If you’re holidaying in the province of Antalya and fancy spending some time soaking up the sun and atmosphere outside of the main tourist areas, Side could definitely be the place to head to. Located about 78 km east of the city of Antalya, nestled either side of a small peninsula on Turkey’s gorgeous southern Mediterranean coast, Side is a lovely resort town offering everything you could want for a few days of rest and relaxation; a great choice of restaurants offering tasty Turkish and European cuisine, cafes, bars, nightclubs, shopping, markets and more, all within easy walking distance. And if you’re an ancient history enthusiast, you’ll be more than impressed with the array of archaeological sites to visit both in Side and nearby.
Although Side had its first settlement by 1000 BC, it wasn’t until the 7thcentury BC, when it was settled by the Greeks, that it really began to prosper. A harbour and port were constructed, and it soon became one of the most important trade cities of the region, reaching its peak in the 1st century BC, when Cilician pirates established it as their chief centre for the slave trade. From the 4thcentury onwards, the centre began its decline and ultimately, by the 10th century, the combination of earthquakes, invasions and Christian zealots, the site was left abandoned.
Fast forward a couple of thousand years to the 1950’s and we see a small, quiet fishing village. Interest in the local archaeological excavations saw the start of tourists to the area. Rooms in houses became guest accommodation and owners shared their kitchens with their paying visitors. Jump to the 1980’s and the tourism boom hits Side, and virtually every spare room in every home became a guest room and hotels began to be built. Circa 2019, and Side has grown into the resort town we see today, offering the eclectic mix of the ancient and the new.
The best recognized symbol of Side is, without question, the remains of the Temple of Apollo, which stands proudly on the tip of the small peninsula. Apollo was a Greek God and a deity of Side, along with the Greek Goddess Athena, the remains of her temple still standing but rather less impressively; although, in its day, it was the bigger and more majestic of the two. A definite must do, is viewing the Temple of Apollo at sunset. As the sun slowly sinks below the horizon, the temple becomes a sight to remember, its columns dramatically pronounced against the warm glow of the last of the sun’s rays. Savour the moment over a glass of wonderful Turkish wine, then head to dinner at your restaurant of choice to savour more delights of the area. For real history buffs, there are three other temples in Side, a Roman library, Agora and Byzantine Basilica and a Roman amphitheatre. And don’t miss the Side Museum which is only small but houses some of the best Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine statues and artefacts of the region. What’s possibly more impressive is the building itself, which is the restored Roman baths from the 4th century.
Of course, if visiting in the summer months, you’ll no doubt be wanting to work on the tan and soak up some beautiful warm Mediterranean rays. Side’s weather is perfect for this, especially from May to September, and Side’s two main beaches are long stretches of soft, white sand leading down to warm, clear water, just perfect for swimming. West Beach is the longest and most popular of the two. It is lined by holiday resorts, cafes and restaurants. You’ll find the obligatory sun-lounge and umbrella for rent along with the opportunity to be adventurous with some para-sailing or indulgent in a beach-side massage. In comparison, East beach is rather less crowded and still relatively untouched, thanks to the archaeological site buried beneath the dunes. An evening stroll along the beach is a lovely way to end a day of either exploration or relaxation.
A wonderful aspect of Side is its proximity to other great areas to explore and enjoy. There are the beautiful, cool Manavgat Waterfalls, a perfect place to escape the summer heat and enjoy the lush green surrounds, the stunning Koprulu Canyon where you can experience the adrenalin rush of white water rafting, quad bike safaris along the Koprucay River where you can get wet and wild with full-on adventurous fun, Aspendos, Perge and the AltinBesik Cave National Park, which is one of the most beautiful parks and caves of Turkey. There you can discover the world’s third largest underground water-caves and above ground, embrace the sights and fresh smells of nature at its best.
Side really is quite a little gem and well worth a visit, whether it be as a day trip from Antalya or Alanya, or for a pleasurable few days. Summer or winter, explore, relax