Turquoise sea, golden sand, light glistening on ancient ruins… A dream painted in sunset hues…

Shaped by the cooling waters and soft sands of the Mediterranean, heir to the riches of antiquity and child of the modern world, Side is the perfect destination, equally rich in ancient treasures and the gems of contemporary entertainment, shopping and comfortable accommodation.

Side is a superb choice for a holiday, whether your aim is to bath in sun, sea and sand, or to repose in harmony with nature under a soft, leafy canopy, or to explore the region’s unparalleled history, wandering mesmerised through the ruins of antiquity.

Here sea and sky exist in perfect harmony, and where the waters meet the side of the peninsula, golden beaches give on to ancient ruins, cafes, superb restaurants and souvenir shops. Natural marvels such as Manavgat Waterfall and Köprülü Canyon National Park are easily accessible. It’s all here.

Ruins of antiquity reflecting the spirit of time

The ancient Side was a centre of commerce, and the temples were built next to its harbour so that gods would protect it. One of these is the temple believed to have been devoted to Men, the God of Moon, which stands next to the other temples. The people of Side worshipped Cybele and Men before Athena and Apollo. During the Christian Era the temples of the sacred field were substituted for a basilica and a church. The basilica was built in 5th century AD, and the church was built in the 8th or 9th century.

The god and goddess of Side, Apollo and Athena, adorned the coins minted in here. The reverse, however, showed the pomegranate, the symbol of fertility and life represented by Cybele and Athena. The word “Side” itself means pomegranate. Small and large, from coins to temples, these ancient objects provide us highly valuable information regarding the history, beliefs, culture and daily life of Side.

Gateway to the masterpieces of antiquity

Ancient Side welcomes its visitors through the Main Gate, set between two towers of the insurmountable city walls, standing directly across from the monumental fountain. The Main Gate dates to the 2nd century, and together with the horse shoe shaped, colonnaded courtyard it was also used for ceremonial processions. The monumental fountain across from the gate had three wide arches and a basin, and it was also built in the 2nd century. It is the largest ancient fountain of Anatolia. Originally the structure had three levels and it was decorated with marble cladding and reliefs, however at present only a single level is standing and a few decorations of the pool can be seen. Manavgat River used to provide water to the fountain through aqueducts, splendid examples of human ingenuity working in tandem with the gifts of nature. Sections of the aqueducts are still visible.

Photo: Gülcan AcarPhoto: Gülcan Acar

Passing through the Main Gate and courtyard there are two roads originally lined with corinthian columns: the main road that continues straight ahead, and another leading off to the left. The main road, which channelled the social and cultural life of ancient Side, is lined with porticoes providing sheltered access to the shops and houses, and passes through the agora and city centre where a bathhouse, a theatre, and fountains once stood. The road eventually reaches the tip of the peninsula, site of the harbour and temples, symbols of commerce and religion.

Agora where slaves famed for their beauty were sold

After entering ancient Side and proceeding on the main road, the groups of ruins on the left are from the bishopric basilica, surrounded with columns, and the palace. A little further down on the same road, again on the left is the commercial agora which is one of the two agorae the city. Apart from its traditional function as a venue for commerce and a forum to discuss the political and economic situation, the commercial agora of Side assumed another function. In the first century BC a passage was built that connected the commercial agora to the theatre nearby, and both the agora and the theatre served as a slave market. In the middle of the agora, where slaves famed for their beauty were traded, used to stand a temple devoted to Fortuna, the goddess of luck and trade, which had a round plan lined with 12 columns with corinthian capitals. The Agora was lined with porticos and large shops behind them.

At one corner of the agora, next to the theatre stood the latrina, the public toilets of the city. The latrina, which was a decorated structure covered with domes, and connected to the sewers laid under the main road, is a proof of excellence in city planning in Antiquity.

On the opposite side of the road across the agora stood the Roman Bathhouse from the 5th century, which now serves as a museum where magnificent sculptures, busts and sarcophagi are on permanent display.

