Stunning holiday villa with private swimming pool, 5 bedroomed, up to 10 people in Kalkan/Turkey. more info...
Stretching from Syria in the east to the Aegean shores in the west, Turkey's Mediterranean coast, dubbed the "Turkish Riviera", is a varied region that will equally satisfy history buffs, outdoor lovers and beach bums. The combination of quiet fishing villages, unspoiled beaches, Greek and Roman ruins, and good walking trails ensure that there's something for everyone.
The region's main city and your likely point of entry is Antalya, a thriving metropolis with good beaches and a fascinating historic quarter. Be sure to visit Hadrian's Gate, constructed by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, and the Antalya Museum on the outskirts of the city, where you can see a wide selection of ancient artifacts from the region.
If you're after sun and sand, head to towns like party-hard Alanya or quiet Kas. Beautiful Simena is a great destination for sailors and has a small but charming harbour. Many coastal towns have interesting historical sites, like unspoiled Patara, where Roman ruins sit just off the shell-shaped beach.
Other great historical sights include Gemiler Island, a small isle where you'll find ancient Byzantine ruins, and Arycanda, an archaeological site with ruins dating to the 5th century BC. For Roman ruins head to atmospheric Phaselis or to Aspendos, home to an amphitheatre rivaling Rome's Colosseum in style and state of preservation. The theatre is still used for occasional concerts. Other popular historical sights are the so-called 'Seven Churches of Asia', the seven areas St. Paul visited to preach the gospel. Up and down the coast you'll see traces of the many civilizations that have passed through Turkey, from the Hittites and Lycians to the Romans, Greeks, Byzantines and Ottomans.
It should be no surprise that a typical Mediterranean climate reigns along the coast. Mild winters, with lows rarely dropping below 40?F, and hot summers with highs around 90?F are the norm, with the mild autumn and spring months being ideal for sightseeing. The crowds are at their thickest in July and August, when the beaches fill with sun seekers from throughout Europe. It's possible to swim in the Med from May through September, so arriving before or after the summer peak will ensure you a more peaceful stay but no less beach time.
Antalya has an international airport, but regardless, you'll probably have to pass through Istambul to get here. A flight from London to Antalya will take around seven hours of travel time.
Once in the region, most towns are connected by bus. From Antalya, you should be able to reach nearly every point on the Mediterranean coast (and beyond) by bus. Having a car is a good option only if you plan to do a lot of independent exploring, though driving here is uncomplicated.
The clean, sandy beaches here are a major attraction, and water activities account for much of what there is to do. After relaxing on the beach, you can charter a sailboat or windsurf. Scuba diving is also popular, and there are excellent dive sites up and down the coast. Ship wrecks and a wrecked B-24 airplane are among the most popular places to dive.
Just inland are a series of mountain ranges responsible for giving the beaches their spectacular backdrop and for offering hikers and trekkers a wealth of options. For hiking with a cultural slant, head to the Taurus mountains, a rocky, dry range where you'll find challenging hiking trails and amazing sea and valley views. The Termessos National Park is here and is home to one of the most interesting historical sites in Turkey, the ancient town of Termessos. You'll need good walking legs to find this hard-to-reach town, where you can see ruins of the theatre, gymnasium, several tombs, and other monuments.
You may also want to head to the Copper Mountains, in Lycia. These ruddy-coloured mountains offer barren but beautiful scenery that's ideal for hiking in autumn and spring. In winter there is a ski resort here. Bakirdaglari is yet another mountain range, with several good hiking areas. Serious trekkers can attempt to climb Tahtali Dagi, a 2366m peak that rises sharply from the sea. This is an exciting challenge only dulled by the fact that the summit is often smothered in clouds, which prevents you from enjoying the panoramic view from the top. An easier option is hiking to the peak of Ardictepe (1960m), which provides you with an awesome view of Antalya and the rocks of Geyiksivrisi.