Advantages Breathtaking scenery, very friendly people, bargains aplenty, plenty to do in the city and surrounding area...
Disadvantages The summer HEAT would be too much for some, not everything disability friendly...
Alanya is situated on the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey and is around an hour and a half drive from Antalya which is the main city of the area and has the areas International Airport. The airport itself is served mainly by Package Holiday flights but Turkish Airlines fly there direct from the UK daily. The road to Alanya runs along the coast and is of excellent quality, being duel carriageway for around half the distance.
~ WHERE? ~
The first real documentation about the town dates from 197BC when Antiochus III of Syria besieged the settlement, then known as Coracesium. The following century, Diodotus Tryphon, a pirate chief overthrew the Syrians and built the (still standing) fortress as his defensive base. The antics of Diodotus eventually provoked Rome into action and Coracesium joined the Roman Empire.
~ BRIEF HISTORY ~
From around the forth century AD the town changed its name to Kalonoros (meaning beautiful mountain) but changed again in1221 when it was taken over by Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I. He renamed the settlement Alaiye (city of Ala), after himself! The city flourished around his extraordinary IC Kale (inner citadel), but faded slightly after capture by the Ottomans in 1471.
With the Mediterranean to the South and mountains to the North, Alanya has had to grow in an East-West direction as the strip of land is situated on is fairly narrow. I soon discovered that the city is best thought of as having two distinct halves; two separate personalities if you prefer.ESKI Alanya (Old Alanya) covers the high peninsula topped by its fortress and defensive walls and YENI Alanya (New Alanya) which covers the area to the East and West of the dominating Old Town, along the sandy beaches. Yeni Alanya consists mainly of newly built hotels and apartment complexes but the inland city area is entirely Turkish in its outlook.
As is (I’m told) common with a lot of Muslim cities, Alanya has its fair share of fountains, in some areas it seems like there is one on every street corner! These come in all shapes and sizes but don’t expect them to offer too much relief from the heat! They are all filled with salt water from the sea and besides, in the Turkish summer – the water gets pretty warm and the marble surrounds almost reach boiling point…SO DON’T SIT DOWN…you WILL regret it!Alanya has good transport links with its surrounding areas and a small bus station in the centre of the city. We regularly used the local buses (the Dolmus) to travel in and out of the city. These run very frequently to all hotel areas (amongst others) but are primarily a LOCAL transport network so the majority of the passengers will be locals and not tourists. One thing we noticed was that various companies travel the routes and vie for custom; we quickly learnt which one was the cheapest! ~ ATTRACTIONS ~
On the harbour front and noticeable from quite a distance is KIZIL KULE; probably the most attractive building in the town and is certainly on the majority of postcards! Kizil Kule translates literally as ‘The Red Tower’ (kizil is Turkish for red) and was built by the aforementioned Seljukid Sultan, Alaeddin Keykubat I in 1226. It is octagonal in shape, 5 storeys tall and constructed entirely in red brick. The lower floor is used as an annex to the Alanya Muzesi (Alanya Museum). To be fair, I didn’t check that out, I was far too interested in the views across the water and back up at the tower and beyond…A few metres from the path that runs upward beside the Kizil Kule is a lookout point with good views of the TERSANE (the dockyard). Now you’re probably thinking of a ‘dockyard’ in British, or certainly European terms. So was I when I stood there trying to work out where the heck they could have hidden it! After all, a dockyard/shipyard is hardly small and there I was looking at spectacular scenery without a trace of anything even vaguely industrial!