The Museum of Side, which resembles Olympus, the home of the gods and goddesses

The Museum of Side, with the statues and figurines of gods and goddesses on display, seems like Olympus, the home of the gods and goddesses. Here the gods and goddesses of Olympus compete with each other to whisper myth and legend in the ear of visitors. Zeus, Aphrodite, Ares, Nike, Hygeia, Asclepius, Apollo, Hermes, Dionysus, Heracles, Tyche and Athena – the heroes and heroines of the legends that they narrate themselve in the Museum of Side.

Kemer is a seaside town set in one of the most stunning locations anywhere along the Mediterranean. It’s also set along the historic Lycian Way, making it a popular spot for hikers and camping out. Actually, more than that, its natural beauty makes it a perfect spot for all kinds of outdoor activities, including the aforementioned camping and hiking and also mountain biking, cycling, boat racing, motocross, and more.

Its beaches are famous and if you come at the right time of year, you might see some stars mingling with the locals on its beautiful shores.

The town itself is cute and great for shopping and getting a bite to eat, selling all kinds of wares you’ll find nowhere else. In the summers, it is known for hosting tons of concerts and festivals with people flocking from all over the country to enjoy the fresh sea breeze and big-name bands that come here.

Kemer Marina

The marina at Kemer is massive, with 320 berths. Just staring at the yachts that anchor here is enough to gawk at, with some beauties from all around the world spending time here every summer.

Olimpos

Right along the Lycian Way, the tree houses of Olympos and camp grounds surrounding it are wonderful for star gazing, right in Olimpos Beydağları National Park. Every year the Olimpos Sky and Science Festival is organized right here due to its amazing location right on the Mediterranean and the opportunity to see so many stars in a sky that rarely features any clouds at all.

Göynük Canyon

Göynük is well known within Turkey as one of the most beautiful spots anywhere in the country. It’s been a relatively important area since the Roman era. Its forests and lakes are stunning, and in the fall people flock to see the range of colors, not to mention the local cuisine which is delectable.

Santa Claus, who is portrayed as an old man wearing red-and-white clothing and driving a sleigh pulled by a team of flying reindeer carrying gifts to children, was actually Saint Nicholas who was born and bred, lived to become a bishop, achieved sainthood, and eventually buried in the land which is in the present day borders of Turkey.

Saint Nicholas, who is involved in many a childhood memories, was born in and lived his life in lands which is part of Turkey. His birth place is the ancient city of Patara, which is adjacent to the Gelemis village of the Antalya province. Following his education, Saint Nicholas became the bishop of Myra, present day Demre town. There is a church in Demre built in memory of Saint Nicholas which also harbours his grave. During your visit to Turkey, you may follow the footsteps of Saint Nicholas by visiting all settlements in a couple of days, and enjoy the natural beauty and historical heritage they offer to you.

From St. Nicholas, Patron Saint of Poor, Children and Sailors, to Santa Claus

Nicholas was a Lycian, and he became a world renowned saint because of his life dedicated to doing kindness to needy and on the merits of miracles attributed to his intercession. He was the only son of a wealthy family and chose to become a priest. Saint Nicholas shared his wealth with poor, but hr did this through secret gift-giving. He was renowned for secretly providing assistance to the needy in the form of gifts delivered secretly through windows and chimneys, and his memory is converted into the present day popular belief in Santa Claus.

Patara: The Birth Place of Santa Claus

While Demre is most associated settlement with Saint Nicholas as he was the bishop there, and the church bearing his name and his grave are there, his birth place Patara where he spent his youth also upheld the memory of the saint. The city where the miracles of Saint Nicholas have taken place was Patara. Patara was the capital city of Lycian League and the extraordinarily well preserved ruins would attract your attention. The structures most visited are the Theatre, the restored Boule (council house), the Light House, the Triumphal Arch, the colonnaded high street, a temple, and numerous chapels. Great portion of the ancient city has been buried under the sand dunes carried by the Mediterranean Sea. While the shifting sands rendered the commercial harbour of Patara unusable, it has also created one of the longest and most beautiful beaches of the whole coast of Mediterranean Sea. During your visit to Patara you may have excursions to the ancient ruins, and enjoy sun and sea on the beach which is renowned for being the nesting site of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta).

