The Turquoise Coast

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  • 1. Alanya Kalesi

    Views of the splendid castle or kale, on a mighty crag surrounded on three sides by the sea, dominate all roads into Alanya. The crenellated...

    Views of the splendid castle or kale, on a mighty crag surrounded on three sides by the sea, dominate all roads into Alanya. The crenellated outer walls are 6½ km (about 4 miles) long and include 140 bastions. The road pierces these outer walls through a modern break, dividing as it heads up the summit. One section leads to the İç Kale (inner fortress), the other to the Ehmedek (garrison); both have places to park. Near the entrance to the Ehmedek are the remains of the original bedestan (bazaar); the old shops around its open courtyard now touting souvenirs. Along a road to the top of the promontory, a ticket office defends the inner keep. Inside are the ruins of a Byzantine church, its 6th-century frescoes of the evangelists faded almost beyond recognition. The Seljuk sultan Keykubad probably also had a palace here, although discoveries by the McGhee Center of Georgetown University indicates that in times of peace the Seljuk elite likely preferred their pleasure gardens and their hunting and equestrian sports on the well-watered plain below. Steps ascend to the battlement on the summit. A viewing platform is built on the spot where condemned prisoners and women convicted of adultery were once cast to their deaths. The ticket is also valid for the Ehmedek. Admire the ruined monastery down below but do not attempt to descend toward it—the mountainside is very treacherous.

    Alanya, Antalya, 07400, Turkey
    242-513–1228

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL40
  • 2. Amyntas Kaya Mezarları

    Sometimes called the "king's graveyard," these impressive ancient Lycian rock tombs are carved into the cliff that looms above town. These can be admired from...

    Sometimes called the "king's graveyard," these impressive ancient Lycian rock tombs are carved into the cliff that looms above town. These can be admired from a distance, but if you’re keen to get a close look, follow the signs to Kaya Caddesi (literally "Rock Avenue") near the local minibus station, and then climb the approximately 200 steps leading up to the rocks. Your effort will be well rewarded—particularly at dusk, when the cliffs take on a reddish glow. The largest and best-known is the Tomb of Amyntas, son of Hermepias (c. 350 BC), carved to resemble the facade of an Ionic temple and presumably the burial place of a local ruler or nobleman. Inside are the slabs where corpses were laid out. If you like Lycian tombs, but aren't keen to make the climb here, keep your eyes peeled for the ancient sarcophagi scattered throughout Fethiye.

    Fethiye, Mugla, 48300, Turkey

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL12.5, Be prepared for lots of stairs
  • 3. Antalya Müzesi

    The province of Antalya has a rich array of archaeological sites and their assembled finds means a first-rate collection at the Antalya Müzesi. The star...

    The province of Antalya has a rich array of archaeological sites and their assembled finds means a first-rate collection at the Antalya Müzesi. The star is Perge, statues from which fill gallery after gallery here, including one just for the gods, from Aphrodite to Zeus. There are also Turkish crafts, costumes, and prehistoric artifacts from the Karain Cave, with bits of Byzantine iconography and some fossils thrown in. One gallery is filled with fine Roman sarcophagi from the 2nd century AD, including a wonderful one illustrating the labors of a steadily aging Hercules. Upstairs are several coin hordes; the large one from Elmalı was recently returned to the museum after being smuggled to the United States. If you have the time, walk to the museum from the center of town along the clifftop promenade, which has a fine sea view.

    Konyaalti Cad., No. 88, Antalya, Antalya, 07050, Turkey
    242-238–5688

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL55
  • 4. Aspendos Archaeological Site

    Although there are many Roman theaters still standing, none are quite as perfect as the one at Aspendos, built by a local architect named Xenon...

