The 21 Best Things to Do in Antalya
With a population of 2.4 million, Antalya is the 5th largest city in Turkey. It is the 2nd most popular tourist hub in the country after Istanbul. Boasting numerous world-renowned, heavenly beaches, well-preserved ancient towns, and high-end resorts, Antalya is turkey's tourism pearl.
Every year, around 15 million tourists visit Antalya, which means that the Mediterranean city hosts its population seven times annually. Even when it is off-season, Antalya is flocked to many people from various parts of the world visiting to explore this city's stunning historical gems.
In this article, let's look at the top 21 must-see sites in Antalya.
Hadrian's gate is formed by three triumphal arches located in the central district of KaleiçI in Antalya. Built-in 130 ad to honor the roman emperor Hadrian's visit to Antalya, this gate is still used today. This historical structure leads to the district of KaleiçI.
Strong fortifications once surrounded the ancient port city of Attaleia (The old Greek name of Antalya) With several gates. However, only Hadrian's gate survived the centuries.
The Hadrian's gate is open 24/7; However, the lighting that illuminates the structure at night makes that the perfect time to visit this spot.
Düden waterfalls are remarkably beautiful waterfalls located on the coast of downtown Antalya. This picturesque site is the city's first attraction that welcomes you as your plane descends at Antalya airport.
Düden waterfalls include picnic tables, benches, and small Gözleme stalls where you can relieve your fatigue and snack upon some delicious Turkish-filled crepes.
The waterfalls can be visited from 8 am to 9:30 PM in the summer months and from 8 am to 6 PM in the winter months. The entrance is 5₺. Note that museum pass is not valid here.
This 7-KM-long beach is one of the most extensive beaches in Turkey. Along the Konyaaltı beach, there are various hotels, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
The ruins of Olbia's small ancient port city are scattered over the beach. In olden times, this port city was used by the locals of Termessos ancient city, which is located high up at the Güllük mountain range.
Konyaaltı beach is a public beach, so the showers and changing rooms are free of charge.
Historically the Kaleiçi district is the heart of Antalya. The narrow cobblestone streets carry the marks from the old Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman eras. This district is full of boutique hotels, restaurants, taverns, bars, and souvenir shops.
If you plan to stay in a boutique hotel instead of a resort, Kaleiçi will be the perfect spot for you with its affordable, quaint family-run hotels, many of which provide modern comforts.
The old houses of Kaleiçi date to the 18th and 19th centuries, and they allow the visitors to take a peek into the Ottoman and Turkish era architecture.
Besides, Kaleiçi is one of the best spots to experience the Turkish seafood culture. There are many reasonably priced fish restaurants and Turkish style taverns where you'll find the finest examples of Turkish seafood, traditional mezuzahs, and alcoholic Turkish drinks. Ayar Meyhanesi is a highly recommended spot to dine in due to its unique dishes, cheerful live music, and attentive staff.
If in the area, it is worth stopping by to have a drink at David People, a local bar, where you can sit on a glass floor built over an ancient Roman colonnaded street. Another very fun thing to do in Kaleiçi!
Hıdırlık Tower is an ancient structure built in the 2nd century AD during the Roman era. Emperor Hadrian believed to have made this tower was used as a lighthouse and for defense purposes.
The top part of the tower has marks that indicate that it went through restoration multiple times during the Seljuk and Ottoman periods.
The name "Lara" means sand in the ancient Luwian language, the native tongue. The title of this natural wonder was given by the Hittites millennia ago.
Lara Beach is one of the longest beaches in Turkey. It's known for its high-end resorts; this beach extends for 10km. Some parts of the beach are public. However, some parts are privately owned by beach clubs and resorts.
The beach is on the southeast coast of Antalya and can be easily accessed by public transportation.
With an area of 7000m2 and a vast collection of more than 30,000 artifacts, 5000 of which are displayed, Antalya Museum is one of Turkey's biggest museum complexes.
Located right at the starting point of the Konyaaltı beach, this museum exhibits essential findings from the Roman, Lycian, ancient Greek, Byzantine eras, and prehistoric periods.
The museum is open from 8:30 am to 6:45 pm in the summer (1 April-1 October) and from 10 am to 4 pm in the winter. Entrance is 45₺ and free for Museum Pass owners. Note that the museum is closed on the weekends.
Kurşunlu Waterfall National Park is located on the northern side of the ancient ruins of Perge (Perga). This giant park is a perfect spot to take a breath from the busy city life, where you can enjoy the serene nature and the picturesque views.
There are also some stalls where you can find snacks and fresh juices for reasonable prices.
Tazı Canyon is a breath-taking natural wonder that is located within the borders of Köprülü Canyon Natural Park. It stands only 10 kilometers away from Köprülü Canyon Natural Park’s rafting center. The canyon has recently become popular after Huawei promoted it in a commercial. Some locals told us that this canyon hosted a minimal number of tourists before the Huawei commercial, most of them being foreigners. However, with its 300-meter-long walls, Tazı Canyon hosts hundreds of visitors each day.
