|No photo from Turkey is complete without Ataturk|
We return to Turkey for this post. After a year away, I am feeling incredibly homesick. With all of my travels this summer to Southeast and East Asia, I cannot seem to shake Turkey fever. Merhaba (hello) is the first word that pops into my head as I walk into a coffee shop in Lhasa. I constantly need to stop myself from asking nasılsınız (how are you?) as I walk down the streets of Chiang Mai. I miss looking out at the towering Taurus Mountains from either of my balconies in Alanya. I yearn for that fresh smelling combination of mountain and Mediterranean that buffeted from all directions. Most of all I miss Alanya Kalesi. When this castle was all lit up at night, it was the beacon that signified home. Driving along the Mediterranean Coast as the Alanya peninsula slowly grew into view, the golden fortress wound like a glittering snake atop the dramatic cliffs.
|Sunbeams in Alanya on the Kale|
With all this in mind, I wanted to go over some of the highlights from the Antalya, Side, Perge, and Alanya areas. Between beaches, caves, ruins, markets, turquoise water, pirate boats, waterfalls, food, and countless other sights and activities, you will never lack for an adventure no matter what kind of traveler you are. The best part of this area is that it is a gem amongst Europeans, specifically UKers and Scandinavians, but virtually unknown to the rest of the world.
Here is a quick overview of the highlights from each of the main areas in the Antalya region:
I want to lead with my favorite piece of trivia from this area: Santa Claus was born in Antalya! Nicholas of Myra, who later became St. Nicholas who even later morphed into a jolly large man who likes to dress in red, was born in Demre within the district of Antalya.
|Not quite Santa Claus in Antalya|
Your first stop in Antalya should be the Kaleiçi, the Old City. The winding streets are filled with restaurants, shops, and hidden mosques. Take the time to walk down to the harbor and eat plenty of seafood.
|Mosque in Kaleici in Antalya|
Do not forget to pick up some freshly blown bright blue nazar (evil eyes) for good luck!
|Firing up some nazar in Antalya|
|Sign into Perge outside of Antalya|
These are gorgeous ruins that are located on the outskirts of Antalya. Not as touristy as most places, so you will have plenty of photo ops free from random people walking by. The best way to get here is to rent a car (and maybe a driver) since not many buses stop in this area.
|Deserted and perfect for photos: Perge|
|Fairly intact ruins in Perge|
If you rent a car for the day, you might want to also make a trek up to Termessos, an ancient city set amidst a forest, or go over to Aspendos, which houses an impressive Roman theatre.
|Directions in Side|
On the way from Antalya to Alanya, you cannot help but pass by Side. While a bit more touristy, it has breathtaking ruins right on the coast. There is a fun shopping center that you have to walk through to get to the Temple of Apollo. Keep your camera in hand as you wander around the magnificently preserved ruins all around the city.
|Theatre in Side, though not as large as in Aspendos|
|Market on the way to the Temple of Apollo in Side|
|Temple of Apollo|
|Temple of Apollo by the sea|
Make sure to order some dondurma from a street vendor. Shoot a video or at least snap a few pictures as the vendors show you the full elastic power of this delicious Turkish ice cream.
|Dondurma in Side|
|View from the lookout point over Alanya|
My home for a year; where to start? First thing is to head up to the Kale (Castle). You can either get a cab or take a bus. After you have taken panoramic views of Cleopatra Beach, head down and stop by Dizdar Garden for the best kahvaltı (Turkish breakfast) in town. An assortment of cheeses, breads, olives, fruit preserves, and a whole host of other delicious dishes await you in a meal that can be eaten any time of the day.
|Cherry blossoms in Alanya|
|Looking out over Cleopatra Beach from the top of the Kale|
|The great spread of kahvalti at Dizdar Garden|
|Close up of some of the variety of dishes including fruit preserves|
Afterwards, you should walk all the way down to the harbor as you admire the shifting views of the city. This is a great opportunity to book a boat tour. Either go for the smaller boats that concentrate on dolphin sightings or opt for the gigantic pirate boats that feature some form of Viking/Pirates of the Caribbean theme. Both will give you the chance to go cliff diving and swimming with sea turtles, as well as provide phenomenal seafood for lunch. Do not forget to haggle!
|Dolphin boat in Alanya|
|Pirate boat in Alanya|
|Getting a different view of the Kale and ship docks|
|Lit up at night, Alanya twinkles|
|The winding snake begins at the Red Tower|
Finally, spend plenty of time on Cleopatra Beach and explore Damlataş Cave. Cleopatra allegedly sunbathed here once upon a time, hence the name. As for Damlataş Cave, it is famous for maintaining the same humidity throughout the year and is great for healing people with breathing issues.
|Cleopatra Beach sunset|
This is only the tip of the iceberg for Alanya, so have fun exploring and discovering your own little hidey holes.
I traveled around the region completely on my own which gave me the flexibility of not being tied to a tour group, but it left me to my own devices whenever anything went wrong. If you are interested in an ideal mixture of personalized experience tailored to your interests but with all the hassles of travel already taken care of, you might want to consider going with a tour agency like First Choice. This company can arrange everything from an all-inclusive resort (which Turkey is famous for) to a more local-style apartment. Aside from the Antalya region, travel agencies also operate around Izmir, Bodrum, as well as Dalaman, and most other areas of Turkey. You can even book a tour to Cappadocia, one of my personal favorites, and live it up in a Mars-like landscape with fairy chimneys and hot air balloon rides.
This post has been contributed by First Choice.