We’ve made it to the exquisite Turquoise Coast, situated in the southwest of Turkey and which also goes by the somewhat unoriginal moniker of the Turkish Riveria. The undisputed beauty of this stretch of water is such that the Roman General Mark Antony is believed to have given this area as his wedding gift to his lover Cleopatra. Measuring more than 1,000 kilometres, it is also is one of Turkey’s most popular tourist spots. It’s easy to see why, with its consistently hot and dry weather, beautiful beaches, warm crystal clear water and fabulous montain scenery. Well, that and the fact that full English breakfasts are available at pretty much every restaurant, as well as beer being served at any time of the day. Yep, we’ve made it to one of the favourite haunts of the Brit Flop and Drop crowd.
We’re slowly making our way up north and have started in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya which attracts close to 10 million foreign visitors a year - second in number only to Istanbul. Unlike further up towards the Aegean Sea, however, it is Russians and German that you’re most likely to meet here, although there are still plenty of British tourists as well.
Founded in the 2nd century BC by the King of Pergamon, Attalus II, who was modest enough to name the city after himself (Attaleia), there are plenty of historical sights situated right in the middle of the city that are able to distract you from the many beautiful places to swim. The Old Town of Kaleiçi, with its narrow streets, wooden houses and ancient stone city walls is the best place to start. And what better place to enter than what used to be the only entrance through the city walls via Hadrian’s Gate. Here Corinthian columns and a three arched gate were built into the city walls to honour Emperor Hadrian’s visit to the city in 130 AD.
If there’s one thing that dominates the Antalyan skyline, it would be the fluted minaret of the Yivli Minaret Mosque. Built in the 13th century AD during Seljuk rule, it has become the landmark symbol of Antalya and was inscribed on UNESCO’s Tentative List of World Heritage Sites in 2016.
More properly known as the Alaaddin Mosque, the free-standing minaret is 38 metres tall with 90 steps to the top.
The mosque forms part of a complex of structures in close vicinity which are all worth exploring, including the Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev Medrese, Dervish (Mawlawi) Lodge and tombs of Zincirkıran and Nigar Hatun which date back to the 14th century AD.
Displayed on the surrounding walls are a number of boards which provide information on Islam and well worth the 10 minutes required to read them.
Antalya is big and somewhat impersonal, as you’d expect from a place that receives the multitudes of tourists that it does each year. Our four days were mostly spent in and around our accommodation in Konyaaltı Beach, which is one of the two main beaches of Antalya that sweeps seven kilometres to the southwest towards the Beydağları Mountains. It is towards these mountains that we now head as we continue our journey around the coast to the much smaller bohemian city of Kas.