The site is free to visit, and it does not have regulated visiting hours.
Karain cave is an important prehistoric site in turkey. Located in the village of Yağca, 27km north of Antalya, the first residents of this cave were the early humans who settled here around 500,000 years ago.
The most notable findings unearthed in this cave system include the remains of prehistoric rhinoceros, elephants, hippopotamuses, and bones of neanderthals. Greek carvings are seen at the cave entrance, which alludes to Karain cave used for ceremonial purposes during the ancient Greek era.
You can visit Karain cave from 10 am to 5 PM in the summers (1 April-1 October) And from 8:30 am to 5:30 PM in winters (1 October-1 April). The entrance is 10₺. Karain cave is closed on the weekends.
Aspendos is the most well-preserved ancient theater in Turkey and the entire Mediterranean area. Built-in the 2nd century AD, this theatre could seat up to 20,000 people.
Apart from the theatre, other notable attractions in the ancient site include the 1km-long aqueducts, baths, and temples.
You can visit Aspendos from 8 am to 6:45 pm in the summers (1 April-1 October) and from 10 am to 4 pm in winters (1 October-1 April). The entrance is 50₺. Aspendos Ancient Site is closed on the weekends.
Olympos, located 84km away from Antalya south, is a tourist paradise on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. This ancient site was founded in the 3rd century BC and was a prosperous and influential Lycian city. In subsequent centuries, it was frequently used by pirates and, later, ruled by the Romans, Venetians, Genoese, and the Rhodians. The city was abandoned in the 1400s, and, ever since, it has been a ghost town.
Today, the valley where the ruins of Olympos are located has many bungalows, restaurants, budget-friendly lodges, campsites, bars, and handicraft shops. It is a spot where you'll find yourself away from the crowd in Antalya and the busy 5-star resorts. Olympos is a haven for nature lovers and people aspiring for a calm vacation.
You can visit Olympos from 8 am to 6.30 pm in the summers (1 April-1 October) and from 10.30 am to 4:pm in winters (1 October-1 April). The entrance is 30₺. Olympos is closed on the weekends.
Çıralı is a town on the southern coast of Antalya, located a walking distance away from Olympos. It is primarily known for beholding the famous Mount Chimaera, known for its continuously burning fire vents, Yanartaş.
Reaching the part of the mountain where the fires can be found requires a 1-km-long trek. While it might be slightly challenging, you will find people of all ages making their way up. However, once you reach there, you will be blown away by the site’s uniqueness. To elevate this experience, you can grab a pack of marshmallows from the kiosk at the area's entrance. It an unwritten custom to toast marshmallows at the fire vents.
The entrance to Yanartaş is 9₺.
Phaselis was an important trade port city in the ancient ages. The Rhodians founded them in 690 BC. Apart from its historical ruins, the area is also known for its beautiful beaches and rich nature. Phaselis is located on a small peninsula nestled between Kemer and Olympos National Park's resort town.
Phaselis was a vital center for trade and commerce between Greece, Phoenicia, Asia, and Egypt in the early centuries.
Phaselis was ruled by various authorities who had inhabited Anatolia, such as the Rhodians, Alexander the Great, Persians, Arabs, pirates, Seljuks, and Ottomans.
Today, thanks to the long pine trees, even on a scorching summer day, you can visit the ancient city without the touch of the sun.
Phaselis can be visited from 8 am to 6.30 pm in the summers (1 April-1 October) and from 10:30 am to 4:pm in winters (1 October-1 April). The entrance is 45₺. Phaselis is closed on the weekends.
Myra was an ancient Greek city founded on southern Antalya's plains, which is now the modern-day Turkish town of Demre.
Myra was one of the most influential cities in the Lycian Confederation, the first democratic union in history.
Amazingly well-preserved rock-cut tombs and an ancient theater remaining from the Roman era are two of the most notable old attractions to see in Myra.
Today, what makes this spot unique is that St. Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus, lived and died here. He was and still is one of Eastern and Western churches’ most sacred characters. On St. Nicholas Day, in many countries, there is the tradition of giving gifts to children, and Saint Nicholas of Myra is seen as Santa Claus.
You can also visit the Church of St. Nicholas, located at the heart of the town of Demre, which was built as a grave and a religious complex dedicated to him. During the Ottoman rule, a group of Italian sailors seized the remains of St. Nicholas and took them to the Italian city of Bari. Although today the grave of St. Nicholas is in the Church of St. Nicholas, his remains are preserved at the Basilica of St. Nicola in Bari, Italy.
Tourists can visit Myra from 8:30 am to 6:45 pm in the summers (1 April-1 October) and from 10 am to 4 pm in winters (1 October-1 April). The entrance is 45₺. Myra is closed on the weekends.
