Destination Turkey: Antalya

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alex Martinez
  • 39 Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Its flavor is a unique one: It has the tempo of a big city, but at the same time, it has the feel of a quaint European town.

Antalya is a smart, sophisticated and booming metropolis that hugs the Mediterranean Sea, and its charm draws thousands of tourists to its streets every year.

Antalya is the capital of the Antalya Providence, and it's located about 341 miles west of Adana, Turkey. To get their by car from Adana, one would use D400, and a trip by plane takes about one hour.

With narrow, winding roads and passageways, the heart of the city is the Harbor of Antalya in the "Old Antalya" district. It's lined with boutique hotels, specialty stores, restaurants, bars, Turkish baths and lounges that are popular with tourists and locals alike. The streets of Old Antalya stay very quiet, and come alive in the late evening. Restaurants and bars seemingly hang off old Byzantine fortified walls that surround the district, and overlook the harbor and the sea. One entrance of the district allows you to pass through the Hadrian Gate. The gate is considered the most important historical structure in the city, and was erected in 130 B.C. as a triumphal gate for Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Surrounding the Old Antalya district is the downtown area with high-rise apartments with stores, restaurants and bars on the floor levels. Numerous plazas offer city residents and visitors a place to gather. The area has many shopping districts including a major mall. It also hosts a small amusement, carnival-like park and the Beach Park area that's popular in the summer. The Antalya Museum is located in the city and displays artifacts from the city and the surrounding areas including Pamphylia (modern day Antalya Providence) and Lycia.

The entire city offers a laidback feel with many areas to sit down and drink tea. Many European vacationers visit the city, giving travelers a hodgepodge of different people to visit with and share experiences.

About 20 minutes outside of the city is the historical site of Perge. The first Greek settlements of the area date back to 1000 B.C. The area is packed with ruins of significant architecture that includes a 14,000 capacity theatre, a 12,000 capacity stadium used for horse racing and later animal fighting, a roman city gate, the gathering area of Septimius Severous Square, thermal baths and a Hellenistic Gate.

The Hellenistic Gate is the most important structure of the city. It served as an entrance to the city center and included two circular towers and numerous statues of Greek Gods that are now on display at the Antalya Museum.

Streets to and from the city are still intact, and include very sophisticated features such as gutters, curbs and speed bumps. An acropolis hill overlooks the area, and has ruins of its own.

About 30 miles east of Antalya is the city of Aspendos. The city is well-known for being invaded by Alexander the Great. While Alexander was in Pamphylia, the people of the city requested for Alexander not to occupy the city and offered gold and horses, however, the promises were not met, and he invaded the city, dishing out punishments and made residents pay money and offer Alexander an annual tribute.

The most dominating structure in the city is the well-preserved theatre. It was built in the 2nd Century A.D. during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. With a 20,000 capacity, the semicircular theatre is built on the side of an acropolis hill. The area also features ruins of a stadium, basilica, market square, conference hall, Roman bath, gymnasium and impressive aqueducts standing several meters high that were used to provide water to the city and the acropolis.

About 46 miles from Antalya, the city of Side offers numerous historical ruins sites and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Its first settlements date back to about 1000 B.C. It's also known for being conquered by Alexander the Great in 333 B.C. In the 2nd and 3rd century, the city had a harbor and was a gathering place for pirates. It was also an important location supporting the time's slave market. Side is home to many ruins, but the structure that stands out most is the Apollo and Athena Temple.

Situated directly on the rocky Mediterranean Coast, the temple's columns dart from the ground and feature detailed Doric capitals at their top, including sculptures of various faces.

The theatre in Side is the biggest theatre in Pamphylia and one of the most important in the Asia Minor region. It has a capacity of 15,000, and is built with more than half of it on flat ground like a Roman theatre.

The city is popular with sightseers, and has many stores, restaurants and bars that line the streets.

While Antalya is a city center that offers many things to do and see, its region is home to important historical ruins and artifacts. The city and its region is a "must see" for anyone visiting Turkey.