When in Alanya Turkey you should…
by Marion Smith
Exploring this seaside town will give you a sense of sheer happiness. By day 2 of a holiday you are almost guaranteed to be infected with the sense of hospitality offered by the locals. The fresh ocean air combined with the heat and sparkling blue waters will draw you into its spell of making every moment a memorable one.
According to legend, but not confirmed by historical sources, it was in Alanya where the famous Roman commander Mark Antony married Cleopatra. As the proof of his great love he gave her the city as a wedding gift.The most beautiful beach in the city is called Cleopatra beach to commemorate this momentous occasion.
This seaside town is located between the dazzling Mediterranean and Tarus mountains with the historical heart set on the rocky peninsula.There is an abundance of activities and things to see here. I have summed up what I think is most important , you can stretch it over a few days or have a whirlwind tour . The fastest way to arrive here would be to take a direct flight to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines then a connection to Alanya.
Stroll through town
The bazaar in the town centre is a stones throw away from the harbour. Wondering around the labyrinthine streets your eyes will be drawn to the array of souvenirs, clothes, bags and shoes that are sold here. On a hot day, its best to surrender to the heat and enjoy a doldrum (Turkish ice-cream) while getting purposely lost in the streets. Look out for the Turkish Sponge , that is farmed in the Marmaris sea. Many believe it to be a plant but actually its an animal. This sponge becomes so soft when wet and the salesman explained to me that cleaning your face with some olive oil and the softer of the 2 types is perfect for blocked pores.
Antique Roman Palace. This 4 star, boutique style, Roman – inspired hotel with a private beach, is ideally located with its posh rooms and suites, a spa and 2 restaurants you have everything you need. Just 2,5km from the centre of town you can take a walk along the beach front or catch a taxi directly outside the hotel. My room looked out onto the sea, it was spacious and clean. The property is decorated with sculptures , paintings and tiles of the Roman, Renaissance and Ottoman eras. Staff spoke German, Russian, Turkish and some English.
Eat at the fish market
Try going here on Tuesday as you will not only experience the excellent restaurant and selling of fresh fish but also the “ sali Pazari “ or Tuesday street market. Besides the selling of fish there are various kinds of meat, spices and other things. We ate at the Balikcim lokantasi,( fish restaurant ) found at the entrance. We started off with a fish soup and moved onto the Hamsi ( Black sea anchovies), prepared in a technique known as tava, the fish are dipped in corn flour, arranged in a spiral formation in a pan and sautéed over high heat, flipping them midway. They are crispy and fragrant but can be rich.According to Turkish people the anise-flavoured Raki is the best match for fish. The market is located on the west side of the city and is a spot that deserves a visit and meal.
Indulge in a private cabana on Kleopatra beach
The most popular beach in Alanya, known for its beautiful sandy beach and sunshine you can lie on the beach or hire a cabana. The story goes that the Ptolemaic princess is believed to have bathed here on her visit with Mark Anthony. This blue flag beach leans backwards into the skirts of the peninsula. With its clear, sparkling waters swimmers can swim the stretch along the coast from to Fosforlu Cave and with goggles see some of the fish and other beauties lurking under the water. To enter the beach is free but you can pay for additional services.
Damlatas Cave helps asthma suffers
Discovered in 1948 unexpectedly during the construction of the port. It is said that there are immense health benefits of the humid atmosphere in the cave. More than 4000 people visit the cave annually for the healing properties.They stay for 21 days and spend 4 hours each morning in the cave. For this reason it is not open to the general public during 6h00 and 10h00am. The cave was the first in Turkey opened to tourists, with 95% humidity and temperates ranging between 22 – 23 degrees you wont be staying inside for long. The beautiful stalactites and stalagmites were formed 15000 years ago.
Enjoy the view from the cable car
Built 300m high with a 900m length in the line, this cable car was opened in 2017 and takes about 3 minutes to reach the top. It has 17 cars and runs daily. As it glides up the mountain to the historical Alanya castle on top you will experience breathtaking panoramic views of Cleopatra beach and other beaches in the distance. This birds eye view is best at sunset if you are wanting to capture some special moments. Operating hours are 9h30 to 9h00pm and a round trip costs 18TL. When you arrive at the top there is a free shuttle bus to save you the steep walk. If you are wanting to see the castle as part of your trip make sure you are there before 5pm as the Castle closes at 5h30pm.
Climb the stairs to the top of Kizil Kule ( Red Tower )
This hexagonal building , a symbol of the city was built in 1226 to protect the castle and nearby shipyard. Five storeys high this defence tower was constructed by Seljuk Sultan Aladdin Keykubad 1. Its worth the climb of the 85 steps to the top, on the roof top terrace you will have magnificent views of the harbour and the ship yard. It was built using red bricks as stone blocks were difficult to lift after a certain point. After being restored in 1950’s it was opened to visitors in 1979.Open daily from 9hoo until 7h00pm , best to buy a combo ticket of 12TL which includes the Red Tower, Shipyard and Caves.
This is the most interesting place in Alanya to visit. The iconic castle stands proudly over looking the sweeping beaches . The remains of this 13th Century Seljuk fortress was built by Alaeddin Keykubat1 after the conquest of Alanya in 1220. The walls are 6,5km in length and originally it had 140 towers along the walls and around 400 cisterns. Its advisable to wear good walking shoes,once at the top you can also wonder the streets of the quaint village of Ehmedek,which was the Turkish quarter during Ottoman and Seljuk times.
