Who knew the city of Antalya had the same sunny weather and cobalt water as some of Europe's top Mediterranean beach destinations? Not us, certainly. But, apparently, everybody else did. Turns out, Antalya is one of the most visited cities in the world—just not by Americans. I guess, there's an email chain or group chat that we don't know about.
Want to experience Antalya weather? Here's how.
Antalya is on Turkey's southwestern coast, about 430 miles straight due-south of Istanbul. And, if you're going to Istanbul, I highly recommend that you make a side-trip to Antalya, because Istanbul's roiling, olive-drab Sea of Marmara has nothing on the tranquil, teal waters of Turkey's Mediterranean coast.
There are basically 5 ways to get from Istanbul to Antalya. It's a two-hour trip by airplane, a three-hour trip by train, it's 11-hours by bus, 9-hours by car, or 125-hours on foot. If you decide to walk, just know that you'll be hiking for eight days at almost 4,500-feet in altitude across vast arid plains. So, you know…wear sunscreen. And maybe bring a bottle of water or two.
Antalya has Turkey's best weather, IMHO.
The southwest corner of Turkey is known as the Turquoise Coast for immediate and obvious reasons. Encompassing the unpronounceable provinces of Antalya, Muğla, Aydın, İzmir and Mersin, this 600-mile stretch of mountainous shoreline has a toasty climate, azure waters, sandy beaches, and a Corbita-load of archaeological ruins (so many, in fact, I had to write about some of them separately).
Frankly, thanks to Antalya weather, the city could easily pass for other, better known Mediterranean coastal towns like Amalfi, Crete, or Barcelona, assuming you didn't read any signs or talk to any people. As a result, Antalya is a popular destination for ancient history buffs, thalassophiles, and tourists from countries with colder, shittier weather (I'm looking at you, Russia).
Antalya weather is way better than Cappadocia's.
After spending so much time in Cappadocia's semi-arid continental climate, the Turkish Province of Antalya—and its namesake city, Antalya—was a breath of fresh sea air. Sure, there was a fair amount of smog in that air due to the city's many cars and motorbikes, but at least the scenery was less weirdly phallic than Cappadocia.
Unlike inland Cappadocia, Antalya weather is Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and mild to cool, wet winters. Basically, it's the same type of climate you'd experience in places like Positano, Santorini, or Tel Aviv, but would pay far higher prices for a water view. Turkey has a favorable exchange rate at the moment, thanks to someone's incompetent bungling of the economy.
Inexplicably, Antalya isn't Turkey's most popular city.
Your first thought when visiting Antalya will be, “How is this picturesque paradise only the fifth-largest city in Turkey?!?” What do four other cities in Turkey have that's better than 600 miles of spectacular shoreline and Antalya weather?
Okay, sure, Istanbul is Turkey's economic and cultural capital. And, yes, Ankara is the country's actual capital. And, fine, İzmir is Turkey's primary port for exports. But Bursa..? Really? That manufacturing hub is larger, too? Come on, it's a glorified suburb. Granted, it's a 3-hour commute to Istanbul, but still, it shouldn't count separately.
Antalya, on the other hand, is Turkey's fastest-growing province thanks to its recent urbanization, driven by exploding tourism and commensurate service sector growth. At this rate, pretty soon, no one will remember the city of Bursa even exists—other than the 3 million people who currently live there, I mean.
Where to stay in the city of Antalya Turkey.
While in Antalya, we stayed at the excellent Akra Hotel. Overall, the place was top-notch and pretty swanky, clearly deserving its 4.5-star TripAdvisor rating. Our room was unremarkable in that I don't remember any annoyances—a major accomplishment for a hotel these days.
But what I do remember most was their excellent, and extremely bougie, Asmani Restaurant and Rooftop Bar. Though packed with young, attractive Insta-influencers, the elegant Asmani made up for its entitled crowd with both local and global cuisines, a great bar, and a spectacular terrace view of the sea.
After some long days touring the Antalya Province, we spent our evenings up at the Asmani bar, drinking cocktails and eating sushi, while watching the sun set slowly over the Mediterranean, behind the Gül mountains. The experience didn't suck. Five-stars, highly recommended. (Be sure to make reservations if you want a table.)
The Kaleiçi district is Antalya's OG neighborhood.
