Things to Do in Turkish Riviera
Standing proud on a rocky outcrop in the heart of the city, medieval Alanya Castle (Alanya Kalesi) is Alanya’s defining landmark. Encircled by 4 miles (6 kilometers) of walls, the Inner Fortress (Iç Kale) houses the remains of an 11th-century church, while the Ehmedek Castle area hosts ruins dating back to ancient Greek times.
The town of Alanya lies on the southern coast of Turkey in the Antalya region. It is a popular beach resort town and draws tourists from many countries around the world. One of the city's best beaches is Cleopatra Beach (Kleopatra Plajı) located on the west side of the peninsula near the Damlataş Caves. The name comes from the legend that says the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra stopped in Alanya during a voyage in the Mediterranean Sea and swam in the bay.
Kleopatra Beach is a sandy one with clear water. It is a Blue Flag beach due to its high standards for water quality, safety, and environmental services. Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. When you get hungry, there are plenty of nearby cafes and restaurants serving Turkish and international dishes. Other activities in the area include exploring the dripping Damlataş Caves, wandering through the old town, and learning about the region's rich history.
Ephesus (Efes) is one of the greatest ancient sites in the Mediterranean. During its heyday in the first century BC, it was the second-largest city in the world, with only Rome commanding more power. Many reconstructed structures and ruins, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, can be seen here.
Running for 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) between dramatic rock stacks and sheer cliffs—reaching up 1,312 feet (400 meters) high in places—Köprülü Canyon is one of Turkey’s most spectacular natural wonders. Carved out of the limestone cliffs by the Koprucay River, the canyon is the centrepiece of Köprülü Canyon National park.
Housed in the 15th-century Castle of St. Peter, the Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology (Bodrum Sualtı Arkeoloji Müzesi) is one of Bodrum’s top attractions, amassing an impressive collection of shipwreck remains and artifacts sourced from under-the-sea excavations along the Aegean Coast.
Dive into the depths of the ocean without leaving dry land, as the exhibitions take you on a journey through the Bronze, Archaic, Classic and Hellenistic Ages, revealing the mysteries of Turkey’s rich nautical history. Among the most impressive finds are a restored Roman shipwreck dating back to the 7th century A.D., one of the world’s largest collections of ancient glassware and what is believed to be the tomb of Queen Ada of Halicarnassus.
Even with all of this, the undisputed star attraction is the Uluburun shipwreck. Discovered on Turkey’s southwestern coast in 1982, the sunken ship dates back to the 14th century B.C. and is largely regarded as one of the world’s greatest Bronze Era finds, filled with everything from elephant tusks to a gold scarab that once belonged to Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.
A tall gorge filled with turquoise streams and waterfalls, Sapadere Canyon (Sapadere Kanyonu or Sapadere Kanyon) is a retreat into nature in the Turkish Riviera. Formed centuries ago by erosion from water and ice, it stands 360 meters long and nearly 400 meters high. Fresh air breezes through the canyon, filled with the sounds of rushing water and wildlife such as butterflies and birds.
Once unknown outside of locals, facilities were only recently built to welcome visitors from all over Turkey and the world. A natural wooden path curves through the park, at times leading to pools for swimming (especially welcome in the summer heat.) High rocks and the Torsos mountains scenically surround you as you walk through. At the end of the path is the canyon’s most impressive waterfall, which also has a spot ideal for swim in the clear waters. The nearby Sapadere Village is also worth a stop.
The Duden Waterfalls sit at the end of the river of the same name, which winds its way through the Taurus Mountains before tumbling from a cliff into a valley next to the Mediterranean. The falls consist of two cascades, and the upper part is nearly 50 feet (15 meters) tall and 65 feet (20 meters) wide.
The Red Tower (Kızıl Kule) is the most well known tower in Alanya Castle, Turkey. The castle was built in the 13th century and was used as a defensive fortification until the time of the Ottoman Empire. Today it is a museum offering visitors a chance to explore the history of this area. The view from the castle is striking due to is location 820 feet high on a rocky peninsula that sticks out into the Mediterranean Sea. From here you can see the beach town of Alanya, the sea itself, the Pamphylian plain and Cilician mountains.
