It's funny. Despite all the travel hype that Istanbul has behind it and Ankara position as the Turkish capital, it's actually the Mediterranean jewel of Antalya that stands behind only London and Paris when ranked by number of international arrivals. Which is a strange figure to believe if you're an independent traveler, for there are actually a lack of English-language resources available for a city that apparently welcomes tourists in such droves. That's because the province of Antalya has for decades been the jurisdiction of all-inclusive resort packages, giving the cruise ship zombies innumerable options from which to enjoy the beach year-round without actually having to interact with locals, sprinkling in a traipse or two through one of many ancient ruins that exist along the sea.
The good news is that Antalya is far more than beach chairs in the sand and plastic umbrellas in your mixed drinks. The gamut of adventure activities exists along the coast, whether you're looking to scale peaks steeped in Greek lore, trek to crumbling theaters high in the mountains, kayak through cities swallowed by the sea or raft through Turkey's longest canyon. You know what? Why not do them all? They're an especially delightful alternative to lounging in resorts sunbeds next to grandmothers in over-sized sunglasses. And we haven't even mentioned Turkey's two most historic multi-day hikes, the Lycian Way and the St Paul Trail, which combine historic treks with the landscapes of people of a more authentic Turkey.
As far as Antalya's culture, you'll find much of note located within the vicinity of Kaleici, the much-renovated "old city" of Antalya, which is located northeast of the marina. The area is packed with landmarks (Hadrian's Gate, the looming minaret of Yivli Minare Camii, etc.), as well as plenty of novelty shops and cafes. There are dozens of ruins (from Hellenistic Rome to ancient Lycia) to wade through all over the Mediterranean coast, although Perge, Aspendos, and Side are the nearest. Heading west toward Fethiye and Ölüdeniz, there are the tombs of Myra, the incredible mountain-top remnants of Termessos, Xanthos, Phaselis, and a crazy number of cities that are merely hinted at nowadays in the little that remains.
So much more awaits the thoughtful, experiential traveler in Antalya that can't be touched upon if you choose to spend your days intoxicated by sun and sand. Browse our included adventure, culture, nightlife, and cuisine pages for a more in-depth look at why Antalya just may end up being the best part of your next trip.