Until the 1950s, Antalya referred to only one part of this Turkish city—the oldest neighborhood, known as Kaleiçi. This harbor district was once surrounded by defensive walls that constituted the entirety of Antalya. Since then, the city has grown far beyond its Old Town borders. But, generally, in ways that are uninteresting, so I won't bother going into them here.
Antalya went a little over-budget on their ancient welcome mat.
Hadrian's Gate is the only remaining entry point through the ancient walls that once surrounded this seafront city. Built for its namesake Emperor (and at great taxpayer expense), Hadrian's Gate is an impressive feat of stone stacking and rock chiseling.
This 26-foot high memorial gate even used to have a second story on top that allegedly held statues of the emperor and his family (carved in absentia using photos taken at one of the first Sears Portrait Studios).
In a later, more paranoid period, the walls were built around and outside the gate. Closing off the gate protected the city from invaders and, as a bonus, protected the gate from the ravages of time. It was rediscovered in 1817 by an Irish naval officer, probably looking for somewhere inconspicuous to puke.
Today, it's the main entrance to Antalya's historic harbor, an area that contains many of the city's must-see attractions. And one of those must-see attractions is Hadrian's Gate, which you can now check-off your list. Boom, moving on!
Antalya's Kaleiçi district was designed for pedestrians, not SUVs.
Once inside Kaleiçi, you'll encounter a maze of narrow Roman-built streets leading to renovated hotels, restaurants, cafés, and shops. You'll also pass many pubs and bars on your way up to the pier. But don't stop in unless you really need a drink, because the views of the harbor are intoxicating [Editor's note: “You're fired.”]
Antalya Harbor is dotted with the remnants of defensive walls from the days when this major Roman port was frequently attacked and plundered for its riches. Today, the still-busy harbor teems with colorful fishing boats selling the day's catch, and obscene luxury yachts, presumably owned by descendants of those same attackers.
Like boats? Then you'll like the Old City Marina.
The descent from Kaleiçi to the Antalya Marina is down some very steep, Roman stone steps—see, I told you not to drink! But it's worth the risk of serious injury or death because, where else can you see boats with a lot of pirate regalia on them? The desert? Not damn likely.
This attractive, crescent-shaped marina is the perfect place to look back up at the plateau that forms most of Antalya, and wonder, “Did I walk all the way down here just to see a bunch of stupid boats?!?” Yes, yes, you did. That's on me—that's my bad.
Mermerli Beach is a place to enjoy Antalya weather.
While you're down at sea level, why not salvage the day at Mermerli Beach, enjoying the beautiful Antalya weather? Technically, Mermerli Beach isn't really a beach—at least, not one with sand—but you won't care.
Inside this protected cove, you can sunbathe in the sun, and swim in warm, clear Mediterranean waters. For only 140 Lira, you can get a chaise lounge with umbrella, and for another 50 Lira, you can get a towel.
Sure, the chaise lounges may be kinda crowded together, and a lot of people in Turkey still smoke for some reason, but you can buy food and drinks to fuel up for the trek back to Old Town while your anger at me passes and your blood pressure settles back down.
Put the Lower Düden Falls high up on your list.
It's pretty weird to have a waterfall within a city. But what's even weirder, is that you can take a public bus to the Lower Düden Falls.
The water for both Düden Falls—there's an Upper falls, too—comes from a spring up in the mountains 25 miles inland. Though it runs mostly underground, the fast-moving flow rises to the surface at Düdenbaşı and powers the Kepez Hydroelectrical turbines.
This torrent of water is rerouted back to its path, where it flows straight through the city like post-Mardi Gras urine down Bourbon Street. Impressively, the river finally erupts off the cliffs and commits spectacular suicide, cascading 130-feet into the Mediterranean.
The Greeks and Romans' abandoned art of Antalya.
The Antalya Archeological Museum is one of the largest museums in all of Turkey—and they have tons of artsy antiquities from back when the Greeks and Romans called dibs on this coast.
The building houses over 5000 works of art, including 13 exhibition halls, inside its 75,000+ square feet. Yet, by far, the most popular piece—judging from the throngs of visitors huddled around it—was the museum's “YOU ARE HERE” directory map.
Antalya Turkey is a fine jumping off point to see other sights nearby.
If sipping cocktails from a hotel terrace overlooking the azure Mediterranean Sea for eight hours a day isn't your jam, Antalya has a plethora of other sites you can see while drinking. To shake things up, we went to a beach.