The Red Tower stands 95 feet tall and is one of 140 towers that surround the castle. It is the start and end of four miles of walls that once protected the castle from invaders. The walls pass through the battlements, the Citadel, several bastions, the arsenal, and the shipyard before reconnecting with the Red Tower.
Just northeast of Antalya lies the region’s most significant Roman ruins. Dating to the Bronze Age, the city of Perge was originally settled by the Hittites, but under Roman occupation grew to become one of the most beautiful and scholarly cities of the ancient world, attracting important thinkers such as physician Asklepiades, philosopher Varius, and Apollonius, a pupil of Archimedes.
The Alanya Shipyard is the historic dock area of Alanya, Turkey and is also referred too as Alanya Tersanesi or, occasionally, Alanya Tersane. The shipyard dates back to the 3rd century BC, although the shipyard you'll see today was built in 1226. At one point it was the main naval base for the Seljuk navy, and it is one of the only remaining preserved Seljuk shipyard. During the late 1400s, Alanya became an important port for trading with other Mediterranean countries such as Egypt, Syria, and Cyprus.
Today it is the best preserved dockyard on the Mediterranean basin. It consists of five docks that are more than 180 feet long. It is an open air museum connected with the Alanya Castle. The defensive walls of the castle, which stretch for four miles, go through the Alanya Shipyard and connect with the Red Tower. Those who visit the shipyard and castle will be rewarded with views of the sea, the surrounding countryside, impressive mountains, and the city itself.
More Things to Do in Turkish Riviera
Butterfly Valley (Kelebekler Vadisi) makes a dramatic first impression with its narrow gorge, steep cliffs, and white sand. Reachable only by boat, the secluded cove gets its name from the many species of butterflies and moths that breed in the valley.
Though Saklikent translates from Turkish as Hidden City, urban life is the last thing that comes to mind in Saklikent National Park (Saklikent Milli Parki). Encompassing a dramatic gorge that cuts through the mountains, the national park is a playground of river rapids, streams, waterfalls, and cliffs.
Reaching a height of 12,500 feet (2,365 meters), Mount Olympos (Tahtali Dagi) is the highest mountain of Beydaglari Coastal National Park. Named after the ancient Lycian city of Olympos—the ruins of which lie along the coast just to the south—the mighty peak is surrounded by a dramatic panorama of mountains, forest, and ocean.
Built and extended between the 14th and 18th centuries, picturesque Kusadasi Castle sits on Pigeon Island (Guvercin Adasa), an islet connected to Kusadasi via a causeway. Originally constructed as a military base, the fortress is composed of outer walls that enclose its gardens and an inner castle with a tiny museum.
With a 5-star hotel, a gigantic water park, a luxurious shopping avenue, and plenty of amusement park rides, the Land of Legends is a one-stop-shop for family entertainment. Open to both day visitors and Land of Legends hotel guests, the theme park is one of the largest of its kind in Turkey.
Named the “dead sea” in Turkish due to its calmness, Ölüdeniz is one of Turkey’s most popular – and overwhelmingly most frequently photographed – beaches, thanks to its spectacular setting along a gorgeous blue lagoon.
Beachgoers flock to two separate areas here: a long, wide strip of open beach facing the Mediterranean, known as Belcekız; and the more sheltered shoreline of the Blue Lagoon, which is inside the boundaries of a protected natural park (entrance fee) and has a dramatic backdrop of mountain scenery behind it – Babadağ, one of Turkey’s top destinations for paragliding.
Both Oludeniz Beach and the Blue Lagoon are extremely popular. Be prepared for large crowds on the beaches, particularly on weekends in the height of summer – this isn’t a place for those seeking peace and quiet – and for the inevitable slew of generic restaurants and tacky souvenir shops along the waterfront.
As if Oludeniz Blue Lagoon weren’t entrancing enough, there are also daylong boat trips that leave from here for scenic coves and beaches nearby, as well as to points of interest including Butterfly Valley. In addition, Ölüdeniz is the starting point for the Lycian Way, a 510-km (315-mile) hiking trail that runs from Fethiye to Antalya along the coast.
Antalya’s Old Town (Kaleiçi) remains the heart of this modern Turkish city. Home to a number of historic monuments, it’s also the city’s most atmospheric district—a maze of narrow winding streets dotted with traditional wooden houses, bars, restaurants, and Ottoman-style boutique hotels.