Demre (Myra): Visiting the Church and Tomb of Santa Claus

As Saint Nicholas served as the Bishop of Demre, he is identified with the town. Also, he died and was buried in the town, and a church built over his tomb. During the Medieval era, the church was a centre of pilgrimage and even today visitors inundate the church. In the past seafaring pilgrims to Jerusalem stopped over Andriake, the port city of Demre, travelled inland to visit the Saint Nicholas Church and sought cure from the holy oil cult. Since 1983 every 6 December, the day of his death, activities centred on the “Santa Claus World Peace Appeal” are organised in Demre to commemorate this important saint of the Christian world. Adherents of different faiths participate in prayers for peace during the ceremonies, to remind an era when different cultures and religions lived together in peace for thousands of years in Anatolia.

Myra is one of the cities of antiquity adorning the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The city is 7 km inland. According to Strabo, Myra is one of the six major cities of the Lycian League. There are remarkable rock tombs hewn into the cliff faces which are identifiable to Lycia cities. Most of the ancient city is under the layers of earth awaiting exploration while the theatre is the principal building available to visit.

How to Go?

Demre and Patara are in Antalya province which is one of the principal tourist destinations of Turkey. The Antalya international airport has direct scheduled flights as well as chartered flights from a multitude of countries. Demre and Patara could be visited by coaches and shared-minibuses departing from Antalya city centre. The distance between Antalya and Demre is 140 km, and between Antalya and Patara is 230 km. Patara could also be reached from Dalaman international airport which is 125 km. to the west.

With ancient cities hidden among forests with oxygen-rich air, Antalya is a holiday paradise offering much more than one might expect.

Antalya was founded in 158-138 BC by Attalus II, King of Pergamon, who named the city Attaleia after himself. Having been inhabited continuously since then, it was encircled by strong protective walls in Roman times. The Byzantines and Seljuks successively occupied the city before it came under Ottoman rule.

“Antalya is situated at the end of a gulf, the namesake of the city, and extends over a green plateau that lies parallel to the sea. With its blue sea, luminous sky, the ever-changing colour of its mountains and lush green vegetation, the city is a festival of colours.”

Today it is one of the world’s best-loved tourist resorts, with numerous five-star hotels, holiday villages and entertainment establishments. Besides the chances Antalya offers for skiing on the mountains and then descending to the shore for a swim, the proximity of a great number of archaeological sites and ruins enhances its appeal. There are great works of art from different civilizations at every corner of the city. In the picturesque old quarter of Kaleiçi, narrow, winding streets and old wooden houses abut the ancient city walls. When Emperor Hadrian visited Phaselis in Antalya in 130 AD, a beautifully-decorated three arched gate with Corinthian columns was built into the city walls in his honour. It was the only entrance through the city walls. The two towers flanking the gate, as well as other sections of the walls, are standing near the marina. The clock tower in Kalekapısı Square was also part of the old city’s towers. The elegant, fluted minaret of the Yivli Minaret Mosque at the centre of the city, built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in the 13th century, has become Antalya’s symbol. The Karatay Madrasah in the Kaleiçi district, from the same period, exemplifies the best of Seljuk stone carving.

The two most important Ottoman mosques in the city are the 16th-century Murat Paşa Mosque, remarkable for its tile decoration, and the 18th-century Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque. Neighbouring the marina, the attractive late 19th-century İskele Mosque is built of cut stone and set on four pillars over a natural spring. The Hıdırlık Kulesi (tower) was probably constructed as a lighthouse in the second century. The Kesik Minaret Mosque, which was previously a church, bears witness to the city’s long history. The major part of the southern coastline falls within the borders of the city of Antalya. With ancient cities hidden among the trees, lush-green plateaus and forests with oxygen-rich air, trekking routes and beautiful beaches, Antalya is a holiday paradise offering much more than one might expect.

