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Monday, 27 April 2009 00:00

Six things you must do in...Antalya, Turkey

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Legend has it that 2,000 years ago King Attalos II of Pergamon sent his men to locate 'Heaven on Earth'.

They found this glorious stretch of coast, with deep blue sea under spectacular cliffs backed by the Taurus Mountains. The well-pleased monarch founded the forerunner to Antalya.

Springs still gush off the mountains and Greek, Roman and Byzantine antiquities are all around. You could hire a car in Antalya and take easy day trips to the best ancient sites, such as the prehistoric Karain Cave and the classical ruins at Perge, Side and Aspendos.

My pick is the high and impregnable (to Alexander the Great) mountaintop city of Termessos, one of the few places to resist him. Better still, take a gulet (a traditional wood boat) around the Gulf, as far as Kas in the west and Alanya in the east, calling in now and then at some deserted pine-enclosed inlet.


You may not actually see a newly hatched loggerhead turtle no bigger than your hand struggling to the sea at «irali. (Around full moon, first week of September is best.) And you would be lucky to catch that magical night-time moment in the spring, when their mother heaves out of the jet-black Mediterranean-to lay eggs in the sand.

But go to this village on the twomile beach anyway and rejoice that such a deeply ancient natural event happens at all in such a busy tourist area. Cirali is an inspiration. A strict coastal conservation programme is run by locals, backed by the environmental body WWF, who see this as a successful model for sustainable tourism. Cafes and shops were moved back from the beach, which is kept safe and clean for the turtles. There are plenty of small family-run hotels (pansyons).

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Kaleici, the old centre of Antalya, could easily have been ruined when mass tourism swept into Antalya in the Eighties. Instead it was preserved, recently winning a top prize in the Turkish tourism 'Oscars'. This tight swirl of old red-roofed Turkish and Greek houses, threaded by narrow cobbled streets, sits above the marina - on the site of the old Roman port. There are lots of restaurants and small hotels (£20 a night or less), but it's worth a stroll around even if you don't stay. The Roman triumphal arch commemorating the visit by Hadrian is the top photo subject, along with the 13th Century Yivli Minaret and the originally Roman Clock Tower. Then take in some sightseeing from the tram which runs up and down the seafront (41p) to the city's main beach at Konyaalti, and the Antalya Museum, packed with wonders from the region's Roman and Greek sites.


For many years, a footpath in Turkey meant some ancient, twisty route that villagers took to reach their fields. Never a signpost in sight.

Then the Lycian Way opened in 1996. The 320-mile path between Antalya and Fethiye was soon named one of the world's best long walks. It winds through tremendous coastal scenery, passing many ancient remains from the Lycian period - places you could never reach by car. This year it is upgraded, with more signs and distance indicators. And now it is possible for cyclists to use it, although they grade it 'medium to hard', with many ascents and descents. It is easiest near Fethiye. Avoid high summer, which is savagely hot. This year should see the first cycling marathon on this unique track.

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See Dubai-size creations at the world's biggest sand castle competition on Antalya's Lara beach from May 20 to October 20. Sand sculptors from around the world will take days to build them. And yet the competitors at the Sandland festival still use only sand and water. This year's theme is mythology: five sculptors will open the festival and try to make a Chinese dragon in 25 days, using 1,000 tons of sand, aiming for a world record. Later subjects will include heroes from Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Japan and the Mayan and Aztec periods.


Turkey has taken another step in green tourism. The country has zoned huge areas of coastline as no-build areas. I know a quiet bay where a hotel built without permission was demolished. In February, Turkey signed the Kyoto agreement to cut CO2 emissions. Now the Calista Resort in the pine forests at Belek, outside Antalya, has won a Green Star award for ecofriendly accommodation. It scored highly for recycling, renewable energy, wise use of water, raising staff ecoawareness and using local produce ( There are many small alternatives to these big resorts. A good example is Olympos Lodge at «irali, just 12 rooms in small bungalows (


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