Things to Do in Turkish Riviera - page 2
Just northeast of Antalya lies the region’s most significant Roman ruins. Dating to the Bronze Age, the city of Perge was originally settled by the Hittites, but under Roman occupation grew to become one of the most beautiful and scholarly cities of the ancient world, attracting important thinkers such as physician Asklepiades, philosopher Varius, and Apollonius, a pupil of Archimedes.
Rocky coves and pine-clad cliffs make a scenic backdrop for a boat cruise, but the biggest attraction of Kekova Island (Kekova Adasi) is underwater. The uninhabited island harbors the sprawling ruins of an ancient Lycian city, submerged after an earthquake in the second century and now lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean.
Dotted with a dozen islands interspersed with secluded bays and inlets, and set against a backdrop of forested hills that slope dramatically up from the shore, the Gulf of Fethiye (Fethiye Körfezi) offers one of Turkey’s prettiest stretches of coastline and is deservedly popular as a boating destination.
One of the most enjoyable ways to see the area is on a daylong “12-island cruise” that takes passengers around the gulf. Most cruises make stops at about five or six of the islands (all of one of which are uninhabited), allowing time for swimming, snorkeling and other activities.
Highlights might include exploring the remains of a Byzantine church and Roman shipyard on Tersane; swimming off the long, sandy beaches of the Yassıca Adalar (“Flat Islands”); or taking a dip amidst the half-submerged Roman ruins known as “Cleopatra’s Baths.”
For travelers with more time, three- or four-day cruises, in which you sleep onboard the boat between daily excursions, allow you to experience the delights of the Gulf of Fethiye at a more leisurely pace.
Tumbling over a wall of moss-covered rock into a clear natural pond, Kursunlu Waterfalls are set inside a forested natural park. Compared to the more visited Duden Waterfalls, which are more expansive and by the Mediterranean Sea, these gentle cascades feel secluded and remote.
Yalıçiftlik is a small village located near the popular resort town of Bodrum, Turkey. It is just outside the Bodrum Peninsula along the Aegean Sea above a series of secluded coves, and it's at the entrance to the Gulf of Gokava. Accommodations here run from simple to luxury. The town's scenery includes pine forests, orchards of fig trees, and the sandy coastline. There is a market once a week where you'll find fruits, vegetables, and other local products. The beaches in Yalıçiftlik are perfect for sunbathing or swimming, and you'll also find several restaurants and cafes serving fresh, local seafood and traditional Turkish food near the beach. You can also go hiking in the nearby forest and explore ruins in the hills from the ancient Legegian and Carian civilizations.
In Yalıçiftlik and the surrounding areas, you can get a glimpse into traditional Turkish village life. There are stone farmhouses on the hillsides with orchards and beehives. These areas outside of the beach resorts are mostly untouched by tourism. Yaliciftlik is often included on tours on traditional Turkish sailing boats that visit several of the quiet villages along the coast of the Bodrum Peninsula.
The most strikingly situated of Side’s ancient ruins, the grand Temple of Apollo stands perched on the edge of the historic town, overlooking the Mediterranean. Dating back to the second century AD, the temple was believed to have been a gift from Anthony to Cleopatra and still has five of its original Corinthian columns, towering over the seafront.
Founded around 1000 BC, the ancient Greco-Roman city of Aspendos is best-known for its impressive Roman theater, one of the most remarkably preserved in the world. Designed by Greek architect Zeno and built in the second century AD, the theater seats up to 7,000 people and is still used as a venue today.
Best known for housing the world’s largest underwater tunnel exhibit, Antalya Aquarium is a family destination on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. In addition to its 430-foot (131-meter) by 10-foot (3-meter) tunnel and 40 themed tanks, the attraction center houses a tropical reptile house, 3D cinema, and a snow-themed museum.
The ancient Greek city of Priene is in modern-day Turkey, but its Greek roots are clearly visible in the excavations you can visit. The remains of the city of Priene we can see today date back to the 4th century B.C.E., but it’s widely known among archaeologists that the original Priene settlement is much older. How much older, they can’t say - those remains are likely still buried - but it’s possible the original city was established before 1000 B.C.E.
One of the main attractions at Priene is the Temple to Athena, situated at the highest point of the old city. Other sights in the excavations include a theater, the agora, a city council building called a “bouleuterion,” a gymnasium with Roman baths, and a Temple of Demeter.
