An essential piece of kit for an Antalya excursion? Marshmallows. Forget telling ghost stories around a campfire. You’ll be toasting your treats from flames flickering from a mountain face. Or brewing tea. Whichever quenches your adventurer’s appetite. Things to do in Antalya range from the expected – hello museums – to the down right spectacular – hello mountain of fire and hill carved necropolis. Yes, there’s the usual cafes around town, but when you’re this close to some of the world’s most intriguing places? Ditch the barista-crafted latte and brew your own beverage on the side of a mountain. Milk and two sugars optional.
It’s hard to talk about this city without mentioning the scope and variety of Antalya’s shopping centres. Yes, the malls are shiny, spacious shopping meccas. But, there’s more to this Turkish city that big brand bargains and fast food courts…
Depending on how outdoorsy you are, a trip to a museum can go either way…Treasure trove of culture or fusty time trap that keeps you from more exciting pursuits? Happily, Antalya museums pitch things just right for even the most adventurous of us. The main draw, the Antalya Museum falls very much into the treasure trove category. Managing to stop many of Turkey’s curious and archeologically important artefacts from being exported, the 13 halls now display everything from natural history specimens to coins, art and clothes.
Time poor? Trot along to either the Antalya Toy Museum – a quaint way to spend an hour pondering childhood from decades gone by – or the Atatürk House Museum. The Atatürk house once housed the founder of Turkey, Kemal Atatürk. A smidge more highbrow than 19th century toys, you’ll step back in time to when Atatürk visited Antalya. There’s no evidence that points to his favourite eatery, but we can only assume, were he still here today, he’d be in the market for the best food in Antalya. On that note, the blissful Luna Garden is just a 5 minute walk away.
Orbzii tip: If you are an ardent museum visitor, do check out the many museum passes available. The ‘Mediterranean Pass’ covers Antalya, but the Museum Pass Turkey gives you access to 300 museums across Turkey over 15 days. Challenge accepted?
Let’s switch things up a bit with a very different Antalya attraction. Sandland. The title very much gives this one away folks. A year–round exhibit of sand sculptures may not be everyone’s bag, but we challenge you not to be charmed or wowed by the efforts gone to here. Wonders of the world, famous faces, deities – no subject to grand goes unmoulded by these sand artists. You’ll be even more impressed when you discover all that’s used is sand and water to create the sculptures. A little ‘magic’ spray once the works are completed keeps everything in place – though Sandland insist it’s not hairspray or anything similar. Pop along to see the sculptures, get little ones crafting in the workshop – and keep in mind, these creations are affected by rain and weather, so while they might not all be pristine when you visit, they are still better than anything we can muster with our bucket and spade.
Normally, if something’s 30km away from the city centre, it would be a stretch to slip it into the ‘around town’ section. But, Antalya is such a sprawling spot, that it’s hard to know where to draw the line. Regardless, this one’s worth hopping in the hire car for. You’ll be setting a course for Güllük Dağı National Park, where, on arrival, you’ll be slipping into something akin to a hiking boot. Now is not the time to be fashion-forward. You’ll need sturdy footwear where you’re going. Which is, essentially, a site choc-full of roman ruins, tombs and a necropolis. Yes, the hike that sticks to the path is nice enough, but the real rewards require an added touch of scampering.
Orbzii tip: The ruins here haven’t quite stood the test of time. Not that ruins are every perfect, but an earthquake has set them back further still. For an amphitheatre that’s so well-preserved it’s still in use? Pop Aspendos Theater in your sat nav and prepare to be suitably wowed.
Just a road trip away…
Head east, away from the centre of Antalya and you’ll reach, Belek. Chances are, you’ll not go much further as this is Turkey’s golfing riviera. A green and grassy belt of coastline where you’ll find all of Antalya’s golf courses. A grand option if you’ve hauled your clubs to Turkey. If not, head south for some very surprising sights…
It’s rare to find yourself in the vicinity of a city of the dead. Rarer still to find one carved into a hillside. Just a 2hr 30min drive from Antalya, this vast archaeological site is open to the curious Mondays to Fridays. There’s a lot of history to get through at the Myra Necropolis, too much to cover here. But it’s safe to say, much has happened since this spot was created in 4BC. You’re looking at a place that was once a show-stopping venue for the great and the good to be buried. Or more aptly, to have a grand hillside house built for them to spend their eternal days in.
Orbzii tip: Dark tourism often comes with a bit of gritty realism. None more so than Myra, whose one of many claims to fame is that it’s the final resting place of Santa. St Nicholas died here in 365, which is the bleakest of thoughts for anyone who still believes.
We’ve got just two words to entice adventurers to put this on their list of Antalya excursions. Fire. Mountain. Yes, in its simplest form Yanartaş is a peak that literally breathes fire. Many of you will have stopped reading and be booking your tickets right now. And, well, you’d be right to. Whether you brave the sulphurous belches for what can only be described as an epic Instagram shot – or you come to marvel at yet another of nature’s wonders – bring some water, tea bags and a suitable vessel. Put those flames to good use and pop a brew on. You’ll be just about ready for a cuppa, as the flames are found at the top of a robust set of stone steps. Worried the flames might be out when you drop by? They’ve been going for 2,500 years and show no sign of stopping.
Orbzii tip: The flames do look better at night – and though it might be busier, it’ll help you find the route to the top in the dark.
Olympos Bey Coastal National Park
If you’ve contemplated adding Yanartaş to your ‘things to do in Antalya’ wish list, but need further convincing, consider this option. The fire mountain is part of the Olympos Bey Coastal National Park, which also happens to be home to a rather nice beach. Plus, scattered across the park are several Roman ruins. So you’ve got a fire breathing mountain, more geological wonders, 850+ species of plants to try and identify and some rather exciting inhabitants. Wolves, jackals, wild boar, bobcats and bear have all found a home in the forest – along with 3 species of butterfly that are only found in Turkey. On shore? In summer, you may well be lucky enough to see some sea turtles laying their eggs.
Orbzii tip: If the presence of bears and bobcats has you a smidge fearful, try seeing the coast and mountains by cable car. The ‘sea to sky’ cable takes the leg work out of the mountains and delivers a view of the changing landscape below. Keep an eye out for imperial eagles on the way up.