    Although there are many Roman theaters still standing, none are quite as perfect as the one at Aspendos, built by a local architect named Xenon during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 161–180). It owes its current preservation to the fact that the Seljuk Turks repurposed it as a royal palace in the 13th century; traces of the distinctive Seljuk red-and-yellow paint work are still visible. In its heyday, it could hold 15,000 spectators and is most striking for the broad curve of seats, perfectly proportioned porticoes, and rich decoration. The Greeks liked open vistas behind their stages, but the Romans preferred enclosed spaces. The stage building you see today was once covered by an elaborate screen of marble columns, and its niches were filled with statues. The only extant relief on site depicts Dionysus (Bacchus) watching over the theater. The acoustics are fine, and the theater continues to be used—for concerts and for the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival, held every September, rather than for wild-animal and gladiator spectacles as in Roman times. Most visitors just see the theater, but don't miss out on the rest of the site, which is up a zigzagging trail behind it. The rewards are a tall Nymphaion (a sanctuary to the nymphs built around a fountain decorated with a marble dolphin) and the remains of a Byzantine basilica and market hall. You can also see, below in the plain, the stadium and the aqueduct which used an ingenious siphon system.

    Sarıabalı Köyü, Serik, Antalya, Antalya, 07500, Turkey
    242-892–1325

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL60
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  • 5. Butterfly Valley

    Established as a preserve in 1981 to protect the habitat of some 100 species of butterfly, including the Jersey Tiger, this area was opened for...

    Established as a preserve in 1981 to protect the habitat of some 100 species of butterfly, including the Jersey Tiger, this area was opened for tourism in part to provide funds to support conservation. Although it's only a 15-minute drive from Ölüdeniz, Butterfly Valley is a favorite stop for boat trips (it's either that or a treacherous climb down a very steep hill) thanks to its pretty beach and clear turquoise waters. It attracts a laid-back crowd but can become overcrowded in high season. Those who brought sturdy sneakers can enjoy a bracing climb up to a little waterfall, and camping is allowed from April through November. If you aren't undertaking an excursion that includes Butterfly Valley as one of its stops, there's a taxi boat with scheduled service leaving from Ölüdeniz.

    Ölüdeniz, Mugla, Turkey

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Taxi boat TL50
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  • 6. Cleopatra Beach

    The crown jewel of Alanya is this beach that's right next to the city center. In fact, its main draws are its central location, making...

    The crown jewel of Alanya is this beach that's right next to the city center. In fact, its main draws are its central location, making it one of the easiest to access, and its array of activities, including tennis and beach volleyball. There are many beachside cafés and restaurants along the shore, and there are plenty of opportunities for water sports. Amenities: food and drink, parking (free), showers, toilets, water sports. Best for: swimming, walking.

    Ataturk Blvd., Alanya, Antalya, Turkey
  • 7. Hatay Arkeoloji Müzesi

    The highlights of this huge, impressive museum are its dozens of Roman mosaics, which hint at the glorious past of old Antioch. Experts consider works...

    The highlights of this huge, impressive museum are its dozens of Roman mosaics, which hint at the glorious past of old Antioch. Experts consider works in the collection here—one of the largest in the world, portraying scenes from mythology and replete with figures such as Dionysus, Orpheus, Oceanus, and Thetis—to rank among the highest achievements of Roman art.

    Atatürk Cad., Antakya, Hatay, 31120, Turkey
    326-225–1060

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL40
  • 8. İztuzu Beach

    Unspoiled İztuzu Beach stretches for 5.4 km (3.4 miles), with the Mediterranean on one side and a freshwater delta on the other. Caretta caretta (loggerhead)...

    Unspoiled İztuzu Beach stretches for 5.4 km (3.4 miles), with the Mediterranean on one side and a freshwater delta on the other. Caretta caretta (loggerhead) sea turtles lay their eggs here in summer, which means that this is a conservation area and there are rules in place so you don't disturb them; there's even a turtle hospital you can visit at the far end of the beach (where the minibus from Dalyan stops). It gets crowded near the boat drop-off point, but walk a few hundred yards away, and you'll have the sand to yourself. Regular boats (dolmuş tekne) from Dalyan cost about 30 TL for the return trip, so skip expensive tours or private rentals, unless you're venturing farther afield. Be aware that although you can catch the boat to the beach starting around 9:30 am, the hourly return trips don't begin until the early afternoon. Amenities: food and drink; parking; showers; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

    Dalyan, Mugla, Turkey
  • 9. Kaputaş Beach

    Since neither Kaş nor Kalkan have proper beaches, this pretty spot between the two is quite popular. Set in a narrow, steep-sided inlet, there are...

