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 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.
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 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.
Carved into the cliffside above town is a group of ancient Lycian tombs that have become some of Fethiye’s most famous landmarks. Set higher than the rest, the most important of the tombs was built in 350 B.C. for “Amyntas, son of Hermagios” (according to a Greek inscription on the wall of the tomb), who is thought to have been a local Lycian ruler or nobleman.
The entrance to the Amyntas Tomb was carved out of the rock so as to look like a temple portico, with two Ionic-style columns topped by a triangular pediment. Grave robbers appear to have broken into the tomb a long time ago, as is clear from the missing panel in the bottom-right-hand side of the doorway.
About 500 meters down and to the right (east) is a cluster of several smaller tombs carved into the cliff face; very little is known about the identities of those buried here.
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.