The western Mediterranean Coast
With sunshine for most of the year and a magnificent coastline, the western Mediterranean Coast is a popular holiday area. It is also a region steeped in history and legend, dotted with important sites and great medieval castles. Situated on a cliff promontory, Antalya is a popular resort, boasting a picturesque walled old town and harbour, Kaleiçi, the monumental Hadrian’s Gate, Kesik Minare and Yivli Minare mosques and Hidirlik Kulesi, the round Roman tower, and a superb Archaeological Museum. With its mix of charming small guest houses and modern hotels,
it is the ideal starting point for tours to the outlying Roman cities of dramatic Termessos, in the mountains behind the city; Perge, a well-preserved and atmospheric place with tall Hellenistic walls and streets which still bear the marks of chariot wheels; and Aspendos, home to a remarkable second-century AD amphitheatre, still used for live performances during the annual festival.
Turkey’s finest Roman aqueduct lies to the north of the city. Belek, 30km (19 miles) east of Antalya, has two championship golf courses, is the habitat of hundreds of species of birds, and one of several local breeding grounds for the rare leatherback turtle. In Side, now a thriving seaside resort, the Greek enclosure walls are still virtually undamaged. The town also boasts an exquisite fountain, a theatre, two agoras and Roman baths, great beaches and lively nightlife.
Nestling at the foot of a rocky promontory and crowned by a Selçuk fortress, the town of Alanya has some fine beaches and a great many large resort hotels. A spectacularly scenic road connects Anamur, striking for its wave-swept Selçuk castle and ancient city, and Silifke, dominated by yet another vast fortress. The museum in ancient Silifke contains finds from the many archaeological sites in the vicinity. Mersin, built on a site dating back to Paleolithic times, is a major port. Nearby, parts of Tarsus date back to biblical times, when St Paul was a child here and Anthony met Cleopatra in the main square.
The prosperous city of Adana, in the middle of the flat Cukurova plain, is the centre of Turkey’s cotton industry, and home to an imposingly huge modern mosque. The massive Taskopru Bridge, built by Hadrian in the second century, the ancient covered bazaar and nearby Crusader castles and Hittite settlements are all interesting sites. The road from heavily polluted Iskenderun leads through the Belen Pass to Antakya, the biblical city of Antioch, where St Peter founded the first Christian community. The grotto where he preached can be seen just outside the town.