Why Antalya in Turkey is slice of paradise with a Side of ancient appeal

If you search online for holiday destinations with white sandy beaches and turquoise sea, you’ll no doubt find suggestions from the Caribbean, Maldives and French Polynesia.

Monday, 9th May 2022, 10:13 am
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 10:23 am

All of them are very beautiful, very far away and very expensive.

Yet there is an alternative destination that is much closer, combining an Instagram-worthy coastline with a rich ancient history, top quality hotels and excellent restaurants - at a fraction of the price.

The Turquoise Coast is a chunk of Mediterranean paradise which stretches between Antalya and Fethiye in southwest Turkey.

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A boat trip from the Old City Marina is a relaxing way to spend an hour - or a few - in Antalya

As the beautifully-clear water gently laps around our boat one spring morning beneath a bright blue sky, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect spot.

A boat trip from the Old City Marina is a relaxing way to spend an hour - or a few - during a visit to the Antalya region - particularly if you go on a weekday morning out of the peak summer season when you can take advantage of the warm sunny weather and fewer tourists.

You’ll find the spectacular cliffs, caves and waterfalls that line this part of the coastline and the area is also a haven for marine life. We saw manta ray and jellyfish from the boat during our trip.

While many tourists will flock to Antalya for the weather and scenery, there's much more to the region than beaches and sea.

The Temple of Apollo in Side, Antalya

Back on land, a wander through the back streets of Antalya's old town of Kaleci will take you past local tourist shops, bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as the Fluted Minaret Mosque - the oldest example of a multi-domed mosque in the region, built in 1372.

A few miles east of Antalya is Side - a picturesque city located on ancient ruins - where you can find the remains of the famous Temple of Apollo.

The temple, which was built in the 2nd century, is said to be the place where Anthony met Cleopatra.

These days it comprises five majestic fluted columns on the tip of the peninsula with a daily sunset backdrop.

Aspendos Theatre

It is often cited as the highlight of a trip to Side, yet the city is bursting with impressive archaeology. You can even see the archaeological remains beneath the glass walkways which weave through the streets.

Further down the road you’ll find Aspendos Theatre, one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in the world, built in the eastern slope of the hill.

It’s seriously awe-inspiring with seating for 12,000 people, a capacity almost on a par with both the First Direct Arena in Leeds and Utilita Arena in Sheffield, and it still plays host to shows and concerts in the summer.

My first thought when I walked into the theatre was that it was one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. This was immediately followed by my second thought that I was definitely going to fall and break something walking up and down those steep steps. Thankfully the Roman gods were seemingly on my side and I descended unscathed.

Karides güveç, a traditional bubbling baked prawn dish served in a clay pot

The remains of the aqueduct of Aspendos, which transported water from the hills to the north to the town over a distance of 19 km, are also worth seeing if you’re in the area.

For families, there are also waterparks, the world’s longest tunnel aquarium and the Olympos cable car ride to Tahtali Mountains.

Other reasons to visit Antalya, aside from the weather, the beaches and the abundance of historical sites, are its affordability and incredible food.

For meat and fish eaters, the options are plentiful and vegetarians aren’t left out either, with a delicious array of vegetable and bean mezze dishes on Turkish menus.

A culinary highlight for me was the mouth-watering karides güveç, a traditional bubbling baked prawn dish served in a clay pot that I ate in the Afrodit restaurant overlooking the harbour in Side.

The prices are incredibly good value. I was amazed that a three-course mezze menu with wine at Antalya's most famous restaurant, 7 Mehmet, cost just £25 a head.

From Yorkshire, the region is easy to get to with a number of flight options available.

The most recent addition is Turkish Airlines which has just started flying directly to Antalya from Manchester Airport - a four-and-a-half-hour flight.

The airport is an easy 90-minute train journey from Leeds with Transpennine Express. Despite the trains being busy and not having a seat reservation, I managed to find seats on both journeys.

So next time you’re looking for white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, a great dollop of history, delicious food and a holiday that isn’t going to break the bank then Antalya should be top of the search list.

Useful information

Turkish Airlines flies four times a week direct to Antalya from Manchester Airport on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays throughout April, May and October, five flights a week in June and daily flights in July, August and September.

Economy fares start from £236 and Business Class from £1,012 return, taxes and charges included. To book, visit turkishairlines.com.

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Lizzie Murphy was a guest at the Cornelia Diamond Luxury Golf Resort in Antalya, more information is available at corneliaresort.com/EN/--

For more information on things to do in the Antalya region and across Turkey, visit goturkiye.com--

To find out times and prices of Transpennine Express trains to Manchester Airport, visit tpexpress.co.uk/--

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