Enjoy the various souvenir shops , all of them sell the calabash whether it be lights or hand painted designs. Be sure to look out for the lady that makes silk scarves the traditional way weaving them on her wooden hand operated loom. The Suleymaniye Mosque ( oldest in Alanya ) built in the 16th century is open daily. This open air museum is accessible for people in wheelchairs to see the upper part of the castle on the newly built wooden ramps.Open 7 days a week from 8h00 until 07h00pm.
Alanya Cutural Houses
The Omurlu Kemal Atli house was built by the Yaylali family at the end of the 19th Century. It was restored by the Alanya municipality. Upper floors of Alanya houses are separated into winter and summer sections. The winter section is the bedroom and Kitchen, spaces with massive stone walls and less openings are used during hours with high temperatures. The main living area in an Alanya house is upstairs. The spaces on this floor are used for functions like living, eating and hosting guests. The beautiful wooden fire places are the focus point in these rooms. Along side these 2 houses is the Aksebe Mausoleum, built around 1230. One window area was for Muslim prayers and the second window for Christian prayers during the that era. To get a taste of how families lived in this century take time to walk through these homes and gather an in-depth knowledge in to day to day life.
Take a walk along the harbour fort walls and pass by the Love garden and Saklibache Sebithane & Cafe, both cosy spots to sit under the trees and smell the sea. A bit further on you will pass 2 or so catapults and after ducking through a hole you will be walking on the rocky shore that takes you to an impressive battery ram . On entering the shipyard I was extremely impressed by a multitude of things, first was the view complimented by the sound of the waves gently rolling in and out then secondly by the echoing chambers built out of stone of immense proportions. One of the chambers displays a frame of a typical boat, lastly was the way the shipyard has been restored and provides information for both Turkish and english speaking people. On a combo ticket entrance will be 4TL.
Pirate boats and light house
Step aboard an atmospheric pirate boat and join a motley crew of pirates, buccaneers and landlubbers on a seafaring adventure. Not ideal for children under 5 years, the 6 hour cruise includes buffet lunch, entertainment like music, treasure hunts, foam party and plenty of stops for a swim in the crystal blue waters. You will pass landmarks like Alanya Castle, Lover’s Cave and Cleopatra beach. If you are really lucky you could spot dolphins or sea turtles. You can book at the harbour when you have chosen which boats character appeals to you more. With no islands around Alanya you will be sailing out into the blue waters and back.Prices range from 150 TL per person depending on the boat company and packages offered. While at the harbour take a walk down to the light house and add a love lock to railings. Sunset photos here are amazing.
Located opposite the tourist office this museum is divided into 2 sections, with displays of archaeological and ethnographic artefacts. It contains numerous ceramic, bronze, marble and glass pieces from the Hellenistic , Roman and Byzantine periods. This museum has been operating since 1967, when it was decided to share the finds gathered in the region of the city with tourists. In 2012 it was completely renovated and is now a modern facility which includes all exhibits having information in both Turkish and English, a playroom for children, and exhibits in the garden. One of the pieces that I enjoyed reading about was the Bronze Pegasus , a winged horse from mythology. Another was the statue of Hercules. With an ideal location in the city centre take time to get to know the history that forms the roots of this city.
Open 8h30 until 7h30pm.
Dont leave Alanay without enjoying a traditional breakfast spread at Zencefil Cafe. This family owned restaurant & cafe opened in March 2015.Initially the land was a garden of fruit trees, now it is a cosy spot with delicious food. Without a doubt the best Turkish breakfast I have ever had. The home made jams included pumpkin, watermelon and egg plant.My favourite was the egg plant. Another yummy choice was the cheese with black cherry sauce dripping off the side. Located up on the hill you have sweeping views of the town below and sea in the distance.Decorations include evil eyes and colourful ceramic items hanging from a tree and other other brightly coloured items dotted around. With indoor and outdoor seating and a play area for children there is something for everyone. Open from 9h00 until 12pm. Have an Alanya breakfast in the morning and return in the afternoon for the Alanya noodles. You wont regret over eating here.
The worlds longest cake was baked in Alanya on April 26, 2006 and is a Guinness World records
The first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk ordered the name to be changed from Alaiye to Alanya. It is said that it resulted from a spelling mistake of a telegrapher , who had sent this name to Ataturk.
One shouldn’t leave Alanya without seeing the grandeur of the Castle or any of the other places listed. There is so much more to do in this seaside town that you will not be bored for a minute.
Mulling over my time in Alanya as I write this I wish I had spent so much more time in this delightful spot , the municipality runs the town incredibly well, they not only cater for able bodied people but also for those with disabilities. Each hotel, shopping centre, tourist attraction and public transport has made allowance for those in wheelchairs. Turkey is full of fascinating places to visit, I often wonder if I will ever run out of places to see
A special than you to Yildiz who made my time so enjoyable in Alanya. Without her outstanding organisational skills I would not have seen half of these incredible locations. Also a big thank you to Mr Uyar, the director of Parks and Gardens in Alanya for his assistance in arranging for me to see all the locations and experience this magical town.
“ let the beauty of what you love be what you do “ Rumi
Little Black Book
Call : 0242 513 7128 for Zencefil Cafe or look them up on Facebook.
www.alanya.bel.tr for more information on the area
My trip was in co operation with Turkish Airlines and Alanya Municipality All opinions are my own .
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