14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Antalya
Antalya has something for everyone. If you want to dose up on sightseeing, the labyrinthine old town is full of historic sites, while the atmospheric old harbour makes a tranquil spot to relax. But the city is also perfectly placed to act as your base for sightseeing in the outlying area where grand Roman ruins at Aspendos and caves inhabited in prehistoric times await.
It's not all history though. This city is a great spot for your launch onto the white sand beaches and Mediterranean waters of Turkey's Turquoise Coast. Beach-bums and history-lovers will both leave satisfied.
1 Old Town (Kaleiçi)
The maze-like Kaleiçi neighbourhood was made for strolling. Perfectly restored whitewashed and red-roofed Ottoman mansions line the cobblestone streets, now home to a plethora of boutique hotels, souvenir shops, art galleries and restaurants. Although it's more a place to simply breathe in the old world ambiance, there are also plenty of small tourist attractions for those who want to sight-see. The main square (Kale Kapısı) has a fortress gate and stone-clad clock tower, while the 18th century Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque is worth a look just for its stunning interior tile work. Along Hesapçı Sokak you'll find the graceful Kesik Minare (truncated minaret). Destroyed by fire in the 19th century, this is all that is left of a building that started its life as a Roman temple, was converted into a Byzantine church and finally became a mosque.
Location: Atatürk Caddesi
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Antalya
2 Old Harbour
Nestled into a recess in the cliffs, Antalya's old harbour is a picturesque huddle of boutiques, pretty cafés, bazaars and gently bobbing yachts that look out over a shimmering Mediterranean. With its peaceful pleasure-boat atmosphere now, it's difficult to imagine this place was once Antalya's major economic hub. But from the 2nd century up until the mid-20th century this was the main port, bringing trade and prosperity to the city and surrounding region. These days you come here to shop and then watch sunset over the sea while you sip a coffee. Or, head out onto the Mediterranean on one of the many excursion boats before spreading out your towel on an empty beach.
Location: Mermerli Sokak, Kaleiçi
3 Antalya Museum
If you're at all interested in Turkish history don't miss this excellent museum. The dazzling exhibits here showcase all the best finds from excavation sites across the Turkish coast. Even better, the collection is displayed in exemplary fashion making Turkey's rich (and rather complicated) history easy to understand. The large archaeological section offers displays from the Bronze Age to Byzantium with a particular emphasis on ruins in the nearby area. If you're short on time make a beeline for the galleries containing the mosaics from Seleukeia, the silver display from Aspendos, and divinity statues from Perge.
Location: Konyaaltı Caddesi
4 Yivli Minare
Antalya's most distinctive landmark is the Yivli Minare (fluted minaret) built by the Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Kykubad (1219-36). The minaret is a typical example of Seljuk architecture with a square base surmounted by an octagonal drum bearing the fluted shaft with its corbelled gallery round the top. The attached 14th century mosque is still in use today.
Location: Cumhuriyet Caddesi
5 Hadrian's Gate
Hadrian's Gate is one of the main (and the most dramatic) entrance gates into the Kaleiçi district. Considerable stretches of the Hellenistic and Roman town walls on the eastern side of the old town have been preserved and Hadrian's Gate is the most notable of these sections. Erected in honour of the AD 130 visit by Emperor Hadrian himself, this imposing three-arched marble gateway, flanked by imposing towers, is decorated with rich sculptural decorations. As you walk through the arches look up at the ceiling to view the best-preserved carvings.
Location: Atatürk Caddesi
6 Roman Fortress (Hıdırlık Kalesi)
This squat 14 m high cylindrical tower watches over the old harbour from high above on the edge of Karaalioǧlu Park. Built in the 2nd century no one is quite sure what its main function was, but most agree it acted as a watchtower or lighthouse over the busy port below. Now it's a fantastic spot to watch sunset or get that all-important panoramic view over the old harbour area. The park itself is a tranquil, flower-filled spot to escape the city streets and prime picnicking territory.
Location: Karaalioǧlu Park, Kaleiçi
The main reason history-buffs visit Antalya is to make the day trip to Aspendos. This archaeological site is home to a Roman theatre commonly thought to be the best preserved in the world and one of Turkey's top tourist attractions. The glory days of this dazzling ancient town were during the 2nd and 3rd centuries when most of the ruins seen today were built. Apart from the theatre, which has been fully restored and can seat 15,000, much of the rest of the site still lies in ruins and is probably only interesting to the most enthusiastic sightseer.
Location: 47 km east of Antalya
Neither the Greeks nor the Romans managed to tame the war-like Pisidians who fiercely protected their independence from the mountain eyrie of Termessos. The well-preserved remains of this ancient city are scattered along a rugged hillside with jaw-dropping views across the surrounding countryside. Wear sturdy shoes and take plenty of water if you want to fully explore this site. The colonnaded street and upper agora are particularly impressive, but don't miss the theatre where the vistas across the peaks of the Taurus Mountains are surreal and beautiful.