Hotspots along the coastline

Visitors can also find a number of touristic hotspots along the coastline away from the city centre. Kemer, 42km from Antalya through a spectacular mountain scenery, is the first such spot to the west of the city. This resort town has been carefully designed to blend in with the surrounding scenery and offers an ideal environment for a wonderful holiday. The fully equipped Kemer Marina allows yachtsmen to enjoy the unspoiled bays and beaches on the south of the town. Shoppers will delight in the wonderful range of high-quality souvenirs. A beach promenade with its cafes and shops on the north of the marina leads directly to Kemer Beach which was awarded a Blue Flag. Other tourist centres to the north are KızıltepeGöynük and Beldibi while to the south there is Çamyuva and Tekirova.

At the foot of 2575m-high Mt Tahtalı (Olympos), 15km south of Kemer, the three harbours of Phaselis were once major commercial centres. The ruins of aqueducts, agoras, baths, a theatre, Hadrian’s Gate and an acropolis reveal the city’s historical importance. The ancient city of Olympos is situated on the southern side of Mt Tahtalı. Oleander and laurel bushes shade the Olympos Valley, accessible by land or sea. North of Olympos and up from Çıralı Beach is Yanartaş (at a height of 300m) where, Greek mythology tells us, the Lycian hero Bellerophon mounted his winged horse Pegasus and slew the fire-breathing Chimaera.

Antalya / Karain Cave - Photo: Gülcan AcarAntalya / Karain Cave – Photo: Gülcan Acar

The Karain Cave, which dates from the Palaeolithic Age, is the oldest known cave where human lived in Anatolia. A single entrance, lit by the morning sun, opens onto three large interconnecting chambers. Although the little museum at the entrance displays some of its finds, most of the artefacts discovered are housed in museums around Turkey, with some of them dating to 160,000 BC. The ruins of the city of Termessos are perched on a 1050m-high plateau, lying on the western slopes of Güllük Mountain (Solymos) within Güllük Mountain National Park that is situated to the northwest of Antalya. A wild and splendid landscape surrounds the monumental traces of this city, and a nature and wildlife museum can be found at the park’s entrance.

Limyra, an ancient Lycian city, can be found 10km inland from Finike via Turunçova. Farther along this road is the Lycian city of Arykanda. It was inhabited by at least 500 BC and was destroyed several times by fire or earthquake. The ancient city of Myra, now called Demre or Kale, is 25km west of Finike. St Nicholas, who was born in Patara, was the bishop of Myra during the fourth century AD, and died there in 345. The island of Kekova, an hour from Çayağzı by sea, gives its name to a whole group of picturesque islands, numerous bays and ancient cities.

Continuing west out of Kekova you come to Kaş, a lovely spot surrounded by mountains on three sides. Swimming and diving are excellent in the clear cool water around Kaş. Along the scenic Kalkan road, Kaputaş has a beautiful beach at one end of the Turquoise Grotto.

A little distance to the west is Kalkan, a lovely small hilltop town that overlooks a tiny bay. The ancient Lycian capital of Xanthos, today in the village of Kınık, and the Lycian cultic centre of Letoon are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Xanthos-Letoon

Xanthos was a city in ancient Lycia, the site of present day Kınık although in early sources Xanthos is used synonymously for Lycia as a whole. The archaeological site of Letoon is located between the towns of Kaş and Fethiye, approximately 4km south of Xanthos along the river. These sites illustrate the blending of Lycian traditions and ancient Greek influence, especially in their funerary art. Archaeological experts and linguists agree that the epigraphic inscriptions are crucial for our understanding of the history of the Lycian people and their Indo-European language.

“Relish your eternal moment of sunbathing just after an excellent skiing experience”

Enjoy two seasons on the same day

Saklıkent, 50km from Antalya, is an ideal winter sports resort at an altitude of 1750-1900m on the northern slopes of Bakırlı Mountain. In March and April you can ski in the morning, eat a delicious lunch of fresh fish at Antalya’s marina and then go on to sunbathe, swim and windsurf in the afternoon. You can see wildlife – deer and mountain goat – as part of a conservation program in Düzlerçamı Park, north of Antalya, and on the way, you can stop at the astonishing 115m-deep Güver Canyon.

