After four days in the fairytale valleys of Cappadocia, we were back on the bus. This time we were on our way to the Mediterranean coast, more precisely to Antalya on the Turkish Riviera. This was the third step of our three-week itinerary around Turkey and it did not disappoint! The travel time was 9 hours, we arrived around 7:00 pm. It was dark but it was great to get off the bus and not be cold! You have to remember that in Göreme it was more or less 10°C (it was November after all), so the mild Mediterranean temperatures were very welcome!
We were tired and more importantly, we were hungry so we went straight to our Airbnb and ordered pizza (not very traditional I know). We had 4 days to discover the best of Antalya so the adventure would begin the following day!
How to get to Antalya?
Like all other destinations, the bus is the most practical and cheap way of getting to Antalya. There are regular buses that leave from the town centre and we left Göreme at 12:00 pm. We booked our tickets on the Flixbus app (approx 27€) and we were good to go! You can also opt for the plane if you are coming from Istanbul as it would otherwise be an incredibly long journey. The journey took 9 hours with regular breaks. As it was daytime we enjoyed looking out the window and seeing the changes in scenery!
The bus arrived at the bus terminal in Antalya, from where you can either take a taxi or the local bus n°600 (timetable) to the city centre. You can pay on board by tapping your CB on the terminals. If you don't have a card that's good for travelling (extra fees, exchange rates..) then you can purchase bus tickets before boarding at the vending machines in cash.
Where to stay in Antalya?
You can imagine there are a lot of nice hotels in Antalya, being the Turkish Riviera and all, but once again we opted for an Airbnb room. This time, we were hosted by Ümit in his lovely flat that was just a 15-minute walk from the old town. The room was spacious and light with access to a large sunny balcony (ideal for coffee in the morning). The kitchen was well equipped and we often had the place to ourselves which was nice. Ümit was kind and good company, and we had many interesting conversations... basically, the perfect place to stay for to discover the best of Antalya in 4 days!
Must-see places in Antalya
Out of all the places we visited in Turkey, Antalya was definitely my favourite, my "coup de coeur" as we say in French. We had no idea what to expect when arriving in Antalya, I had done little research and just thought it would be a nice seaside city to visit but it was so much more!
The city is located on the Turkish Riviera and offers the beauty of Mediterranean turquoise waters (hence why it's also named the Turquoise Coast), against a mountainous backdrop with snow-capped peaks reaching 3000m! The old port and town add to the charm of the place with ancient asianesque (is this even a word?) houses and cobbled streets lined with orange trees. So, what are the must-see places in Antalya? Well, there are quite a few.
Despite the large influx of tourists in summer, the city has retained its historical charm and authenticity. The old town of Antalya, in particular, has kept its marks from the past and is definitely a must-see when visiting the city! Named Kaleiçi, the old quarter is a maze of countless boutiques, art galleries, craft shops, small Turkish cafes and restaurants. Kaleiçi is built on a rocky spur on the side of a steep cliff, below which is an old port, now restored as a modern marina. You'll get a lot of store owners trying to see you "Sultan Tea", don't buy it, don't even try it, it tastes like Vaporub. You'll thank me later.
The Old Port/Marina
When heading towards the old town, we passed by the old port/marina which is a popular spot for boat excursions. From above, the port looks lovely with the turquoise water and boats gently bobbing in the sea. When you get closer to the port though, you immediately realise that it's a big tourist trap. The boats, which resemble pirate ships booming out loud music, slightly put a damper on the place. However, the old port is still a must-see as the surroundings are very pretty, and historically speaking it's very interesting!
The construction of the port is very closely linked to the foundation of the city of Antalya. In 860, the port was a naval base for the Arab conquests. When the Seljuks took control of the city, the port became an increasingly important position for long-distance trade. It was an ideal point of departure for the countries of the western Mediterranean. The port brought great prosperity to the city!
The Düden Waterfalls
The Lower Düden Waterfalls are certainly one of the most dazzling natural spectacles to see in Antalya. The waterfall is located in Düden Park in the Lara district. It is a powerful water attraction that can be admired from the park but also from a boat. I randomly found this attraction whilst browsing online and was curious to see it with my own eyes! What intrigued me most was that this freshwater river flows into the sea, a phenomenon that is quite rare to come across!
An interesting thing to know about the Lower Düden Waterfall is that since the name of the area is Karpuzkaldıran, the waterfall is also called Karpuzkaldıran Şelalesi. This literally means the watermelon waterfall, which made me like it even more!
You can watch the beautiful waterfall in the nearby Düden Park from an observation terrace with a cafeteria, a car park and a picnic area. The balconies only allowed us to see the waterfall from the side but there are boat trips from the marina (the lovely pirate ships mentioned above), that stop in front of the falls, allowing you to admire the site from a different angle. That being said, the balcony view was amazing and is a must-see in Antalya, we even caught a glimpse of a rainbow!
The waterfall is accessible from the centre of Antalya by bus. You can use the KL08, LF09, LF10 and LC37 bus lines from Lara Beach and from the city centre, Kaleiçi.
Yavuz Özcan Park
Before heading down to the old port and town, I highly recommend walking through Yavuz Özcan park. It was the first place we checked out in Antalya as it was only 10 minutes away from our Airbnb and it offers breathtaking views of the sea and mountains. This park was the highlight of my 4 days in Antalya, I could have sat there all day with a coffee and book, saying hello to the odd cat. The orange and palm trees, the colourful flowers and the shimmering blue sea made the setting almost cinematographic.
The view in the picture above is what made me instantly fall in love with Antalya. The park is a little green oasis in the middle of a big city, with cobbled pathways, benches, and miniature waterfalls making Yavuz Özcan park a must-see when visiting Antalya!