Antalya Old Town - or Kaleici - is the picturesque old quarter in the center of present day Antalya. With its narrow winding streets and historic wooden houses, bars, restaurants and Ottoman-style boutique hotels, it’s a lovely place to wander around or base yourself while visiting Antalya.
Kaleici can trace its orgins back to the Roman period, when it grew around the old harbor, protecting the harbor from the west and the passage of produce from the east. Originally surrounded by massive stone walls and several gates, Kaleici has only two walls and one gate remaining.
Imposing Hadrian’s Gate is a glorious example of Roman architecture and was constructed in 130 AD to commemorate Emperor Hadrian’s visit to Kaleici. It has a triple-arched portal and decorative marble columns and is supported by enormous, turreted stone towers (from a different era). Hadrian’s Gate remains the most impressive way to enter the Old Town.
The beautiful spot known as Kelebekler Vadisi, or “Butterfly Valley,” holds an almost mythical attraction for many travelers to Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, perhaps because of its relative isolation: the narrow, steeply walled cove can only be accessed by boat or on foot. To add to the mystique, the valley takes its name from the many species of butterflies and moths that breed here during the winter, including the brightly colored and rarely seen Jersey tiger.
From the secluded beach at the entrance to the verdant gorge that leads to a 60-foot waterfall at the back, the setting is simply delightful. Although there is a well-trodden path to the waterfall it’s a good idea to bring waterproof shoes, as some wading through the streambed is necessary.
Butterfly Valley makes an easy day trip by boat from Ölüdeniz, but in order to fully soak up the atmosphere you might want to stay a few days.
The Church of the Holy Savior in Chora is one of the most beautiful Byzantine churches still in existence today. Originally built in the 5th century, it was part of a monastery complex that stood outside the old city walls of what was then Constantinople. The name “Chora” refers to that location and even after it was mostly rebuilt in the early 11th century, the church retained the name.
An earthquake in the 12th century caused a partial collapse of the church and repairs weren’t completed until the early 14th century that it was completed thanks to funding from the great Byzantine statesman, Theodore Metochites. Most of the gorgeous mosaics and frescoes in the building date to that period and represent the best of the Palaeogian Renaissance. The mosaics depict various biblical scenes, including the birth of Christ and the journey of the Magi, as well as major events in the life of the Virgin Mary.
Located on the Sixth Hill near the highest point in Istanbul, the Mihrimah Sultan Mosque is one of the most visible landmarks in the city. One of two mosques in the city with the same name (the other no longer functions as a mosque), it was designed by famous imperial architect Mimar Sinan and built in the mid-16th century in honor of Suleyman the Magnificent’s favorite daughter. The mosque forms part of a larger complex that includes a madrassah, primary school, Turkish bath and shrine.
The mosque stands on a terrace built over a row of shops, whose rents were intended to sustain the mosque financially. Visitors will enter the mosque through an impressive porch with seven domed bays flanked by marble and granite columns. The interior is simple, but elegant. Multiple earthquakes damaged the mosque in the 18th and 19th centuries, including the narrow minaret that fell through the roof of the mosque during an 1894 earthquake.
The Ataturk Maouselum, part of the Anıt Kabir (literally ""memorial tomb""), is the mausoleum of Mustaga Kemal Ataturk, the leader of the Turkish War of Independence and the founder and first president of the Republic of Turkey. The Anit Kabir encapsulates both architectural impressiveness and historical significance, making it one of Anakara's must sees.
Anit Kabir's construction spanned 9 years and commenced in 1944. It consists of four main parts - the Road of Lions, the Ceremonial Plaza, the Hall of Honor (the location of Atatürk's tomb) and the Peace Park that surrounds the monument.
Inside of the ceremonial plaza you can find several museum rooms displaying memorabilia and personal artifacts of Ataturk, giving visitors a sense of the famous leader's life. The Hall of Honor is an impressively lofty structure, lined in marble and decorated with mosaics. An immense marble cenotaph stands at the northern end of the hall above the actual tomb.
The Damlatas Caves are a series of dripping caves in the coastal town of Alanya, Turkey. They were discovered accidentally in 1948 during mining activities at a quarry that was being used to build the harbor. The caves are located on the western side of the peninsula and can be accessed by a passageway that is 164 feet long followed by a cylindrical chamber. Here visitors will see stalactites and stalagmites that were formed over a period of 15,000 years.
