Difference between revisions of "Antalya"
Revision as of 19:37, 4 October 2012
Antalya is the largest city on the Turkish Mediterranean coast, and is one of the hubs of the so-called Turkish Riviera.
Having entered the scene in 150 BC as Attalia, named after its founder, Attalos II, king of Pergamon, Antalya has ever attracted a wide array of travellers, including Paul the Apostle, and Ibn Battuta among others. Antalya had replaced Phaselis—beautiful ruins of which now lie to south of the city, between Kemer and Olympos—as the main harbour of the surrounding region during the reign of Seljuks, in early 1200s, but the lack of a large hinterland (or, rather, lack of good connections with its mountainous hinterland) meant for much of its history eversince that it was a provincial coastal town, albeit with a multicultural community of Muslims, Christians, and Jews. As the centre of a region with beautiful beaches, verdant mountains, and a mindblowing number of ancient ruins, the tourism investments started in 1970s, which changed the fate of the city considerably. However, as most of the visitors (make no mistake—they are in the range of millions annually) to the region are actually on "all-inclusive" vacation packages nowadays, they are immediately taken from the airport to the huge resorts lining the coastline of hundreds of kilometres, where they stay until the end of their holidays except perhaps a raid or two to the nearest and the most popular attractions, so Antalya itself, especially the old town (Kaleiçi), is more of an independent traveller destination, where you will meet the other travellers of a similar mind, and the locals.
Around April, when you can perfectly get a suntan and the weather is much more bearable than summer months, is one of the best times to visit the city.
Antalya is the closest airport, served by inexpensive flights from Istanbul. (As low as $50, early booking is also available for lower prices).
Being 10 km from the city from Antalya, Antalya Airport  (IATA: AYT; ICAO: LTAI) caters for the charter flights full of holiday makers. Airlines that serve Antalya include: Transavia.com (lowcost and charters from Netherlands, France and Denmark), AtlasJet  (domestic flights), SunExpress  (dozens of flights from all over Europe), Turkish Airlines  (plenty of flights from Ankara and İstanbul-Atatürk), Aeroflot  (daily flights from Moscow-Sheremetyevo), Ukraine International Airlines  (several charter flights a week from Kiev) to Antalya. Britain is also represented by numerous Charter firms such as Thomas Cooks and Airtours.
As of March 2011, a taxi ride between the airport and the city centre will set you back € 18 (38 TL ) during the day. You can also prefer transfer companies  in order to avoid any scam. Other, more wallet-friendly options for the airport transportation include: Havaş buses can be used which are less expensive but more frequent, and they are departing on the hour from "Güllük PTT" (10 TL). There are public buses from the airport (line 600, "Terminal-Otogar") which leave on the hour and some half hours and cost 1.75 TL. To catch the public bus from the International Terminal you have to go to the domestic terminal (300m, just turn right when you leave the International Terminal), there is a small blue "D" sign next to a larger ficus tree. The blue "D" sign next to the taxi stand in front of the International Terminal won't get you anywhere; waiting there usually attracts taxi drivers (telling you truthfully: "There is no bus leaving here!") offering a ride.
To avoid taxi scams and learn routes in Antalya, you can use this up-to-date cab fare estimation tool: 
The Turkish bus system is comprehensive and you can get about anywhere from anywhere. Better spend a few more liras and you will have an unforgettable journey. Ulusoy has buses with seats that resemble business class in airplanes. There are also other bus companies, including Kamil Koc, Truva and Varan. Some companies have an onboard WLAN.
Fares are low. Simply show up at the bus station (“otogar”) and announce your destination. From most cities, there are an overnight bus options (with Antalya ). There are regular buses destined for Anatalya that run along the coastal roads and stop at tourist towns such as Kas and Fethiye.
Most travelers arrive in Marmaris from Rhodes, Greece, then bus it overland. You can also take a ferry from Kastellorizo, a tiny Greek island just off the Turkish fishing village of Kas.
The nearest train station is in Burdur, 122 km north. Although Turkish State Railways (TCDD)  ceased to operate direct passenger trains to Burdur from Istanbul, you can still buy a ticket for Pamukkale Express, which has sleeper berths as well as a coach car. You should get off the train in Dinar station and transfer to the connecting bus provided by TCDD (no extra payment other than your train ticket). Once in Burdur, all you need is to catch a minibus for Antalya, which takes one and a half hour and costs 9 TL/person one-way. All this may seem a bit of a hassle, but it is still an option if you are on a tight budget, keen on reducing your carbon footprint or hold an Inter Rail pass.