    Since neither Kaş nor Kalkan have proper beaches, this pretty spot between the two is quite popular. Set in a narrow, steep-sided inlet, there are 186 stairs leading down to it. The position between dramatic cliffs is picturesque, though the beach itself is small and can get crowded in summer. Parking is limited so arrive early to find a space. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free); toilets. Best for: swimming.

    Kalkan, Antalya, Turkey
  • 10. Kastellorizo

    The 25-minute ferry ride to the Greek island of Kastellorizo (called Meis in Turkish) gives you a taste of Greece and lets you imagine what...

    The 25-minute ferry ride to the Greek island of Kastellorizo (called Meis in Turkish) gives you a taste of Greece and lets you imagine what Kaş must have been like before the 1923 population exchange, when most residents were of Greek origin. Isolated from the rest of its country, Kastellorizo has escaped major development and maintains the charm of an island that time forgot. Attractions include a small 12th- to 16th-century crusader castle, notable for its crenellated gray-stone walls; a large blue cave with fine stalactites (speedboat trips can be arranged in Meis Harbor when you disembark); the 1835 church of St. Konstantine and Eleni (usually locked), which reused granite columns taken from the Temple of Apollo at Letoon in Lycia; and a mosque converted into a small museum that recounts the island's tragic history. You can get a taste of the island in just an afternoon, but if you want more, overnight at one of the several hotels or pansiyons. If you're day-tripping, don't be alarmed if the ferry operator wants to hold onto your passport when you disembark in Greece—they process the passports in batches to speed things up. If you're not comfortable with this, just ask to have your passport stamped while you watch.

    Kastellorizo, Greece
  • 11. Limanağzı

    This tiny bay across from the main harbor in Kaş is only accessible by boat (or by hiking), which makes it the perfect retreat from...

    This tiny bay across from the main harbor in Kaş is only accessible by boat (or by hiking), which makes it the perfect retreat from the bustle of the city center. With a small beach with rentable chairs and a small bar to purchase beverages, Limanağzı is a great spot for a casual swim during a long, relaxing day. You can also rent a canoe if you want to paddle around the bay. Amenities: food and drink. Best for: swimming, walking.

    Kas, Antalya, Turkey
  • 12. Mamure Kalesi

    On the eastern edge of town, the highway goes right past Mamure Kalesi—a spectacular castle with 39 towers, first constructed in Roman times to protect...

    On the eastern edge of town, the highway goes right past Mamure Kalesi—a spectacular castle with 39 towers, first constructed in Roman times to protect the city from seaborne raiders. It was expanded by the Seljuks, who captured it in the 13th century, and later rebuilt by the Karamanoğulları, who controlled this part of Anatolia after the Seljuk Empire collapsed. Note the inscription to the Karamanoğulları prince, İbrahim Bey II, dating from 1450. The place is so impressively preserved you'd think it was a modern reconstruction. As of late 2021, the castle was closed for restorations.

    Anamur, Mersin, 33630, Turkey
    0324-814–1677

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.
  • 13. Ölüdeniz-Kıdrak Nature Park

    If you want to take a dip in the iconic sandbar that lies across the mouth of the lagoon, then you must first enter Ölüdeniz...

    If you want to take a dip in the iconic sandbar that lies across the mouth of the lagoon, then you must first enter Ölüdeniz Nature Park. To do so, go down to the seafront, turn west, then left at the fork where you can see the toll booth; the charge is 27 TL per car or 9 TL per person on foot (kids are half price or free, depending on age). The setting is absolutely beautiful, which means you should expect crowds. Pretty much the entire pebbly beach is taken up by densely packed lounge chairs and umbrellas, either of which can be rented for 25 TL. Just around the corner, a concession rents pedalos and kayaks for about 50 TL per hour. The sea gets deep quickly here, and there are several diving platforms anchored a short swim out. Amenities: food and drink; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: swimming.