The Church of St. Nicholas is open from 8:30 am to 6:45 pm in the summers (1 April-1 October) and from 10 am to 4 pm in winters (1 October-1 April). The entrance is 50₺. The church is closed on the weekends.
The Lycian Civilizations Museum is located at the Andriake Harbor, which was the port of the ancient city of Myra. This museum was built inside an old structure used as a food store in the 2nd century AD.
The exhibition consists of the artifacts and findings unearthed in various ancient Lycian cities. The museum's halls carry Myra, Patara, Xanthos, Tilos (Tlos), Pinara, Olympos, Arykanda, and Antiphellos, at one point in time, constituted the Lycian League.
The open-air section of the museum includes the ruins of the ancient harbor, bathhouse, marketplace,
The Lycian Civilizations Museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm in the summers (1 April-1 October) and from 8 am to 5:30 pm in winters (1 October-1 April). The entrance fee is ₺10 and while the church is closed on the weekends and Mondays. The ticket covers the Andriake Ancient City as well.
Patara is a 12-km-long beach in the province of Antalya. It is considered one of Turkey's largest ones and can get 200-300 meters wide at some points. She is known for being one of Turkey's rare spots where Caretta Caretta breed, Patara beach, boasts a vibrant fauna.
The Ancient City of Patara stands a couple of hundred meters behind the beach. Said to have been founded by Patarus, one of the Greco-Roman god Apollo's sons, Patara was also the birthplace of St. Nicholas, who is known to be Santa Claus. Patara was a critical city in the region, and it served as the capital city of the Lycian League.
Also, the historical account suggests that St. Paul embarked on a ship to go to Rome from the port of Patara. Therefore, as you might surmise, besides Roman and Greek history, Patara is of vital importance for the Christian narrative.
You can visit the beach from 8 am to 8 pm every day. The ancient city of Patara is open to visitors from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm during summers (1 April-1 October) and from 10 am to 4 pm during winters (1 October-1 April). The site is closed on weekends. The fee for visiting the site is 30₺.
Manavgat falls is one of the most visited natural wonders in Antalya. Located 76km from Antalya's downtown, these falls are home to dozens of animals. The site is adorned with many fish restaurants where you can taste the trout, carp, gray mullet, and tench that are freshly caught off the falls.
There is free parking near the falls, and the area's entrance is 7₺ per person.
This large town, located 133km to the east of Antalya, is a very touristic spot. Alanya is so popular that it even has its airport.
Undoubtedly, Alanya Castle is the most known spot in the town. This medieval castle was built 250 meters above sea level in the 13th century by order of the Seljuk sultan, Aladdin Kayqubad I. Today, this open-air site beholds Byzantine churches' ruins, a marketplace, masjids, dwellings, bathhouses, hundreds of cisterns, and other ancient structures that await tourists.
The other sites travel-history enthusiasts should visit in Alanya are the Kızılkule (The Red Tower), Tersane (The Shipyard), Damlataş Cave, Dim Cave, Cleopatra Beach, Atatürk House Museum, and Alanya Archeology Museum.
You can visit the Alanya Castle from 8 am to 7 pm in the summers (1 April-1 October) and from 10 am to 4 pm in winters (1 October-1 April). The site is closed on weekends. The fee for visiting the site is 30₺.
Just like Alanya, Side (pronounced see-day) is one of the larger towns in suburban Antalya. It's known for its world-class resorts, well-preserved ruins, paradisical beaches, and beach clubs; Side is a perfect spot to explore.
This ancient city, thought to be founded in the 7th century BC, was the most crucial in the ancient region of Pamphylia.
The site is famous for its beautiful ancient city and its remarkably well-preserved ruins. Besides the old town, you should also pay a visit to the Side Archeology Museum.
The ancient city of Side and Side Archeology Museum is open to visitors from 8:30 am to 6:45 pm in the summers (1 April-1 October) and from 10 am to 6 pm in winters (1 October-1 April). The site is closed on weekends. The entrance is 25₺.
Included in UNESCO'S list of World Heritage Sites, Xantos is one of the world's most prominent archeological sites. Today, this ancient city is located in the village of Kınık, right on the provincial border of Muğla-Antalya.
The journals of the ancient Greek historians, Herodotus and Appian, give us valuable insight into the history of Xantos. As historical accounts suggest, during the Persian invasion of the area, the people of Xantos gathered a small army and were outnumbered and defeated by the vast Persian troops. Those who survived the war retreated to Xantos and killed their families to save them from the Persian wrath. Subsequently, the surviving group of men, murdered by the Persians, and about the entire population of Xantos was decimated.
Xantos is open to visitors from 10 am to 7 pm in the summers (1 April-1 October) and from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm in winters (1 October-1 April). The site is closed on weekends. The entrance to the site is 14₺.