Marking the eastern entrance to Kaleiçi—Antalya’s historic Old Town—Hadrian’s Gate is the last of the city’s ancient gates, dating back to AD 130. Named in honor of Roman emperor Hadrian after his visit to the city, the triple-arched gateway is decorated with marble columns and is one of Antalya’s most distinctive landmarks.
Built in 351 B.C. to house the tomb of King Mausolus, the Persian King of Caria, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Tomb of Mausolus) was not only the grandest tomb of its time but it also gave its name to all the mausoleums that followed. The masterpiece of Greek architects Satyros and Pytheos, the elaborate monument was once a temple of sculpted columns and white marble, standing over 50 meters tall and topped with a sculpture of a horse-drawn carriage.
Because the mausoleum is known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, its ruins are immensely popular in modern-day Bodrum, despite being almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1304. Today, the final remaining pieces of the walls can be found around the landmark Myndos Gate, while the best-preserved remains are now housed in London’s British Museum. Some of the rocks rescued from the wreckage of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus were also used to build the seafront Castle of St Peter.
Ancient ruins, endangered wildlife, thermal springs—a boat cruise along the Dalyan River is full of surprises. Winding its way from Lake Köyceğiz to Dalyan Village before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea, the river follows a scenic route flanked by rocky mountains, pine-clad valleys, and sandy beaches.
Known in English as St Nicholas Island, Gemiler Island (Gemiler Adası) lies along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, south from Fethiye and west of the sandy beach at Ölüdeniz. Separated from the mainland by a narrow sea channel, it is a tiny speck of an islet, just 400 meters (1,312 feet) wide and 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) long but is renowned for its wealth of Byzantine ruins, which date back more than 1,500 years.
Gemiler Island was once one of Christendom’s most popular pilgrimage points with devotees heading for Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. They came to honor the tomb of St. Nicholas – the original Father Christmas, who was Bishop of Myra on the Turkish coast opposite. Even though his remains were moved to the mainland in 650 AD, the island is still occasionally known as St. Nicholas Island. Also around this time, the little Byzantine settlement on Gemiler came under threat from pirates and was abandoned as the residents moved to the mainland for protection.
Today a chaotic jumble of ruins covers much of the island, comprising the scattered remains of four churches, evidence of Byzantine houses, a port, waterways, tombs and graveyards. Stores once stood along the shoreline, where traders would sell olive oil and grain to passing ships. The fragments of St Nicholas’s tomb that still stand today reveal faint vestiges of frescoes depicting scenes from his life; these are open to the elements and are slowly deteriorating in the sun.
Gemiler has plenty of rocky bays providing safe mooring for yachts and provides excellent snorkeling along its coastline; tumbledown ruins can occasionally be spotted just below the surface of the sea.
Scaling the 12,500-foot-high (2,365-meter-high) peak of Tahtali Mountain—ancient Mount Olympus—the Olympos Cable Car (Olympos Teleferik) is the most popular attraction in Beydaglari Coastal National Park. At the summit, a panoramic observation deck affords spectacular views over the forested Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean coast.
The Manavgat River runs down from the Taurus Mountains all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, and it’s most scenic spot is the Manavgat Waterfall (Manavgat Şelalesi). Just outside of Side, the low, wide falls make a stunning backdrop for photos and serve as a popular recreation area, with visitors coming to swim, picnic, or cruise along the river.
Perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the harbor, the striking Castle of St. Peter (also known as Bodrum Castle or Bodrumm Kalesi) is an instantly recognizable Bodrum landmark and one of the city’s top tourist attractions. Built by the Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes in the 15th century, the castle was designed by German architect Heinrich Schlegelholt and partially crafted from the stones of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Despite losing its since-reconstructed minaret in WWI bombings, the castle remains a remarkably preserved example of medieval architecture, encircled by its imposing sea walls and including a moat, a mosque added by Süleyman the Magnificent in 1522 and five towers - the English, Italian, German, French and Snake towers. Today St. Peter's Castle is open to visitors and hosts the impressive Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. It also provides a dramatic backdrop for cultural events and festivals throughout the year.
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