    Ölüdeniz, Mugla, 48300, Turkey
  • 14. Olympos

    Shaded by tall firs and amid flowering oleander bushes, the ruins are next to a river in a mountain gorge, so they're delightfully cool in...

    Shaded by tall firs and amid flowering oleander bushes, the ruins are next to a river in a mountain gorge, so they're delightfully cool in summer, the perfect time to explore. Many tombs are scattered about the ancient city. In the center of the northern half of the site is the large cathedral complex, once the main temple, which includes a much-photographed, 18-foot-high gate dedicated to Marcus Aurelius in AD 171 and mistakenly referred to by signs as a temple. Note how some walls around the site have clearly been rebuilt in later centuries with narrow arrow slits. At the beach entrance is a poetic inscription on a sarcophagus in memory of an ancient ship's captain, along with a carving of his beached boat—not that different from today's gulets. From here you can also climb to a small acropolis and some medieval fortifications where citizens in ancient times would keep a lookout for ships and pirates. The southern side of the ancient city is best reached by crossing the riverbed (sometimes dry in summer) by the land-side ticket office and heading east toward the beach along a well-beaten path that starts with a remarkable row of tombs. Farther along are shipping quays, warehouses, and a gorgeously overgrown theater, some of which lie half-buried in what feels like the floor of a jungle. Farther south along the beach are the walls of a medieval castle and church.

    Çirali, Antalya, 07350, Turkey
    242-892–1325

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL40
  • 15. Olympos Beach

    This 3-km (2-mile) swath, with a line of fir trees behind it and an amphitheater of mountains (including the 7,500-foot peak of Mt. Olympos/Tahtalı Dağı)...

    This 3-km (2-mile) swath, with a line of fir trees behind it and an amphitheater of mountains (including the 7,500-foot peak of Mt. Olympos/Tahtalı Dağı) surrounding it, is one of the wonders of Turkey. Although it has escaped the ravages of industrial tourism, there are several good beachfront restaurants where you can eat during the day or spend an evening. Keep an eye out for the nests of Caretta caretta turtles, who regularly lay their eggs on the beach. The surface here consists mostly of smooth white and multicolor pebbles mixed with some light gray sand, so prepare to recline on a lounger rather than a beach towel. Note that Olympos and Çıralı are separated by a 21-km (13-mile) drive around the mountain but only a short walk along the beach. If it's crowded near Olympos, stroll up toward Çıralı, where you're likely to find a patch of beach all to yourself, even in high season. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free); toilets. Best for: swimming; walking.

    Çirali, Antalya, 07980, Turkey
  • 16. Ovabükü Plajl

    On the Datça Peninsula, this quiet, escape-from-it-all beach—a mix of sand and pebbles—is one of the region's best. The rolling landscape of pine-crowned hills and...

    On the Datça Peninsula, this quiet, escape-from-it-all beach—a mix of sand and pebbles—is one of the region's best. The rolling landscape of pine-crowned hills and olive groves gives way to the deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea. Amenities: Food and drink, parking (free). Best for: solitude, swimming, walking.

    Datça, Mugla, 48900, Turkey
  • 17. Patara Beach

    Beyond the ruins of Patara is a superb 18-km (11-mile) sweep of sand dunes, surely one of the finest beaches on the Turquoise Coast. Despite...

    Beyond the ruins of Patara is a superb 18-km (11-mile) sweep of sand dunes, surely one of the finest beaches on the Turquoise Coast. Despite its popularity with Turkish families and tourists from Kalkan and Kaş, you don't have to walk far to find solitude here. Note that umbrellas should only be planted within 20 yards of the sea to prevent disturbing the nests of Caretta caretta turtles. In summer, be prepared for intense and unobstructed sun. Amenities: food and drink; parking (free); showers, toilets. Best for: walking; swimming.

