Antalya in Turkey: Travel and Province Guide
When it comes to professional tourism destinations, Antalya in Turkey counts itself as a market leader. Although the name references the central city, which is also Turkey’s fastest-growing metropolis, it refers to the larger Antalya province which we will talk about.
Sitting on the southwest Mediterranean coast, we recommend visiting to explore many delights that trump other places in Turkey. The crystal blue waters, long sandy beaches and scenic backing Taurus mountain range are marvellous landscape views and sum up a Turkish Mediterranean lifestyle.
Since the first human settlement around 200BC, the region has experienced much change. Under Roman rule it thrived, and Ottoman times were uneventful. Falling under Italian authority just after WW1, when recaptured during the Turkish Independence War, it grew to a size never seen before.
However, the pinnacle point in its history, was when it embraced independent and mainstream tourism trade in the 60s. These days, as Turkey’s second most popular holiday destination after Istanbul, and as a leader of hospitality, cuisine, luxury, and budget holidays, its success is set in stone.
Hosting 12.4 million tourists in 2018, Mastercard ranked it the world’s tenth most visited city, making more nationalities arrive to find out what all the hype is about. Also nicknamed Turkey’s citrus capital, alongside tourism, the region specialises in yacht production and has plans for a new marina, cruise ship port and suggestions of a film studio.
About Antalya in Turkey
9 Good Reasons to Visit
1: Cleopatra's, Konyaalti, Lara and Kaputas are Turkey’s best beaches
2: The shopping and nightlife scenes are the best in Mediterranean Turkey.
3: The hospitality and hotel industries are leaders and professionals in what they do.
4: Its impressive collection of historical sites includes places like Saint Nicholas church, and Aspendos theatre, one of the world’s best-preserved structures.
5: Think gorgeous landscapes views as far as the eye can see, everywhere you go.
6: Eat your way around the world in hundreds of budget and upmarket restaurants.
7: Combining modern with traditional, visitors experience the best of both worlds.
8: A cosmopolitan atmosphere makes everyone feel right at home.
When is the Best Time to Visit Antalya?
The Mediterranean climate lends itself to hot, dry summers and mild winters. Hence it has become an all-year-round tourism destination. However, the best time to visit depends on what you want to do and where you want to go.
Beach lovers should visit between May to October as this is the official tourism season, boasting of clean beaches, rental facilities for umbrellas and beds, and many water sports like jet skiing. Be aware though, from July to September temperatures are at their highest often reaching the mid-40s.
People who want to explore by hiking trails or visiting significant attractions would do well to visit in April, May, June, October, and November. The December to February rainy season is unpredictable but anyone looking to live here can expect 300 days of sunshine.
How to Get There
Most people arrive via the state-of-the-art airport, with its impressive year-round flight schedule. Otherwise, the central bus station has good connections with the rest of Turkey, and car drivers need to get onto the main D400 highway running from the east to west of Turkey which Antalya sits on. If arriving by sea, enter at official ports in Kas, Finike, the city centre, Alanya, or Kemer.
Popular Towns and Villages Across the Province
The region breaks down into 19 official districts, some of which are more popular with holidaymakers than others. The city centre dominates them all, and to be in the heart, choose a hotel there.
Otherwise, exciting places include Alanya at the far eastern tip sitting next to Gazipasa. With the red tower and castle dominating its skyline, it is the second busiest place and growing to become a recognised tourism district in its own standing.
History lovers will adore Side, a modern town built around ancient ruins, while Belek, Turkey’s golfing capital is also a centre of excellence for spa and wellness hotels. All-inclusive hotels sitting on the beachfront is what Kemer is all about, while further west along the coastline, luxury Kalkan, an upmarket hub, boasts of stunning sea views and fine dining restaurants. (Find out more about the districts of Antalya.)
Yearly Festivals and Events
Given that Antalya is an entertainment hub and proud of its cultural heritage and achievements, annual festivals dominate the social calendar. While some remain low key, celebrated in just small villages, others attract people from around Turkey.
