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Antalya is a cliff-top city in Turkey, set among palm-fronded boulevards that emanate from its winding historic core. The eastern Mediterranean port stands against the stunning backdrop of the Taurus Mountains. King Attalus II of Pergamum turned this safe harbor into a naval base in the first century B.C., and you'll still encounter the occasional Roman ruins site as you walk around.
For centuries, the city's economy was based on its port, but large-scale development in the 1970s transformed Antalya from a pastoral town into one of Turkey's largest metropolitan areas. Much of this development has been because of tourism, which continues to expand in the 21st century.
Antalya is a popular holiday destination for the British and for other western Europeans. In addition to miles of beaches, the port offers cultural attractions like the nearby Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival (held annually in June and July) and its own jazz and film festivals. Natural wonders to enjoy include a number of waterfalls tumbling into the sea and archaeological day trips to Perge, Side, Phaselis and Demre.
The main attraction of the city is its old port -- these days used by fishing boats and "Pirates of the Caribbean"-themed pleasure craft -- which is ringed by cafes and even offers its own small pebble beach.
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Other Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Ports:
Antalya • Athens (Piraeus) • Bari • Bodrum • Corfu • Crete (Heraklion) • Dubrovnik • Gythion • Haifa • Hvar • Istanbul • Izmir • Jerusalem (Ashdod) • Katakolon (Olympia) • Koper • Korcula • Kotor • Kusadasi • Limassol • Mykonos • Odessa • Rhodes • Santorini • Split • Varna • Venice • Volos • Yalta • Zadar
The drink of choice in Antalya is Turkish coffee (Turk kahvesi), which comes in small cups and has a distinctive spicy quality. It's best taken with a little sugar. When you order, make sure you specify this because sugar is added in during the brewing, not after. Be careful as you finish it too. At the very bottom of the cup there are some pretty potent dregs that you don't want to hoover up. There are plenty of picturesque cafes to check out around the old port, but one of the most interesting contemporary cafes is Leman Kultur on Isiklar Caddesi.
Blue charms against the "Evil Eye" are found all over Turkey. They make attractive glass pendants or wall hangings. The narrow streets of the Kaleici area are worth browsing for traditional jewelry, candlesticks, painted bowls, carved boxes, rugs, leather goods, and some remarkably convincing "replica" goods.
More English is spoken along this coastline than anywhere else in Turkey, with the exception of Istanbul. A few Turkish phrases will, however, be gracefully received by your hosts.
Merhaba (MARE-ha-ba): Hello
Hoscakal (Hose-CHECK-all): Goodbye
Tesekkur ederim (Tesh-che-cur-dem): Thank you
Evet (eh-VET): Yes
Ingilizce biliyor musunuz? (ing-geh-LIZ-jay bill-E-or mus-un-uz): Do you speak English?
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The Turkish lira (TRY) has bank notes with the face of Kemal Ataturk, the first president of Turkey, on them. For current currency-conversion figures visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
A number of banks with ATMs are located on Kazim Ozalp Caddesi. Several currency exchange offices displaying the "doviz" sign can also be found in the same street. Shop around for the best rates; they can vary greatly in Antalya.
ATMs belonging to Finansbank, Denizbank and Isbank are located along Ismet Pasa Caddesi and Isiklar Caddesi. Most offer screen text in English as well as Turkish. Some even offer the option of French and German.
Some enterprising vendors will also accept payments in dollars, pounds and euros, although the exchange rates won't do you any favors.
Where You're Docked
All but the smallest ships dock at Port Akdeniz -- Antalya which has two berths for cruise liners and a marina with 250 berths and a 150-yacht dry-dock capacity. The terminal building was renovated in 2010 and has plans to house a duty-free shopping area. It's located nine miles to the west of the historic center of Antalya. Transfers into Antalya are usually provided by individual cruise lines, but there are usually taxis at the gate offering a flat rate of 15 euros (about $20) for four people into the city center past the Konyaalti beaches.
Akdeniz -- Antalya has plans to become a major turnaround/homeport serving the Mediterranean (Akdeniz is the Turkish name for Mediterranean).