The Pamukkale Express is NOT operating as of April 2009 and it is unclear when or IF it will resume service.
Antalya offers a variety of public transportation, such as public buses, trams, mini-buses, taxicabs and dolmus.
In Antalya, buses pass from anywhere to any destination in the city. Fares are low and most buses offer air-conditioning and TV even for short routes. To travel to remote places you may need to travel to the bus terminal first. The bus terminal has its own buses with distinctive blue stripes. As of 2011 bus terminal to city to airport travel (Bus 202, "Terminal-Otogar") is possible every 30min.
Dolmus literally means "filled up". Dolmus is a large cab, a station wagon, a regular taxi or a minibus that travels a certain route. Most major public transportation stations have a dolmus station, where you just take a seat in the dolmus that travels your desired route. In Antalya dolmus does not wait until it fills up. Instead, it is scheduled. However, if empty dolmus will move slowly hoping to find more passenger. Still it has to abide its schedule and cannot stall much.
There are taxi stands all over the city where the drivers have their base and tea pot. Each taxi is metered and there are two different rates. After midnight (24:00) till morning (06:00) it will cost 50% more than the daytime fare. For popular destinations there are price lists showing the rate in Euro. A fair rate is about TRY 0.8 to 1 per kilometer.
You can also negotiate with any taxi driver to be your private tour guide. You also have to pay the gas money. This option could be quiet expensive but if you have the money, it is worth it!
The (historic) tramway has been donated by the German city of Nuremberg and connects the western Konyaalti Beach and Antalya Museum to the eastern part of the city center. It runs all 30 min. in either direction and costs 1.75 TL per person. Tramway can be used for sightseeing as it passes most beautiful places of the city center. The new tram system ("AntRay") currently (04/2011) consists of one line, serving the route Fatih-Otogar-Muratpaşa-Ismetpaşa-Meydan every 15min during the day. To get to the Kaleiçi or to the interconnection with the historic tram line, get off at Ismetpaşa station. Tickets (1.75TL) can be obtained at the stores around the stations or at specific AntRay-counters (e.g., at the Otogar). If you're unsure, just ask the helpful station guards.
By car rental
Car rentals are available in the bus terminal, air port and city center. It is advised not to use car to reach city center (specially Cumhuriyet, Atatürk, Isiklar streets, Sarampol street and old city), as finding a car park and the way people drive (sometimes you feel like you are in the race tracks) might be difficult. Be sure to abide non-parking restrictions, the municipality is very strict about it. There are destination signs on roads to help travelers. Also most of the younger locals know English will be pleased to help about your destination. You can also obtain city map from tourist information desks in the city center.
Using bicycle in crowded roads might be dangerous and tiresome(especially in summer as the temperature hits high 40's at noon (100F-120F). However, there are a few bicycle-only roads passing beside the sea having incredible views.
Antalya is rich in history and art.
Most of Antalya's historic buildings can be found along the narrow, winding streets of Kaleiçi, the old quarter. Historical, architectural and archaeological sites of note include: Yivli Minaret, Karatay Medresesi, Hıdırlık Tower, Ahi Yusuf Mescidi, Iskele Mosque, Murat Paşa Mosque, Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque, Balibey Mosque, Musellim Mosque, Seyh Sinan Efendi Mosque, Hadrian Arch, and the Clock Tower. Many structures date back to the Hellenistic era. Also The Antalya Museum has a notable archaeology collection.
You can take a short scenic cruise on the Mediterranean from the boats anchored in the harbor. Assume that the right price is about half of the first price you are offered. Don't believe their assurances that the boat is leaving right away--the boat will leave when the owners think there is no reasonable chance that more passengers can be persuaded to board. Morning cruises tend to be calmer than afternoon cruises.
The usual souvenirs are kilims, blue eyes, fake designer clothing, shoes, aromatic herbs, waterpipes and more.
If you feel the need to visit a modern shopping mall, Terracity Mall on the way to Lara has all of the international designer shops you could wish for. There is even a stylish supermarket and power boat dealer.
Pharmacies sell most prescription drugs completely legal just over the counter and at low prices. A wide array of generics (drugs containing the same agent as a brand medicine, but from less known companies) is also available. Best-sellers include Viagra, Prozac, Ventolin, Xenical, various contraceptive pills and antibiotics.
