A day (and a bit) in Antalya
It’s my last international trip of 2019, and I hope to end on a high. So far this year I’ve partied at Fallas festival in Valencia, traversed the Norwegian fjords on a road trip across Scandinavia, and tried to dodge raging thunderstorms in Budapest. And now I’m in Turkey, for the first time since 2013.
To be honest, Antalya was never really on my radar, but as it is the meeting point for my next trip around the supposedly magical Cappadocia region right in the centre of the country, I figured I might as well arrive early and explore. Despite there not being much to do unless you invest in day trips, this is still a beautiful place to base yourself and one which offers a chance to kick back and take your time rather than rushing round to see everything all at once as though your very life depends on it.
Up bright and early, the first thing on the agenda was hotel hunting. Arriving Sunday night, I was amazed how smoothly everything had gone, but that just meant it was only a matter of time. Firstly, the car I’d pre-booked specially so I didn’t get lost in the dark was too large to fit down some of the streets, and pulled up randomly expressing, “This is the end of the trip.” I stepped out of the cab, wondering where I even was.
“Just go that way. 5 minutes.”
*pointing in the direction of a narrow road*
“Ok, thank you.”
…Oh dear. But hey, it’s all part of the adventure right? I hitched my backpack onto my back and began to walk the winding cobbled streets, lights and activity bombarding me from every angle. At least I knew one thing, I was right in the centre of it all.
After giving up my random pursuits and resorting to Google Maps, too weary to bother asking anyone for help, I finally saw the sign. I was there. A bed beckoned.
Despite having reserved a room, the receptionist tried to explain to me in broken English and with the help of Google Translate (Seriously, how did we ever survive before Google??) that they were full and would transfer me to another hotel 5 minutes drive away. A free cab would drop me off at this other hotel (the name of which I didn’t even know) and then I was to return in the morning.
It’s a good job I’m somewhat of a seasoned traveler now, or this could have been an absolutely terrifying prospect. But if traveling has taught me anything it’s that sometimes things won’t go to plan, at which point you just have to suck it up and go with the flow. I had somewhere to sleep for the night, and that’s what mattered – even if the pillows were like rocks…
Which brings us to this morning, waking up in a mystery hotel and having to find my way to my original one, before also figuring out ahead of time where the hotel I’ll be meeting my Cappadocia tour is located.
Luckily, being right in the hustle and bustle of the gorgeous old town, known locally as Kaleiçi, the walk was at least a pleasant one, and the morning crowd is a lot different to the nighttime one in that, well, there’s no one around. By night you see groups of people drinking and having fun, pretty lights decorating the ambience of live music and laughs. By morning, nothing. Just peace.
Still, this area of Antalya is truly beautiful with heaps of character and atmosphere, despite also being home to lots of late night bars. The winding labyrinth of hilly stone streets give way to cute old buildings and craft stores, and it’s the kind of place where there’s a somewhat arbitrary line between where pedestrians and cars go, both just generally trying to casually avoid each other. Very chill.
Checking into my original hotel (which still isn’t exactly my hotel, but I’m fed up of thinking about it all now), I decided to take it easy, which really isn’t like me at all. After a slow start and another idle wander through the winding streets, I happened across an inviting looking cluster of seating on the main ring road around Kaleiçi, called Luna Gardens, where I stopped off for the most amazing (and huge) strawberry lemonade.
Refreshed, I then walked a little further down towards Hadrian’s Gate, the original entrance to the old town, before the walls came crumbling down.
Wandering back into the old town, I eventually came across the nearby harbour where I could check out the waterside. A chance to relax and recover from the previous night’s antics? Yes please. Aside from exploring the old town (an absolute must), I would recommend taking some time out of your day in Antalya to visit the harbour by day or night – or both. I think the photos themselves offer enough explanation why. And yes, you can take a boat trip on a pirate ship if you do so desire.
To finish up my time lounging by the shimmering water and taking in the salty sea air, I stopped off for lunch in a harbourside restaurant. Lush.
Returning to the cobbles, it was time for a break from the sun. My little single room reminds me of something you might find in historical England, traditionally decorated with wooden flooring and heavy manual locking doors in a rich, dark wood, with wood framed windows, adorned chests of drawers, an iron bed frame and doilies. But hey, it’s for one night, and crucially, it has a shower! Would have been nice if there was a towel, but luckily I came prepared with one of my own.
All freshened up, I thought it only right I finish the day by hitting up some bars. I wanted an early night (hence having enough time to write this post before bed), but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still have a small taste of what was on offer in terms of nightlife. This plan was quickly derailed, however, by a view too stunning to ignore on my random wanderings, a spot I found completely by accident. I was entranced, disturbed only by the presence of another traveller, a young sailor who gifted me with a hand-picked flower and a chat, before eventually retreating and leaving me to my view. How fantastically romantic.
The whole business with my hotels has been a bit of a nightmare, and from broken toilet seats to missing towels there have been more things wrong than simply giving away my room reservation. But right then, it just didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. And that’s the thought I want to leave here with. The little things just don’t matter when you’re surrounded by such beauty. And despite all the issues, the people here are so friendly, which I think also helps in times of tumoil or uncertainty.
And, despite the detour, I still got my staple vodka!
And so my brief introduction to this delightful destination has come to an end, as tomorrow, Cappadocia beckons. Having only spent the day I know I’m no expert, but if you’re planning a trip to Antalya I’d recommend spending time both in the old town and along the beach, skipping the main city unless you want to shop and such or are coming for longer. Bear in mind that you can expect trickyish roads and old, low-tech accommodation in the hub of it all, but so long as you’re prepared you’ll be fine. Just don’t book the Argos Hotel, whatever you do.
Until next time!