Beautiful cascades

The eastern part of Antalya is as rich as its western part. The sandy Lara Beach lies about 12km to the east. At the Upper Düden Waterfall, 14km northeast of Antalya, you can walk behind the rushing cascade for a thrilling experience. On the way to Lara Beach, the Lower Düden Waterfall plunges straight into the sea, with the nearby rest area that offers an excellent view of the falls, while the view is even more spectacular from the sea. Kurşunlu Waterfall and Nilüfer Lake, both 18km from Antalya, are two other places of superb natural beauty.

Antalya / Düden Waterfalls - Photo: Gülcan AcarAntalya / Düden Waterfalls – Photo: Gülcan Acar

Beyond sun, sand and sea

Abundant and up-to-date tourist facilities as well as well-preserved historical sites give you a number of options for daily activities. Perge (18km from Antalya) was an important city of ancient Pamphylia, which St Paul visited on his first missionary journey. Swimmers and sunbathers alike enjoy Belek, a modern luxurious holiday centre and golfer’s paradise, 40km from Antalya. A photogenic Seljuk bridge crosses the Köprü River from the road to Aspendos. The Aspendos Theatre is the best preserved theatre of antiquity, with a capacity of 15,000 spectators. Still used today, the theatre’s galleries, stage decorations and acoustics all testify to the architect’s success. Nearby stand the remains of a basilica, an agora and one of the largest aqueducts in Anatolia. On the northeast of Antalya at the turn off for Taşağıl and Beşkonak is the scenic route that leads to the Köprülü Canyon National Park. The twisting road winds over mountain streams and passes through virgin cedar forest. It is often a slow drive because the view at every turn is more beautiful than the last. The national park, 92km from Antalya, is a beautiful valley rich in flora and fauna. Side, one of the best-known classical sites in Turkey, was an ancient harbour whose name once meant pomegranate. Today it is a pretty resort town. Its ancient ruins, two sandy beaches, numerous shops and extensive tourist accommodation attract throngs of visitors. Tucked in pine forests on the east of Side, the holiday resorts of SorgunTitreyengöl and Kızılağaç are popular for their sandy beaches and sparkling sea. The atmosphere is relaxed, the accommodation plentiful and the activities endless. To the west of Side are the holiday centres of KumköyÇolaklı and Kamelya, offering sun and sea in close proximity to the ancient sites. At Seleucia of Pamphylia (Bucakşıhlar), 15 km northeast of Side, are the remains of Roman baths, temples, churches, a mausoleum, theatre and agora which are in good condition. One of the most interesting and well-known caves in Turkey is located in Altınbeşik Cave National Park situated 12 km southeast of Aydınkent (İbradı) and 55 km north of Manavgat. Lakes and interesting rock formations within the cave area, as well as travertines and streams, make this area especially fascinating. Altınbeşik Cave is situated on the western slopes of the Manavgat River Valley and can be reached via Ürünlü, an authentic village and a must-see when travelling through this area. The Alarahan Caravanserai was built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in 1230 on the banks of the Alara River. At the top of a nearby hill the Alara Fortress commands a view of the whole area.

Antalya / Alanya - Photo: Gülcan AcarAntalya / Alanya – Photo: Gülcan Acar

The large and popular resort centre of Alanya lies at one end of a rocky promontory which juts out into the Mediterranean between two long sandy beaches. A fortress, repaired by the Seljuks in 1231 and one of the most magnificent sights on the coast, crowns the headland. Nearly 150 towers punctuate the walls of the well-preserved, double-walled citadel. Within the outer walls are ruins of mosques, a caravanserai and a covered bazaar and within the inner walls can be found a ruined cistern and a Byzantine church. Although Alanya’s history dates back to Roman times, it rose to prominence under the Seljuks when in 1220 Alaeddin Keykubat made it his winter residence and naval base. The surviving buildings reflect the importance of the city in Seljuk times. Besides the impressive citadel, tourists should explore the unique dockyards and the octagonal Kızıl Kule (Red Tower).

“After a day of sightseeing, indulge yourself in a world of tasty wonders”