Antalya: Region offers friendly people and beautiful landscapes

The Yivli Minare (Fluted Minaret), has become a symbol of Antalya, Turkey’s principal resort.


By MARK WHITE | STRIPES TRAVEL READER Published: February 24, 2005

My first notions about Turkey were that it is a faraway land with an exotic culture, food, music and people. But after my second vacation there, I learned it is also a place of friendly people and glorious weather.

And one of the best things about it is that is not far away. It is only 3½ hours of flying time from Berlin, where I live. No more long, boring plane rides — it takes six hours of flying time to reach the Canary Islands and eight to get to New York.

The destination on our latest trip was Antalya, a vacation heaven in a beautiful natural setting in southern Turkey. The Toros (Taurus) Mountains sweep down to the Mediterranean, forming an irregular coastline of rocky mountains and secluded coves.

The Turkish Riviera, as this area is known, spreads countless miles to the east and west of Antalya. It is bathed in sunshine for 300 days of the year and is perfect for a lazy or active vacation in the sun. Options include swimming or water skiing, windsurfing, para-sailing, fishing, mountain climbing, hunting, exploring or just plain sightseeing among the ancient ruins or shopping in the bustling metropolis of Antalya. In March and April, you can ski on challenging slopes in the morning and swim in the cool refreshing sea in the afternoon.

The coast is graced with beautiful beaches, some sandy and some stony, encircled by pine forests, olive trees and citrus groves and palm, avocado and banana plantations. It is home to a rich variety of plant and wildlife, and to protected conservation areas.

The principal resort on the Mediterranean is the romantic port of Antalya with its majestic coastline of beaches and rocky coves to which the towering Toros Mountains provide a magnificent backdrop. Antalya is an attractive city with shady palm tree boulevards, an award-winning marina, and a picturesque old quarter called Kaleici, with narrow winding streets and quaint wooden houses all within the ancient city walls.

Since its founding in the second century B.C. by Attalus II, Antalya has had an eventful history. The Romans and the Seljuks occupied the city before it came under Ottoman rule. In the city center is the Yili Minareli Mosque, built by the Seljuk Sultan Aleaddin Keykubat in the 13th century. This elegant fluted minaret has become the symbol of the city.

In the Kaleici, you will find the theological school of Karatay Medrese, also from the 13th century, with stone carvings on the portals that are excellent examples of Seljuk art. Magnificent mosques from the 16th and 18th centuries are also found throughout the city.

A closer look at the rich history of Antalya can be found in the beautiful new Archeological Museum. It provides a rare walk through history, with remains from the Paleolithic Age to Ottoman times. The Ataturk Museum displays objects used by Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic.

The Antalya Marina and Leisure Center, winner of several awards for its beautiful landscaping, is one of the liveliest ports on the coast. The awards are all well deserved, thanks to the beautiful arrangements of plants, flowers and trees in an extraordinary blend of old and new.

The center harbors not only yachts and fishing boats but also colorful relaxing restaurants and friendly cafes where you can bask in the sunshine or stay cool in the shade and look out over this incredibly romantic and picturesque harbor.

Or sail in the morning and sip coffee or raki (pronounced raa-kee), a Turkish aperitif, in the afternoon. Sunset views are particularly beautiful from this ancient marina with its old city walls lit up majestically at night, creating an atmosphere of antiquity and contentment.

Mark White is an American journalist based in Berlin who has traveled extensively throughout Western Europe and the Middle East during the past 30 years. He was program director/chief programming for AFN Berlin Radio/TV until his retirement in 1988.

If you go ...

During our last trip to Turkey, we stayed at the Sheraton Voyager Hotel, overlooking a pebbled beach a few miles west of Antalya. It was an excellent vacation hotel, a five-star, deluxe, fully air-conditioned hotel managed with American know-how and Turkish hospitality.

The hotel is built around a nine-story atrium with a bank of elevators coursing up and down one side. Twenty-four-hour room service is only one of the many services available in spacious rooms with new furniture, modern bathrooms, and satellite TV with several English-language stations, a few familiar German ones and some national channels. Our balcony provided an inspiring view of both sea and mountains.

The hotel’s Turkish cuisine was at its finest, from luscious lamb to sizzling steaks to locally caught fish. Special themed nights featured buffets from not only Turkey but also the Far East, Rome and the Mediterranean. A fisherman’s Night and barbecue satisfied our hearty appetites. Musicians at some of these outdoor feasts provided the background for Turkish belly-dancers.

The Sheraton has its own yacht for cool sailing along the Turkish coast with lunch on board and a waiter service from the hotel’s kitchen. Other amenities included outdoor and indoor pools; exercise equipment, squash courts, Turkish baths and a jacuzzi; an English-speaking hotel doctor; waitresses on roller skates taking orders around the pool; a disco called the Cotton Club; and a casino with roulette, blackjack, poker and slots, in full swing throughout almost all the night.

Tours to interesting sights were available daily, and taxis with reasonable fares waited at the hotel for shopping trips to the bazaars in Antalya or anywhere else you wish to go.

Much of the hotel staff spoke English or made an attempt to do so, while many of the taxi drivers spoke German, having lived in Germany for many years.

I found the average Turkish person to be sympathetic toward Americans. Maybe it’s because they all claim to have relatives in the States.

Unlike with other currencies, the U.S. dollar remains fairly strong against the Turkish lira and you can find good exchange rates at the airport or hotel.

A passport and visa are required for Americans and can be obtained at Turkish border crossings for $20. Visas had cost $100 but were reduced to their current level in April.

— Mark White

The Turkish Riviera spreads countless miles to the east and west of Antalya. It is bathed in sunshine for 300 days of the year.

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