Location: 34 km northwest of Antalya
Perge's vast and rubble-filled stadium, half destroyed temples and huge colonnaded agora are imbued with an atmosphere of past glory. This was once the capital of ancient Pamphylia, which blossomed first under Greek and then Roman rule. The ruins here are not as well preserved as other tourist attractions on Turkey's Turquoise Coast, but this also means it attracts fewer crowds, leaving visitors able to explore the long colonnaded streets and half-collapsed temples in peace. The Roman baths, Hellenistic Gate and Acropolis are all particularly interesting.
Location: 17 km east of Antalya
10 Olympus and the Chimaera
The near-twin villages of Olympus and Çıralı sit on a piece of lovely coastline surrounded by the ruins of the ancient Lycian city of Olympus. The famed attraction here is the chimaera - a naturally occurring eternal flame that flickers out of the rock cliff above. Olympus is popular with young backpackers and has a bit of a party-reputation while Çıralı is more laid-back and all about chilling out on the beach. Both are perfect for anyone seeking a beach holiday well away from Turkey's purposely built-up tourist resorts.
11 Karst Springs (Düdenbası magaras)
The limestone countryside around Antalya is rich in karst springs, sinkholes and waterfalls. Lime deposits from these springs have built up over a period of 1.5 to 2 million years into vast travertine terraces similar to those at Pamukkale. Kirkgöz and Pınarbası (located just to the northwest of Antalya) have springs and sinkholes while at Düdenbası a cascade of waterfalls tumble down a narrow gorge. There are both upper falls (Düdenbası Selalesi) and lower falls (Düden Çayı) to see.
12 Karain Cave (Karain Magarası)
The Karain Cave, near Dösemaltı, was inhabited by prehistoric man and has yielded discoveries from both the Lower and Middle Palaeolithic eras. Excavated finds here include bones and teeth belonging to Neolithic man. Some of the artifacts are on show in the small, but remarkably comprehensive, on site museum.
Location: 27 km northwest of Antalya
The old Lydian port of Phaselis is where Alexander the Great set up his winter quarters in 334 BC. There are remains of a theatre, aqueduct, temples, and a Hadrian's Arch Gate, erected in AD 114. There is a museum on site displaying excavated finds.
14 Kocain Magarası
The Kocain Magarası sits hidden deep within the karst mountains of the region. The 600 m long cave was first investigated by K Kökten, whose finds prove that it was inhabited in prehistoric times. At the entrance is a huge cistern as well as traces of a very early settlement. Visitors can head inside the cave system to view some colossal stalagmites.
Location: 45 km north of Antalya
Where to Stay in Antalya for Sightseeing
If you're visiting Antalya for the first time, the best area to stay will depend on your sightseeing goals. If your main focus is to soak up the city's historical ambiance, base yourself in Kaleiçi, the Old Town, with its tangle of cobbled streets and whitewashed Ottoman mansions. If sun, sand, and sea is your priority, the beach resort town of Lara, with its upscale all-inclusive resorts, makes the best base. From here, the Old Town is about 30 minutes away by car - an easy day or half-day excursion. Here are some highly-rated hotels in these areas:
- Luxury Hotels: On the beach in Lara, the opulent Mardan Palace wows guests with its Ottoman-inspired accents, palatial pool, and plush rooms and suites. Pint-sized guests will love the kids spa. Also in Lara, set back from the main road, the more affordable Barut Lara feels secluded and private, with its sprawling palm-studded grounds. The kids club, beach, and impressive sporting facilities are a hit with families, and the spa and wellness center adds a pampering touch. The Lara Beach luxury continues with IC Hotels Residence, which cossets guests in sumptuous contemporary-styled villas with private pools and specially assigned thatched cabanas fronting the beach.
- Mid-Range Hotels: On a pebbly beach in Lara, about 35 minutes by road to the Old Town, Liberty Hotels Lara is a family-friendly, all-inclusive resort with contemporary room decor. The nearby all-inclusive Delphin Palace has similar family-friendly facilities, but exudes a different aesthetic; its decor is elegant and ornate. For those who want to be in the heart of the Old Town, Eski Masal Hotel is a welcoming boutique property, with a courtyard pool, a short stroll from a small slice of beach,.
- Budget Hotels: In the Old Town, near the marina, the sparkling clean Hotel Frankfurt, with a small pool and free parking, sits a mere eight-minute stroll from Hadrian's Gate, while the homey and great-value Hadrian Gate Hotel is only 100 meters away from its namesake attraction. Also in the heart of the Old Town, and a five-minute walk from the beach, the top terrace of the popular Bacchus Pension presides over magnificent sea views.