Kaleköy (Simena) is located in the small town of Kalekoy along the southwestern coast of Turkey. It is quiet traditional village that was once a Lycian settlement. While visitors can get there on land, taking a boat trip from nearby Kas is a much more enjoyable experience. The journey takes you past the rocky, dramatic coastline and passes the submerged remains of an ancient Lycian settlement near Kekova Island. A popular yachting town, and you'll usually find several boats in Kalekoy Harbor.
At the top of the village is the Kalekoy Castle built by the Knights of St. John, and next to castle is the remains of the Lycian Simena graveyard. From this vantage point, you will have a great view of the village and the Mediterranean Sea. Down by the harbor, you'll find several restaurants and cafes selling local Turkish cuisine and freshly caught fish, as well as a few small pensions for those who decide to stay overnight.
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A narrow spit of sand stretching out into the ocean, Iztuzu Beach (Turtle Beach) takes its name from the loggerhead sea turtles that nest on its shores. Forming a natural barrier between the Dalyan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the protected beach is one of the most important breeding grounds for the endangered creatures in Turkey.
A Greco-Roman amphitheater and rock tombs carved into the cliffside make the ruins at Myra a popular stop along Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Dating back as early as the 1st century BC, the ancient Lycian capital of Myra lies just outside the modern town of Demre.
St. Mary’s House in Ephesus is believed by many to be the place where the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, spent her final days, and has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors and pilgrims seeking the healing properties of the spring that runs beneath the stone home since its discovery in the 19th-century.
The Temple of Artemis, or Artemision, was a Greek temple in present-day Turkey dedicated to the goddess Artemis. It was one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. It was built not far from Ephesus just outside the present-day town of Selcuk. The temple was completely rebuilt several times throughout history after being destroyed on multiple occasions by both nature and human factors. Little remains of the temple in its original location today since archeologists brought much of the ruins to the British Museum.
The Temple of Artemis is only a couple of miles from Ephesus, making it an easy attraction to visit. Visitors can still see one tall column and a handful of marble pieces from the foundations of the structure, and the historical location is fascinating. From the site, you can also see the ruins of St. John's Basilica, located on a hill in Selcuk.
The ancient Greek city of Miletus (Miletos) in modern-day Turkey was once an important port city. When the river’s location changed, the city was eventually abandoned.
The settlement at Miletus dates back to 1400 B.C.E., and the city grew to be one of Greece’s wealthiest cities - thanks in large part to its position at the mouth of the Maeander River. Over the centuries, the river changed course, leaving Miletus behind. The city was later destroyed by the Persians in 499 B.C.E. and then rebuilt on a new grid plan that was to become the model for Roman cities. Excavations at the site began in the late 1800s, and today you can see the remains of a theater, a stadium, a Temple to Apollo, a Byzantine-era castle and church, and Roman baths.
Warm springs bubble around and under Lake Koycegiz, making mud baths a signature of the waterfront town of Dalyan. Minerals give the mud a sulfur smell, but can, locals say, work miracles on aging skin. Just lounge in the shallow pools, coat yourself in glop, then rinse off in the river, lake, showers, or spring-fed pool.
Antalya Marina (Kaleiçi Yat Limanı) is the heart of the city. It stretches along the waterfront beneath the steep cobbled streets of Antalya’s Old Town, known as Kaleiçi. With cruise ships, ferries, yachts, and fishing boats constantly arriving and departing, this historic harbor is buzzing with activity at all hours and is a popular hub for both locals and visitors.
Adorned with 15,000 years worth of stalactites, the small-yet-perfectly-formed Damlatas Cave is one of Alanya’s signature sights. Discovered in 1948 while the new harbor was being built, the humidity and constant temperature of the cave are said to have therapeutic properties.
In ancient times, Side was an important trading port on the eastern Mediterranean and by the sixth century BC, hundreds of Greek merchants had settled in the coastal town. It was still flourishing when the Romans gained ascendancy in the Med, and many of the ruins now excavated in Side date from around 100 AD–199 AD, bearing both Greek and Roman architectural characteristics.
Today it is a small beach resort sandwiched between its hillside Roman theater and a recreated Temple to Athena, whose columns stand guard by the harbor. Side Museum (Side Müzesi) is located in a Roman marketplace and baths complex that was built around the fifth century AD and converted into a museum in the 1960s. The ancient finds of weapons, sculpture – including torsos and animals dating from Greek to Byzantine times – sundials, tombs and mosaic fragments are all beautifully displayed in a series of halls that once housed the various steam rooms and pools of the Roman baths.
