Antalya is a beautiful and historical city on the Mediterranean coast in southern Turkey. If you are planning to visit, here is some essential information for your trip.
The city of Antalya was founded in the second century BC by Attalos II, the king of Pergamon, who named it after himself. Since then, it has served as the principal city for the region through Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman, and now Turkish times. Paul and Barnabas departed from the harbor of Attalia when sailing from Galatia back to Antioch (Acts 14).
Antalya has magnificent weather nine months of the year. July and August are very humid and hot, almost unbearable. Late January and early February can get cold with lows around freezing. The rest of the year is warm and sunny.
The Antalya airport (AYT) is on the east (Lara) side of the city, about 20 minutes from downtown. It has many international direct flights, especially to cities in northern Europe and Russia (countries with far less sunshine!).
It is helpful to realize that the designation “Antalya” refers to three concentric areas:
downtown (Turkish: kaleiçi)—the quaint historical old town built around the ancient harbor,
city—the larger metropolis with one million people, and
province—the administrative district that stretches for hundreds of miles along the coast from Alanya past Kaş.
Downtown Antalya (kaleiçi)
There is a lot of history to experience in the old town area built around the ancient harbor. Highlights include Hadrian’s Gate in the ancient walls, Hıdarlık, the ancient harbor, and the Seljuk buildings around Yivliminare Mosque.
There is endless shopping in the old city as well. The east side has upscale tourist shops, while the northwest portion has more local budget places. There are also endless boutique hotels in the area that retain the charming style of old Greece and Ottoman homes. La Paloma Hotel is a good option. Some of the top restaurants are Route Burger, Antique Café (great design), Pio (cool bistro), and Seraser (upscale).
You can easily spend a day strolling the downtown area and its narrow streets. The area north of the old town is a sprawling bazaar area. If you want to go for a long walk, you have two options. On the east side, a walking path runs about 10 kilometers from Cender Hotel along the coast to Lower Duden Waterfall, which falls into the sea. On the west side, you can walk along Konyaaltı Street. After 2.5 kilometers, you arrive at the recommended Antalya Archaeology Museum and can then walk along Konyaaltı, a nice pebble beach route with restaurants. Note that most of Antalya’s coastline is actually a falaise, a 50-plus-foot-tall cliff that runs from the Antalya Archaeology Museum to Lower Duden Waterfall.
The broader metropolis of Antalya is a major modern city with over one million people, including many foreigners. It was a sleepy Turkish town until the 1970s, but now it ranks as Turkey’s fifth-largest city. The city has three main parts: Konyaaltı Beach is the coastal half west of the ancient downtown, Lara Beach (which has a sand beach) is the part east of the ancient downtown, and the inland area north of the D400 highway is Kepez. If you don’t want to stay downtown, you will find many hotels on the Lara side. Akra is the nicest and most popular.
The 81 provinces in Turkey are named after the main city in each one. So Antalya also refers to the long province stretching from Alanya to Kaş, which are seven hours apart by car. From the city center, it is easy to rent a car ($30-40/day) and take day trips to sites in the province. This map from OnTheWorldMap.com shows the main places of interest in the area.
The east portion of the province is an open plain with a sandy coast. From the AYT airport eastwards to Manavgat, you will find hundreds of all-inclusive beach resorts. The east side of the province also features several good Greco-Roman archaeology sites. Perge is the most impressive, but Aspendos and Side are worth visiting too. Sillyon and Selge make for remote adventures.
The western part of the province contains the Lycian mountains, so it has great mountain sports and charming coastal harbors. The smaller sites of Phaselis and Olympos are nice to visit, and many Turkish towns dot the coastal route.
For more information, check out the website ThisIsAntalya. Enjoy your visit!