Stores, restaurants and ATMs are located at the Celebi Yacht Marina, a mere five minutes' walk from the cruise terminal.
There is an information desk and cafe in the terminal building. There is also free Wi-Fi but no Internet cafe. There are ATMs in the adjacent marina.
As you exit the terminal, there is nothing except waiting taxis and a long, dusty road that eventually leads to the Konyaalti beaches if you turn right.
By Tram: Antalya's "Tramvay" has 10 stops and provides the simplest way to travel from one end of town to the other. You pay the driver half a lira as you board, then you exit through the rear door. The tram runs from the Antalya Museum (the stop nearest to Konyaalti beaches), along Cumhuriyet Caddesi, Ataturk Caddesi and Isiklar Caddesi. Some enterprising people take a cab as far the museum and then save money by taking the tram into town.
By Taxi: Taxis are yellow cabs and metered (but make sure it's switched on). They are plentiful and can be hailed at the roadside. You'll also find taxis accumulating outside the main gate of Akdeniz Port.
Watch Out For
Don't overtip. Tipping is a European and American tradition that has only recently been introduced to Antalya by tourists. There is no percentage that you are expected to add for wait staff, taxi drivers or hotel porters. If you feel you have received good service, just round up the bill or throw in some change.
Experience the Anatalya Museum -- one of Turkey's most important archaeological museums -- which contains more than 12,000 objects dug up from around the area. One gallery contains statues and frescoes of Greek gods, another is devoted to the Roman emperors Trajan, Hadrian and Septimius Severus. There are also artifacts from ancient civilizations like the empires of Lycia and Pamphylia that once ruled this land. Make time to visit the excellent museum shop, too, to pick up superior souvenirs.
Better known as Old Antalya, Kaleici is a protected historic zone with buildings that date to the 13th century. Enjoy wandering the narrow lanes that rise up between the ancient port and the city walls. It's a great place to shop for souvenirs or find a cafe quietly tucked away within the warren.
Antalya erected the triumphal Hadrian's Gate with its three double arches for the visit of the Roman emperor in 130 A.D. One of its towers is Roman, but the other was rebuilt by a conquering Seljuk sultan, Alaaddin Keykubat I, in the 13th century. It's also a good vantage point to view what remains of the city walls.
Inside Kaleici, you'll find a 13th-century mosque with a grooved minaret known as Yivli Minare. Built by the Seljuk Turks who conquered Antalya in 1207, it's a much simpler structure than the later Ottoman mosques for which Turkey is famous. After removing your shoes, note the ancient underfloor heating system that is visible below glass panels in the floor.
Been There, Done That
It's difficult to underestimate the importance of Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk to the Turkish nation. It is similar to the relationship of Winston Churchill to the British, but Churchill never had to reconstruct his country after a bitter defeat. The Ataturk House Museum, a replica of the villa where the country's first president stayed during his several visits to the coast, is one of many museums dedicated to his memory throughout Turkey.
You can take a taxi to Karpus Kaldran on the east side of the city where the River Duden drops 40 kilometers off a rocky cliff directly into the Mediterranean Sea, creating the spectacular Lower Duden Falls. Or you can take one of the pleasure boats from the old port to see the Antalya City and watch the Duden enter the Mediterranean Sea from below -- often through a rainbow.
Opened in 2012, the Antalya Aquarium is one of the biggest in Europe with the world's longest underwater tunnel -- 131 meters of fish swimming above you and at your side. It also contains Snow World, the largest indoor snow venue with real snow that is manufactured overnight.
Best Overall: Running from Akdeniz Port all the way to the old port is a long stretch of beach facing south across the Turkish Mediterranean known as Konyaalti. There are cafes at intervals, groups of umbrellas and sun loungers -- and occasional showers closer to the road. You'll also find water sports activities along this stretch, such as banana boats, parasailing, windsurfing and water skiing. The beach also contains Antalya Beach Park, a complex with AquaLand, DolphinLand, restaurants and clubs.
