Let’s start with something world class. If you haven’t got time to visit the many historical sites in the region then enjoy the best bits of them all with a visit to Antalya Museum. It’s an award winning institution that does this amazing city proud in terms of the exhibits on display and beautifully designed layout. It's possible to unravel the complicated history of Turkey in just a few hours while you peruse some of the incredible finds from the local area and beyond. From bronze age to Byzantium era, there are 13 exhibition halls and an open air gallery packed with over 5,000 works of art. Most famous is the ‘Hall of Gods’ display, with its ancient statues of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses. Whatever you choose to view, it’s a brilliant day out for anyone with any interest in the past.
The city of Antalya is surely one of the most attractive holiday destinations in the world for its mix of remarkable history, glorious natural sights and unique atmosphere. Whatever floats your boat on a holiday (particularly floating on boats) you’ll find something to enjoy. From maze-like streets to flowing waterfalls and stadiums of ancient civilisations, the sheer breadth of activities and attractions is staggering. Make your base at Club Med Palmiye, one of the best hotels for families, and then enjoy brilliant food, entertainment and pampering as you plan for the next local adventure. We've selected 20 of the things you could be doing when you travel to Antalya but it's a list that seemingly has no end.
There are some photos that simply need to be taken when you visit certain destinations. In Antalya’s case, it’s the Yivli Minare. This minaret, a stunning example of Seljuk architecture, stands tall in the region and is based at the entrance into the old city. Built by Sultan Aladdin Keykubad in the early 13th century, this fluted minaret stands on an imposing stone base and follows a mesmerising path upwards with blue glazed tiles that stripe around a structure full of intricate details. The mosque next door has also been around since the 14th century and is still in use. You can also discover tombs, an informative museum and, of course, a well stocked tourist shop in the vicinity.
If white water rafting is your thing then you can’t miss the chance to take a trip along the Köprülü River just outside Antalya. Half-day rafting tours are on offer for those who fancy snaking around bends and underneath craggy cliffs. The scenery is glorious and at the start of the course you'll even float under ancient Roman bridges for dramatic effect. The clear, turquoise water just makes the experience even more magical. 14km later and you’ll believe you've been on one of the best journeys it’s possible to take with a paddle in your hand. Boat rides are also available for those who fancy the beauty without the exertion and offer great value for the enjoyment you’ll experience.
In a region full of natural wonders, the Duden Waterfalls are perhaps the best of the lot. There are lower and upper waterfalls with the lower being our favourite as it splashes spectacularly over the cliffs and into the sea. You can even swim close by to where the water lands although watch out for the choppy waves. The municipal park is the scene of the higher waterfalls which are more sedate but equally splendorous as they gently cascade down a hillside. There’s also a cave behind the waterfall where you can watch the water flow by and maybe encounter a magical creature in the darker corners of the cavern.
Nothing beats a good retail experience on your holiday and historic Antalya Bazaar is a buzzing, authentic market packed full of tempting wares, haggling shopkeepers and charming little restaurants and cafes where you can take a break from all the noise and colour. The smell of exotic spices hangs heavy in the air as you peruse souvenirs of varying quality. There are bargains to be found and you’ll find something that speaks to you whatever the price. There are also modern shops in the Bazaar but the real charm are the ones that seem to have been there for centuries selling their wares. If you’re there with the kids make sure you keep a tight hold of them as it’s very easy to get lost amongst the mayhem, But it’s a beautiful mayhem you’ll treasure for a long time to come.
A cable car ride promises sights others simply can’t see and Antalya has a superb skyward trip for those who can stand the heights at Tunektepe Teleferik. Regularly climbing up the 610m high Tünek Tepe hill on the westside of Antalya city there are 36 cars that hold 8 people each so you won't be queuing too long for your ride. The views as you make your way to the heavens are superb. The Taurus mountains have never looked so spectacular and the Gulf of Antalya stretches out like an azure carpet in front of you. When you reach the top you’ll find a fun rotating restaurant where you can fully enjoy the views. Visit in the evening and it turns into a nightclub although don't expect to easily stumble home afterwards.
If the luxury spa at the Club Med resort simply isn’t enough for you then try an authentic hammam in the city itself. Forget what you know about saunas at home, if you choose the right hammam you can expect a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere, superb steam and sauna rooms, a pool to melt away in and a massage that will undo years of damage to your body. Many now offer extra services such as oil and aromatherapy massages, facials and manicures. The Turkish have perfected this kind of thing after thousands of years of practice and you can benefit from this wisdom.
Built to commemorate the visit of the Roman Emperor to Attaleia (Atalaya’s ancient name) in 130 AD, the three double arches of Hadrian’s Gate could be one of the most impressive ancient ruins you’ve ever seen. They form an entrance to the glorious old quarter of the town – Kaleiçi. Get up close and examine the richly decorated stonework. The ceiling probably offers the best carvings so make sure you look up when passing through. See if you can guess which one of the towers was built later than Roman times, although all three are stunning to view. If you’re looking for directions from locals make sure you call it ‘Hadriyanüs Kapısı’.
It’s not all ancient ruins and glorious nature in Antalya. If your children are looking a little sulky then a day out at The Land of Legends Theme Park could well be the remedy. One of the largest theme parks in Turkey, you’ll find all the exciting rides and ‘scream if you want to go faster’ experiences the little ones demand. There's also plenty of water-based fun to be had. Once you’ve tried the rides out, enjoy a bit of luxury shopping for yourself and check into one of the excellent on-site restaurants for the food you deserve for being a great parent.
