Antalya through the back door

Antalya through the back door

MELİH USLU
Antalya through the back door

We have completed our preparations for a fun trip along the Taurus Mountains from Termessos to Side. We turn toward Korkuteli from the city center of Antalya and follow the signs to Güllük Mountain National Park in Termessos. In order to reach the parking area by the ruins at the top, we need to climb for about eight kilometers on a crooked asphalt road. The ancient city of Termessos was found between the two peaks of Mount Güllük, an extension of the Taurus Mountains. The city, which is spread over a wide area at an altitude of almost one thousand meters, is one of the best-preserved antique settlements in Turkey. After several hours filled with history, we hit the road again. This time, our destination is Köprülü Canyon. 

Antalya through the back door

The cool Mediterranean 

On the Antalya-Alanya highway, nearly 15 kilometers after passing the Belek junction, we see the sign for Aspendos. A magnificent building stands on our left, almost four kilometers away. The amphitheater of Aspendos, one of the best-preserved amphitheaters in Turkey, has been intact for over 2,000 years. Currently used for various activities such as concerts and shows, Aspendos has a capacity of 30,000 people. This is also the starting point for jeep safari tours in the region. The stone arches to the north of the theater were used as waterways supplying the ancient city with water. 

Climbing up to Köprülü Canyon to cool off proves to be an excellent idea. As we drive toward Taşağıl, we keep gaining altitude at every bend we turn. On the way, we are accompanied by Köprüçay, a creek that travels for 183 kilometers from the peeks of the Taurus Mountains to the Mediterranean

After Beşkonak, restaurants and rafting clubs start popping up by the creek side. At the entrance of the Köprülü Canyon stretching between Beşkonak and Bolaşan villages, Oluk Köprü (Bridge) welcomes us with the soothing noise of Köprüçay. The 27 meter-high arch bridge was built by the Romans. The emerald-colored cool waters of the canyon are an ideal hideout for anyone trying to escape from the sun in the middle of a hot summer. 

Having passed over Oluk Köprü, the road that bears left takes us to another bridge built by the Romans, Büğrüm Köprü, after about a kilometer. Now, we are in the heart of Köprülü Canyon National Park. The park contains the largest natural cypress forest of the Mediterranean and is also home to hundreds of rare plants and animals. After leaving the villages of Çetince and Demirciler behind, at an altitude of 995 meters, we come across a magnificent view of the Antalya Plain. Eleven kilometers after the road that turns right from Böğüm Köprü, we reach the ruins of Selge, which form a beautiful panorama with the magnificence of the Bozburun Mountains. 

Spread over three hills, the Selge ruins resemble a giant puzzle. There are two large Ionian temples built to the north of the walls surrounding the city, standing side by side. After paying a visit to the ancient city of Selge, which was founded in the fifth century B.C., we take a break in one of the surrounding village cafes. 

On the roads of the Taurus Mountains 

The forested hills around Köprülü Canyon, which is encircled by the valleys of Kuyucak Mountain, are full of hiking trails that offer incredible views. Along the road that climbs further up, running parallel to Köprüçay, the view only gets more beautiful as you gain altitude. The village five kilometers after Selge is Delisarnıç. Here, the conical rock structures used as cisterns by the locals are quite striking. Those craving a little something for the road will do well to try a snack of flat bread with goat cheese. It is hard not to be impressed by the rock structures, known locally as the “Devil’s Rocks,” formed by the erosion of the karst topography, standing out sharply behind them. Remnants of city walls, observation towers and water arches are scattered in abundance all over the beauties of the surrounding forest. 

A break for bathing in the region’s natural pools is the best surprise of the day. Another method for those looking for an opportunity to cool off is rafting. The most-favored specialty of the restaurants by the creek side is trout grilled on biscuit ware. It is almost impossible to visit all the valleys in Altınkaya-Ballıbucak-Düzağaç triangle in a single day, so the best thing to do is to continue exploring this heavenly place the next day. By the end of a tiring but unforgettable day, before the night falls, we have decided to spend the night in a stone house in one of the villages. Unlike the morning, the night is chilly. 

Antalya through the back door

In our room, which is filled with the fragrant scent of cedar burning in the fireplace, we enjoy the sound of silence. The next morning, after building up some energy with a hefty village breakfast, we hit the road again. This time, our destination is Side. Side, established on a historical peninsula to the east of Antalya, has numerous beaches where one may choose to enjoy the sea. Sources indicate that Side was founded in the seventh century B.C. According to legend, “Side” once meant “pomegranate” in ancient times. 

All of the coins printed until the Roman period bear the image of a pomegranate. Among the places worth visiting are the Archeology Museum, which is filled with ancient artifacts, and the amphitheater in Side. The columns towering over the top of a hill at the end of a small but colorful marketplace look amazing during the sunset. We consider ourselves lucky for having had the opportunity to experience this beauty. 

One of the places you can visit on the Termessos-Side route is the Manavgat Falls. You can try local delicacies there, sitting under the shadows of the trees as you listen to the falls. Furthermore, if you wish, you can have a camel ride around the outskirts of the forest. 

To spend a cool day in Antalya, you can go rafting. All you need to do to float along the emerald-colored waters of Köprüçay is to make an application to one of the authorized travel agents or join one of the groups in the region.

Antalya, ancient, Mediterranean