On the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea lies Antalya, a resort town whose vibrant life and numerous attractions pull in millions of tourists each year.
If you ask a tourist for top destinations in the Mediterranean Sea, chances are that he or she would rattle off names of numerous French, Greek, Spanish and Italian towns such as Cannes, Nice, Tuscany, Mykonos and Barcelona. But few would cite seaside resorts and towns in Turkey.
Yet, the Turkish Riviera is as beautiful as any other in the Mediterranean and has several breathtaking lagoons, waterbodies and other attractions that would give any French Riviera resort a good rub for its money.
Antalya, a province in south-eastern Turkey is just one such example. Stretching nearly all along the Turkish coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Antalya is dotted with over a dozen towns and resorts, which have emerged as major beach destinations in their own right, attracting millions of tourists each year.
Antalya has hot, dry summers and fairly warm and slightly rainy winters, making the destination a year-long phenomenon. It is renowned for its golden beaches, notably Lara and Konyaalti as well as foaming, milky waterfalls of Manavgat and Duden, which are some of the reasons for over 10 million tourists to have decided to visit the city in the year 2015.
The history of Antalya can be traced to as early as the 1st century BC and the region retains many of the souvenirs of the early period in ruins and monuments sprinkled all over. The historical part of Antalya, Kaleiçi, is also the tourist hub, with a large number of restaurants, clubs, shopping centres and bars pulling tourists, after they have visited the must-see heritage sites such as the Yivli Minare, a key part of the restored historical centre as well as the Kesik Minare, a former Byzantine-era church, which was later converted into a mosque.
It is here, as well as in Lara, that one can find numerous legendary Turkish hammams (baths), colourful shops, mainly catering to the tourists, as well as restaurants serving the traditional cuisine, which is quite spiced up to suit the Indian palate.
Antalya’s biggest attraction lies in the exquisite landscape and the lovely contrast offered by its golden sand beaches, the turquoise blue waters of the Mediterranean as well as the sparkling white snow-capped peaks of the Taurus mountains that dominate the city and its surroundings.
The two beaches in Antalya, Lara and Konyaalti, are spellbinding with translucent turquoise waters and several beach bars. One of the longest beaches in Turkey, golden- brown in colour, Lara is also often referred to as the local Las Vegas due to the large number of luxury hotels offering ostentatious luxury. It lies close to Lower Duden Waterfalls and vacationing here means fulfilling promises of trendy beaches, natural splendors and classy accommodation.
If the tourists are out sunbathing and enjoying the sea during the day, the evenings are well spent exploring the neighbourhood with its throbbing night life and active markets.
If the sun on the beach gets too biting in the summer, nothing to worry. Just head out to the famed waterfalls that Antalya is doted with to cool off and enjoy even a scorching summer day in late July or August. As Antalya is at the foot of the Taurus mountains, a number of streams and rivers find their way to the Mediterranean, zig zagging between the steep, rocky faces of the mountains, racing to meet the turquoise blue waters below. And at numerous places, during the course of their journey, the streams make waterfalls, which attract locals and tourists alike, seeking to soak themselves in the cool waters, escaping the hot sun.
At Duden waterfall, you can also take a boat and observe the fall, but keep the boat at a good distance from the spot of the waterfall as there are numerous rapids in which your boat could get caught. At some waterfalls, you can actually walk under the fall, soak in the foam, but be careful not to slip and fall in the water.
Then, there is the Upper Duden Waterfall, with its ancient graves dating from the 3rd century BC and the Kursunlu, in the midst of a pine forest en route to Belek. Another very famous fall is at Manavgat, about 30 km drive from Antalya. Close to the falls there are tea gardens and restaurants sheltered away from the heat of the sun – true invigorating relaxation spots where holiday makers can have a minute’s rest after a long and exhausting sightseeing tour. You can also take a boat out in the Manavgat River.
As you may expect, the areas in the hills are starkly different from the vibrant city life that you leave behind in Antalya. Here, the setting is entirely rural, with life apparently at a standstill. The wooded forests around the waterfalls make for a decent trek and one that can definitely spark your appetite. Not to worry, though as quiet as the area maybe, there are many restaurants to take care of your hunger and your thirst.
Another major attraction that Antalya offers to tourists is the extensive and exclusive Golfing opportunities. Belek, a resort about 60 km from the airport, is perhaps the most famous and high-profile golfing town in the entire Mediterranean. It has emerged as a Mecca for golf enthusiasts from the around the world and is a piece of heaven where shades of green merge with shades of blue.
Belek has splendid forest scenery with pine and pistachio trees as well as a magnificent coastline and some impressive golf courses and facilities. Not only can you enjoy the golfing greens, but there is also quite a lot of interesting sight seeing of Turkey’s rich history that can be done near Belek. Aspendos, one of the most beautiful cities of the ancient times, in addition to Perge, one of the richest cities of the ancient world and the Kurşunlu Falls regarded as natural phenomenon are amongst the popular sights of interest near Belek that will definitely quench the thirst of the traveller in you.