In addition to amazing Antalya weather, this coastal province of Turkey has the most blue-flagged eco-friendly beaches in the world—a total of 213. And while some of its top beaches are Konyaalti Plahari, Cleopatra, Lara, and Patara, we went to Çıralı Beach for reasons other than its sun and sand.
Çıralı Beach is the place to chillax on the Antalya coast.
Tucked away in ancient Lycia, just over an hour's drive southwest of Antalya, is the beach town of Çıralı (aka, Cirali Plaji). Despite a wide swath of sand and crystal-clear water, Çıralı Beach is best known for its relaxed and laid-back vibe.
Without any major resorts or hotels in the area, Çıralı isn't overrun with jetski-riding douchebags or Insta-douchebaguettes. Instead, this underdeveloped beach offers Antalya weather, gently lapping waves, chirping birds, natural flora, and densely forested mountains. If you're looking to get away from civilization, you could do a lot worse.
With over two miles of secluded sandiness, Çıralı Beach is ideal for lounging, swimming, kayaking, and naked sunbathing. Luckily, if you get kicked out for naked sunbathing—because Turkey has a lot of modest Muslims—there are other touristy things to do in the area, too.
Some other touristy things to do in the area.
For starters, it's only a short hike up to Turkey's Olympos Beydağları National Park. There, you can see ruins from the temple of Hephaistos, a Greek god whose mother cast him out because of a limp. But be warned, the hike is somewhat steep and can be arduous in the summer months, especially if you have a limp.
If you don't feel up to making the hike, don't worry about it. The ruins of the temple aren't that impressive, and there's a demonic, fire-breathing hell-monster trapped up there.
Oh, yeah. I should probably mention that.
The choler* of the Chimera.
According to Greek mythology, the Chimera was a monstrous fire-breathing creature. Despite its name meaning “she-goat,” the creature was often depicted as a lion with the head of a goat protruding from its back, and a tail that ended with a snake's head. It was a popular design for Ancient Greek teens to paint on their vans.
According to ancient scribes, the Chimera was “a bane to many men,” and “a right prick to cattle,” as the monster had taken to flame-broiling them. The king eventually ordered Bellerophon—a guy he hated for no good reason—to slay the beast. He secretly hoped it would kill Bellerophon instead (“for [the beast] was more than a match for many, let alone one”).
Regrettably, the king failed to do any opposition research on his nemesis, so the king never knew that Bellerophon owned the flying horse, Pegasus. This winged equine had sprung from the blood of Medusa after she was beheaded. You know, the same way all horses were birthed back then.
Intent on proving himself to the King, Bellerophon mounted his aerial assault-steed and engaged the Chimera in immortal combat. The fearsome Chimera, despite all of its fire-breathing, claws, and snake-fangs, wasn't arrow-proof.
And so, “soaring on high, [Bellerophon] shot down the Chimera, yelling triumphantly, Suck it, beeeeeaaaatch!” (An alternative version tells of his spearing molten lead into the Chimera's throat, choking it to death.) Once incapacitated, the Chimera was cast into Olympos mountain, and entombed there forever.
In Turkish, Yanartaş means “flaming rock.”
The monster's incarceration in the mountain created the “Flames of the Chimaera,” a popular destination for hikers who smoke but forgot their lighter. Numerous holes in the surrounding rock allow the monsters' breath to escape (best viewed at night, see photos).
Of course, some people insist that the fiery phenomenon is nothing more than leaking gas, igniting upon contact with air. But that doesn't account for the eerie voice you hear hissing, “FREE ME, MORTALS! OR DIIIIIEEEEE!” when the wind is just right.
Yanartaş is an ongoing ecological disaster.
Unfortunately, these vents emit methane gas all day, every day. Worse, the gas has burned continuously for millennia—the flames are even mentioned in Homer's “The Iliad,” which was written in the 8th Century BCE! And methane is one of the worst greenhouse gases contributing to global climate change.
So, in the end, maybe the Chimera is playing the long game. Because, with no way to cap these vents and prevent their green house gas emissions, the Chimera may yet get its ultimate revenge on mankind. Thanks a lot, Bellerophon!
Wait, there's more of this nonsense? Seriously?
Yeah, sorry about that. But to keep this CrosbyReport from becoming so long-winded that it wouldn't load, I had to break it up into three separate posts.
The next post is about the ancient city of Ephesus, the oldest and most complete Roman city ever excavated. And the final post is about some of the many Roman sites in the area, which are notable for various reasons, I assume.