The air inside the cave is said to be beneficial for people with asthma. It has 10 to 12 times as much carbon dioxide as normal air and 95% humidity. Because of this, a large number of tourists come to Alanya each year with the specific purpose of curing their asthma. They stay for three weeks and spend four hours each morning inside the caves, at a greatly reduced rate. During this time, the caves are only open to asthma patients.
Located on the European side of Istanbul, Taksim Square is the heart of the modern part of the city. It takes its name from the stone reservoir on the west side of the square, which today houses the Taksim Republic Art Gallery. Sultan Mahmud I originally established the square as the point where water lines from north of Istanbul converged before branching off to other parts of the city.
Today, Taksim Square buzzes with activity day and night. With Istiklal Caddesi, the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, ending in the square, it is surrounded by shops, restaurants and high end hotels, making it a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. Over the years, it has also been home to numerous public celebrations, parades and demonstrations.
In the center of the square, you’ll find the Monument of the Republic, constructed in 1928 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey after the Turkish War of Independence.
Before there was Izmir, there was Smyrna, an ancient Roman city on the Aegean coast of Anatolia (now Turkey). Evidence of this fact in modern-day Izmir is most apparent upon visiting ancient Agora, which was the name for a “public gathering place or market” in ancient Greek city-states.
The Agora of Smyrna is one of the best preserved ancient agoras in the world today, in large part due to its excellent open-air museum on site. Built by Alexander the Great and later rebuilt following an earthquake, the still-standing columns, archways and structures offer a glimpse into what a Roman bazaar must have looked like. But there’s more than just the remains of an ancient city here; on the edge of this ancient landmark lies the remains of a Muslim cemetery, with many gravestones dotting the perimeter. Walk through Colonnades of Corinthian columns and among statues of ancient Greek gods and goddesses to ponder the past.
One of the most important and best-preserved remains of the ancient city of Halicarnassus, the Bodrum Amphitheater boasts a dramatic location, carved into the hillside above the city of Bodrum. Originally constructed in the fourth century B.C. during the reign of King Mausolus, the grand, open-air venue wasn’t fully completed until the Roman era, with structural changes that were made for hundreds of years up until the second century A.D.
The 13,000-seat amphitheater is one of the oldest in Anatolia, and thanks to careful restoration, it remains in use, hosting concerts and theatrical performances during the summer months. The atmospheric venue is famed for its remarkable acoustics and magnificent panoramic views of the modern-day city of Bodrum, neighboring Gumbet and the surrounding Bodrum peninsula.
Just inland from the main port area and east of the ancient amphitheater is Fethiye’s old town, known as Paspatur. The narrow streets here are filled with shops and street stalls selling everything from Turkish carpets, jewelry and antiques to edible goodies like spices and Turkish delight; there are also touristic knick-knacks aplenty. Even if you’re not planning on buying anything, Paspatur is a great place for wandering around and people-watching, or for getting a bite to eat at one of the many cafés and eateries. Thanks to a canopy of vines above, its shaded streets are pleasant even during the height of summer. Nearby is Fethiye’s main fish market, where you’ll see local residents shopping and where you can even purchase your own fish and have it cooked up for you to eat at one of the nearby restaurants. While you’re in the area, you may also want to stop by the Eski Cami, Fethiye’s oldest mosque, or the Eski Hamam, a Turkish bath dating back to the Ottoman period.
One of the largest public parks in Istanbul, Emirgan Park covers 117 acres on a hillside along the shores of the Bosphorus Strait. In Byzantine times, the area was covered with cypress trees and by the mid-16th century became known as Feridun Bey Park. By the 1860s, the park was owned by Khediva Ismail Pasha, the Ottoman governor of Egypt and Sudan, who built three wooden pavilions that remain standing today.
The Yellow, Pink and White Pavilions within the park were restored in the late 1970s and then opened to the public. The Yellow Pavilion stands in the center of the park, overlooking the Bosphorus, and features traditional Ottoman architecture and rich interior decorations. The Pink Pavilion is also a typical Ottoman house and is often used for weddings or other events. Not far from the Yellow Pavilion, the White Pavilion was built in a neo-classical style and is now a cafeteria and restaurant.
