Antalya lies on the southern coast of Turkey and boasts long stretches of beaches and the nice temperate Mediterranean sea. It is primarily known as a beach resort, but it turns out there are actually loads of really cool things to do in Antalya. Well, some of them are slightly outside of the city itself, but it makes a great base.
Our stop in Antalya was for 4 nights and came in the middle of our trip. We had planned to treat it as a fairly chill stop, planning in some beach time as well as seeing some of the sights.
Antalya Old Town
We chose to stay in the old town in Antalya. This was only about a 20 minute taxi ride from the airport so we hopped in one as it was evening time already when we arrived. We wanted to grab some food and go make some friends over drinks in our hostel.
The old town itself, known as Kaleici, is located around the harbour area in town and is home to lots of restaurants and shops. It also has the famous Hadrian’s Gate, which, you guessed it, was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian on a trip to the area. Its worth stopping by for a look, it is impressive, but not much to do there other than appreciate the history and architecture.
We had a great few evenings enjoying the harbour front watching the sunset with a few drinks. You could even sit down here on loungers at the tiny section of beach, which had a small cafe and doesn’t close until the sun has gone down.
There were plenty of pubs around this area so we managed a pretty good one back to our hostel which was lots of fun. A good few of them had live music on as well which always adds to the vibe of an evening, we really liked staying here. Of course you could base yourselves in one of the huge beachfront hotel resorts if that is what you fancy, but we were on a backpacker budget here.
We even found a bar that was showing Premier League football for the Liverpool vs Chelsea game. This is always an important one. Why? Well Craig is a Liverpool fan and I support Chelsea. Loser was meant to do a shot of Raki. In the end we shared that Raki thankfully, as Chelsea lost and Raki is the worst!
Funky Monkey Hostel
We stayed at the Funky Monkey hostel which also has a pub attached to it, so we were hoping for god fun people to hang out with. The arrival process wasn’t super clear, the guy seemed a bit confused but we showed him our booking and we were finally taken up to a private room, which had a bathroom just outside it. Mercifully it did have aircon.
It was an ok hostel, the kind of place that felt like it had the potential to be really amazing but just hadn’t quite reached that yet. The guy running it was a bit intense and weird sometimes, but there general crowd who were staying were very cool and we definitely made some friends for life there, so can’t really complain!
There may be better hostels around but it was certainly adequate and there were people around so I wouldn’t say not to go there, but I wouldn’t go shouting about it being amazing either.
About 20km outside of the city, there is Kursunlu Selalesi Nature park. In this park there are a few sets of waterfalls, as well as a nice walk through the natural landscape. It was pretty cheap to go in, only costing us the equivalent of a few pounds each. We got a taxi out here, which again was a few pounds per person. There were plenty waiting in the carpark so we assumed it would be fine to pick one up for our onward journey too.
As we entered the park we were a little concerned about the sight that met us. Lots of little huts selling tourist tat, snacks, donkey rides, photos with parrots, all sorts of nonsense.
We ran that gauntlet and hoped the crowds might thin out, however in hindsight I think we made a mistake coming on a Sunday, as it was pretty packed with locals. There were people everywhere.
It possibly didn’t help that the main waterfall is almost at the entrance, so people sort of bunch up there around the main attraction, which cannot be helped. The waterfall however was beautiful. Really turquoise blue water pooled at the bottom, with trees all around. Definitely a beautiful spot.
We walked right underneath. Sadly you can’t walk all the way underneath the path disappears into the pool for a bit so there is no way across. But we still had fun taking some pictures and trying to get some shots with our very non waterproof camera. Top tip, if you are visiting and you want to film take your GoPro, you will get soaked!
Then we did the jungly walk around to the much smaller waterfalls. It was a good walk and was much less busy, although there will still plenty of people. It isn’t very long though only taking about half an hour or so to get round before we headed out of the parl. There is a cafe by the small falls where you can have a drink and enjoy the view, but we were keen to head over to the ancient city of Perge.
Perge Ancient City
Perge was back toward Antalya from the waterfalls, so we hopped in a taxi and headed there. You can reach Perge on the tram from Antalya. You have to take the tram from town to a place called Aksu. From there it is around a 1km walk to the site of the ancient city. Alternatively there are taxis around and there is even a taxi button to summon one if there are none waiting in the car park!
The ancient Greek city of Perge is thought to have dated back to the start of the 13th century. The have been excavating it for a number of years now but there is still a lot left that they are working on! The main cross roads have been excavated though and it is amazing walking down them and imagining the bustling market it would have hosted all those years ago. I like to picture myself in Herucles personally, wandering between the never ending columns.
There are plenty of signs around which have writing in english explaining what a building was and what they believe it would have looked like. Some bits have been reconstructed but loads of the stone lies on the ground in ruins.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the site though is all the mosaic work peeking out under the dust which has not yet been properly excavated. They have a found a few large mosaics which are blocked off, but even the main pathways you can see coloured stones forming early there patterns just waiting to be discovered!
Incredibly we had the place almost to ourselves like some huge historical playground. We spent a good 2 and a half hours reading all the signs, with further explanations and discussions for me from Craig who knows a lot about history, which is really fascinating.
