Because of the archaeological and natural riches of the area, Antalya is also known as the Turkish Riviera. The sun, sea, nature and history combine to form a very popular resort, highlighted by some of the cleanest beaches in the Mediterranean. The 630km shoreline of the province is liberally scattered with ancient cities, harbours, memorial tombs and beaches, secluded coves and lush forests, many of which are easily accessible from the city.
With its palm-lined boulevard, internationally-acclaimed marina, and old castle with traditional architecture, all set amidst a modern city, Antalya is a major tourist centre in Turkey. In addition to the wide selection of hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops, the city also plays host to a number of sporting events throughout the year, like International Beach Volleyball, triathlon, golf tournaments, archery, tennis and canoeing competitions. The Cultural Centre, which opened in 1995, hosts cultural and art events in the fields of music, theatre, and creative arts. The main area of interest in the city is central old quarter within the Roman walls, known as Kaleici, and there are many good museums.
Antalya Museum: Founded in 1922 by Süleyman Fikri Erten and housed first in the Alaaddin Mosque in the old city and then in the Yivli Minaret, the museum was later moved to its current location. The museum consists of 12 exhibit rooms and its gardens and open galleries. In these halls the history of Antalya is given in a chronological and instructive fashion starting with the first humans and continuing without interruption to the modern era.
Kaleici: Today the historical old city of Antalya known as Kaleici (the inner castle) is surrounded by two walls, most of which have fallen down. The inner wall encloses the harbour in a semicircle. As a result of restoration, Kaleici has turned into a major tourist centre with guest-houses, bars, shops and restaurants, and the Roman harbour has been turned into a modern, well-equipped marina.
Hadrian’s Gate: The only city gate to have survived until the present day is the most attractive of the Pamphylia: Uckapilar (Three Gates), also known as Hadrian’s Gate, which is guarded by one tower on either side. Built to honour the emperor Hadrian’s visit to the city in 130 AD, the whole gate, except for the columns, is made of pure white marble. The reliefs and carvings are extraordinary.
Perge: Situated 18 km east of Antalya, Perge is in the city limits of Aksu Bucagi. Because of its location on the Cilicia – Pisidia road, it was a vital part of the province of Pamphylia, and was founded around the same time as the other cities in the area (7th century BC). It was an important city for Christians of Perge who had worshipped the mother goddess Artemis. St. Paul and Barnabas visited the city and wealthy benefactors like Magna Plancia had a number of important memorials built here.
The first excavations began in 1946 by Istanbul University and they resulted in many important discoveries: The theatre consists of three main sections: the seating, orchestra and stage. It held 12,000 spectators, with 19 rows of seats on the lower section, 23 on the top section, and a 52-metre stage.
The stadium measures 34 square metres, with 13 rows of seats on top of the vaults. The eastern and western sides have 30 vaults each and the northern side has 10. For every three vaults there is an entrance to the stadium, and the other two were used as shops.
The Agora was the commercial and political centre of the city, with shops surrounding the central courtyard, some of which have mosaics on the floor. The agora measured 76 square metres, with a circular structure in the centre with a diameter of 13.40 metres.
The colonnaded boulevard lies between the Hellenistic Gate and the nympheum on the slopes of the acropolis. On both sides of the street, 20 metres in width, are porticoes, some up to five meters high, behind which are shops. The street is divided into two by a 2-metre wide water canal running through the middle.
Other structures include the necropolis, city walls, gymnasium, Roman Baths, memorial fountain and the Greek and Roman gates.
Termessos: The ruined city of Termessos, lying 34km west of Antalya in a rugged mountain valley, was founded by the Solymi people, from the interior of Anatolia. Among the important remains are the 4200-seat theatre and the Roman stele that Augustus had built at the beginning of the first century AD. The Odeon, the covered meeting hall, has seating for 600 people. The five inter-connecting underground cisterns were used for the storage of water and olive oil.
Other important remains include the Agora, with an open western side and other sides colonnaded; the heroic memorial of Hereon on top of a 6-metre high platform; the Corinthian-style temple, the Temple of Zeus, the Lesser and Greater Temples of Artemis, the gymnasium and the watch towers. In addition, there are more than 1200 rock tombs.
Olympos: Lying between Kemer and Adrasan is the ancient harbour village of Cirali, the ruins of Olympos and the site of the Chimaera. The history of Olympos dates back to the 2nd century BC when it was an important Lycian city, although it was empty by the 6th century. The Olympians worshipped Hephaestos (Vulcan) the god of fire, probably connected to the eternal flame, or Chimaera, which still emerges from the mountain. Known also as Yanartas (burning stone), the flame is caused by the burning of natural gas emerging from the mountain. Apart from the ruins, Olympos is well known for its simple treehouse camps, where most tourists stay, and a natural environment thanks to forests and vineyards near to a beautiful beach.
Phaselis: On the coast, 60km south of Antalya, Phaselis was founded by the Rhodians in the 7th century BC, and was known as the most important seaport in Eastern Lycia. On the west of the city is Hadrian’s Gate, with shops and baths on either side. The city is accessible both by road and sea.
Limyra: Believed to have been in existence since the 5th century, Limyra is still in existence despite a massive earthquake in the mid 19th century although was emptied in the 7th and 9th centuries after the Arab invasions. The city, which is 11km south, composes of three section; the acropolis, areas of settlement, and necropolis.
Demre (Myra): Demre was one of the most important cities of the Lycian civilisation. 25km west of Finike and 48km east of Kas, Demre was a place of settlement from the 5th century BC. The city was deserted in 9 A.D after the invasions of the Arabs. Rock tombs, theatres and the Church of St. Nicholas (said to be the original Santa Claus) are the most interesting sites in the town today.
Simena (Kale): Receiving its beauty from its history, sea and sun, Simena is accessible from Ucagiz. The submerged city and the ancient remains at the opposite island of Kekova island, make it a worthwhile trip. There are traces of Roman and other civilisations in Simena, the history of which dates back to Lycian civilisation. There is a small theatre carved into the rock, and Roman city walls.
Aspendos: The ancient city, 48km east of Antalya, is most famous for its theatre, probably the best preserved in Asia Minor. It is still in use today, and stages the annual Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival every summer. It was the scene of a huge bloody battle between the Persians and the Greeks in 469 BC, and then ruled by the Spartans 120 years later. The city became part of the Seleucid kingdom after the death of Alexander the Great, and then became part of the Roman province of Asia in 133 BC.
The famous theatre was built in the 2nd century AD, using a Roman design, and it is still intact. Ataturk was responsible for much of the restoration, who after visiting it declared that it should be used as a theatre rather than simply a museum.
In addition to the theatre, there is an acropolis on a hilltop, of which the nymphaeum and basilica are still fairly intact.