Alanya Travel Guide
Hagia Sophia at night © Moyan Brenn
Situated on the Gulf of Antalya on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, Alanya has been a favoured seaside holiday resort for over 800 years. Today's European package tourist is drawn here for much the same reasons as the Seljuk Turks all those centuries ago: the sea is warm and gentle, the beaches stretch for miles, and the town has an interesting history.
The southern part of the town is the most tourist-orientated, although, fortunately, a height-restriction has limited the sprawl common to resort towns. There is, however, the usual collection of resort-style hotels and tourist-orientated fare in Alanya. The harbour is a hub of activity, particularly at night, and when tired of relaxing on the beach, there are several sites such as the Damlatas Caves, Alanya Castle and the Red Tower to visit.
Alanya is also backed by the pine-forested Taurus Mountains and while on holiday there, a half hour's drive out of town allows visitors to enjoy spectacular views, as well as the charm of small, rural villages where life continues much as it always has.
Alanya has a range of good shops, and part of the fun is perfecting your haggling skills. Barring food items, bargaining on everything is expected and patience is key. One can usually expect to get prices marked down by 30 to 50 percent. Touts can get annoying and it is best to avoid shops with aggressive salesman. Alanya offers some excellent jewellery stores, as well as leather goods and clothing stores, a local market, and the usual tourist tat. Hookahs (water pipes) and tobacco are popular souvenirs from Alanya, as well as Turkish tea sets.
Alanya has a large range of restaurants, catering for a variety of tastes, from traditional Turkish food to McDonalds. Some favourites include Memos, serving traditional Turkish dishes such as a delicious Ottoman stew, and Big Ben's for more English-style breakfasts and Sunday roasts. Try a kebab or mezze platter, followed by a cold Efes beer for an authentic Turkish experience. If you eat from street vendors, remember that you can haggle the price of your meal; haggling is frowned upon in restaurants and grocery stores, however. Try local specialties like baklava and thick, sludgy Turkish coffee.
Much of Alanya's nightlife is centred on the harbour, but several more locally frequented bars and clubs can be found tucked away in the side streets. Many of the clubs close relatively early, but a free shuttle ferries serious partiers to Auditorium, an enormous venue that stays buzzing until the wee hours and is away from the town centre. Other favourites include James Dean, Robin Hood, and Bistro Bellman. Several venues also provide more traditional entertainment such as belly dancing, fire shows, and traditional music. Beers in Turkey can be expensive, especially in nightclubs which may charge up to €4.50.
There are several interesting sights to explore while on holiday in Alanya, including the medieval Alanya Castle and remains of a Seljuk village, the Red Tower, and nearby Damlatas Caves. A favourite is also the Dim Valley and Dim Cave. Other than sunbathing and good swimming, there is also a water park, golfing, mountain biking, bungee jumping, river rafting on the Alara River, and excellent diving on offer. You can also take boat trips to explore nearby caves.
Alanya is a popular holiday resort and can get very noisy and crowded. The busy main highway runs through the resort, and causes pollution, noise, and congestion. An ancient lava field just below the water line can be hard to negotiate while swimming.