Antalya is the largest city on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, and is one of the hubs of the so-called Turkish Riviera.
Having entered the scene in 150 BC as Attalia, named after its founder, Attalos II, king of Pergamon, Antalya has ever attracted a wide array of travellers, including Paul the Apostle, and Ibn Battuta among others. Antalya had replaced Phaselis—beautiful ruins of which now lie to south of the city, between Kemer and Olympos—as the main harbour of the surrounding region during the reign of Seljuks, in early 1200s, but the lack of a large hinterland (or, rather, lack of good connections with its mountainous hinterland) meant for much of its history eversince that it was a provincial coastal town, albeit with a multicultural community of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. As the centre of a region with beautiful beaches, verdant mountains, and a mindblowing number of ancient ruins, the tourism investments started in 1970s, which changed the fate of the city considerably. However, as most of the visitors (make no mistake—they are in the range of millions annually) to the region are actually on "all-inclusive" vacation packages nowadays, they are immediately taken from the airport to the huge resorts lining the coastline of hundreds of kilometres, where they stay until the end of their holidays except perhaps a raid or two to the nearest and the most popular attractions, so Antalya itself, especially the old town (Kaleiçi), is more of an independent traveller destination, where you will meet the other travellers of a similar mind, and the locals.
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Around April, when you can perfectly get a suntan and the weather is much more bearable than summer months, is one of the best times to visit the city.
Antalya is the closest airport, served by inexpensive flights from Istanbul (as low as US$50, early booking is also available for lower prices.)
Being 10 km from the city from Antalya, Antalya Airport (AYT IATA) caters to the charter flights full of holiday makers. Airlines that serve Antalya include: Pegasus, Transavia.com (lowcost and charters from Netherlands, France and Denmark), AtlasJet (domestic flights), SunExpress (dozens of flights from all over Europe), Turkish Airlines (plenty of flights from Ankara and İstanbul-Atatürk), Aeroflot (daily flights from Moscow-Sheremetyevo), Ukraine International Airlines (several charter flights a week from Kiev). Britain is also represented by numerous charter firms such as Thomas Cooks and Airtours.
A taxi ride between the airport and the city centre will set you back €15 (45 TL) during the day (March 2011). You may also prefer transfer companies in order to avoid any scam. Other, more wallet-friendly options for airport transportation include Havaş buses, which are less expensive and more frequent; they depart on the hour from "Güllük PTT" (10 TL). There are public buses from the airport (line 600, "Terminal-Otogar") which leave on the hour and cost 4 TL. Buses from the otogar run along Adnan Menderes Blv and Mevlana Cd (exact location of bus stops can be found on Google Maps).
To catch a public bus from the International Terminal you have to go to the domestic terminal (300 m, just turn right when you leave the International Terminal); there is a small blue "D" sign next to a larger ficus tree. There is another blue "D" sign next to the taxi stand in front of the International Terminal which won't get you anywhere; waiting there usually attracts taxi drivers (telling you, truthfully, "There is no bus leaving here!") offering a ride.Besides,you can make pre-booking antalya airport transfers by private taxi companies.
The Antray-Tram connects the inner city with the airport. To the old town you have to leave at Ismetpasa. You can also continue direct to the bus station (Otogar). The price is 4 TL (2016).
Antalya’s huge bus terminal is located about 6 km north-west of the city center, but easily reached using the tram getting off at otogar station.
The Turkish bus system is comprehensive and you can get about anywhere from anywhere. Better spend a few more liras and you will have an unforgettable journey. Ulusoy has buses with seats that resemble business class in airplanes. There are also other bus companies, including Kamil Koc, Truva and Varan. Some companies have an onboard WLAN. Check otobusbileti displaying prices of bus tickets from Antalya to eighty one cities in Turkey.
Fares are low. Simply show up at the bus station (otogar) and announce your destination. There are regular buses destined for Anatalya that run along the coastal roads and stop at tourist towns such as Kas and Fethiye, although the latter one is reached quicker (3½ hr instead of 5-6 hr) using a direct bus not along the coastal road.