The Orange Film Festival held in September and October aims to support up-and-coming filmmakers, while the June and July Aspendos Festival focuses on ballet and opera. Holidaymakers during summer should stop by the Lara beach district to see the summer-long sand festival, where sculptures made from sand wow everyone young and old alike.
Best Beaches in Turkey
Although Antalya has many other attractions, and things to do, its beaches are, without a doubt, a significant reason people flock there. Every year, Trip Advisor releases its list of top ten beaches, and in 2018, listed five belonging to the province.
Ranking in at number one is Cleopatra's beach in Alanya. Urban legends say Cleopatra met Marc Anthony here for a romantic rendez-vous but these days, swimming, sunbathing, and adrenaline-seeking are the main attractions. Not only that, TA also ranked it as the world’s 19th best beach and Europe’s third according to user reviews.
Other favourites include Kaputas, Konyaalti, and Patara. Lara beach ranking in at number 8 is also home to large, themed all-inclusive hotels. Nicknamed Turkey’s Las Vegas, inclusive themed hotels with on-site entertainment, food, drink, and activities make a roaring trade.
Must Visit: Kaleici Old Town
Regardless of where you stay, a must-visit place is Kaleici, the old town part that is a delight to explore. The entrance, marked by the ancient Hadrian’s gate, leads into a labyrinth of cobbled streets and old Ottoman houses. As the historical centre, landmark 18th and 19th-century buildings featuring Roman, Ottoman and Seljuk architecture include the domineering clock tower, Hidirlik tower, Iskele and Tekeli mosques.
Seek them out and explore the boutique shops but finish your visit by the harbour front, home to many quaint restaurants serving a variety of fresh fish and seafood, and the place to watch a glorious sunset on another day.
More Things to Do in Antalya
Alongside Kaleici old town, the list of things to do is endless. We love hiring a car to get around them all, but local travel agencies also sell tours. Some excellent places include…
Aspendos Ancient Ruins: Most people visit Aspendos to see the intact Roman theatre which was the largest built by the Romans in Asia minor. Other landmark buildings include the acropolis, aqueduct, and a nymphaeum.
Mount Tahtali Cable Car: Giving off a fantastic view over the coastline and backing Taurus mountain range, the cable car ride isn’t cheap but worth it. A twenty-minute trip goes to the summit where marvellous photograph opportunities await and while you can descend in the same way, daredevils opt to paraglide off.
Antalya Museum: Known as one of Turkey’s best, the museum holds many artefacts from ruined cities. Including marvellous sculptures, household items, art, jewellery and much more, it makes learning about Turkey’s varied and colourful history fun.
Antalya Aquarium: As one of the world’s biggest aquariums, this is a fun day out for the whole family. Attractions include fish feeding, underwater shows, the ice museum, wild park, XD cinema and main tunnel habitants.
Beautiful Waterfalls: Much to everyone’s surprise, Antalya has a few waterfalls formed by water flowing down from the Taurus mountain range. Main ones to see include central Duden flowing into the Mediterranean, Manavgat and Kursunlu.
Lycian Way: Antalya marks the start of the Lycian Way, a 516-kilometre walking path to Fethiye that visits many ancient ruins along the way. Complete the whole walk over three months or break it up and explore sections at a time.
Go Sailing: As a major Mediterranean port and Turkish riviera hub, sailing is big business. Choose a lazy day boat trip from any harbours, to cruise along the coastline with lunch and swimming stops or go far out and book a three-night gulet cruise from Antalya to Fethiye.
Phaselis: Pack up the picnic basket for a calm day out in Phaselis, and the Olympus protected park. Just an hour’s drive west from the city centre, after exploring the ancient city ruins, relax on two beaches boasting of stunning scenery.
Also of Interest
If this brief introduction to Antalya in Turkey piques your interest, the following articles will also be helpful.
Living in Antalya: This guide will help anyone planning to live here all year round. As Turkey’s second most popular place for foreign house sales, it has large communities of foreign residents, and settling in will be easy with our helpful hints, tips, and advice.
Best of Turkey: Five places and attractions dominate Turkey’s tourism scene and, in this article, we explore why they are so popular and how to plan a visit.