Best for Families: Lara Beach on the eastern side of the city is very similar to Konyaalti but quieter, with pebbly sand and clear water. Sun lounger prices vary during the day depending on how busy the beach is. The Turks tend to go to the beach in the morning and late afternoon, so it's quieter in the heat of the day.
Antalya is known in Turkish as The Paradise of the Vegetables. Oranges used to be harvested from trees that grew in the city streets. Olive oil is produced locally and used extensively in cooking. You'll find plenty of fresh seafood on the menu: sea bass, perch, calamari -- all caught that morning. There are also plenty of stalls selling kebabs. The doners are spicy, while urfas are gentler.
There are no set mealtimes. Once a restaurant opens in Turkey, you can order breakfast, lunch and dinner any time of day. Piyaz is a local appetizer containing beans, onion and eggs. Pide is an oval Turkish pizza.
Best for Views: Club Arma is a glamorous bar restaurant overlooking the old port. In Ottoman times it was a flour store built by Italian merchants. Attractively converted to resemble a yacht club, Arma is now a great place to watch the ships come and go below, while dining on fresh seafood. There are also great views of the old city and Bey Daglari mountain range. (Iskele Caddesi 75)
Best for Buzz: Leman Kultur is an extremely Turkish popular cafe chain based on the satirical magazine Leman. Expect to be surrounded by young people and some scurrilous cartoons, in a location not far from Hadrian's Gate. Menus in English offer burgers, salads and fajitas. (Ataturk Caddesi 44)
Best Beach Dining: Salvador Dali Restaurant & Bar in the Antalya Beach Park is one of a number of great spots for light bites -- pasta, salads and grills at reasonable prices.
Best for Lunch on the Run: Isiklar Caddesi is a very good place for kebab stalls, which you'll find under large metal awnings next to Umbrella Street (which is decorated with scores of colorful umbrellas).
Best for Traditional Dining: Tekeli Konaklari Residence is a recently restored merchant's home in Kaleici that also functions as a hotel. Dine outdoors on Mediterranean seafood dishes and traditional Turkish appetizers at the Beyaz Cafe Bar and Restaurant. (Dizdar Hasan Sok)
Staying in Touch
Wi-Fi is available in the port terminal. There are also many Internet cafes -- Cevher Internet, Natural Internet Cafe and Techno Internet Cafe -- in the alleyways off Ataturk Caddesi. Bougainville Travel Internet Cafe (00 90 242 836 3737) on Cukurbagli Caddesi offers Internet facilities at $3 an hour seven days a week.
Best for First-Timers: A half- or full-day city tour will take you to the major sites such as Hadrian's Gate and the Antalya Museum, which contains a furnished nomad's tent, rooms from a typical Ottoman household and a mosaic collection from Xanthos that depicts the infant Achilles being dangled by his mother into the River Styx. Some tours finish with scenic views at Upper and Lower Duden waterfalls
Best for History Buffs: Visit the ruins outside Antalya on a tour that combines a stop at Aspendos, whose 2nd century amphitheater is considered one of the best-preserved in the Mediterranean, with a visit to Side, which has Roman temples dedicated to Dionysus, Apollo and Artemis. The tour then continues to Perge, a city that dates to 1000 B.C. that features a basilica that played an important role in the spread of Christianity.
Best for Golfers: If you've been missing your game of golf, then the National Golf Course in Belek -- with an 18-hole Championship Course designed by former European Ryder Cup player David Feherty -- makes a pleasant day. Plan to bring a copy of your handicap certificate (anything above 28 for men and 36 for women is not allowed on the main course), and jeans and sweat pants aren't allowed.
For More Information
On the Web: Antalya Tourism
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Other Mediterranean Ports
IndependentTraveler.com: Turkey Travel Guide
--By Adrian Mourby, Cruise Critic contributor
Photos courtesy Shutterstock: Mikael Damkier (main photo); Joseph Calev (Hadrian's Gate); Gertje (Lower Duden Falls/ Yivli Minare); and makarenko7 (Antalya Fortress).