Along with the classical Greek remains uncovered at Seleukeia, there are further Roman ruins in the region including vast stone theaters at nearby Olukköprü and Selge, plus a 30-km (18.75-mile) water system complete with aqueducts and tunnels.
Pre-Roman ancient ruins are just a day trip from Kusadasi in the ruined city of Sardis, the capital of the kingdom of Lydia from the 7th to 6th centuries BC.
For a time Sardis (Sart, today) was renowned throughout classical antiquity as the richest city on the planet, known for its legendary supply of gold washed down from the Tumulus Mountains. The term ‘rich as Croesus’ refers to that gold and the last Lydian ruler, King Croesus, who is thought to have invented gold coins.
In fact, settlement here dates back to Paleolithic times, but most of that history lies underground, destroyed by millennia of earthquake activity. Nowadays, the site is famous for its impressive Roman ruins, built hundreds of years after the city’s initial burst of fame, in around the 2nd century AD.
On a visit to the site you’ll see a grand double-story framework of columns and architraves outlining the extent of the Roman-era gymnasium. The baths here date from the 3rd century AD, and shops once lined the nearby street of marble stone. Fine capitals carved with acanthus leaves and classical curlicues have survived, along with mosaic tiled floors and statues.
You’ll also see the Synagogue with its marble court and mosaics, the acropolis and the celebrated Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Don’t miss the example of the Romans’ communal toilets, with a shared row of seating suspended over a latrine. The town’s arena was destroyed by an earthquake nearly 2,000 years ago, and there are more recent ruins dating from the Byzantine period.
Demre, formerly known as Kale, is a small agricultural town on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. It was also the ancient Lycian town of Myra. A community of Christian Greeks lived here until the 1920s when they were forced to relocate to Greece during the population exchange between Turkey and Greece. Abandoned Greek houses serve as a reminder of this time.
Though not as big as the areas closer to the Antalya airport, Demre's history, warm weather, and proximity to the sea make this town a pleasant and popular vacation spot. Many tourists, especially Christians, come here on a pilgrimage to visit the tomb of Saint Nicholas and his church. Saint Nicholas was the historical figure who eventually became Santa Claus. He lived in and was the bishop of Myra during the 4th century.
Other attractions in Demre include the ruins of Myra, such as a Roman theater and tombs cut into the rock walls. There are also boat trips to see the sunken ruins of the nearby island of Kekova. The well-known long distance hiking trail, the Lycian Way, also passes through Demre and the ancient town of Myra.
One of the most important and best-preserved remains of the ancient city of Halicarnassus, the Bodrum Amphitheater boasts a dramatic location, carved into the hillside above the city of Bodrum. Originally constructed in the fourth century B.C. during the reign of King Mausolus, the grand, open-air venue wasn’t fully completed until the Roman era, with structural changes that were made for hundreds of years up until the second century A.D.
The 13,000-seat amphitheater is one of the oldest in Anatolia, and thanks to careful restoration, it remains in use, hosting concerts and theatrical performances during the summer months. The atmospheric venue is famed for its remarkable acoustics and magnificent panoramic views of the modern-day city of Bodrum, neighboring Gumbet and the surrounding Bodrum peninsula.
Kemer is a seaside resort on the Gulf of Antalya. One of the major attractions of Kemer is its natural beauty, with mountains, canyons, and pine forests a main feature. Goynuk Canyon (Göynük Kanyonu) remained an undiscovered mystery for years, but has grown in popularity with tourists of late, due not only to its scenic nature, but also its opportunities for outdoor adventures.
There are numerous local tour companies offering various canyoning and climbing tours within Goynuk Canyon. If not climbing or canyoning as part of an organized tour, it’s possible to simply drive (or take a taxi) up to the entrance and then hike all the way to the top. Visitors will be rewarded with some spectacular views and be greeted by wildlife such as goats,
rabbits, and even wild pigs along the way.
There is a small restaurant and a seating area at the site, and it’s also possible to go swimming in the canyon’s cool waters. Tour companies are on hand to provide wetsuits and helmets for an extra fee, which means adventurers can swim through to a stunning waterfall at the other side of the canyon.
According to legend, Cleopatra enjoyed clandestine rendezvous with her lover, Marc Antony, on the shores of this tiny island in the Aegean Sea, just off the Gulf of Gokova. Their story makes the island a renowned romantic spot. Its other claim to fame is its unusually textured sand, which is made up of smooth, white, ground-up seashells.
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