Got a strong pair of shoes? Good, because you’ll need them as you descend steep stone steps to explore Antalya’s Marina and old harbour. You’ll enjoy the feeling of ancient and modern worlds coming together as quaint fisherman’s boats rub shoulders with the yachts of the super-rich. At the right time of day you’ll see fresh fish sales taking place between the two communities. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in the area and you can pick up a souvenir or two on your walk around the marina. The place buzzes all day and night and has a great atmosphere. It’s also a good starting point for some of the region's best boat trips.
You’ll have to travel about 45 miles North of Antalya. but it’s well worth the trip as you discover the mysterious Kocain Magarasi cave deep in the heart of the mountains. The cave was discovered in the early 20th century and offers a feast of truly awe inspiring stalactites and stalagmites. In the past it’s likely this was a place of worship for early Christians with inscriptions still to be seen on the walls, but it was also inhabited in prehistoric times as well. You’ll be struck by just how vast the cave is and the amazing shapes formed by the rocks. Get a guide who has a torch or grab your own then roam freely. Dress up with layers as it's chilly in there and watch out for the slippery floors.
If you’re a serious hiker then the Lycian Way is a pilgrimage you have to take at least once in a lifetime. One of the world's great trails, it offers over 540km of glorious Turkish sights and sounds along the coast and in the countryside. It takes a month to do the whole thing on average but the starting point is just outside Antalya meaning you can sample the route without wearing down your boots. Even if you only do a few kilometres, the landscape on offer is fantastic. The route is clearly indicated with red and white painted stripes so you can easily hike a shorter stretch and not go off the beaten track. We’d recommend this as a spring activity as it does get rather hot under the summer sun in Turkey.
We all love a mysterious building and no-one is quite sure why Hidirlik Kalesi was built. 14 metres high and quite chubby, the best theories are that it’s either a watchtower or a lighthouse for the old harbour below it. What we do know is that it was built in either the 1st or 2nd century and played an important role in the city. The best fact is you can climb the tower to get an amazing view over the area and it's a particularly great spot to be at sunset. The tower is surrounded by a very pleasant park with a few good cafes for refreshment and places to picnic. A festival occurs around the tower in the springtime if you time your holiday right.
If you love looking at exotic sea life then Antalya has a treat for you in the form of one of the world’s biggest aquariums. Only 70 meters away from Konyaaltı Beach, the aquarium houses everything from reptiles to mean looking sharks. The centerpiece is the world’s longest aquarium tunnel (131 metres) where you can walk through the undersea kingdom and go nose to nose with the denizens of the deep. There’s lots for the family to do including a 3D cinema, a snow world where you can make your own snowballs as well as plenty of cafes and restaurants and a well stocked gift shop.
One of the pleasures of visiting somewhere as fascinating as Antalya is that simply not planning anything can lead to the best experiences. We’d recommend a wander around the old town if you want to put your day in the hands of chance. It’s easy and fun to get lost in the cobbled back streets where you’ll be too busy being charmed by the buildings and people to panic about where you are. Prepare to find your favourite new restaurant or enjoy a coffee in one of the many hidden little squares and Google the fascinating statue you stumbled across just before lunch. Getting lost is fun in Antalya.
Around 50km East of Antalya is an archaeological wonder that will satisfy anyone with an interest in history. At the Aspendos site you’ll see the best preserved Roman theatre in the world and ruins that are still intact enough to give you a great idea of what it would be like living in an ancient town. But it’s the theatre that will live longest in the memory, still capable of seating up to 15,000 and perhaps even more impressive than the much more famous Colosseum in Rome. In the summer months, the acoustics are so good it is still used for opera performances. Get a guide to show you the best that this sensational site has to offer.
Oh how the mighty have fallen! Perge was once the most prosperous city in the ancient world but after an unwanted visit from Alexander the Great it gradually fell into decline. Now, some of the majesty has been regained as tourists enjoy the astonishing remains including the ruins of temples, a huge stadium where you can imagine chariot races taking place and many, many spectacular columns. There is a large area to be explored but this is something of a hidden gem and the crowds are never usually huge so you get the chance to spend time in what feels like a film set. It’s as close as you can get to becoming a Roman without putting on a toga.
If you’re looking for the ultimate beach experience in Antalya then head for Konyaalti Beach where shiny pebbles stretch for almost 7km. This is the Turkish riviera at its best offering facilities for all your sunbathing needs including loungers, showers and restaurants. The water is gloriously clear, thanks to the pebbled beach, and there is a full range of sport available to the active types. But what will really stay with you are the views of mountains, skylines and cliffs that make this part of the world so beloved by many. Forget the other tourist sights for the day and simply settle down to enjoy a pure slice of Turkish heaven.
The Antalya region is a dream for spelunkers and one of the finest caves in the region is Karain Cave around 27 kilometers northwest of the city. In the days of cavemen and cavewomen this was a home from home and plenty of artefacts have been found in its nooks and crannies such as bones and teeth. For families it's one of the easier caves to traverse with wide open spaces making it less of a trauma for those who dislike being confined. The onsite museum is also very educational and useful, giving context to the sights around you. Things can get busy at the weekend so see if you can make your visit from Monday to Friday instead.
Discover an ancient city in the mountains. Termessos existed at the time of Homer and has remained remarkably preserved over the centuries that follow. It truly is a calm and peaceful place being based in the heart of a national park meaning glorious walks are also on the agenda in addition to you playing the role of archaeologist. At more than 1,000 metres up in the Taurus mountains the air will be pure. Get ready for a climb as you walk amongst ruins that are relatively tourist free in terms of telling you where to go and what to do. Instead, you’ll soak up the atmosphere of a truly ancient place including an amphitheater where you can sit and imagine performances from times past.