Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Turkish Riviera
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.
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.
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.
The Temple of Artemis, or Artemision, was a Greek temple in present-day Turkey dedicated to the goddess Artemis. It was one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world. It was built not far from Ephesus just outside the present-day town of Selcuk. The temple was completely rebuilt several times throughout history after being destroyed on multiple occasions by both nature and human factors. Little remains of the temple in its original location today since archeologists brought much of the ruins to the British Museum.
The Temple of Artemis is only a couple of miles from Ephesus, making it an easy attraction to visit. Visitors can still see one tall column and a handful of marble pieces from the foundations of the structure, and the historical location is fascinating. From the site, you can also see the ruins of St. John's Basilica, located on a hill in Selcuk.
Best known for housing the world’s largest underwater tunnel exhibit, Antalya Aquarium is a family destination on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. In addition to its 430-foot (131-meter) by 10-foot (3-meter) tunnel and 40 themed tanks, the attraction center houses a tropical reptile house, 3D cinema, and a snow-themed museum.
Named the “dead sea” in Turkish due to its calmness, Ölüdeniz is one of Turkey’s most popular – and overwhelmingly most frequently photographed – beaches, thanks to its spectacular setting along a gorgeous blue lagoon.
Beachgoers flock to two separate areas here: a long, wide strip of open beach facing the Mediterranean, known as Belcekız; and the more sheltered shoreline of the Blue Lagoon, which is inside the boundaries of a protected natural park (entrance fee) and has a dramatic backdrop of mountain scenery behind it – Babadağ, one of Turkey’s top destinations for paragliding.
Both Oludeniz Beach and the Blue Lagoon are extremely popular. Be prepared for large crowds on the beaches, particularly on weekends in the height of summer – this isn’t a place for those seeking peace and quiet – and for the inevitable slew of generic restaurants and tacky souvenir shops along the waterfront.
As if Oludeniz Blue Lagoon weren’t entrancing enough, there are also daylong boat trips that leave from here for scenic coves and beaches nearby, as well as to points of interest including Butterfly Valley. In addition, Ölüdeniz is the starting point for the Lycian Way, a 510-km (315-mile) hiking trail that runs from Fethiye to Antalya along the coast.
The Manavgat River runs down from the Taurus Mountains all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, and it’s most scenic spot is the Manavgat Waterfall (Manavgat Şelalesi). Just outside of Side, the low, wide falls make a stunning backdrop for photos and serve as a popular recreation area, with visitors coming to swim, picnic, or cruise along the river.
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.
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.
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.
More Things to Do in Turkish Riviera
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.
Adaland Aquapark is a water park in Kusadasi, Turkey on the country's west coast. In the past it has been named one of the best water parks in the world. The park has a wide variety of water slides including a head first slide, a freefall slide, loop slides, body slides, tube slides, speedy slides, slope slides, dark tunnel slides, and the world's longest family slide with tubes for two to six people. There's also a big fountain with water shooting out of the ground set to music in an area called Rain Dance where you can dance and enjoy the water. The water park has an elliptical shaped track for rafting and is the only place in Kusadasi where you can go rafting.
Adaland Aquapark also has a jacuzzi with warm bubbly water, a lazy river, a wave pool, and a pool for children. There's an activity pool where you can go swimming or sunbathing. When you're ready to take a break, there are several restaurants and bars offering hamburgers, pizza, Turkish food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and more.
St. Mary’s House in Ephesus is believed by many to be the place where the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, spent her final days, and has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors and pilgrims seeking the healing properties of the spring that runs beneath the stone home since its discovery in the 19th-century.
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.
Running for 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) between dramatic rock stacks and sheer cliffs—reaching up 1,312 feet (400 meters) high in places—Köprülü Canyon is one of Turkey’s most spectacular natural wonders. Carved out of the limestone cliffs by the Koprucay River, the canyon is the centrepiece of Köprülü Canyon National park.
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.
Kemer is a seaside resort on the Gulf of Antalya. One of the major attractions of Kemer is its natural beauty, with mountains, canyons, and pine forests a main feature. Goynuk Canyon (Göynük Kanyonu) remained an undiscovered mystery for years, but has grown in popularity with tourists of late, due not only to its scenic nature, but also its opportunities for outdoor adventures.
There are numerous local tour companies offering various canyoning and climbing tours within Goynuk Canyon. If not climbing or canyoning as part of an organized tour, it’s possible to simply drive (or take a taxi) up to the entrance and then hike all the way to the top. Visitors will be rewarded with some spectacular views and be greeted by wildlife such as goats,
rabbits, and even wild pigs along the way.
There is a small restaurant and a seating area at the site, and it’s also possible to go swimming in the canyon’s cool waters. Tour companies are on hand to provide wetsuits and helmets for an extra fee, which means adventurers can swim through to a stunning waterfall at the other side of the canyon.
The town of Alanya lies on the southern coast of Turkey in the Antalya region. It is a popular beach resort town and draws tourists from many countries around the world. One of the city's best beaches is Cleopatra Beach (Kleopatra Plajı) located on the west side of the peninsula near the Damlataş Caves. The name comes from the legend that says the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra stopped in Alanya during a voyage in the Mediterranean Sea and swam in the bay.
Kleopatra Beach is a sandy one with clear water. It is a Blue Flag beach due to its high standards for water quality, safety, and environmental services. Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. When you get hungry, there are plenty of nearby cafes and restaurants serving Turkish and international dishes. Other activities in the area include exploring the dripping Damlataş Caves, wandering through the old town, and learning about the region's rich history.
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.
Rocky coves and pine-clad cliffs make a scenic backdrop for a boat cruise, but the biggest attraction of Kekova Island (Kekova Adasi) is underwater. The uninhabited island harbors the sprawling ruins of an ancient Lycian city, submerged after an earthquake in the second century and now lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean.
The most strikingly situated of Side’s ancient ruins, the grand Temple of Apollo stands perched on the edge of the historic town, overlooking the Mediterranean. Dating back to the second century AD, the temple was believed to have been a gift from Anthony to Cleopatra and still has five of its original Corinthian columns, towering over the seafront.
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.
According to legend, Cleopatra enjoyed clandestine rendezvous with her lover, Marc Antony, on the shores of this tiny island in the Aegean Sea, just off the Gulf of Gokova. Their story makes the island a renowned romantic spot. Its other claim to fame is its unusually textured sand, which is made up of smooth, white, ground-up seashells.
The Library of Celsus is the most famous part of the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey. It was built between 110 and 135 AD by Gaius Julius Aquila in honor of his father, Celsus Polemaeanus. Unfortunately his father died before the Celsus Library was completed, and his tomb was placed in a special room beneath the ground level of the building. A statue of Athena was placed at the entrance to the tomb because Athena was the goddess of wisdom.
The Library of Celsus was two stories high and had three entrances in the front. The entrances were designed with exaggerated height in order to give the building the overall appearance of being bigger than it was. The building faces east which allowed plenty of morning light to shine into the reading rooms. The Celsus Library was once the third largest library in the ancient world, after Alexandra and Pergamum, and could hold more than 12,000 scrolls.
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