Things to Do in Turkish Riviera
Built and extended between the 14th and 18th centuries, picturesque Kusadasi Castle sits on Pigeon Island (Guvercin Adasa), an islet connected to Kusadasi via a causeway. Originally constructed as a military base, the fortress is composed of outer walls that enclose its gardens and an inner castle with a tiny museum.
The Duden Waterfalls sit at the end of the river of the same name, which winds its way through the Taurus Mountains before tumbling from a cliff into a valley next to the Mediterranean. The falls consist of two cascades, and the upper part is nearly 50 feet (15 meters) tall and 65 feet (20 meters) wide.
Bodrum’s most prominent landmark, the Castle of St. Peter stands on the promontory that divides the city’s twin bays. Complete with towers, battlements, and gardens—and home to Bodrum’s Museum of Underwater Archaeology—this 15th-century-built fortress is a must-visit for travelers.
Ephesus (Efes) is one of the greatest ancient sites in the Mediterranean. During its heyday in the first century BC, it was the second-largest city in the world, with only Rome commanding more power. Many reconstructed structures and ruins, including the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, can be seen here.
Ancient ruins, endangered wildlife, thermal springs—a boat cruise along the Dalyan River is full of surprises. Winding its way from Lake Köyceğiz to Dalyan Village before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea, the river follows a scenic route flanked by rocky mountains, pine-clad valleys, and sandy beaches.
Standing proud on a rocky outcrop in the heart of the city, medieval Alanya Castle (Alanya Kalesi) is Alanya’s defining landmark. Encircled by 4 miles (6 kilometers) of walls, the Inner Fortress (Iç Kale) houses the remains of an 11th-century church, while the Ehmedek Castle area hosts ruins dating back to ancient Greek times.
Butterfly Valley (Kelebekler Vadisi) makes a dramatic first impression with its narrow gorge, steep cliffs, and white sand. Reachable only by boat, the secluded cove gets its name from the many species of butterflies and moths that breed in the valley.
Antalya’s Old Town (Kaleiçi) remains the heart of this modern Turkish city. Home to a number of historic monuments, it’s also the city’s most atmospheric district—a maze of narrow winding streets dotted with traditional wooden houses, bars, restaurants, and Ottoman-style boutique hotels.
Once a glorious temple of gleaming marble and finely carved columns; the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus stood 164 feet (50 meters tall and was capped with a marble sculpture of a four-horse chariot. Built in 351 BC to house the tomb of King Mausolus, it was the grandest mausoleum of its time and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Beloved by sun-worshippers the world over, Cleopatra Beach (Kleopatra Plajı is a 1.5-mile (2.5-kilometer expanse of golden sand framed by the blue Mediterranean. With dramatic views of hilltop Alanya Castle, indulgent beach clubs, plus a range of water sports, most travelers consider it Alanya’s best beach.
More Things to Do in Turkish Riviera
With a 5-star hotel, a gigantic water park, a luxurious shopping avenue, and plenty of amusement park rides, the Land of Legends is a one-stop-shop for family entertainment. Open to both day visitors and Land of Legends hotel guests, the theme park is one of the largest of its kind in Turkey.
Though Saklikent translates from Turkish as Hidden City, urban life is the last thing that comes to mind in Saklikent National Park (Saklikent Milli Parki). Encompassing a dramatic gorge that cuts through the mountains, the national park is a playground of river rapids, streams, waterfalls, and cliffs.
Just northeast of Antalya lies the region’s most significant Roman ruins. Dating to the Bronze Age, the city of Perge was originally settled by the Hittites, but under Roman occupation grew to become one of the most beautiful and scholarly cities of the ancient world, attracting important thinkers such as physician Asklepiades, philosopher Varius, and Apollonius, a pupil of Archimedes.
Antalya Marina (Kaleiçi Yat Limanı) is the heart of the city. It stretches along the waterfront beneath the steep cobbled streets of Antalya’s Old Town, known as Kaleiçi. With cruise ships, ferries, yachts, and fishing boats constantly arriving and departing, this historic harbor is buzzing with activity at all hours and is a popular hub for both locals and visitors.
Reaching a height of 12,500 feet (2,365 meters), Mount Olympos (Tahtali Dagi) is the highest mountain of Beydaglari Coastal National Park. Named after the ancient Lycian city of Olympos—the ruins of which lie along the coast just to the south—the mighty peak is surrounded by a dramatic panorama of mountains, forest, and ocean.
In ancient times, Side was an important trading port on the eastern Mediterranean and by the sixth century BC, hundreds of Greek merchants had settled in the coastal town. It was still flourishing when the Romans gained ascendancy in the Med, and many of the ruins now excavated in Side date from around 100 AD–199 AD, bearing both Greek and Roman architectural characteristics.
