Antalya; New Look in Turkish Riviera's Summer Capital
Byline: Richard Slusser, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
ANTALYA, Turkey - This sun-blessed city is Turkey's summer playground on the Mediterranean Sea, the capital of the Turquoise Coast. It is a prime urban destination on the Turkish Riviera, which stretches from Marmaris in the west to the province of Hatay near the border with Lebanon.
Even in winter, the weather in Antalya can be sunny, mild enough to make it perfect for golf and tennis or a weekend break.
The best nearby skiing - at 6,560 feet in Saklikent, 31 miles northwest of Antalya - is from January to April, but in March and April ,it is possible to ski in the morning and then drive to the coast for an afternoon swim in the Mediterranean. White-water rafting is available near Antalya.
It is the bright sun of summer, though, that draws the crowds. Most people come for holidays on the beach and to visit the numerous historical sites, but many are devoted to sailing the blue voyages along the Mediterranean coast.
Location - seaside but cliff-top and on the edge of a fertile alluvial plain - has been in Antalya's favor for centuries. The Karain Cave, about 16 miles from Antalya, has yielded artifacts dating from 30,000 B.C. The area probably has been inhabited continuously since about 50,000 B.C., in the Middle Paleolithic period, but Antalya is much younger.
The city's founder was Attalus II, king of Pergamum. One day near the end of the second century B.C., Attalus charged a scouting party to find the most beautiful place on Earth. The party returned and told the king they had found it, and he ordered a city built there. He named the city Attaleia, now known as Antalya. Some say he built the city because he needed a port for his inland base.
Antalya is on the northern end of the Gulf of Antalya, and the province of Antalya wraps around the city in a crescent. Nearby are major archaeological sites, especially the ruins of Perge, Aspendos and Side. The ancient site of Termessos, at 3,500 feet, is west of the city, while Phaselis is to the southwest.
The modern Antalya airport is the busiest on Turkey's southern coast and offers flights to Western European cities as well as other destinations in Turkey.
The one-hour, 15-minute flight from Istanbul mostly is over mountains, including the awesome Taurus range north of Antalya. In their descent, planes fly over a long green valley that leads into Antalya's alluvial plain. From the air, passengers can see the agricultural plots, many planted with citrus trees, but the area also produces other fruits, plus vegetables and cotton.
Closer to the airport, the large rectangular fields are sprouting other crops as the building boom for the resort city expands. It is not unusual to see a field with a high-rise apartment building rising in one or more corners.
Besides the summer crowd, more people are buying second homes or retiring in Antalya, which has helped boost the population from about 600,000 in 2002 to an estimated 790,000. Summer visitors bring the population to 2 million - and growing.
Among the many new hotels, the 701-room Silence Beach Resort is being completed this month. The hotel, near Side, will have Turkey's first glatt kosher restaurant, the King David.
Tucked between the mountains and in the plain are harbors and marinas for yachts and larger boats. Kemer, west of Antalya, is a major marina center and a charming town.
Visitors who come for a walk into antiquity are rewarded richly, for this area, like much of the southern coast of Turkey, is dotted with historical sites that can be associated with conquerors such as Alexander the Great, the Persians, Phoenicians, the Ptolmies of Egypt, Romans, the Byzantine Empire, crusaders, Seljuks and the Ottoman Empire. For many years, the coast was plundered by pirates. After World War II, the Allies partitioned the Ottoman Empire and gave Antalya to Italy, but in 1921, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk led Turkish forces to free Anatolia from foreign control. …