Alanya: Under the spring sun

Alanya: Under the spring sun

MELİH USLU
Alanya: Under the spring sun

There are many reasons to come to Alanya. Perhaps the first one is the warm Mediterranean sun that shines throughout the year. The average temperature never falls below 19 degrees Celsius here in this town blessed with sunshine 300 days of the year. What’s more, getting there is as easy as pie thanks to Alanya Gazipaşa Airport.

Just 135 kilometers east of Antalya, Alanya has a history going back thousands of years. Home to the tribes dispersed to Anatolia after the Trojan War, the city was known as Kolodorus, meaning beautiful mountain, in the Byzantine period. The ancient city of Laertes on the Alanya-Gazipaşa highway is the home of the first Miss Universe according to myth. Many ruins are still standing from this city, believed to have been founded in the 7th century B.C. Enjoying a golden age in the medieval period, it grew and developed in it one of Anatolia’s most impressive castles. A small fishing community surrounded by banana and orange orchards until just half a century ago, Alanya today looks like a city where life revolves around tourism. According to some sources, bananas have been grown in Alanya since the mid-18th century. Weighing up to 100 kilos a bunch, Alanya bananas are distinguished by their fine flavor and aroma. With the natural charm of all towns that are located between the sea and mountains, Alanya is also at the heart of a magnificent cultural accumulation. The rising star of the Mediterranean coast, Alanya overlooks the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean from the wooded slopes of the Taurus Mountains, attracting more than a million tourists every year. We begin our tour around the town from Alanya Castle.

Mediterranean nostalgia

Dating back to the Seljuk era, Alanya Castle is one of the oldest settlements in the town. It looks like an eagle’s nest atop a craggy peninsula at some 250 meters above the sea. Surrounded by a 6.5 kilometers long, strong rampart, the castle was protected by 83 turrets which were built in Seljuk and later in Ottoman times. It was built in the 13th century over a foundation that dates back to the Hellenistic period. The most impressive section of the castle, as well as the symbol of Alanya, is the 33-meter-high octagonal Red Tower just behind the wharf. The structure that resembles a five-arched stone bridge to the left end of the tower is the only shipyard that is left from the Seljuk era. Preserving the characteristic urban texture of Alanya, the inside of the castle looks like an open-air museum with the best examples of Ottoman architecture especially at the Tophane (arsenal) neighborhood that continues to exist within the castle for centuries. There is also another interesting neighborhood called Ehmedek at the higher sections of the castle. Reminding of a medieval Mediterranean town, the neighborhood nests some 2000 years old buildings. Old Turkish graves among old fig and cypress trees, an age-old caravanserai covered with ivies, Roman bastions, Byzantine cisterns, Süleymaniye Mosque and its elegant 16th-century wood work decorations, Ottoman baths, a lighthouse, churches, tombs and dungeons… The surroundings of Alanya Castle also keep a lot of surprises for tourists: A long and pleasing walk among hand-woven silk and cotton textile workshops, gift and souvenir counters, colorful bottle gourds decorated with authentic figures, authentic diners at the pleasant gardens of historical houses, restaurants and cafes with a wonderful port view all wait for you.

Warm, exotic, modern

Known as the land of the sun in history, Alanya is a center of attraction for foreigners. Germans and Dutch people are the largest groups among the expats who have opted to live here. Alanya is also bustling all year round with festivals and sports events. The international beach volleyball matches especially, held in September, are world famous. The 70-kilometer-long coastline, stretching from Ulaş promontory to Gazipaşa border, constitutes the main axis of Alanya’s urban development. Lined by palm and date trees on both sides, Atatürk Boulevard is lively and exotic all day long. Alanya Museum is just one of the many surprises that the streets intersecting the boulevard hide. At a walking distance from the boulevard, on the western shore of the castle peninsula there is Damlataş Cave. A true miracle of nature filled with honey-colored stalactites and stalagmites, the cave has a constant temperature of 20 to 23 degrees Celsius throughout the year. The cave is said to have a healing effect on asthma and rheumatism patients due to various chemical gases and radioactive waves it emits. Besides Alanya market is lively the whole year. The alternatives to the market where you can find all kinds of gifts, clothing, gold and silver accessories and jewelry, leather and woodwork are the neighborhood markets. It is not easy to leave these markets without buying some of the herbs, herbal teas, spices and local garments that are brought from mountain villages and towns surrounding Alanya. On the way from the market to the waterfront, the Havuzlu Park nests one of the most beautiful green spaces of Alanya. The park’s gate on the waterfront side opens to the Rıhtım Street, one of Alanya’s favorite walking courses.

Cleopatra’s footprints

A true beach heaven, both Alanya’s city center and the surrounding areas feature many beautiful beaches. The quality of water is checked by microbiological analyses so often at these blue flag awarded beaches. Blue flags are given only to those beaches and marinas that meet international standards. Since the water gets deeper after 50 meters from the shore, Antalya’s sea is considered very safe for children and people who cannot swim well. It is believed that Egyptian Queen Cleopatra’s favorite golden beach was also in Alanya. Located at the west end of the town, the 2-kilometer-long Cleopatra Beach is among the 10 most beautiful beaches of Turkey. Moreover, it has been rumored that the fine and non-sticking sand of the beach was brought from the North African coast upon Cleopatra’s command. Located just at the western exit of the town the 2-kilometer-long Cleopatra beach is considered among the 10 most beautiful beaches in Turkey. You may even see cute Mediterranean monk seals in Alanya’s Aşıklar (lovers), Korsanlar (pirates), Fosforlu (luminous), Dipsiz (abysmal) and Beldibi caves. Another natural wonder of Alanya is the Dim Valley at 15 kilometers distance from the town center. Running through the wooded valley Dim River is the main reason of the abundance of agricultural harvest in the region where banana groves will make you feel as if you were in the Far East.

Great, but what could we eat in Alanya? Sampling the gastronomic specialties is also multifarious in Alanya, which is bursting with olive oil dishes and halvah with pekmez (grape molasses) — the cornerstones of the local cuisine. As well as seasonal fish, grilled octopus, stuffed calamari with pesto sauce and mezzes in olive oil are best topped off by post-prandial Turkish coffee. In brief, Alanya is ready to welcome you four seasons a year. We believe you must accept this invitation.

Alanya, Mediterranean, Antalya