Tourists love Mediterranean Turkey, a hub of sandy beaches perfect for swimming and relaxing, but the enormous range of things to do in Antalya, make it the second most popular holiday destination in the country.
As experts in the hospitality industry, Antalya’s main attractions cater for everyone, young and old, and whether travelling solo or as a family with young kids or teenagers.
The region encompasses the main city centre and smaller coastal resorts, each with their own characteristic making them stand out and appealing to individualistic members of society.
Belek attracts golfers with its renowned reputation as the centre of golf in Turkey, while Side lures in history lovers with its Apollo Temple landmark and historical ruins in the heart of the modern town. You could easily spend a month touring the long coastline but if time is limited, we have some perfect suggestions of where to go and what to see.
The frequent and cheap local bus transport network makes it easy to get around and see them all. Alternatively, hire a car and use the main D400 highway that interconnects the whole region.
Take a journey into Antalya’s varied and colourful past by exploring the narrow, cobbled streets of Kaleici, otherwise known as the old town. Hadrian’s gate leading into it was built to honour the 2nd-century Roman emperor of the same name. Some stories of famous people who have walked through it should be ignored such as the Queen of Sheba, who reigned long before it was ever built.
To really soak up nostalgic vibes, book into an old restored Ottoman hotel, then start exploring to discover magnificent Ottoman architecture in nearby ancient mosques and the landmark Hidirlik tower. In the afternoon, meander through souvenir shops, and cruise the coastline before sitting in a restaurant overlooking the harbour to witness the fantastic sunset view that Antalya is famous for.
Even if you aren’t a history fan, Antalya Archaeological Museum opens your eyes to its bygone eras. Often called one of the best museums in the world, its diverse collection of artefacts has won it worldwide recognition. The most recent addition, the Roman Heracles sarcophagus depicting his 12 labours was smuggled out of Turkey 50 years ago and returned in 2017 after a lengthy legal six-year battle in Switzerland.
Aspendos is one attraction of Antalya drawing in huge crowds because of its magnificent and perfectly preserved theatre. As the central landmark of the ancient Greco-Roman city, seating for 12,000 often fills up with audiences eager to appreciate performances by the Antalya International Opera and Ballet Festival. Receiving global recognition from historians and archaeologists, visitors to Aspendos also tour nearby ancient structures of a basilica, agora and Roman aqueduct.
From historical to natural landmarks of beauty, anyone in the nationally protected Olympus Park can see the domineering Mount Tahtali from anywhere. Throughout history, locals called it the seat of the gods.
However, these days rather than just admire it from afar, tourists ascend 2365 metres in a cable car to see fantastic landscape views of the Mediterranean coast and backing mountain range. Using the slogan from sea to sky, sunsets views are particularly spectacular, and although you can travel back down in the cable car, some visitors prefer the alternative method of paragliding.
One claim to fame that Antalya stands tall and proud over is the large section of sandy beaches. Some stand out more than others like Konyaalti and Lara beach in the main centre. The latter is home to the Sand Land Festival during summer, but if you find yourself on the outskirts, Kaputas beach graces the pages of many travel magazines about Turkey.
Reached by a long, winding flight of steps, the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean are what makes Kaputas famous but heading further west is Patara, Turkey’s longest beach stretching for 18 kilometres. As well as being a windsurfing hub, Patara is also a vital breeding ground for the endangered Caretta turtle.
Antalya aquarium offers education themes with a fun twist, ensuring undying loyalty from families. As home to forty aquariums, and a long tunnel of 131 meters, it is a full-blown exploration of underwater and reptile species which reside in the Wild Park Section while the ice museum is of a favourite playground for kids.
Ocean Ride XD Cinema makes it seem like you are swimming with deadly beasts such as the shark or watch smaller sharks in the Atlantis themed section. Antalya aquarium is an all-rounder particularly appealing to families but fun for people of all ages.
Staying in line with landmarks of natural beauty, Antalya is home to roughly 20 waterfalls, all making their way from the Taurus mountain range into the Mediterranean Sea. Three of them are famous and considered must-see attractions of Antalya.
Lower Duden waterfalls, sitting just outside the main city centre are best viewed from a boat trip, while Kursunlu waterfall although not as large lies in a scenic pine forest. Lastly, the fast rushing water of Manavgat waterfalls is more about length than height, but all three can be combined on a day trip sold by many travel agents that also have plenty more ideas of things to do in Antalya.
Further Reading: Find out more about the Antalya region here.