Most travellers arrive in Marmaris from Rhodes, Greece, then bus it overland. You can also take a ferry from Kastellorizo, a tiny Greek island just off the Turkish fishing village of Kas.
Buses run from Antalya to Konya (300 km, 5 hours) to connect with YHT fast trains to Ankara (90 min), Eskisehir (90 min) and Istanbul Pendik (3 hr 30 min). Pendik is convenient for Sabiha Gokcen airport, but reaching central Istanbul takes another 90 minutes by metro. So compared to bus all the way, bus and train is quicker to Ankara and about the same time to Istanbul. There are also connections to trains for other Turkish cities, such as Izmir, Kars and Adana. These are slow at the best of times and are disrupted by engineering work, at least until 2018: see Ankara page for details.
Antalya offers a variety of public transportation, such as public buses, trams, mini-buses, taxicabs and dolmuş.
In Antalya, buses pass from anywhere to any destination in the city. Fares are low and most buses offer air-conditioning and TV even for short routes. To travel to remote places you may need to travel to the bus terminal first. The bus terminal has its own buses with distinctive blue stripes. Bus terminal to city to airport travel (Bus route 600, "Terminal-Otogar") is possible every 30 min (2016).
You can look up the street names on Google maps which includes the location of bus stops.
Dolmuş literally means "filled up". Dolmuş is a large cab, a station wagon, a regular taxi or a minibus that travels a certain route. Most major public transportation stations have a dolmuş station, where you just take a seat in the dolmuş that travels your desired route. In Antalya dolmuş does not wait until it fills up. Instead, it is scheduled. However, if empty dolmuş will move slowly hoping to find more passenger. Still it has to abide its schedule and cannot stall much.
There are taxi stands all over the city where the drivers have their base and tea pot. Each taxi is metered and there are two different rates. For popular destinations there are price lists showing the rate in euro. A fair rate is about 2.4 TL per kilometer.
You can also negotiate with any taxi driver to be your private tour guide. You also have to pay the gas money. This option could be quiet expensive but if you have the money, it is worth it! There is an option to book a private taxi transfers from Antalya airport.
The Heritage Tramway has been donated by the German city of Nuremberg and connects the western Konyaalti Beach and Antalya Museum to the eastern part of the city center. It runs every 30 min in either direction and costs 1.25 TL per person. This tramway can be used for sightseeing as it passes some beautiful places of the city center.
The AntRay tram system consists of one line, serving the route Fatih-Otogar-Muratpaşa-Ismetpaşa-Meydan every 15 min during the day (June 2015). To get to the Kaleiçi or to the interconnection with the historic tram line, get off at Ismetpaşa station. Tickets (1.75 TL) can be obtained at the stores around the stations or at specific AntRay-counters (e.g., at the Otogar). If you're unsure, just ask the helpful station guards. Check OpenStreeMap the location of tram lines and stops.
The Antray-tram connects the inner city with the bus station (Otogar, direction Fatih) and with the airport (havalimani). The price is 2 TL, for longer trips (e.g. to and from the airport) 4 TL (2016).
By car rental
Car rentals are available in the bus terminal, air port and city center. It is advised not to use car to reach city center (specially Cumhuriyet, Atatürk, Isiklar streets, Sarampol street and old city), as finding a car park and the way people drive (sometimes you feel like you are in the race tracks) might be difficult. Be sure to abide non-parking restrictions, the municipality is very strict about it. There are destination signs on roads to help travellers. Also most of the younger locals know English will be pleased to help about your destination. You can also obtain city map from tourist information desks in the city center.
Using bicycle in crowded roads might be dangerous and tiresome(especially in summer as the temperature hits high 40s °C at noon (100-120°F). However, there are a few bicycle-only roads passing beside the sea having incredible views.
Antalya is rich in history and art.