We wandered into different buildings wondering what would have been sold there originally. Ceramics, food, clothing, who knows! All part of the fun! We looked for horse and cart tracks in the stone and admired the ingenuity of the water trough flowing through the centre of the main road. Amazing to see evidence of just how advanced these civilisations were all those years ago
Of course we decided to walk up the stairs on the large hill overlooking the site. It was hard work in the heat with no shade but we were rewarded by an incredible view across it that gives an impression of just how vast the city must have been.
The amphitheatre is off on a section to the side so we also went and had a look at that. The theatre is largely in ruin but you can still walk around it and enjoy imagining watching the performances and gladiator battles down below. It was pretty big so can picture how noisy and lively it must have been in ancient times.
There is something really amazing I think about visiting ancient sites like this. Sometimes I get bored visiting palaces and things that are much more modern and intact, but I love an old stone ruin!
You should definitely come and have a wander around here if you are visiting Antalya to learn a bit more about the ancient cultures that formerly flourished here!
We had two beach trips on our stay in Antalya. One afternoon we visited the Konyaalti beach which has a beautiful view of the mountains to the west of Antalya. It isn’t a super sandy beach, more shingle type texture but still. There are plenty of beach bars along the front, with cafes and hotels and restaurants located the length of the beach.
As we were backpacking we didn’t bring huge beach towels so we rented a bed type thing to lounge on and bought some drinks from one of the beach bars. There was a chill music vibe and the prices weren’t too bad. You could order food but we had stopped at one of the places just up off the beach for some lunch before hand, which was a little pricey but the food was very good. It was called Pacco Bistro and they did a banging halloumi salad!
The place we stopped was an Irish bar, which wasn’t too busy and there weren’t very many children near where we picked our bed so was quite peaceful.
The sea here was actually quite nice and warm which was unexpected and we had a great afternoon floating around in the Med and then soaking up the sun to dry off. We even had a beer and a big watermelon drink but that was a syrupy drink rather than fresh so a little disappointing. Unfortunately it clouded over and got very windy so we left late afternoon to go back to the hostel and get ready to go spend the evening by the harbour in the old town.
The next day we headed down to Lara beach in a taxi with our American friend Dan who came to join us for a beach day. All along the beach here is made up of beach clubs. We had no idea which one we would go to but our taxi driver clearly just took us to his mate’s one. Fine we weren’t really fussed. But you could probably research and find the coolest, most instagrammable etc etc if you wanted.
Ours was L’Arena and it was not too busy. We paid 250 TL for a beach cabana between us which included a table and chairs plus 2 sun loungers as well as the hut with a little bed thing. given there were three of us this didn’t end up costing much more than the regular loungers (75 TL per person) or the bed things which were 150 TL but you could only have two on each so no brainer really if you are in a group!
We jumped straight into the sea to cool off, and spent the rest of the day in and out enjoying a load of beers and conversation in the sun. We watched a few people do some parasailing too but it wasn’t that exciting looking, not very high or fast really. There was a fun pier you could jump off of too so there will definitely be some takes of that in our YouTube series when we publish that!
It was a nice chilled no fuss day, although I will say it was a right trek from the cabanas on the far side of the beach to the loos which were in a function space behind the beach cafe bit. They clearly did weddings as there was a huge archway and outdoor space and the function room was filled with decorations, would certainly be a fun place for a party!
We had a good day here at the sandier Lara beach and were very glad to have a little relax in the middle of our busy two and a half week turkey travel itinerary! Spending some time chilling on the beach is definitely a must thing to do in Antalya!
There are plenty of other things to do in Antalya besides the above. There are tonnes of places to eat and drink, for example. We found an awesome place called Le Man Kultur that had a huge variety of dishes and drinks at a very reasonable price where we had breakfast twice. But there are also a few bigger activities you can do which we didn’t.
Pamukkale day trip
You can do a day trip from Antalya to Pamukkale, as a few of the friends we made did. It is a four hour drive each way, and you are there at peak tour bus time (well you are on one yourself)! We opted to actually go stay the night in the town so we could visit at sunset and again the next day instead. There will of course be a post all about this, but wanted to state that this is also an option.
Canyoning and rafting
A friend of ours also did a day of rafting and canyoning up in the mountains near Antalya. This would have been pretty cool but we hadn’t budgeted it into our trip – it was about €50pp which was over a day’s budget. We also didn’t have our GoPro’s helmet mount with us and you weren’t allowed to take them without apparently, and it would have been a shame to not get the footage for our Turkey series. However, since we plan on heading back to the coast one day to see Kas and Fethiye we could definitely fly to Antalya and get that day trip in.
We actually didn’t go and see these waterfalls. We decided we preferred to go and see the Kursunlu waterfalls in the nearby national park so we could enjoy that too. But these are closer to the city and more popular to visit. The lower falls go right off the cliff and into the sea which is pretty cool, but much more fun to go and play under one if you ask us!
Thoughts on Antalya
Overall we liked Antalya. It was a fun place to be although a bit of a culture shock coming straight from the peacefulness of Cappadocia! It is a great place to spend a few days and meet people for sure and a great place to start a road trip up the coast or sailing trip. Definitely worth going to Perge if nothing else I would say. But try and spend a night visiting the bars and live music scene in the old town, it was one of the best I have seen in a long time! I hope this post has given you inspiration to visit the awesome things to do in Antalya!