But I think ‘hidden’ is the right way of describing the dockyard in Alanya. In the sea wall are 5 large openings which I am told are seven metres wide and go back for a distance of around 40 metres (I have no idea, I neglected to take my tape measure. Sorry). See? Hidden shipyard! Each one opens directly into the sea and with their arched openings they looked good if nothing else. Built in 1227 by Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I to service his navy, this is the last remaining example of a Selcuk dockyard in Turkey.Now back to that path running beside and upward from the Kizil Kule. This follows the old town walls to the castle at the top. Be very aware though that these walls run for around 6 and a half kilometres before reaching the top and although the climb is relatively gentle (the path snakes backwards and forwards on its ascent) in summer temperatures of around 40 degrees plus; it’s not for the faint hearted! An alternative route is by road and plenty of taxis wait at the bottoM around the Kizil Kule and are only too willing to ferry you to the fort at the top. Fares are around 5,000,000 TL (£2 approximately). Alternatively, buses regularly make the climb for a fraction of the cost. Once at the top, the more energetic amongst you may want to attempt the walk in reverse; from the fort back down to the Kizil Kule, but even still, you have to be fully fit to even want to..!
The fortress as it is commonly known, or the IC KALE (inner citadel) to give it its official title is THE reason to head to the top of the 250-metre high peninsula! Dating back to beyond Roman times it was Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I who made the fortress the formidable construction is it today. Few structures within the walls at the top actually remain today, but the real draw to coming all the way up is the VIEW. That aside, there’s also a small fenced off platform which marks the HURLING ROCK – the local execution point. Legend says that the condemned man was given a pebble to throw; if it hit the water he was freed, but if it hit the rock/cliff he was heaved over the edge. I have to say the chances of hitting the water with anything were pretty remote…The PENINSULA and its hidden CAVES are a MUST SEE whilst in Alanya. The ONLY way too see them properly is to take a YAT trip, whether it be for a couple of hours or an all day affair. A Yat? A Turkish sailing vessel of course! Impressive all wooden structures with very shallow keels, they can get extremely close to the rugged shoreline of the peninsula. All you really have to do to get yourself a boat trip is take yourself for a walk along the harbour front, where Captains will offer you countless trips along the coast! For the best deal though you should book something in advance – we booked an all day tour with a local travel agent at a cost of 85,000,000 TL (approximately £34) for the four of us. This included all drinks, a huge buffet style lunch and a trip further out to sea to go dolphin watching.
But what did we see? Well after leaving Alanya Harbour, which afforded us some very impressive views back over the city, including the Kizil Kule and the Tersane; the first stop along the peninsula was KORSANLAR MAGARASI (Pirates’ Cave). Swimming and snorkelling was possible here, with the crew throwing chunks of bread into the water to encourage the fish to come around the boat.Next stop was ASIKLAR MAGARASI (Lover’s Cave) and the cave entrance here is slightly above sea level. This cave system is so named because a couple supposedly survived here for three months. Swimmers who get off the boat here are ‘abandoned’; the boat moves on around the peninsula to the ‘exit’ point of the cave, which is around 7 metres above sea level. The brave can jump from that height or the more restrained can climb down the cliff and enter the water from a minimal drop. We did see a local climb further UP the cliff and execute a perfect dive from around 15 metres. Wanted to tell him that the world hates a smarta*se!
From here there is one final cave to explore, FOSFORLU (the Phosphorous Cave). At this point in the cliff, the walls are all naturally coated in phosphorus, which makes the cave walls almost ‘glow in the dark’!Further along the coastline and around halfway between Alanya and Konakli is CLEOPATRA’S BEACH where legend says the queen used to bathe. That matters very little really; the boat chugs along the shoreline, rounds a bend and suddenly you’re confronted by a large Roman ‘fortification’ type structure built into the narrow and steep cliff between the water and the road above. This is the road we travelled most days to reach Alanya and I have to say that no sign of this is even signposted from the highway above. I’d seen a picture of this in the travel brochure before we left the UK and it was on my list of ‘must-sees’. It looked far more impressive in real life and is actually blooming difficult to describe!
