It is a business routine for me to join Rick Steves’ groups randomly to inspect what goes on first hand. Last week I had a trip to the amazing Mediterranean coastline of Turkey for this purpose. This time my sons joined me benefiting their weeklong spring break, morphing my business trip into a Mediterranean family get away. Together we enjoyed several fun experiences with our fellow American travelers.
Mediterranean coastline of Turkey is dotted by numerous pretty towns. Most were established very long time ago, during Hellenistic period or earlier as fishing and sea faring communities. Nowadays, they proudly host travelers exposing their natural, historical and cultural beauties. Their common charms are the incredible historic heritage, pristine waters of the Mediterranean, beautiful beaches, narrow streets with small old fashioned houses, citrus gardens, sweet smell of honey suckle, joyous singing of birds, slow life, lazy cats, lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and seafood.
Travelers to this part of Turkey usually pick between two main options, this is to choose between staying in a central location and having easy access to all beauties I listed above, or staying at a seaside resort. Both have pros and cons. Main advantage of staying in a town itself is that you can be independent and mobile. If you opt for this, you need to remember that most hotels and pensions are simple and down to earth. They don’t have a mission of keeping you with in their premises or in the room. On the contrary, their sole purpose is providing a “station” so that you enjoy discovering the regionand spending leisure time in the garden.
If your main purpose is to spend time on the beach and you are ok with a sterile environment, best choice is staying in a seaside resort. Once you check in, you can happily spend a vacation without leaving the premises, there will be food around the clock, animations, pools, and other amenities. These resorts are huge, most of them are priced full board or all inclusive. Some of Europe’s best golf resorts and “7” star hotels are among them. I know plenty of people who travel to the coastline for these resorts, most don’t have an idea or care about what else is available in the region. Sea, sun and fun are motives of trip. Though, our travelers experience the first option.
During last week’s trip, our lodging was split between Side and Old Town of Antalya, in small, charming and simple pensions. Our activities were diverse, neither the group nor my sons wanted to leave at the end. I promised my sons that I would take them back at the very first chance to persuade them to get on the plane back to Istanbul.
We enjoyed a guided walk in Side following our guide, MertTaner, visited the ancient ruins, learnt the best sea-food restaurants and haggling techniques. We had a hiking trip to the Taurus Mountains to a canyon bridged by Romans, bought organic honey directly from producer on the mountains, enjoyed a very pleasant village lunch. We visited one of the best-preserved Roman theatres anywhere in the world. We enjoyed the beaches and built sand castles. We visited the ancient city of Phaselis and hiked up the Olympos Mountain tosee the eternal fire, source for the legend of Belleraphone and Chimera.
And, finally, we visited Expo Antalya. It is smaller scale Epcot in Antalya and provided fun time for my sons who are 6 & 8!
On our flight back to Istanbul, we made plans for our return trip to this region.