Antalya, the largest city on Turkey’s south coast, has gained popularity in recent years as a resort region drawing more than 12 million visitors a year. Most stay at vast beachfront hotels and filter into the city in smaller numbers, so when you disembark, you won’t feel overwhelmed by crowds. It's easy to enjoy a day exploring the walled historic center on foot and climbing the surrounding hills for views of the bay. More ambitious is an easily arranged daytrip to a cluster of some of the finest ruins in the ancient world: Aspendos, Perge, and Side.
What We Love
The Old Quarter: Kaleici, as Antalya's old quarter is known, is entered via Hadrian's Gate, built during the Roman emperor’s reign in the second century. Wander its narrow streets amid numerous mosques — including the eye-catching fluted Yivli Minaret Mosque — and browse shops selling Turkish crafts. Remember to bargain; your persistence will pay off if you don't seem too eager to buy at the outset.
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Beach Relaxation: If you are so moved, make like a European and head for one of Antalya's beaches to enjoy some sun and a refreshing swim.
Roman Ruins: The city also makes a convenient base from which to visit a trio of Roman ruins in one long daytrip. Aspendos has the best Roman amphitheater in Turkey — still in use today — as well as a preserved portion of an aqueduct nearby. Further east is Side, a small resort city where you'll find second-century remains of a 15,000-seat theater and a Hellenistic Temple of Apollo near the harbor. Stop here for a lunch of freshly prepared local fish. Lastly, Perge is home to an impressive Hellenistic gate, a theater, a large Roman bath, and a long avenue linking the sites. The mosaics are particularly impressive.
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Who It's Best For
The History-Obsessed: Anyone with a historical bent should book a tour of the Hellenistic and Roman ruins east of the city. If you'd rather spend the day casually strolling back through time, Antalya's old quarter provides some history as well as shopping. To get an aerial view, add a short drive up to the Hidirlik Tower.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Prepare to Perspire: Summer's daytime highs rank among the most searing in the Mediterranean, sometimes reaching 110 degrees F and above. Have both sunscreen and bottled water close at hand.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.