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Alanya’s coastal appeal

Mediterranean beauty and medieval architecture

Created date

June 13th, 2018
Alanya Castle's Red Tower is a favorite stop for visitors to explore and enjoy the view of the city.

The Red Tower is a favorite stop for visitors to explore and enjoy views of the city

Just over an hour flight from Istanbul, Turkey’s Alanya offers the beachside beauty of the Mediterranean, the historical wonder and architecture of medieval times, and the affordable accommodations of a lesser-known tourist destination. 

For a weeklong visit, cast your anchor at one of the hotels along Cleopatra Beach, the city’s most famous, said to have been frequented by Cleopatra herself. Among the all-inclusive hotel options is the new Floria Beach Hotel, situated at the northern tip of the beach. Just beyond the rocky shore—best traversed with water shoes—don your snorkel and join the schools of fish beneath clear blue water. Surface to admire the distant Taurus Mountains and the entertaining panoply of paragliders, speed boats, and eclectic pirate ships breezing by.

Historic, protected peninsula

Travel Alanya’s coast one day by boat to admire the rock formations of its peninsula, atop which sits the medieval Alanya Castle. Built in the thirteenth-century Seljuk period, the castle is a reminder of the city’s history of occupation. The castle and its adjoining Red Tower are among Alanya’s top sights. Daytime visitors can tour the castle’s open air museum, but equally satisfying are the castle’s surrounding walkways that are free and open to the public. Wear comfortable walking shoes, particularly at night, when the rocky paths are more challenging but offer glimmering views of the city lights and sea below.      

The castle sits on Alanya Harbor, where in the evening the various themed pirate ships loom large, festooned with giant wooden faces and names like Zeus and Viking. By day, these ships are among the boating options available to tourists. Take care to read the itinerary details of these cruises, particularly if a party boat atmosphere isn’t your cup of tea.

Along Alanya Harbor, pick up some roasted chestnuts or corn from a harborside cart to snack on during your walk back into the city center. Here, historic architecture is replaced by neon restaurant signs and storefronts spilling souvenirs and knockoff American-brand clothing and accessories. Be prepared to negotiate prices.

Natural retreat

Counter Alanya’s commercialism with a nature excursion to Sapadere Canyon. The 45-minute drive inland to Sapadere from Cleopatra Beach reveals a changing landscape, from thoroughfare to lush mountainside, where pomegranate trees line windy roads and schoolchildren play in their small village.    

It takes about an hour to walk the meandering wooden canyon pathway, past waterfalls that spill into icy, crystal clear water. Adventurers can take a dip in the various natural pools, warming up afterward with a hot tea at the canyon’s small outdoor café, nestled in the cutout rock.

After working up an appetite in the fresh mountain air, stop for lunch at the canyon restaurant on your way out. Try a plate of freshly fried fish raised on the open-air restaurant grounds and relax beneath the trees. Not far from the canyon is another tourist destination: Dwarfs Cave, or Cuceler Magarasi, at the end of a similarly wooded path.       

Sun-hungry travelers should follow their short canyon excursion by heading back to the beach. For a lively land experience, Cleopatra’s various beach clubs provide a fine option for a sunset cocktail or meal. Goya Beach Club has a swim-up bar and DJ by day and elegant dining by night. Try the fried halumi cheese appetizer and sizzling garlic shrimp entrée.

Moments on Alanya’s beach conjure comparisons with Western beachside resorts, that is, until the Muslim call to prayer sounds loudly, echoing from the mountainside. The Beach Club DJ silences his tunes out of respect, pausing for a brief moment after the call’s final tone before resuming position.