Alanya is both a colourful working town and popular sprawling beach resort, situated on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, around two hours’ drive east of the city of Antalya. Sandwiched between the sparkling Mediterranean and Taurus Mountains, the historic heart of Alanya is its old quarter on a rocky peninsula, crowned by the impressive 13th Century castle and Red Tower, from which newer residential blocks fan inland up the overlooking hillside and out along the sweeping beaches.
The eastern side of the peninsula, immediately beneath the castle, is home to the pretty fortified harbour, the bright lights of extensive tourist amenities and the majority of the high-rise beachside developments that reach as far as Mahmutlar and beyond.
History of Alanya
Alanya’s peninsula has made it an important Mediterranean seaport throughout history and ownership of the town has changed numerous times over the centuries – Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Turko-Persians, Ottomans and even pirates have all had a turn at running Alanya, and ultimately contributing to its rich history and culture.
Tourism in Alanya, today the town’s most important industry, began when Turks began visiting in the 1960s, predominantly to benefit from the healing properties of the famous Damlataş Cave on the western side of the peninsula.
When Antalya’s international airport opened for business in 1998 – to become today Turkey’s second busiest airport and one of the busiest in the Mediterranean – it was the green light for Alanya to develop into an international resort.
Foreign homeownership took off in the late 1990s and has continued since, but the town has also experienced strong population growth, which has helped drive a rapid modernization of Alanya’s infrastructure and fuelled the construction of residential developments.
Half an hour east of Alanya is Gazipasa Airport, which receives a number of internal and international flights.
Modern-day Alanya offers kilometres of sandy beaches, waterside promenades flanked by modern high-rise apartment blocks and a bustling town-centre that offers every type of amenity, including hospitals and schools, excellent shopping and a lively night-life. Combine this with its balmy year-round climate – it’s no coincidence the area is well-known for its fruit plantations – and it’s easy to see why the resort appeals to retired second homeowners as much as it does to younger holidaymakers.
Alanya is especially popular with Dutch, Scandinavians, Irish, Germans and, to a slightly lesser extent, Britons, many of whom escape to their homes in the resort during the colder winter months of northern Europe.
As a result, Alanya has one of the highest populations of resident foreign expats anywhere in Turkey and life there is very foreigner-friendly with a multitude of languages widely spoken, including in schools, as well as foreign-language newspapers available. A foreigners’ council now exists there too.
One of Alanya’s biggest attractions are its beaches, which these days are bordered by residential development s and hotels, rather than banana plantations and orange groves. Alanya’s beaches are split in two by the peninsula, and immediately on the western side is the 3-kilometre long Damlataş beach, also known as Cleopatra beach after the Egyptian queen who, according to mythology, is said to have swum in the bay. One of Turkey’s most picturesque beaches and prized for the clarity of the water, it’s also where the famous Damlataş Cave is located. After Damlataş comes Konakli and Incekum beaches, the latter fringed by picturesque forests.
Heading east from the peninsula, the coastline is one continuous long beach as far as Mahmutlar, but stretches closest to Alanya town are known locally as Keykubat and Portakal beaches. All together there are an estimated 35 kilometres of beaches belonging to the municipality of Alanya. Most, if not all, have Blue Flags and offer a range of water sports and facilities.
Leisure and shopping
For affordable leather goods, shoes, clothes, spices, silver and gold jewellery, electrical items and all types of personal items, Alanya is a shoppers’ paradise, packed with colourful shops, particularly in and around the old town, and of course in its colourful bazaar.
For a more modern shopping experience there is the Alanyum shopping mall in the Oba district, which includes a cinema, children’s activity centre and supermarket.
Every day of the week there’s a farmer’s market, selling fresh produce and dairy products, in an Alanya district somewhere, but the most popular takes place on Fridays and is commonly known as the Cuma (Friday) Bazaar.
On top of that, the following megastores or supermarkets can be found in Alanya: Tansas, Tesco Kipa, Metro, Migros, Afra, Makro, Bim, Carrefor and Koctas. There are scores of restaurants, offering Turkish and European food, and bars to choose from in Alanya, catering for all budgets. The area around the harbour is a lively night spot, with late night bars, while the old town below the castle has some popular eateries overlooking the harbour.
As a large town, Alanya hosts regular arts, culture and sports events throughout the year. Away from the beaches, the area offers all type of sports, as well as outdoor pursuits, such as trekking and rafting in the Taurus Mountains and nearby Manavgat River. For excursions, the area is littered with ancient historic sites for visiting. Boats and fishing trips are available from the harbour, which also receives cruise ships, and Alanya also has its own marina.
Or, a great family day out is a visit to Aqua Park Water Planet, situated 30 kilometres from Alanya in Okudzalar. There are 23 different water rides of all sizes, including the popular Lazy River, super-high Kamikadze and mysterious Black Hole slides.
Getting around Alanya itself is easy. There is a modern transport system with buses and taxis, as well as the cheap and cheerful Dolmuses. As you’d expect, there are also dozens of tour companies offering trips and days out.
Buyers in the centre of Alanya often buy on the northern edge, where you are slightly elevated and there are newer developments in greener areas away from the hustle and bustle of the town. However, it’s common for second homeowners to buy in one of the districts or suburbs of Alanya, areas that were previously small villages that have joined up over time as residential tourist developments have taken off. At the same time, many of these satellite resorts have still retained a traditional rustic quality.
On the eastern side of Alanya’s peninsula, Obakoy, Tosmur, Mahmutlar and Kargicak. are popular areas with a good selection of apartments.
Starting with Obakoy, this is located on the edge of the town-centre and remains essentially a village at the start of the foothills of the Taurus Mountains, so offers lovely views in all directions. It’s close to the centre of Alanya yet has its own local market, church and school. Having good access to the mountains means property-owners can take part in the numerous activities the area has to offer, both on the beach and in the mountains, where the trails are an ever-popular magnet during the summer. The neighbouring district of Cikcilli is popular for similar reasons.
Back towards the seafront, Tosmur is also a quiet district on the eastern edge of the resort, close to the Dim River, where you can sit on floating rafts and swim in the river in the summer. Again, this district combines greener mountain scenery with proximity to the sea and beach. Tosmur has its own selection of shops and a market, and the local bus goes to Alanya town-centre every five minutes during the day. Kestel, next door, offer a similar lifestyle.
Next, Mahmutlar is a smart resort also with its own extensive facilities, offering a large choice of high rise gated communities, typically with pool views, recreational facilities and on-site services.
And Kargicak, being on the furthest fringes of Alanya retains a traditional village feel, where fruit trees grow in abundance on the edge of the community. Not far from here is the impressive, purpose built Gold City resort.
Meanwhile, on the western side of the peninsula, Konakli, with array of five-star hotels, attracts many foreign buyers and the village of Avsallar a little further west still is also increasingly popular, with access to its own beach and the one at Incekum, as well as the attraction of a river running through it.