near Antalya, are one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the area. The falls start 12 kilometres northeast of the city on the Duden River, an economically and ecologically significant river for the area. The most picturesque of this cluster of waterfalls are the Upper Duden Falls. These waterfalls are inland and nestled in lush trees. The lower falls end the river at the Mediterranean Sea as the water torrents over a rocky crag.

The Kursunlu waterfalls are located just a short drive from the busy city of Antalya but will seem light years away. These beautiful falls tumble over cliffs into bright turquoise, peaceful pools that you can swim in. The falls are not particularly impressive in size but they make up for that in serenity and beauty. There is some debate as to whether these or the Duden falls are more beautiful, you'll have to make time for both and weigh in!

One attraction that may not be for everyone but from those who love it, highly recommend it is the Karain Cave. This natural wonder can easily be visited within a day trip from the city and offers a glimpse into a fascinating and surreal period of history. The Karain Cave once was home for ancient humans. The cave is accessible after a solid 300 metres hike uphill.

One magnificent natural wonder outside of Antalya is the Koprulu Canyon. This canyon is also the name of a Turkish national park with a few restaurants just outside of its entrance. It is wise to you spend several hours here because of the abundance of natural wonders within the park. The most popular activity to do is rafting down the river that carved this canyon. By rafting down it, you'll get to enjoy the beauty of the canyon like no other.

Similarly, the Goynuk Canyon is peaceful escape from the busy streets of Turkey. This canyon, like Koprulu, has a variety of methods to enjoy its beauty: hiking and biking trails, swimming and even soaring overhead on zip lines. Entering to the canyon is a hike from the road however. One should bring water on the hike and be mindful that it could be particularly difficult depending on the weather when you visit.