The Turquoise Coast : Places to Explore



Alanya is Turkey's hottest resort town—literally. Temperatures here are higher than almost anywhere else in Turkey, averaging 106°F (27°C) in July and August, and the waves lapping the long Mediterranean beaches that sweep toward Alanya's great rock citadel are only a degree or two cooler. This makes high summer in Alanya heaven for sun-starved, disco-loving, hard-drinking north Europeans but rather hellish for anyone seeking a quiet holiday surrounded by nature.

That said, Alanya is now home to one of Turkey's biggest year-round expatriate communities, and in spring and autumn it's a pleasantly warm and inexpensive choice for a few days of easily accessible swimming, historic sites, and good food. The city is cleaning up its act, so to speak: former wastelands of concrete-block apartments are now colorfully painted, Ottoman districts around the harbor are well on the way to being restored, and the new and old houses inside the magnificent red-walled citadel are an unspoiled, eclectic jumble. The best swimming place is known as Cleopatra's Beach—yet another accretion to the fables surrounding Mark Antony's courtship of the Egyptian queen—and its yellow sands extend northwest from the rock citadel. Foreign influence has led to improvements like automated touch-screen bike rentals around the center, hundreds of restaurants that can bill in multiple currencies, and a microbrewery called the Red Tower, that serves what many to believe is the best beer in Turkey.

Alanya is famed for its sandy beaches, within walking distance of most hotels. Boats can be hired from the harbor for relaxing day tours to caves around the citadel rock and a view of the only surviving naval arsenal of the 12th and 13th century Seljuks. Alanya, called Kalanaoros by the Byzantines, was captured in 1221 by the Seljuk sultan Alaaddin Keykubad and was the Turkish Seljuks' first stronghold on the Mediterranean in their centuries-long migration westward. Several amusing stories explain the Seljuk sultan Alaaddin Keykubad's conquest: one says he married the commander's daughter, another that he tied torches to the horns of thousands of goats and drove them up the hill in the dark of night, suggesting a great army was attacking. Most likely, he simply cut a deal; once settled, he modestly renamed the place Alaiya, after himself, and built defensive walls to ensure he would never be dislodged. The Ottomans arrived in 1471, and gave it its current name, Alanya.