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When planning a trip to Turkey, American travelers tend to stick to classic destinations and experiences, whether that’s exploring the intersection of Asia and Europe in cosmopolitan Istanbul, or floating over the rocky landscape of Cappadocia in a hot-air balloon. However, it’s worth discovering what Turkish, Russian, and German tourists have long known: Turkey is also home to beautiful stretches of Mediterranean coastline, including hot spot Antalya. With long stretches of sandy beach, a captivating history, awe-inspiring architecture, and plenty of things to do, here are 7 reasons you’ll want to make sure you spend at least a few days in this incredible coastal idyll.
1. Beaches are postcard-perfect
Turkey in general is home to some of the world’s most stunning coastline—Google “Antalya beaches” to see for yourself. Stay close to town and swim at city beaches like Mermerli and Örnekköy. Or, rent a car and take day excursions to spots like Kas, whose sugar-white sand and fluorescent waters have helped it top beach bucket lists for years now. There’s also Kiris Bay, where dramatic limestone cliffs rise above crystalline shallows that are also perfect for scuba diving. You could take a week-long trip to Antalya, devote it entirely to beaches and still not see them all!
2. Millennia of history await
Remember how we said that Turks have long known the charms of Antalya? They’ve known for a really long time, as in longer than Turkey has been a nation. Scale the 2nd-century Hirilik Tower, whose bastions offer unbelievable sea-view panoramas, or imagine yourself as a visiting emperor when you walk under Hadrian’s Gate. No matter where you look, much of the historical architecture in Antalya dates back to Roman times, when what is now Turkey’s coast was one of the most prized jewels of the Empire.
3. You’ll find waterfalls beyond your wildest dreams
Antalya is a nature lover’s paradise—and not just because of its beaches. If you’re a waterfall lover (And let’s be honest: who isn’t?), you’ll get your fix along Turkey’s southeastern coast. This is quite literally the case of the Düden Waterfalls, which dramatically fall right into the sea. Further inland, you’ll need to hike to reach secluded forest waterfalls such as Kursunlu and Duden, but the reward you’ll find is more than worth the effort. In Koprulu Canyon, an emerald river rushes turbidly through dramatic rock walls, and is perhaps Turkey’s best rafting destination.
4. The hospitality is second-to-none
Turkish people are famous for their hospitality. You’ll see it when you visit almost any fine establishment, as you’re offered a famously strong Turkish coffee and a sublimely sweet Turkish delight. Antalya’s hotels do not disappoint when it comes to hospitality either, from cozy boutique hotels in the city center to larger seaside resorts with sweeping views of the Mediterranean. One amazing example of the latter is the upscale but kid-friendly Akra Hotel, where you can choose your view: Mediterranean Sea, Bey Mountains, or cityscape. Guests will also enjoy four pools—including indoor, kids’, adults only, and an infinity pool—a full spa with an authentic Turkish bath, and activities like tennis, waterskiing, and horseback riding. Families will also love the Kids Club and on-site playground.
5. The food will thrill you
Another of the top reasons to visit Antalya is the food. Here, you can not only duck into family-run establishments to try iconic Turkish dishes like durum sandwiches and savory grilled kebab meat, but seafood caught right offshore. No two restaurants have the same menu, but whether you prefer something simple like grilled sea bass filet, or izgarada ahtapot, barbecued octopus tentacles with tangy tahini sauce, Antalya offers you a variety of cuisine that’s hard to beat.
6. There’s something for the whole family
Although Antalya’s beaches, restaurants, and hotels are romantic enough for couples and rife enough with adventure for intrepid solo travelers, families with children will also find what they need here. Get up-close and personal with stunning animals at Antalya Zoo, turn your world quite literally upside-down with an inverted walk through topsy-turvy Turs Ev House, or catch a performance you won’t soon forget at Antalya Dolphinarium. Antalya Toy Museum, meanwhile, spotlights decades of Turkish toys, and is sure to bring out the kid in travelers of all ages.
7. Antalya is just the beginning
Depending upon how long you have in Turkey, you might use your trip to Antalya as the beginning of a coastal discovery trip rather than the end. Antalya, as amazing as it is, makes just as good a gateway as an end destination. Nature lovers might focus their energy on spots like Fethiye and Marmaris, whose beaches are even more incredible than the ones you find in Antalya, while those in search of even greater R&R might head to the resort city of Bodrum. Head all the way up the coast to Izmir, meanwhile, if you want to pair sea views with one of Turkey’s most eclectic large cities.
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