After a two-year pandemic, you may be wondering what the perfect summer destination for 2022 is, especially now that more countries are finally dropping their Covid restrictions. While there is certainly a myriad of options to choose from, we are here to tell you 5 reasons why the Eastern Mediterranean city of Antalya should rank high on your wishlist.
And trust us, you’ll want to hear about this:
Where Even Is Antalya?
Antalya is one of those Mediterranean hotspots often overlooked by Western vacationers, even though it boasts some of the best beaches, and even some of the most impressive landmarks in the league. Located in Southern Turkey, it is sometimes deemed the country’s crown jewel, and it’s not hard to see why.
Even though it is an ever-expanding metropolis, currently housing over one million residents, it has a much more laid-back vibe than other Turkish cities – can we talk about how chaotic Istanbul actually is? – and offers visitors that irresistible coastal Mediterranean city appeal.
So now that we’ve given you a bit of a background, what exactly are the 5 reasons this city is the summer escape you’ve been longing for after two endless years of being confined at home? After all, being a coastal hub surely can’t be the only thing that makes it such an enticing destination, right? Well, allow us to introduce you to Antalya:
1. Fascinating History Is All Around
Antalya is ancient. In fact, it is 2,172 years old!
Also, if you’re a fellow History geek, you may be surprised to know that, while it is today a part of Turkey, the current city was in fact founded by the Greeks in about 150 BC, and managed to retain much of that Greek essence throughout the bulk of its existence.
Although the Greeks were eventually driven out of the province, many monuments from that period have survived. When approaching the historical part of town, you will be faced with a magnificent Roman-era city gate – the so-called Hadrian’s Gate – built in commemoration of the Roman Emperor’s visit in the year 130.
Rapid urbanization later turned Antalya into Turkey’s seventh-largest city, and an incredibly modern one at that, but inside the Old Town walls (the Kaleiçi) remnants of a distant, more mystical past are still visible. Some of them are pretty hard to miss, including the medieval Yivliminare Mosque and the landmark Ottoman Clock Tower.
A short 8-minute walk from Hadrian’s Gate, where the city walls meet the clear seas below, you will also find Hidirlik Kulesi, a 2nd-century Roman tower overlooking the Mediterranean with incredible views of the Taurus Mountain range in the distance.
As for the Old Town, it is an attraction of its own accord. With its complex labyrinth of narrow alleyways lined with restaurants, Ottoman houses, and ancient monuments, it makes for a pleasant summer afternoon stroll, with the odd surprise or two in every corner.
2. It Is One Of The Most Affordable Mediterranean Cities
If you’re looking for an international summer destination that will not break the bank, then Antalya is certainly the right pick for you. Turkey as a whole is extremely affordable by both European and Middle Eastern standards, and Antalya is no exception to that rule.
This is a place travelers on a budget can have access to luxuries they wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford in other Mediterranean countries, like France and Spain. Yes, we are talking about all-inclusive hotels, the famously sumptuous Turkish breakfast, three-course meals at high-end restaurants, and even private guides.
Due to the Turkish lira’s depreciation against the dollar – $1 equals roughly ₺15 – Antalya is not only budget-friendly, but it is also insanely cheap. Here, you can easily eat out every night on less than $20 – usually much less than that – and even if you do decide to splash out, you’ll have to try really hard to get an astronomical bill at the end of the night.
On top of that, there are different accommodations for every traveler profile, including luxury resorts (for those who are not necessarily going to Turkey for the cheaper prices), boutique hotels, and spacious private apartments. The last two should not cost you more than $300 to $400 a week.
In the whole of the Mediterranean, you won’t get better deals than this.
In fact, another destination on Turkey’s pristine coast, the smaller resort town of Marmaris, has just been named the most affordable European summer destination for 2022. In Marmaris, travelers can enjoy their much-needed Mediterranean summer on daily expenses of only $33.69, and Antalya is no different.
3. Beaches Galore!
Antalya sits on Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast, and is the main gateway into the famous Turkish Riviera, where miles of sandy coastline meet some of the clearest waters in the basin. For that reason, visitors don’t even have to go far to find their own beach spot when arriving directly in Antalya.
The city itself has numerous beaches within its limits, including the Konyaalti stretch, located some 5.4 miles from the historical center. While it does get packed in summer, as both tourists and locals cram into this beach to enjoy their time in the sun, it is still far quieter compared to beaches in the French Riviera or Spain.
9.3 miles east of Hadrian’s Gate, there is Lara Beach, located in the main resort area of the city visitors staying locally will be able to reach easily. Out of town, other paradise beaches can be found in Olympos, part of the aptly called Turquoise Coast, and the Phaselis bay, where you can swim by the ruins of an ancient Greco-Roman city.
How incredible is that?
Further east down the coast, the smaller resort town of Side makes for a relaxing day trip. Surrounded by golden-sand beaches and sitting on a small peninsula where loads of Greek landmarks are scattered, including the famous Temple of Apollo, no trip to Antalya is complete without a stopover in Side Beach, however brief.