A word of caution
The export of antiques or objects considered so is strictly forbidden and will cause a lot of problems not to say hefty fines to those caught when leaving the country. Possession and possibly even commerce in Turkey is legal - just the export is banned. Be on your guard and don't believe sellers who may try to convince you of the opposite. Also, customs back home target more and more faked goods such as video, CDs, shoes, watches and the like. The odds of being caught are minimal, but you should know that you are moving on illegal terrain.
Food is extemely cheap, and good. Full meals will cost you about 10 to 20 Turkish Lira, about 5 to 11 US Dollars. Service is amazing, and only matched by its genuine friendliness. Antalya has good seafood restaurants as well. One caveat to be aware of is to make sure the quoted price is the same as the price written on the menu.
Antalya has a lively nightlife in summer. Options include bars with nargile (water pipe), games, live music and sitting around, discotheques with glamorous visitors, etc. On Konyaalti's Beach Park one club follows the next. Some of traditional houses of Kaleiçi (Old City) has been turned into bars, in which a bottle of 'Efes' beer costs between 3 TL and 5 TL, depending on the place. Their gardens shaded by trees offer a nice escape with a beer from the peak of summer heat. Raki is a traditional alcoholic beverage that tastes like licorice. Make sure you do not drink it fast otherwise you will be out quickly.
You can divide Antalya into two main areas (as far as tourists are concerned). The Old Town (Kaleiçi), as its name implies, is full of character and has beautifully restored buildings with small guest houses and more evidently luxury boutique hotels. Lara to the east of the city has many 4/5 star beach hotels that cater for the all inclusive holiday market. Both are good options, depending on what you are looking for. Of course, there are very good hotels outside of these areas, but not in the density that Old Town/Lara have.
You can just stroll around (with luggage) and you won't have to wait for long until you'll be offered 'Pansiyon' (Hostel) accommodation. Almost every second house in the Old Town is a small hotel (many of which are of very high standard, with small swimming pools and smart restaurants). A couple of years ago summers used to be packed but those days seem to be gone. The big share of visitors to this region are package tourists being channelled through 'all inclusive' programs outside the city. The going rate for a double room with en-suite is TRY 20-35 per night/room.
At Lara, a suburb to the east of Antalya, there are a lot of stunning 4/5-star hotels along the beach. These generally cater for the 'All inclusive' package holiday traveller. However, they can also make an excellent base for those wanting to visit places away from the resorts, but return to some luxury in the evening. Being a package offering, they can end up being relatively cheap. All of the hotels fall into the Splurge category.
From West to East:
Antalya Police Department has a "tourism police" section where travellers can report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity, they may have become victims of. They have staff multilingual in English, German, French, and Arabic.
Kemer to the south west is a touristic sea side region popular with the historical places, night life and hotels which is half an hour from Antalya city. Alanya to the south east is a popular tourist destination 2 hours away. Side to the east is popular with golf links and luxury hotels. Kaş which is about 2 hours drive from Antalya can be another excellent choice for extended holiday if you decide to run away from the whole crowd. Trains and buses arrive in the travel hub of Denizli. From there, dolmus take you the 10 miles or so to Pamukkale. During high season, buses run direct from tourist centers including Istanbul, Antalya, Ankara, Fethiye, Bodrum, Marmaris and Selçuk. Kalkan which is half an hour further west of Kas. A beautiful upmarket harbour town with cobbled streets and high quality restaurants. Nearby Patara has the best golden sand beach on the Mediterranean coast, and can be visited even if you are not staying there. Cirali is a coastal town even closer, with several mid-range, quiet pansiyons to stay at, including Hotel Canada, with pleasant gardens. The beach at Cirali is protected from development because sea turtles come onto shore every year to lay their eggs. The beach at nearby Olimpos is also a nice, pebble beach. Accommodations in Olimpos are more backpacker style, with treehouses especially popular with younger travelers. Demre further west from Olympos, and is the site of the St Nicolas Church, assoicated with the real Santa Claus (don't miss the larger than life Santa Claus statue in town.) Also just outside Demre are Lycian rock tombs in the cliffsides. The Antalya region has some of the finest Roman ruins in the country, including Perge and Aspendos, with the largest, most well preserved Roman amphitheater anywhere.