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Sky-scraping mountains, golden sand beaches, towering seaside cliffs, and more than 3,000 years’ worth of historic sites are waiting for you in the heart of the Turkish Riviera. The southwestern coast of Anatolia has been a destination for discerning travelers all the way back to Cleopatra, gathering a collection of natural beauty and timeless attractions both on the coast and in the area’s rugged hinterland. From tours that unleash your inner archaeologist to days spent lounging under the Mediterranean sun, there are plenty of things to do in Antalya to keep you busy for a lifetime full of vacations.
The largest city on Turkey’s south coast is the whole region’s namesake for good reason. Founded in 150 BC, Antalya is dotted with Roman monuments that rise up along miles of rocky cliffs featuring stunning waterfalls that tumble straight into the Mediterranean Sea. In town, the old walled city is still filled with Byzantine and Ottoman buildings, and plenty of space is reserved for parkland along the coast.
A little hillside town for those who want to get away from the big-city bustle, Kaş has the charm of a quiet fishing community amid the spectacular surroundings of the Turquoise Coast. The sheltered bay and string of islands that lie offshore make a perfect setting for divers keen on exploring the underwater sculptures and artificial wrecks hidden under the waves.
Built around an old Seljuk fortress on a peninsular hill, the Alanya district is known for fine dining, music, and a landscape that’s diverse even by local standards. Home to the famous stalactite-filled Damlatas Caves and Kleopatra Beach, the area also features a lively set of discos and bars along the historic shipyards and docks.
Ancient monuments are a recurring theme across the Antalya region. You can see the Corinthian columns from the Temple of Apollo and Athena at Side, the Roman arches of Hadrian’s Gate that still mark the entrance to Antalya’s old city, and the centuries-old fortifications where Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman soldiers kept watch over the coast. Relax on the fine white sands, go jet skiing or windsurfing on the Mediterranean, or head inland to see the ancient city of Thermessos atop the pale, rugged bluffs of the Taurus Mountains.
The Turkish coast is an incredible sight no matter how you decide to see it. Jump in for a scuba dive to see the shipwrecks surrounded by coral reefs, or take to the air for a paragliding trip that takes you over the mountains and beaches of Alanya.
Since you’re surrounded by about 5 civilizations’ worth of monuments and ruins, there’s plenty of expert assistance available to help you sort through it all. Sign up for a guided tour of Antalya or Alanya, or head to Demre and Myra for a visit to the resting place of the original St. Nick.
If you have a day or two to spare, you can head a bit farther afield to see some of the most unique attractions in the world. Join a private guide for a visit to the underwater ruins at Kekova, check out the whitewashed travertine landscape at Pamukkale, or head to Koprulu Canyon and go rafting in the rapids.