It’s Turkey’s fastest growing city, and one which has really made a splash onto the tourism scene. Antalya, the largest Mediterranean coastal city in Turkey, was once viewed as just a gateway to get to the Turkish Riviera, but has since morphed into a flourishing international sea resort.
Situated right on the Gulf of Antalya, it’s here on the Turquoise Coast where “sandy sweeps of shore hug a coastline lapped by jade waters and backed by forest-blanketed slopes.”
This is one of the most staggeringly beautiful coastlines in the Mediterranean, but beyond the beaches is an incredible landscape of canyons, waterfalls, and a classically beautiful city, with ancient Roman ruins, finely restored Ottoman houses, and a Roman-era harbour with clifftop views over the sea.
Things to do in Antalya: Exploring the Beautiful Turkish Riviera
Getting around Antalya is quite easy. Public transportation consists of buses, dolmuses (shared minibuses), and the tramway.
While these options are low cost and service many tourist attractions, it can take substantially longer to get where you need to go, and it’s a nuisance when carrying a lot of luggage. If look for a quick, comfortable and convenient way to get around the city, Antalya taxis will also allow you to explore beyond the usual tourist sites for more adventure.
These are the highlights of this beautiful town on the Turkish Riviera.
Kaleiçi- Old Town
Discover the historic city centre of Antalya and take in structures from the Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, and Ottoman Empires.
Surrounded by the historic Roman Harbour, Old Town is a great place to set yourself up during your time in Antalya. Red roofed mansions, minarets, clock towers, tombs, mosques, fortress gates, shops, and restaurants are all at your disposal.
One of the main entrances to Kaleiçi is Hadrian’s Gate and is a must see when visiting the Old Town. This triumphal arch made up of three arched marble gateways, is truly impressive with its sculpted decorations and motifs.
Constructed in 130 A.D., it is the last remaining entrance gate of the city’s surrounding walls. Be sure to also check out the Yivli Minare located near the Kale entrance gate.
Photo by Orçun Edipoğlu
A great day trip from the city is a visit to Aspendos. This ancient Roman city is home to one of the best preserved Roman theatres in the world, making it one of Turkey’s greatest tourist attractions.
The fully restored theatre can seat nearly 15,000 people and hosts the annual Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival as well as concerts.
Although the theatre has been restored, many other structures have been left in their original “ruined” state.
Termessos is an incredibly well preserved ancient city belonging to the Pisidians. It is known as Turkey’s Machu Picchu as it is situated at an elevation of over 1,000 metres within a National Park.
Highlights of the area include the colonnaded street, upper agora, and the ancient theatre. The ruins are made even more beautiful by the surrounding wilderness with stunning views of the Taurus Mountain Range.
Photo by Panegyrics of Granovetter
This park offers relaxing shade for a break with picturesque views. Enjoy Roman monuments like the striking Hidirlik Tower as well as views of the cliffs and Gulf of Antalya.
Take in the park’s water features or head to a nearby coffee shop or pub for a refreshment. It is a beautiful area that makes for a great respite from visiting all the city’s attractions.
The Düden Falls are in fact made up of two separate cascades, the Lower and Upper.
The Upper Falls make for a wonderful afternoon to enjoy a picnic. They are surrounded by botanical gardens, restaurants, and boardwalks. Explore the accessible natural cave found behind the falls for even more fun.
Lower Falls (Karpuzkaldıran Şelale) is considered to be one of the largest in Europe, flowing over the cliffs and into the sea below. Relax in Düden Park or hire a tourist boat to see the falls up close.
Photo by zolakoma
Köprülü Canyon National Park offers rafting adventures as well as ruins, making for a great trip outside the city. Massive trees including cypress, pine, and oak varieties dominate the area.
Explore the temples of Zeus and Artemis as well as Roman bridges like Oluk and Bugrum Bridge. Enjoy fresh trout served at one of the local restaurants.
Konyaaltı Beach & Lara Beach
Stretching from the cliffs to the Beydağları Mountains on the western side of the city you’ll find Konyaaltı Beach. Here you’ll find Antalya Beach Park with its restaurants, cafes and bars. The park offers visitors showers and rental opportunities for beach chairs and umbrellas.
Lara Beach starts up just past the Lower Düden Waterfalls. Although it may be a bit further out of town and not as attractive as Konyaalti Beach, it offers much softer sand and many services similar to Konyaaltı Beach.
OUR FAVORITE TURKEY GUIDES. CLICK BOOK TO LOOK INSIDE ↓
INSPIRED?! PIN THIS TO YOUR TRAVEL PINTEREST BOARDS ↓
My mum has been visiting Antalya for years, but quite frankly I’ve never thought of venturing there myself. I was so intrigued by several of the day-trips you described that now I actually could think of exploring the Turkish Riviera some day. Thanks for the inspiration!
Glad we could inspire some wanderlust for this region Nina! Maybe you can plan for a mother daughter trip at some stage :)
What a fabulous place and look at the color of the water! I have never heard of Antalya. The Roman influence so early on is indeed amazing. I just love the water falls and was surprised to note that Lower Falls is one of the largest.