- The old quarter, Kaleiçi, has narrow, winding streets enclosed in ancient city walls, which now protect the peaceful quarter from the noise of the concrete metropolis of a million people. Although there are other entrances, it is best to enter and exit the old quarter from charming Hadrianus Gate, built by the Roman emperor Hadrianus as the entrance arch to the city.
- There's a great archaeology museum and plenty of historic buildings and ancient ruins nearby.
- 1 Aspendos (ancient Roman amphitheater) (Take D400 road east from Antalya, then 07-04 north after Serik). Well-preserved Roman amphitheatre about half an hour from Antalya. The site includes other ancient ruins.
- 2 Antalya Aquarium, Dumlupınar Bulvarı Arapsuyu Mahallesi No 502, Konyaaltı (Bus 56 stops next to the aquarium, or take a taxi from the otogar (approx 20 TL)), e-mail: email@example.com. US$40.
- 3 Tünek Tepe. A hill-top restaurant/café to the west of Antalya, giving stunning views over the city and the coastline in both directions. A cable car (Teleferik) opened in 2017, transporting visitors from a station close to the port right to the site. There is plenty of car parking at the cable car station (cost 5 TL). It is also possible to drive to the top of the hill, but parking could be a problem. Tünek Tepe is not really on the tourist radar, so it could be quiet. Menus in the restaurant are in Turkish only. The upper revolving restaurant is being refurbished during the summer of 2017. 15TL.
- 4 Kurşunlu Waterfall Nature Park (North-east of Antalya on D685 road.). A beautiful park with some impressive waterfalls. There is a concrete/stone path around the site which takes you past all the best bits. It is not suitable for elderly/disabled persons. There is the chance to get wet in the waterfall. In the ponds, you can see fish and turtles. There are refreshment stalls near the entrance and a good café/restaurant near the end of the path. 6TL.
Most of Antalya's historic buildings can be found along the narrow, winding streets of Kaleiçi, the old quarter. Historical, architectural and archaeological sites of note include: Yivli Minaret, Karatay Medresesi, Hıdırlık Tower, Ahi Yusuf Mescidi, Iskele Mosque, Murat Paşa Mosque, Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque, Balibey Mosque, Musellim Mosque, Seyh Sinan Efendi Mosque, Hadrian Arch, and the Clock Tower. Many structures date back to the Hellenistic era. Also The Antalya Museum has a notable archaeology collection.
- Walk around and chill at Karaalıoğlu Park or observe fishermen at lively Yacht Harbour
- Shop at great malls; Terracity, 5M Migros, Özdilek and Deepo Outlet Center.
- The hill of Tünektepe, with a height of 618 m/2009 ft, west of the city has a splendid panorama of Antalya. On the top of it, there is a hotel, a rotating restaurant, and a nightclub, although the club is mostly open for private parties only.
You can take a short scenic cruise on the Mediterranean from the boats anchored in the harbor. Assume that the right price is about half of the first price you are offered. Don't believe their assurances that the boat is leaving right away—the boat will leave when the owners think there is no reasonable chance that more passengers can be persuaded to board. Morning cruises tend to be calmer than afternoon cruises.
The usual souvenirs are kilims, blue eyes, fake designer clothing, shoes, aromatic herbs, waterpipes and more.
If you feel the need to visit a modern shopping mall, Terracity Mall on the way to Lara has all of the international designer shops you could wish for. There is even a stylish supermarket and power boat dealer.
Pharmacies sell most prescription drugs completely legal just over the counter and at low prices. A wide array of generics (drugs containing the same agent as a brand medicine, but from less known companies) is also available. Best-sellers include Viagra, Prozac, Ventolin, Xenical, various contraceptive pills and antibiotics.
A word of caution
The export of antiques or objects considered so is strictly forbidden and will cause a lot of problems not to say hefty fines to those caught when leaving the country. Possession and possibly even commerce in Turkey is legal - just the export is banned. Be on your guard and don't believe sellers who may try to convince you of the opposite. Also, customs back home target more and more faked goods such as video, CDs, shoes, watches and the like. The odds of being caught are minimal, but you should know that you are moving on illegal terrain.