Cafes, restaurants and bars abound in Alanya and its surrounding area. On some streets it can seem like every other building is a drinking/eating establishment. This isn’t a complaint of course, in the heat of the day it’s just what is required! There’s nothing like sitting outside a small café, drinking an iced coffee and watching the Turkish world go by…
~ EATING OUT ~
I do, of course, have three personal recommendations, two of which are in Alanya and one in Konakli. The OZEN OTEL is a café/bar roughly half way between the harbour and the bus station in Alanya. Plenty of outside seating (complete with parasols), very friendly staff, spotless facilities and ice cold drinks made this our ‘top spot’ during the ferocious heat of the early afternoon whilst in the city.My second choice is more to do with ‘home town’ pride than anything else; a Nottingham lass cannot help but be impressed when she walks along the main street behind the harbour and comes across the ROBIN HOOD pub! Fully decked out like a Medieval-drinking establishment it was, amazingly, better than one pub I remember from my early twenties in Nottingham that attempted the same thing! Unfortunately the manager wasn’t there when we called in so we never did get to learn WHY there is a pub named after an East Midlands folklore hero 2,000 miles from the UK but with its impressive views over the harbour the staff could be more than forgiven…
Last but by no means least comes the AKSOY, a restaurant in Konakli, across the road from the Pascha Bay Hotel. Open from nine in the morning until the last patron leaves in the wee small hours, they serve everything from traditional Turkish meals to ‘fast food’ for the less adventurous child! The staff dress casually during the day, bright Hawaiian style shirts and cropped trousers abound, but come 6pm the traditional black trousers, white shirts and black ties are in evidence. Don’t let this put you off though, this particular establishment doesn’t echo many other Turkish restaurants that insist on diners smart dress at all times. Dress up by all means, but in the sultry heat of a Turkish evening, trust me you won’t want to!Here you can dine ‘inside’ (the front of the restaurant is completely open) or out, they are surrounded by gardens and have a small play area for children. Happy hour begins at 10.30pm and finishes when the last patron wends his/her merry way home. This is a place where ordering an Irish Coffee includes a free show and children are welcomed with open arms – please bring toys too, the waiters are partial to a quick playtime themselves!
Turkey is the land of FAKES especially where clothing is concerned. There appear to be NO copyright laws, so if EXCELLENT quality but ‘unlabelled’ brand names appeal – this is THE place to come. Turkey has a huge and thriving textile industry so clothing in general is a good buy, especially leather goods. I bought a (fake) Nike branded leather cap for 10,000,000 TL (£4) for example and its top-quality if a little suspect in the copyright department. Other garments that tempted me included leather coats and I’m going to have to try and make room in my suitcase next time I go over there as the prices were ridiculously cheap.
~ SHOPPING ~
Don’t worry if clothes shopping isn’t your scene. Other bargains to be had include ONYX ornaments and tableware, brassware, jewellery (both costume and the real McCoy), the obligatory Turkish rugs and beware if you have kids; toys are very low priced and good quality…You may come home looking like a mobile branch of Toys Are Us if you’re not careful!The BAZAAR in Alanya was, to me, a little daunting at first. Whilst the close proximity of the stores/stalls offered respite from the sun, the stallholders are NOT backwards at coming forwards and will try to lure you into conversation at EVERY given opportunity as they try to part you from your hard earned holiday money. A firm “no thanks” is generally all that is needed to have them moving onto the next passer-by if you’re not interested in looking at what they have for sale in the most part. A few are a little more persistent and try to get you to look via your child; that gets a little wearing after a while! There are of course exceptions to the rule and I commend the NACI BAG SHOP and the RED SOUVENIR SHOP for allowing me to practice my haggling skills without any pressure. Haggling is THE thing to try in Turkey. You’ll soon get used to not excepting the first price you’re quoted if it seems steep. However, try not to take the ‘p’ with the sellers, they have to make a living too you know…
The city of SIDE (pronounced See-day) is around an hours drive west from Alanya and roughly halfway between there and Antalya. From the guidebooks, this should be a perfect holiday destination; it has a lovely little harbour, sandy beaches and enough Roman Ruins to keep the average Time Team dig happy for years. Unfortunately the promise, for me, didn’t quite live up to reality. The ruins are slap-bang in the middle of the city and haven’t been looked after that well so were a huge disappointment. Roman artefacts seem to almost strew the streets at some points in the ‘old’ town and whilst the photo opportunities are great, surely this ‘too easy’ accessibility is what will eventually leave the area with no discernible trace of the Roman period?
