This week I decided to go off the beaten path (for Syracuse students) and visit Alanya, a 250,000-person city on the Mediterranean coast. It’s a tourist’s dream town, featuring large resorts, wide sandy beaches, hiking (with caves), and an old fortress. Getting here can often be difficult- it’s two hours east of Antalya, the region’s main city and airport, however AtlasGlobal once again came through and offers a free airport bus, so I had no problems.
Alanya is in the middle of Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, which makes many people go OH MY GOD IT’S CLOSE TO SYRIA (hi mom!). Relatively speaking, that’s true, but it’s within the western Mediterranean sphere of influence, and very few public buses offer routes farther east. Simply put: it’s not a target, and nowhere even close to the upheaval along the border region.
It is, however, a total tourist town. Nearly everything is dedicated to the tourism industry- from numerous parks, fountains, and palm trees, to a layout highlighting the city’s coastal location. Cruise ships dock here weekly, large private buses are frequently spotted on the streets, and every other person is wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sandals. “Regular” tourists spend their time sightseeing and at the beach, and also taking harbor cruises, jeep safaris, whitewater rafting, and more. The normal tourist is British, Scandinavian, French, or German- and restaurants all have menus catering to each language and food taste.
The city skyline is dominated by a massive hill rising above the waterfront. It’s visible from miles away, and crowned by an ancient Byzantine/Seljuk fortress. Because it’s the off-season, I am able to afford one of the nicest small hotels in the city- the Villa Sonata- located part way up said hill and just minutes from the beach. It’s got two pools and panoramic views of the city, as well as each room being an apartment (kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, balcony). It’s pretty much sold out for the entire April-October stretch at 10-15x what I’m paying!
I have spent most of the time at Cleopatra Beach, just down the street from the hotel. It’s wide and has few pebbles, and features blue water and crashing waves. Risking my phone and jeans multiple times, I had some fun darting in and out of the wave zone trying to snap some photos to hang on my wall back home. The phone survived, the jeans didn’t, but I took a few nice ones! As it was my first time to the Mediterranean, I was overjoyed to find that the water was a lot warmer than Cape Cod. And thankfully the beach was pretty empty, but I can only imagine how many people are there during high season when it gets really hot out.
I did make the mistake of underestimating how big the hill was when I decided to hike up it this morning in jeans and a long sleeve shirt. With a 75-degree temperature, the walk was 45 minutes of brutal (and sometimes steep) climbing. When I got to the top, there were tons of elderly British tourists looking relaxed and enjoying the views, whereas I was drenched and needed to rest before attempting to look at the city below. Google tells me it’s 850 feet high- pretty remarkable when you notice the hill is more of a cliff.
The views were as advertised. You can only walk on one of the walls (disappointing), but you can see the city, sea, and coast for miles out. The buildings below look like tiny white specs, and one can barely see the waves crashing onto the shore.
After taking in the views, one might want to visit the fresh fruit drink stand outside the gate, but DON’T. There’s another one at the very bottom of the hill (that you will walk to as you get back to town) with the same drinks at ¼ the cost. So instead of 13 lira for a pomegranate drink, you pay four, which is what I did. I also saw drink options that were completely new to me- including strawberry, banana, kiwi, and watermelon. Keep in mind: these are all fresh squeezed, and I don’t know how you juice a banana.
I skipped the city’s archaeological museum and old mosque because I’ve seen enough clay pots and tiled walls for a while, but I did check out the Dalmatas cave, located across the street from the banana-juice café. This relatively large (and still living) cave is Alanya’s main draw, promising to benefit asthma sufferers with 4-hours of its air each day for a month. The stalactites were nice, the air was just unpleasant. I’m with the guidebooks on this one- I don’t think there’s any real benefit to semi-suffocation.
I also checked out one of the city’s two harbors, where tourists can schedule cruises on Pirates of the Caribbean themed boats. Despite being cheesy, I think it would be fun to do with a group of people, especially considering you could motor around the hill to see the rocky outcroppings getting pounded by the waves. The harbor is really well done, with flowers, fountains, and artwork everywhere. There’s also a “bazaar” next to it, although it sells a lot of handbags and other touristy items.
I finished my trip with my first ocean sunset- finally. I have been foiled by last-minute clouds throughout my trips to Izmir and Bodrum (and last night). It was a good way to cap off the “weekend” as I head back to Istanbul tomorrow morning (rain had been forecasted when I booked this, of course it’s going to be gorgeous).