A meal in a restaurant will normally set you back about 7 to 20 TL (a typical dish will be about 12 TL). Service is amazing, and only matched by its genuine friendliness. There are also good seafood restaurants. Of course seafood and fancy restaurants are more expensive. One caveat to be aware of is to make sure the quoted price is the same as the price written on the menu.
If you’re on a budget you’ll appreciate the plenty quick eating stalls south of Muratpaşa, where you can get a chicken dürüm from 2.5 TL.
- Seraser Fine Dining Restaurant, Tuzcular mah. Karanlik sok. No:18 Kaleici/ Antalya, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 15:00-01:00.
- MCYörüks, Atatürk Street 68 (Located between Işıklar and Karaoğlan Park). A middle class semi-casual restaurant located in City Center serving dishes and alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks from Western, Islamic and Turkish world as well as fast food with live music every evening and night. Prices are cheap and no more than €10 per person for a full meal.
- 1 Valkan Balık, 1315 Sokak (Near from the old town and Atatürk Stadium), ☎ . Delicious fish and mezzes. Good atmosphere. Nice and simple fishermen style decoration. ~35 TL/person for a whole meal.
Antalya has a lively nightlife in summer. Options include bars with nargile (water pipe), games, live music and sitting around, discothèques with glamorous visitors, etc. On Konyaalti's Beach Park one club follows the next. Some of traditional houses of Kaleiçi (Old City) has been turned into bars, in which a bottle of 'Efes' beer costs 6-9 TL, depending on the place. Their gardens shaded by trees offer a nice escape with a beer from the peak of summer heat. Raki is a traditional alcoholic beverage that tastes like licorice. Make sure you do not drink it fast otherwise you will be out quickly.
You can divide Antalya into two main areas (as far as tourists are concerned). The Old Town (Kaleiçi), as its name implies, is full of character and has beautifully restored buildings with small guest houses and more evidently luxury boutique hotels. Lara to the east of the city has many 4/5 star beach hotels that cater for the all inclusive holiday market. Both are good options, depending on what you are looking for. Of course, there are very good hotels outside of these areas, but not in the density that Old Town/Lara have.
You can just stroll around (with luggage) and you won't have to wait for long until you'll be offered 'Pansiyon' (Hostel) accommodation. Almost every second house in the Old Town is a small hotel (many of which are of very high standard, with small swimming pools and smart restaurants). A couple of years ago summers used to be packed but those days seem to be gone. The big share of visitors to this region are package tourists being channeled through all inclusive programs outside the city.
As nearly everywhere in Turkey accommodation prices have been inflated in the last years. doubles start around 60 TL (off season) and may be more expensive in high season (2013).
- Whitegarden Hotel / Pansiyon, Kaleiçi, Hesapçı Geçidi 9, ☎ , . Simple, clean and cheap hotel in the old town offers friendly service and good Turkish breakfast. 70 TL.
- Sibel Pansiyon, Kaleiçi, Fırın Sok. 30, ☎ . Very nice hotel owned by a warmhearted French woman who also speaks German and Turkish. Rooms have aircon, satellite TV and private bathrooms. It is quiet at night and the breakfast is delicious. €25.
- Hotel Blue Sea Garden, ☎ . Lovely hotel with garden restaurant with a sea view, in the old town. Friendly service and great breakfast. Strong wifi and fluent English spoken.
- 1 Kozan Otel, 1312. Sk. No.6, ☎ . Not exactly in the old city, but very close, in a quiet place where it is easy to park and where you'll find of car rental opportunities. Ugly decoration and non-English-speaking staff, but good comfort and friendly people. Double with bathroom & AC: 80 TL.
- Alp Pasa Hotel, Barbaros Mah. Hesapçı Sok. 30, Kaleiçi (Old City) (100 metres from Hadrian’s Gate.), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Luxury boutique hotel in the historical district, also has a up-scale restaurant on the premises
- Tuvana Hotel, Tuzcular mah. Karanlık sok. No:18 Kaleiçi Antalya, ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located within old town "Kaleiçi". 45 rooms and suites, restaurant “Seraser” on site.