~ FURTHER AFIELD ~
The shopping area situated between the ‘old town’ and the Mediterranean in my opinion over touristified the harbour front, making it almost like Skegness. Yes the majority of towns/cities in the area have fallen prey to the tourist Lira but Alanya had shown me how this could be done in a very subtle fashion and with minimum impact on what a ‘real’ Turkish town should be like. Side is already over-built and much work continues; cranes are in evidence everywhere and the whole place, to me anyway had a very negative cloud hanging over it. I don’t want to sound overly negative; it did have the occasional high point! The little park area near the harbour is beautiful as is the harbour itself, but overall I don’t recommend it as a place to stay or even visit for more than a few hours. See the Roman Ruins and the harbour and you truly have seen the very best that Side has to offer.For Roman history quite literally at your fingertips and in a far better condition than anything Side has to offer visit ASPENDOS, which is midway between Side and Antalya. Aspendos boasts that has the world’s finest surviving Roman Amphitheatre and I have to say they have that boast just about right. Designed by the architect Xeno and built around 170AD it has seating for 15,000 people. There are 40 rows of marble seats in the lower section, 21 in the one above and at the top is a vaulted gallery.
Entry to the theatre itself costs 10,000,000 TL and is well worth it. Ok so some restoration work has obviously taken place but it is in perfect keeping with the rest of the building. The theatre is still in use today, with regular opera performances taking place. We climbed up to the platform that runs between the first and second tier and that was far enough in the heat. There is very little shade in the theatre arena, you have been warned! However standing up there it was very easy to envisage all the centuries of history that the arena has seen and that was without the help of various employees who were dressed as Roman soldiers and wandered around the area!The KURSUNLU SELALESI (Kursunlu Falls) were one of our week’s highlights. Situated roughly 10 kilometres to the north of Antalya and an hour and a half’s drive from Alanya they are a cool oasis in the middle of a brown and dusty landscape. Not high by the world’s standards but one of Turkey’s largest drop waterfalls, the falls are surrounded by a small but very well maintained National Park. The falls themselves are nothing short of breath taking; the cliff edge the water cascades over is covered in greenery and the water bubbles into a small pool surrounded by woodland. It’s possible to walk behind the falls themselves, a great blessing and a chance to cool off! Unfortunately, the falls are reached by descending many steps and therefore they are not accessible by the disabled or less able bodied.
Outside the park are camels for extortionate rides and even pretty expensive pictures, or you can do what I did – take a picture and run! There are also souvenir stalls, drinks stands (over priced again) but plus points include a shady picnic area and a children’s playground.We booked a day trip through a travel agency in Alanya to Side, Aspendos and Kursunlu Selalesi. It cost 55,000,000 TL (£22) and included a buffet lunch at a small restaurant just outside Aspendos by the KOPRUCAY (an ancient river)
Alanya, for us, offered THE perfect holiday destination. The whole area was scrupulously clean, as is the Mediterranean at this point, the people were extremely friendly and welcoming and the city, whilst having tourists in mind hasn’t lost the essence of what it really is – Turkish. I’m not one of those people who like to travel thousands of miles only to bask in a ‘little England’; I want to experience new cultures and a new way of life. Alanya gave us all that and a lot more besides.
~ FINAL THOUGHTS ~
Alanya is the perfect place for families to holiday, the beaches slope gently into the sea and the water is crystal clear. Apart from the trek up to the Ic Kale the majority of the streets are flat or only gently sloped which also makes it good for those who are less able bodied. The whole city is, I found, kept scrupulously clean. Litter is a rarity and quickly removed and the streets around the shops seem to be constantly being hosed down. Now quite where all the rubbish goes I have no idea as in some areas finding a litterbin was a task in itself!In short, I thoroughly recommend Alanya to anyone who wants a good holiday that mixes the availability of all things familiar with a good dollop of real Turkish life. We certainly made many new friends and I can see that this will be somewhere we will want to return to again and again…
£1 = roughly 2,5000,000 TL (Turkish Lira)
We stayed at the Pascha Bay Hotel in Konakli (around a 10-minute Dolmus ride away), booked with Thompsons Holidays.
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