The Turquoise Coast: Places to Explore

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Alanya

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; 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 northern Europeans but rather hellish for anyone seeking a quiet holiday surrounded by nature. That said, Alanya is home to one of Turkey's biggest year-round expatriate communities, and in spring and autumn it's a pleasantly warm and inexpensive place to indulge in a few days of easily accessible swimming, historic sites, and good food.

Foreign influence has encouraged this city to clean up its act. 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 eclectic jumble of houses inside the magnificent red-walled citadel contains an increasing number of handsome boutique hotels. Other improvements include the opening of a microbrewery (Red Tower, which serves what may be the best beer in Turkey) and the debut of touch-screen bike rentals around the city center.

Alanya is famed for its sandy beaches, within walking distance of most hotels. 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 citadel. Boats can be hired from the harbor for relaxing day tours to caves around the citadel and a view of the only surviving Seljuk naval arsenal. Alanya, called Kalanaoros by the Byzantines, was captured by the sultan Alaaddin Keykubad in 1221 and became the Turkish Seljuks' first Mediterranean stronghold in their centuries-long migration westward. Several amusing stories explain the Seljuk sultan'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.

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