At Lara, a suburb to the east of Antalya, there are a lot of stunning 4/5-star hotels along the beach. These generally cater for the 'All inclusive' package holiday traveller. However, they can also make an excellent base for those wanting to visit places away from the resorts, but return to some luxury in the evening. Being a package offering, they can end up being relatively cheap. All of the hotels fall into the Splurge category.
From west to east:
- Barut Lara.
- Kervansaray Miracle Hotel.
- Miracle Resort Hotel.
- Lares Park.
- Delphin Diva. Expensive but stunning hotel which is highly rated by travellers.
- Delphin Imperial.
- Delphin Palace.
- Fame Residence.
- Concorde Hotel.
- Limak Lara.
- Sherwood Breezes Resort.
- Royal Wings.
- Antalya Kervansaray Kundu.
- Baia Lara. Baia Lara receives consistently high ratings for quality and service.
- Hotel Lara Beach.
- Royal Holiday Palace.
- Melas Hotel.
- Saturn Palace Resort.
- Green Palace Hotel.
- Venezia Palace.
- WOW Kremlin Palace. There have been many complaints about safety, security and bad management here.
- WOW Topkapi Palace.
- Mardan Palace. Reputedly has the largest swimming pool in the Mediterranean. Also claimed to be the most expensive Mediterranean resort.
Antalya Police Department has a "tourism police" section where travellers can report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity, they may have become victims of. They have staff multilingual in English, German, French, and Arabic.
- Tourism Police (Turizm Polisi), Kaleiçi Yat Limanı (at the marina below the old town), ☎ , fax: .
- Kemer to the south west is a touristic sea side region popular with the historical places, night life and hotels which is half an hour from Antalya city.
- Further south, Çıralı is a coastal town with several mid-range, quiet pansiyons to stay at, including Hotel Canada, with pleasant gardens. The beach at Cirali is protected from development because sea turtles come onto shore every year to lay their eggs.
- The beach at nearby Olimpos is also a nice, pebble beach. Accommodations in Olimpos are more backpacker style, with treehouses especially popular with younger travelers.
- Demre further west from Olympos, is the site of the St Nicolas Church, associated with the real Santa Claus (don't miss the larger than life Santa Claus statue in town.) Also just outside Demre are Lycian rock tombs in the cliffsides.
- Kaş which is about 2 hours drive from Antalya can be another excellent choice for extended holiday if you decide to run away from the whole crowd.
- Kalkan is half an hour further west of Kas. A beautiful upmarket harbour town with cobbled streets and high quality restaurants. Nearby Patara has the best golden sand beach on the Mediterranean coast, and can be visited even if you are not staying there.
- The Antalya region has some of the finest Roman ruins in the country, including Perge and Aspendos, with the largest, most well preserved Roman amphitheater anywhere.
- Belek to the east is popular with golf links and luxury hotels.
- Manavgat is about 1 hour to the east by car. It is home of the impressive Manavgat waterfalls, which has recently been modernised.
- Further east, Side is a nice coastal resort with some well-preserved Roman ruins.
- Alanya to the south east is a popular tourist destination 2 hours away.
- Termessos — the ruins of an ancient city in a gorgeous setting high over the Taurus Mountains inside pine forests
- Trains and buses arrive in the travel hub of Denizli. From there, dolmus take you the 10 miles or so to Pamukkale.
- During high season, buses run direct from tourist centers including Istanbul, Ankara, Fethiye, Bodrum, Marmaris and Selçuk.
- If you intend to head north by hitchhiking, take public minibuses #25 or #57 which stops at city bus stops near the otogar. These minibus lines take you to a highway junction with traffic lights out of city, situated amidst pine woods. This junction is not the last stop so be sure not to miss the stop situated there. Fare: 1.35 TL/person.
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