If choosing to stay only in the Old Town, you may not be spoiled for choice, but you will certainly not be missing out, as the small Mermerli Beach, a part of the historical harbor, provides easy sea access within walking distance of many hotels. Lounges are limited and there is a fee to enter, so make sure you’re there early enough to secure a spot.
You get our point: Antalya has beaches galore, and the chances you’ll be swimming in blue waters with views of an ancient Greco-Roman city are pretty high, either in Antalya itself or in smaller towns close to it. This leads us to Reason Number 4 why Antalya is all the summer fun you didn’t know you needed:
4. It May Technically Be Turkey, But It Will Feel More Like Being In Greece
Looking for Greece on a budget? Antalya, and the wider Mediterranean Coast of Turkey, is the place to go. Sounds odd? When you first started reading this article, you may have noticed Greek influences are predominant around Antalya and its surrounding settlements.
That is hardly a surprise, considering that the Eastern Mediterranean coast in fact belonged to a much larger Ancient Greece. National borders are a pretty recent concept, and up until the 19th century, present-day land demarcations were not as well-defined as they are today.
As they were once nations within the Ottoman Empire, Greece and Turkey have much more in common than people might think. Sometimes, more than Greeks and Turks would like to admit themselves, as both peoples have been present in the Antalya province since the dawn of time.
Historical grievances aside, you can actually see several Greek islands from various spots along Turkey’s shores with the naked eye, while Antalya itself had a large Greek population up until the 20th century. Within close proximity to the city, tourists can in fact visit some of the most important Greek cities of Antiquity, that are now within Turkey’s borders.
The ruins of Perge, once capital to Phampylia Secunda, an important Greek kingdom, lie on the northeastern outskirts of Antalya and feature well-preserved colonnaded streets, an agora, Roman-era city walls and a large amphitheater. No longer inhabited, this 3,231 year old city is one of Antalya’s top attractions.
Over in Side, part of the Antalya province and 39 miles east of the capital, vacationers can marvel at the magnificent Temple of Apollo, one of the most iconic in the wider Greek world. When strolling the centuries-old avenues of the peninsula, adorned with Greek monuments on both sides, they will feel like they have been transported to neighboring Greece.
Technically, they are indeed treading on (what used to be) Greek soil.
Other sites to watch out for close to Antalya are the Aspendos Amphitheater, namely one of the best, if not the best preserved in the Ancient World, and numerous other extinct Greek, Lycian and Anatolian hubs, such as Termessos, Myra and the sunken city of Kekova.
5. Antalya Is Much More Liberal Than Other Turkish Cities
Turkey may have been a secular state, a status it enjoys since the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the republic was born, but it has remained faithful to Islam with over 99% of the population identifying as Muslim. This means it is generally more conservative than other Mediterranean destinations.
Women are not allowed to visit mosques without covering their heads, even when they are foreigners, and other customs must also be observed, particularly in more traditional cities like the country’s capital, Ankara, the inland city of Konya, or even Istanbul. Antalya, on the other hand, has always been more liberal.
Being a beach destination, it attracts visitors from all parts of the world and has become massively popular among Europeans due to its year-round warm climate. Possibly due to outside influences, locals here have a more relaxed attitude towards customary Turkish conservatism, and even Islam: it may still be predominant, but visitors, especially LGTBQ, are not bothered as much.
At night, the streets of the Old Town/Kaleiçi come to life with party scenes and live music, and although Antalya does not have an open gay scene, nor does it promote recluse nude beaches like Croatia or Greece, it is certainly a part of Turkey where all can have a cracking time – regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
The Mediterranean Basin is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and historically-rich in the world. A region where all the ancient empires from History textbooks hail from, and where there is certainly no shortage of natural landmarks, it is an old summer favorite for many travelers.
That said, it may be easy to immediately think of cliff-top Italian villages, the picturesque Santorini, or the magical Dalmatian cities when planning a Mediterranean vacation, yet we cannot help but feel its Easternmost fringe still does not get half the love it deserves.
Antalya, Turkey is one of those extremely underrated places, especially among non-European tourists. It has Italy’s scenic drives, Greece’s historical ruins (literally), the Balkans’ cobblestone street Old Towns, and Spain’s sandy coast – except it is far cheaper, and one could argue, even more authentic.
Not hard to see why it ticks all the boxes for the perfect 2022 summer destination spot, huh? Luckily, Turkey has reopened for tourism since it first closed down in 2020 due to Covid, and now allows vaccinated visitors to enter restriction-free.
In sum, there is:
- No pre-departure testing
- No on-arrival testing
- No passenger locator forms
- No post-arrival quarantine
Unvaccinated visitors can also fly to Antalya this summer, provided they present either proof of recent recovery from Covid, or a 72-hour negative PCR test. Antalya has direct flights from numerous European hubs, and Americans can also fly here with a quick layover in Istanbul, Turkey’s main entry point.
Don’t think twice: book those tickets and enjoy your Medi vacation!
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories