It’s long been popular with those seeking a more relaxed pace of life, but it seems Side’s secret is out. An increasing number of people are drawn there, attracted by an atmosphere more laidback than other resorts in the Antalya area.
Side is a quiet harbour town, steeped in history. Daytimes are peaceful, while evenings – even though livelier – have a relaxed vibe. Its chilled-out approach makes it a popular holiday destination for families and those who prefer to avoid the 24-hour party towns. It’s also a draw for those seeking to put down more permanent roots, either by moving to Turkey or buying property in Antalya province.
But if you’ve yet to discover the delights of Side, here are a few of the must-do activities and attractions once you’re there.
The temples of Apollo and Athena
You’ll find the ruins of Side’s main temples, dedicated to Apollo and Athena, on the town’s peninsula. As well as a pleasant way to while away some time as you explore, the view across the Mediterranean is stunning – make sure to take some photographs with the pillars standing against the scenery. It’s worth going there in the evening, too, as the ruins are lit up which gives the area a different, but equally special, ambience.
Discover Side’s history
In its day, Side’s Roman theatre packed in audiences of up to 15,000 people in its 49 rows. Now, the imposing ruins are an excellent example of second-century architecture.
Just behind it is the agora, or marketplace. Originally there would have been colonnades filled with shops and stalls, selling everything from food to homewares. On one side you’ll see a building that is believed to have been the library, and also nearby are the remains of the Temple of Tyche, which was dedicated to the Roman goddess of fortune.
From the agora, head for the walls of Side’s old town. Here you’ll find the ruins of the Byzantine bishop’s palace. Side Museum, housed in a 5th-century bathhouse, is also worth visiting. While small, it has some fascinating exhibits that bring the Hellenistic and Roman eras to life.
Take time to chill out
Sometimes you just need to kick back and relax. Enjoy Side’s unique vibe as you wander around the shops or discover your favourite family-friendly restaurant. Saturday is market day, held each week in the town centre. Browse the stalls and enjoy listening to the bustle of life around you.
Side’s beaches boast golden sands and are the perfect place to soak up some sun. There are plenty of loungers and parasols or, alternatively, the more active will find various water sports to occupy their time, including parascending and jet skiing. In the evening, take a promenade along the harbour and enjoy a drink at one of the many cafés while you enjoy the night-time views.
Just a few kilometres out of the town centre, you’ll find the beautiful Manavgat Waterfall. While not particularly high, it is wide – which makes for a spectacular force of nature. A series of walkways takes you close to the white, foaming waters as they thunder relentlessly over the rocks. It really is worth seeing and was even depicted on the Turkish five lira banknote from 1968 to 1983.
There are shady tea gardens to rest in, and of course it’s a great place for a picnic. It’s best to visit during the week to avoid the most crowded times, though, as it’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
If you don’t mind a trip out of town, the Köprülü Canyon National Park lies around 70km out of Side. Thrill-seekers can arrange a white-water rafting experience, while more sedate rafting sessions are also available. There’s no obligation to experience the river at such close quarters, though. There are various walks that allow you to admire the gorge’s dramatic setting, whether you’re a keen hiker or prefer a gentle stroll. In some places, the canyon is 400m deep and there are several fish restaurants offering freshly caught trout as their speciality.
Caves are endlessly fascinating, and the small town of Cevizli, around 18km out of Side, has access to one of the deepest networks in Turkey. The Düdencik Caves go down around 330m and are well worth the trip. Admire stalagmites and stalactites, and there are also underground rivers.