    Patara Plajı, Gelemis, Antalya, 07975, Turkey

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL40 for daily admission to beach/ruins; TL150 for a weeklong pass
  • 18. Phaselis

    The ruins of Phaselis, the ancient port city with a majestic setting at the edge of three smalls bays, are as romantic as the reputation...

    The ruins of Phaselis, the ancient port city with a majestic setting at the edge of three smalls bays, are as romantic as the reputation of its ancient inhabitants was appalling. Demosthenes the Greek described them as unsavory, and Roman statesman Cicero called them rapacious pirates. Since the first Greek colonists from Rhodes bought the land from a local shepherd in the 7th century BC for a load of dried fish, classical literature is replete with the expression "a present from the Phaselians," meaning a cheap gift. Still, the setting is beautiful, and Alexander the Great spent a whole winter here before marching on to conquer the east. A broad main street is lined by some remarkably well-preserved buildings and cuts through the half-standing walls of the Roman agora. The street is also bookended by bays, each with translucent water that's ideal for swimming. A small theater with trees growing among the seats has a divine view of Mt. Olympos, and fine sarcophagi are scattered throughout a necropolis in the pine woods that surround the three bays. The ruins are poetic and impressive, ideal for a picnic or a day at the beach. Weekends or any day during peak season, however, the site can be crowded; it can be downright depressing when tour yachts from Antalya arrive with loudspeakers blaring.

    1001. Sok., Tekirova, Antalya, Turkey
    242-821–4506

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL55
  • 19. Sedir Adası (Cleopatra Island)

    Sedir (Cedar) Island, also known as Cleopatra Island, is about a 30-minute drive north of Marmaris, and then a boat ride into the Gulf of...

    Sedir (Cedar) Island, also known as Cleopatra Island, is about a 30-minute drive north of Marmaris, and then a boat ride into the Gulf of Gökova. Here you can explore the ruins of ancient walls and a Roman theater, but you can't walk or lounge on the island's beach, which is now fully protected. Local tour guides will tell you that its rare sand–made from tiny egg-shaped, luminously white pearls–was brought here by Marc Antony for Cleopatra. Enjoy views of it while swimming before the impressive escarpments of Mt. Kavak. Various Marmaris-based tour operators run day trips here; prices run around 140 TL a head. Alternatively, drive to Çamlı village and catch one of the "dolmuş boats" (80 TL return) that shuttle back and forth to the island.

    Sedir Adası, Marmaris, Mugla, 48640, Turkey
    252-412–1459

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL75
  • 20. Termessos

    Over 1,000 meters (3,500 feet) above sea level, this compelling site is nestled inside the Mount Güllük-Termessos National Park, where golden eagles and fallow deer...

    Over 1,000 meters (3,500 feet) above sea level, this compelling site is nestled inside the Mount Güllük-Termessos National Park, where golden eagles and fallow deer can sometimes be spotted. The attractions start right by the parking area, with a monumental gate that's part of an ancient temple dedicated to the Emperor Hadrian. The steepness of the path that leads up to the craggy remains of the city walls makes it clear just why Alexander the Great declined to attack. On the way, you'll pass a gymnasium, a colonnaded street, a bath complex built of dark-gray stone, and then, up and around, a 5,000-seat theater with a truly spectacular setting on the edge of a sheer cliff. From this staggering height you can see the sea, the Pamphylian plain, Mt. Solymos (now called Mt. Güllük), and the occasional mountain goat or ibex. Farther around is the well-preserved bouleuterion (where the city council met), the very overgrown agora (market), and some huge underground cisterns. Termessos has one more wonder: several vast necropolises, with nearly 1,000 tombs scattered willy-nilly on a rocky hill. A signposted alternate route back to the parking lot takes you past several rock-cut tombs; you can access another large collection of them via a path from the ticket office.

    Bayatbademleri Köyü, Antalya, 07800, Turkey

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: TL12.5

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