There is nothing quite like experiencing a surprise around every corner you turn.
We were fortunate to spend three days in Antalya which we are beyond grateful for. Antalya was a destination we planned purely because it was close to the sea and knowingly nearby popular beach destination Bodrum. We anticipated Antalya being similar but we had completely underestimated the amazing three days that were in store for us.
Antalya is located on the South-Western(ish) border right off of the Mediterranean sea and is the biggest city on the Turkish Mediterranean coastline. This fascinating city is divided into old and new; both equally as interesting to explore. Not only is the history within Antalya fascinating, there is so much to do and see outside of the city itself.
The transport system in Antalya is pretty easy to follow and costs 2.40 lira (£0.30 or €0.34) per use. The easiest way to get around Antalya is by using the tram, however buses are also an option.
For a visual the tram map is below. The red line takes you directly from the airport into the main part of Antalya passing the bus station (Otogar) and historical sites such as Hadrian's Gate. The green line is the 'Historical' route which takes you into Antalya's old town and along the coast. The old town is not particularly flat so taking this tram can be an option for exhausted legs. In saying that, be careful of riding the tram too much though as it bypasses many of the beautiful sections in the old town and will miss a lot of the wonderful souks, shops and streets if you do not explore by foot at some time during your stay.
Tip: make sure you have Turkish money (known as Lira) and small change to get a tram ticket as the machine does not accept notes.
When seeking transport to get you places out of Antalya I would recommend to look online at KamelKoc or to head straight to the Otogar and book a bus. Workers at the bus station are helpful and speak good English. You may find asking locals complex questions around Antalya difficult so I would recommend asking your accommodation host for advice. If you choose to travel by taxi be ready to pay more than the locals, unless again you can ask a local to negotiate for you (as our host did on our trip to Aspendos).
The Roman theater, Aspendos, still used for special events today. Aspendos is located 50km from Antalya city center.
What to pack
There is so much you can do in Antalya. After reading this blog, visit Top 10 things to do in Antalya and this will help you decide from the list below what is essential for you to pack. If you are up for a bit of everything, then consider all of the below:
- Bathers, towel, goggles; the swimming essentials.
- Good footwear to walk in that can suffice a nice walk from the city center along the coast and can withstand Antalya's old town which is quite hilly.
- A few pair of shorts and t-shirts, 1 x pair of trousers/pants, one jumper & ladies a dress or skirt if that is your thing.
- A nice outfit for a fancy dinner - hopefully you plan to treat yourself at least once. Heels are not a necessity, a nice pair of flats should do the job.
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
- A small backpack that you can take on day trips, perhaps consider a waterproof bag if you plan to do a lot of sea based activities.
- All the travel necessities; personal hygiene, under garments, passports, small lock, water bottles, credit card, etc.
The nightlife in Antalya is not what I had expected. There were outdoor bars packed with people on every night of the week. And I mean every! Palm trees line the main roads reminding you of the tropical heaven of a location you have stumbled across. Late night kebab bars sit on every corner street with scatters of people seated at the front enjoying their meals. The old town gives a spectacular backdrop of the city especially with it's lit up mosques and heritage sites so they could stand out against the ocean backdrop.
As soon as dusk sets in, bars and restaurants appear every where you look. The smells of seafood lifts into the air and within minutes your stomach is grumbling for a delicious fresh meal. Make sure you take advantage and splurge on a nice meal or two whilst in Antalya. Plenty of restaurants let you hand pick the fish or seafood you want to eat first and then off they go and cook it how you want it. If seafood is not your thing, then settle for a traditional Turkish meal such as pide, baklava, doner or kofte.
Following dinner, settle down in an outdoor pub or bar and enjoy a beer or cocktail. Shesha is popular in Turkey and available in most outdoor bars (there are smoking and non smoking areas if you have kids or prefer to be away from that area). The selection of shesha flavors is a whole new ball game; from traditional flavors to all types of ice cream, fruit or candy imaginable.
Side note: Although busy outside, it is not loud. We stayed very central and had no issues falling asleep or being kept awake from outside noise.
Turkey is an Islamic country and with Islamic religions comes the daily prayers. Five times a day the Azan (call to prayer) is lead on load speaker by the muezzin of the mosque. The muezzin is a specially appointed individual by the mosque to recite all prayers daily. Each mosque has their own muezzin and you will soon become acquainted with multiple Azan's being recited at the same time.
With the first daily prayer taking place before the sun rises (just after 5am) you will have a wonderful alarm to wake you up early or, for those non-early risers, a reminder that you still have a few hours left to sleep. The last Azan takes place after the final light (usually between 9-10pm).
Antalya is where we met our favorite Airbnb hosts to date. Robin and Feriha are the most wonderful couple. Robin is from England and loves a beer (obviously) and Feriha cooks you the most delicious breakfast (included in the price) every morning while you sit on the balcony overlooking this view.
Feriha also speaks fluent Turkish and can do any translating/deals for you to make sure you get trips, taxis and National buses for the correct price. They are happy to pre-book white water rafting for you as well (for a great price).
If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Antalya, you could not find a better host and view for a steal of a price. We will definitely come back and stay here when we return to Antalya.
Antalya was probably one of the biggest surprise locations we had come across and was just so 'us'. Interestingly I read a few reviews and blogs about Antalya being 'boring'. I truly have no idea how this is possible. I can not wait for the day we return to Antalya and get to spend more wonderful days here.
I am interested to hear of other peoples experience in Antalya and whether you have been back.