With so many day trips , I guess one can stay for a while here.
Some of the most beautiful waters I’ve seen! So glad that we could introduce you to Antalya – the old ruins and Roman influence is something I’m personally really interested in, so it’s incredible to think that there are sites which rival places like Rome and Machu Picchu, but almost no crowds!
Hope you have the chance to visit soon! Absolutely, you could easily do 5 days and have plenty of things to do :)
Glad you enjoyed the post :)
Your post reminds me of my visit to Jerash in Jordan. That is also a ruined Roman city and it also has a Hadrian Gate which commemorates some victory. 15,000 people theater – I just wonder what performances would have taken place in the days this theater was built and used. How did they manage evening performances in the absence of electricity? Old cities are so fascinating.
I would LOVE to get to Jordan at some stage; I’ve heard so many things about Roman ruins here, and how the experience is almost more authentic than Rome!
It really is so interesting to look at such ruins like the theater and try and imagine what it would have been like in the height of its day. I love doing that, and constantly keep myself fascinated by the same types of questions.
I always associated Antalya with gorgeous beaches and a fantastic coastline, as well as great nightlife, but I see you’ve listed so many more things to do here! No doubt the waters are crystal clear and blue but the historical ruins, the ancient city, the old town and more than all else, Düden Waterfalls look so amazing! I don’t have a trip planned to Turkey anytime soon, I’ve been there once before and although I wanted to go to Antalya, I had to skip it due to the lack of time! Not a great decision, I see.
Definitely has beaches, a coastline and great nightlife, but yes, so much more to fill your days with too :)
Sorry to hear that you missed Antalya on your first trip, though you now have a great excuse to visit Turkey again at some stage!
I visited Turkey ages ago and regret it now that I didn’t manage to explore Antalya. Looks like it’s an ideal destination for me. I’m especially drawn to the Old City of Kaleiçi and also Düden Waterfalls. You are right, such a stunning spot for picnic surrounded by botanical garden. It’s time for me to book another trip to Turkey, I guess :D
Exactly, having missed it the first time just means you now have an amazing excuse to return :D! Glad we could inspire you!
I’ve never been to Turkey, but it has always been on my list. I LOVE amphitheatres – so Aspendos appeals greatly, as does Termessos – I honestly had no idea there were such wonderful ruins intact in this part of Turkey. I suppose being slightly under the radar like that helps to maintain / preserve these places! I like the sound of Lara beach – being that little bit further away from town is great for avoiding hoards of beach-goers I’m sure.
It sounds like you would really love Turkey Hannah, especially everything Antalya has to offer. Yes you’re absolutely right, flying under the radar is probably the biggest reason sites like Termessos and Aspendos stay so well preserved. They don’t have to deal with the strain of mass tourism – which also makes it a more incredible experience, being able to visit such an incredible history place without crazy crowds!
I hope you do have the chance to visit soon :)
We loved the city of Antalya when we visited Turkey last spring! The Kaleiçi really comes to life at night – lovely shops, good food, and live music! Even better though was renting a car and driving along the Turkish Riviera to the old harbor town of Kas. Definitely a beautiful stretch of road for anyone visiting this part of Turkey. We didn’t make it up to Termessos though and I would love to see those ruins – next time!
Awesome Nicholas! SO glad you enjoyed your time in Antalya! Fabulous idea renting a car – definitely an amazing scenic route. Can highly recommend Termessos if you do make it back at some stage :)
I was in Antalya in 2016. It is absolutely fabulous. We visited the old town and Termessos which was incredible. Literally, as it looks like you did, we had the entire ampitheatre to ourselves. My favourite activity there though was white water rafting and canyoning. So cool!
So glad to hear you enjoyed your time Anne – isn’t it incredible how you can have such an amazing piece of history literally all to yourself!! The same types of attractions get absolutely swarmed with people in other parts of the world!
White water rafting and canyoning sounds quite epic – will have to get back for that myself!
A well-written guide to explore Antalya. It looks so beautiful and unexplored. Visiting old town will be a great way to experience heritage. Termessos, Turkey’s Machu Picchu has fascinated me most. The Düden Falls also sounds quite interesting.
Thanks Suruchi :) Probably one of the least explored spots in the Mediterranean for sure; and if you’re a fan of heritage you’ll be in absolute heaven – especially as you usually have these amazing sites all to yourself a lot of the time!
Antalya Looks like it has a lot to offer from the beautiful beaches, the waterfalls and Termessos. Turkey has so much history and Termessos reminds me of Ephesus which I found fascinating, so I would definitely be visiting that on my trip there.
I haven’t made it to Ephesus yet, but would love to! Thanks for the tip :) Hope you have the chance to take in Antalya at some stage soon!
Thank you for the lovely post and I can relate to your write up on the city of Antalya. Visited there in 2016 and enjoyed every minute of it. Would love to go there again and hoping to visit Manavgat as well as Side.
So glad to hear you had a fabulous time Zanzai! I hope you have the opportunity to visit again soon :)