Merhaba ve hoşgeldin!
Last February, I travelled to Turkey for a very short but satisfying holiday to the southern coastal city of Antalya! Before going, I didn’t know that there were so many attractions to offer to tourists. I thought people only came for the beaches, since it’s way down south and all. I’ve visited Istanbul and Bursa in 2010 and we were mainly visiting historical and cultural attractions there. After having visited the famous Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace, I thought that it is a second-class tourist destination compared to Istanbul. How wrong I was! In fact, Antalya amazed me with its wealth of activities and hisotrical landmarks all wrapped up in a picturesque location, making it a perfect four-day getaway for our family. Since I am a huge history geek and an architecture enthusiast, there were so much for me to marvel in this lovely little city which stole my heart. Read more to know my full itinerary and the best places to visit in Antalya!
Additional note: The post featuring Antalya is divided into two parts. To see the second part, please click here.
DAY 0 – Friday 20th of February
Why is it called Day 0? Well we travelled from Cairo to Turkey on that day, but we didn’t actually get to do any sightseeing at all. We had to fly first from Cairo to Istanbul-Atatürk because there are no direct flights to Antalya. After arriving there, we had to go through passport control there and then walk to the domestic terminal to transfer to our flight to Antalya. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed for four hours due to bad weather and we ended up arriving late in the evening, exhausted. Thankfully, the hotel is comfortable and the staff was helpful – they arranged cars to pick the whole family up from Antalya Airport to Kaleiçi, the Old Town, where the hotel was located. I took no photos that day just because there wasn’t anything worth taking photos of. Plus, Istanbul’s dometic terminal looked pretty dreary.
DAY 1 – Saturday 21st of February
8:00 – Starting point: White Garden Pansion in Kaleiçi (Old Town)
This is the first photo I took of Antalya. It’s from my hotel bedroom window.
That morning we had a really tasty breakfast in the hotel lobby before setting off on our day’s tour. The breakfast consisted of a selection of bread, pastries, eggs, jams, salami and fresh glasses of orange juice, complete with pulp. After breakfast I took a picture of the hotel as well. It is called White Garden Pansion and you can read more about it in TripAdvisor. I wrote a review on it there as well, just so you know.
Kaleiçi is a well-preserved piece of Antalya’s small-town history before it was ‘discovered’ by tourists like us. The architecture here is serenely simple; white, wooden houses about two floors high with balconies extending above the cobbled walkways. I think this is how houses used to look like in the Ottoman era, or maybe even possibly during the Seljuk era as well depending on which part of the Old Town you are in. It’s not very small, but the whole area can be easily explored on foot.
Many small hotels, guesthouses and pansions are situated in Kaleiçi because of its central location to other attractions nearby. When walking around Kaleiçi for the first time, have a map handy because the streets can get a little confusing.
8:30 – Yacht Harbour (Marina)
The first place we decided to go to was the Marina, which was only a few minutes walk from our hotel. There is a cliff where you could view the Mediterranean Sea and see mountains across the body of water. It is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
After going down a few flights of stairs, you will arrive in some sort of pier where lots of boats are parked. Here, tourists can go on boat cruises to relax and enjoy the town from the sea. However, we did not hire a boat ourselves though and decided to just take pictures and keep moving on land.
9:00 – The Old Wall of Antalya and 40 Stairs
Right nearby the Marina is a part of Antalya’s old wall which used to encircle the whole of Kaleiçi. The wall, originally built by the Greeks as part of the town’s fortifications, eventually diminished due to successive empires, increasing population and economic development. Luckily for the visitor, there are several places where the wall can be viewed and are preserved
wall (I mean) well, such as near the Marina itself.
There is a section of the wall called “The Forty Stairs”. Apparently it was built by the Venetians. People can walk up the stairs to climb up from the Marina back to Kaleiçi. There are also few cafés nearby.
9:30 – Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque
Walking along the narrow, cobbled streets in Kaleiçi, we passed by a famous religious landmark of Antalya. Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Camii, as it is called in the local language, is the principal mosque for the town built in the 18th century during the heydays of the Ottoman Empire. I absolutely adore Ottoman-Islamic architecture: its sublime Byzantine-inspired domes and piercing minarets are like precious gems to my eyes.
This mosque, while not as grand as the Blue Mosque in the Ottoman capital, shares many of its features. This mosque is located at the edge of Kaleiçi, very close to another famous landmark: the Clock Tower.
10:00 – Shopping in the bazaar
There is a small square not very far from the mosque which offer very good options for shopping here. I’m not sure of the name of the exact place, but its this photo here. We went into the place labelled “Old Bazaar” and thought that maybe they sell things that make pleasant souvenirs back home.
The interior of this so-called bazaar is calm and relaxed, unlike the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul which was teeming with buyers and sellers. I figured it might just be that way because it was so early in the morning rather than not being a busy shopping area at all. Anyway, it had a cozy, traditional atmosphere with almost all stores selling only one thing in common: clothing. Countless headless mannequins, all dressed up in the latest brands, line up to attract passers-by. We all hoped for something more arty, such as decorated plates or tiles, but I thought that we should give the stores a chance.
As a family we went inside one store after noticing that the shirts on display were in fact high quality garments. They had many top-mark labels sewed on them, Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas, Nike and Polo just to name a few. Now I am sure that these clothes, since they are sold in a shop like this instead of a shopping mall, must be fakes. Otherwise why would they end up here, where prices would be much lower for people of lesser income? Despite all those thoughts, I went along to believe that Turkish factories (or wherever they imported the clothes from) made extremely high-quality knock-offs that I am sure nobody could even tell the difference. After trying on a few shirts myself, bought myself two chequered long-sleeved Tommy Hilfiger button-up shirts at a price a fraction of which I would pay at the official store.
10:45 – Antalya Clock Tower and Yivli Minare Mosque
Since the mosque is already on the edge of Kaleiçi, we left the old town for a place which looked a bit more modern. This is Republic Avenue, or Cumhuriyet Caddesi, as its called in Turkish. Here lies the more modern district with many shops and restaurants for the casual tourist. Tram lines to other parts of the city are here as well, as seen in the photo below.
The bricked clock tower, as mentioned before, is located very close by to Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque. The location is somewhat central to Antalya as a whole, because it straddles between the old and new of the city, as well as within walking distance of the tram stop which took us to Konyaaltı the next day. I can’t really remember much info about the clock tower itself, but I strongly suspect that it was built by the Ottoman rulers as well, possibly in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Also not to forget, from a distance, one could spot the minaret of Yivli Minare Mosque from the Clock Tower area. A mosque dating back from the Seljuk era before the Ottomans, the mosque now houses a museum.
11:00 – Hadrian’s Gate
Ambling along the streets bordering the old and new districts of Antalya, my family eventually landed on the eastern side of Kaleiçi, right in front of Hadrian’s Gate. It used to be the principal point of entry for anyone to enter the city when it was still contained within the walls, which by now have mostly disappeared. The gate was named as such because Emperor Hadrian visited Antalya, or should I say, Attaleia, as it was called then, in 130 CE. The structure is made up of four Roman pillars supporting three arches. The gate is sandwiched from left and right by two large towers which, I am assuming, were part of the walls of the city. At this point, we merely passed by the wall and took some quick snapshots and revisited the same site again the next day.
11:15 – Walking along Atatürk Avenue
Atatürk Avenue is definitely a cool and fashionable place for an inquisitive pedestrian, as there are many interesting shops and restaurants along the way. I can’t help but smile as I walked along the footpath, as it was shaded by a continuous row of orange trees. The trees were bearing lots of fruit as well and I was mildly curious as to why nobody bothered to harvest them yet.
Multinational brand names you may love or hate can be found here: Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King, you name it. There are some great local restaurants as well selling your döner kebabs and other grilled meats which constitute traditional Turkish fare. For lunch, we settled for one of those restaurants located right at a junction nearby a taxi station. Unfortunately I don’t remember the restaurant’s name, which is a pity because the food there was really good. There was a selection of Western and Turkish dishes, such as kebabs and pastas.
12:00 – Düden Waterfalls
After finishing lunch, my father came up with the spontaneous idea to visit Düden Waterfall. Located half an hour away from Antalya proper, the waterfall is actually part of a larger network of underground and overground rivers which crosses the city. There are in fact two different places where the waterfalls can be viewed. The place we visited is near a small town called Döşemealtı, the site of Upper Düden Falls. To travel there, we had to hire a taxi from the nearby taxi stop. We only spent less than an hour there, which is just enough to take photos and enjoy the pleasant view, but not much more. I wish we were here longer…
The waterfall is housed inside a park which requires a small fee payment upon entry. Here you may not only view Düden river falling into the karst sinkhole, but also view several mini-waterfalls and rapids heading towards the big one in the end of the park. There is even a set of stairs which lead to the bottom of the sinkhole cavern, but I did not go there. In the park, there is a gift shop and a restaurant. The gift shop sells a varied selection of souvenir items like fridge magnets, small decorated bowls for decorational purposes and coffe mugs. I decided to buy two mugs: one with a Turkish flag design and the other with an intricate ceramic moulding of the city of Antalya on it.
2:00 – Karaaglioğlu Park
Back in Antalya, we were dropped off to Karaaglioğlu Park not far from where we set off to Düden. The point of going here was to relax after a whole morning of sightseeing, but my siblings were so tired that they wanted to return to the hotel. Nevertheless, we stayed there for an hour or so. My youngest brother ran off to a paid jumping castle place while the rest bought cotton candy and simit sold by vendors and sat on the benches.
The park is well-kept and teeming with people, since it was the evening. The park overlooks the Mediterranean sea, but I think the views are much better back in the yacht harbour. There were of course many trees which gave a lot of shade and flowerbeds, much to the delight of my mother.
On the northeastern side of the park, there is a monument commemorating a Turkish-language poet named Nazim Hikmet Ran. His poems were inscribed on the monument with his likeness sculpted as though he was in jail. Actually, this poet was indeed jailed by the Turkish state due to his views, but was later freed and now remembered for his work.
3:00 – Hıdırlık Tower
The tower is a stone’s throw away from Karaaglioğlu Park, which is located just at the edge of Kaleiçi. In fact, it’s also within a short walking distance to the hotel. It’s a Roman-era brick fortification overlooking the sea. Half of it is rectangular, while the top half is cylindrical. There’s not much other than what you can see on the outside. The cliffs near the tower is a good place for taking photos though.
3:45 – Prayers in Sultan Alaaddin Mosque, Kaleiçi
While on holiday, I love to have a taste of what it is like to live as a local every day in the area. What better way to do that than to join in a prayer service with the local community at the nearby mosque! An sense of sublime spirituality resonates in the city as you hear the calls to prayer echoing all day long. I searched around Kaleiçi to find the nearest source of the sounds, to perform the evening prayers (‘Asr, in as it is called in Arabic).
The most obvious landmark for a mosque is a minaret. Unfortunately, the first minaret I saw led me to a mosque in ruins (see below). Luckily, the second nearest minaret I spotted was attached to a working mosque, and a fine looking one too. I placed my shoes outside and quickly joined the small congregation when the prayer began.
The interior of the mosque is rather simplistic, if you want to compare it to the grandeur of the Ottoman imperial mosques. Nevertheless, Sultan Alaaddin Mosque has an intresting history of being previously used as a Greek Orthodox Church called Panhagia Church. The building was converted to use as an Islamic place of worship relatively recently. In fact, it only was converted into a mosque in 1958 (Turkey had already became a republic then), after temporarily housing Antalya Archaeological Museum (or today’s Antalya Museum, now located in Konyaaltı).
4:10 – “Broken Minaret” Mosque Ruins
When I searched for a mosque to pray in, I made the false assumption that there is a functioning mosque right next to the broken minaret, which can be seen from the street of my hotel. Upon arriving there, I was shocked to realise that not only the minaret is broken, but so is the whole building. It was literally just ruins of a mosque left there as an open air museum.
Reading from the information boards made for tourists, the mosque was apparently ancient Roman temple, later converted to a Byzantine church, then into an important Ottoman mosque. The structure was plagued by a serious fire at some point and reduced it into such horrible state that nobody bothered to rebuild it again. It is not possible to enter the ruins itself – the entrance to the site is permanently locked. Tourists just flock around the site, taking photos from the outside.
4:30 – Return to the hotel
After such a busy day going out and about, I decided to have some well-deserved rest back in the hotel. My trip consists of two more days, so to read about where I went and what I did, please click here!