Today it is a small beach resort sandwiched between its hillside Roman theater and a recreated Temple to Athena, whose columns stand guard by the harbor. Side Museum (Side Müzesi) is located in a Roman marketplace and baths complex that was built around the fifth century AD and converted into a museum in the 1960s. The ancient finds of weapons, sculpture – including torsos and animals dating from Greek to Byzantine times – sundials, tombs and mosaic fragments are all beautifully displayed in a series of halls that once housed the various steam rooms and pools of the Roman baths.
Along with the classical Greek remains uncovered at Seleukeia, there are further Roman ruins in the region including vast stone theaters at nearby Olukköprü and Selge, plus a 30-km (18.75-mile) water system complete with aqueducts and tunnels.
Scaling the 12,500-foot-high (2,365-meter-high) peak of Tahtali Mountain—ancient Mount Olympus—the Olympos Cable Car (Olympos Teleferik) is the most popular attraction in Beydaglari Coastal National Park. At the summit, a panoramic observation deck affords spectacular views over the forested Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean coast.
Set on a north Bodrum hillside, Bodrum Amphitheater (Antik Tiyatro is a relic of the ancient Greek city of Halicarnassus. Built in the 4th century BC and later developed by the Romans, the restored 13,000-seat theater offers a fantastic glimpse into the ancient world alongside stellar city views, and is a stage for concerts and events.
Founded around 1000 BC, the ancient Greco-Roman city of Aspendos is best-known for its impressive Roman theater, one of the most remarkably preserved in the world. Designed by Greek architect Zeno and built in the second century AD, the theater seats up to 7,000 people and is still used as a venue today.
A tall gorge filled with turquoise streams and waterfalls, Sapadere Canyon (Sapadere Kanyonu or Sapadere Kanyon) is a retreat into nature in the Turkish Riviera. Formed centuries ago by erosion from water and ice, it stands 360 meters long and nearly 400 meters high. Fresh air breezes through the canyon, filled with the sounds of rushing water and wildlife such as butterflies and birds.
Once unknown outside of locals, facilities were only recently built to welcome visitors from all over Turkey and the world. A natural wooden path curves through the park, at times leading to pools for swimming (especially welcome in the summer heat.) High rocks and the Torsos mountains scenically surround you as you walk through. At the end of the path is the canyon’s most impressive waterfall, which also has a spot ideal for swim in the clear waters. The nearby Sapadere Village is also worth a stop.
Known in English as St Nicholas Island, Gemiler Island (Gemiler Adası) lies along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, south from Fethiye and west of the sandy beach at Ölüdeniz. Separated from the mainland by a narrow sea channel, it is a tiny speck of an islet, just 400 meters (1,312 feet) wide and 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) long but is renowned for its wealth of Byzantine ruins, which date back more than 1,500 years.
Gemiler Island was once one of Christendom’s most popular pilgrimage points with devotees heading for Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. They came to honor the tomb of St. Nicholas – the original Father Christmas, who was Bishop of Myra on the Turkish coast opposite. Even though his remains were moved to the mainland in 650 AD, the island is still occasionally known as St. Nicholas Island. Also around this time, the little Byzantine settlement on Gemiler came under threat from pirates and was abandoned as the residents moved to the mainland for protection.
Today a chaotic jumble of ruins covers much of the island, comprising the scattered remains of four churches, evidence of Byzantine houses, a port, waterways, tombs and graveyards. Stores once stood along the shoreline, where traders would sell olive oil and grain to passing ships. The fragments of St Nicholas’s tomb that still stand today reveal faint vestiges of frescoes depicting scenes from his life; these are open to the elements and are slowly deteriorating in the sun.
Gemiler has plenty of rocky bays providing safe mooring for yachts and provides excellent snorkeling along its coastline; tumbledown ruins can occasionally be spotted just below the surface of the sea.
Marking the eastern entrance to Kaleiçi—Antalya’s historic Old Town—Hadrian’s Gate is the last of the city’s ancient gates, dating back to AD 130. Named in honor of Roman emperor Hadrian after his visit to the city, the triple-arched gateway is decorated with marble columns and is one of Antalya’s most distinctive landmarks.
Tumbling over a wall of moss-covered rock into a clear natural pond, Kursunlu Waterfalls are set inside a forested natural park. Compared to the more visited Duden Waterfalls, which are more expansive and by the Mediterranean Sea, these gentle cascades feel secluded and remote.
Framed by forested hills, lively seaside resorts, and miles of glittering blue waters—the Gulf of Fethiye (Fethiye Körfezi is among the most scenic stretches of Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. A popular destination for boat cruises; it’s home to a dozen islands, dotted with Byzantine ruins and beautiful beaches.