Kadifekale, also known as The Velvet Castle, presides over the town from its vantage point on top of Kadifekale hill.
Built by General Lysimachos, a successor of Alexander the Great, Kadifekale appears to have acted as both a castle and a fort, giving clear views over much of the city and across to the Gulf of Izmir.
Restoration work is underway at Kadifekale but you can see the castle gate, Roman cisterns, watch tower and some castle walls.
Perhaps better known by tourists as Pamukkale, Hierapolis is an ancient city of the Lycus River valley famed for its sacred hot springs.
There’s a lot to see at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, whose most popular attraction includes the thermally heated Sacred Pool where you can swim among the remains of ancient Roman columns, toppled into the water by various earthquakes.
Among the ruins are the remains of the Temple of Apollo (Apollo was believed by ancients to have been the divine founder of the city), the Gate of Domitian, the tomb of Flavius Zeuxis, necropolis (graveyard), the Plutonium (a cave believed to have been the entrance to the underworld), and the theater.
Among these, the theater is perhaps the most well-preserved. Constructed around 200BC, it could hold 20,000 spectators in its day. These days, just 30 rows remain.
The “fairy chimneys” of Cappadocia make up the surreal landscape of unique rock formations and valleys of this area of Turkey. They were formed centuries ago of ash, lava, and basalt from the activity of three volcanoes here. What is left behind today is dozens of these fairytale-like, otherworldly formations that look straight out of a fantasy or science-fiction film (in fact, parts of Star Wars were filmed here.)
As the rock formation base is often soft, throughout history those who have inhabited the area have carved their homes and dwellings out of the fairy chimney rock. As a result, Cappadocia is filled with fascinating Byzantine churches, historic homes, even entire underground cities to explore. The tops or caps of the chimney-like pinnacles are harder, which has protected the structures throughout many years. The Open Air Museum of Goreme is a spectacular place to view the many uses of the formations throughout history, as early as the 4th century.
Often nicknamed the St Tropez of Turkey, Bodrum has earned itself a stellar reputation among cruise travelers. The lively Bodrum Marina, a well-equipped and modern harbor with space for up to 500 boats, is at the heart of its sailing community. Even if you won’t be docking your private yacht in the marina, a stroll along the scenic waterfront provides an atmospheric introduction to the city with its line of designer shopping outlets, luxury hotels, top-class seafood restaurants and stylish selection of bars and cafes.
As well as being a place that offers yachts for hire and day cruises around the Bodrum Peninsula, the colorful marina also hosts a number of international boat races and festivals throughout the year, including the prestigious Bodrum Cup yacht regatta each October.
With its crystal-clear waters teeming with colorful corals and sweeping coastal cliffs giving way to sandy beaches and secluded coves, the Bodrum Peninsula is one of Turkey’s most scenic destinations, stretching for 174 km along the northwestern Aegean coast. Bodrum, built on the site of the ancient city of Halicarnassus, is the main gateway to the region and the most developed of its towns. Legions of tourists are steadily drawn to Bodrum’s lively waterfront and numerous archaeological gems, including the ruins of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.
Touring the peninsula makes a popular day or multi-day trip from Bodrum. Heading west along the coast, the bustle of city life soon gives way to sleepy fishing villages, hilltops capped with whitewashed windmills and ancient olive groves. There’s plenty to see and do around the peninsula.
Located in the city of Bursa, the Green Mosque is part of a larger complex that also includes a madrassah, tomb, kitchen and bath. Commissioned by Sultan Mehmed I Celebi, it was built between 1419 and 1421 in an architectural style that would later become known as “Bursa Style.” Based on a reverse T-plan, the mosque was made of sandstone and covered with marble panels. Two minarets that could only be accessed through the sultan’s apartments were added later.
The Green Mosque likely got its name from the blue green tiles that once adorned the exteriors of its domes. Similar tiles still embellish the interior walls and ceiling. The imposing entrance features two marble sofas on either side and a variety of inscriptions and arabesques, including a long Arabic inscription in bronze above the door. Underneath the central dome sits white marble fountain with an octagonal pool. An earthquake damaged the mosque in 1855, after which it underwent extensive renovations.