Before Summer Ends Alanya

Being in Alanya when the Mediterranean’s turquoise blue meets autumn’s colors is an entirely different experience.

The average air temperature never falls below 19°C here in this town blessed with sunshine 300 days of the year. What’s more, getting there is as easy as pie thanks to Alanya Gazipaşa Airport. Just 135 kilometers east of Antalya, Alanya has a history going back thousands of years. Home to the tribes dispersed to Anatolia after the Trojan War, the city was known as Kolodorus, meaning beautiful mountain, in the Byzantine period. Enjoying a golden age in the medieval period, it grew and developed inside one of Anatolia’s most impressive castles. A small fishing community surrounded by orange orchards until just half a century ago, Alanya today looks like a city where life revolves around tourism. We begin our tour from the Old Town. Rising on a steep headland behind the harbor, Alanya Castle at 250 meters above the sea recalls an eagle’s eyrie. Exactly 33 meters tall, the Red Tower is one of the most imposing aspects of this castle encircled by 6.5 kilometers of defense walls. At the left end of the tower the stone structure reminiscent of a five-arch bridge is the sole surviving Seljuk dockyard. The interior of the castle is a virtual open air museum with dozens of Roman, Seljuk and Ottoman artifacts standing side by side. The New City meanwhile spreads out in both directions from the headland with the castle. The 70-kilometer coast, stretching from Ulaş Burnu right up to the city limits of Gazipaşa, forms the main axis of the settlement. But this town is determined not to expand further but to undergo a facelift. And the buildings freshly repainted in pastel colors have given it a new lease on life. The green areas that cover more than half the township are also carefully tended. But perhaps Alanya’s real attraction is its golden sand beaches. Among the best not just in Turkey but in the entire Eastern Mediterranean, they are designated by the blue flag, international symbol of order and cleanliness. Rumor has it that the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra even came to these beaches on her private ship. Not only that but the sea at Alanya is also safe for children and non-swimmers since it only begins to deepen some 50 meters from shore. A boat cruise in Alanya’s waters will acquaint you with the mysterious world of sea caves that once provided refuge to pirates. Going inside these caves, which radiate powerful light even in the daytime thanks to the phosphorescent stones on their floors, is an inimitable experience. Who knows? You might even get a chance to spot a Mediterranean seal as you cruise these cave-dotted shores. The Dim Valley is another of the area’s stunning beauty spots. This earthly paradise covered with forest and rare plant species lies just 15 kilometers from the town. And the stream flowing through it is one of Turkey’s most popular rafting routes. Rustic restaurants take refuge in the shade of century-old plane trees along its banks. Going up into the highlands is another must if you come to Alanya. Rising to 3,000 meters, the Western Taurus is the home of nomadic communities with traditions going back thousands of years. These Yörüks go up into the mountains every spring to find fresh pasture for their flocks, living in goat hair tents until winter comes and weaving colorful kilims from the wool of their sheep. A large number of travel agents now organize jeep safaris into the highlands, where the air is refreshingly cool on even the hottest summer days. As you tour them, you can also sample the local culinary specialties. Thin, flaky sheets of yufka with ‘çökelek’ cottage cheese, herb-flavored ‘bazlama’ flatbread, and country chicken in butter are tasty treats indeed. If you don’t care for heights, you can visit Damlataş Cave on the western coast of the peninsula with its honey-colored stalactites and stalagmites. The cave’s 20-23°C temperature never varies summer or winter. This cave, which emits various chemical gases and radio waves is good for asthma and rheumatism. Its streets redolent of orange blossoms in autumn, Alanya is ready to offer you all its colors. Are you?

Alanya Castle is a veritable open air museum, and its verdant slopes overlooking the Mediterranean are brimming with thousands of centuries-old ruins. You’ll discover the remains of walls, dungeons, old baths, cisterns and other structures scattered among the cypresses in just a few hours’ walk.

On the western side of the historic peninsula, Damlataş Cave has a constant temperature summer and winter. With high levels of humidity and carbon dioxide, the cave interior is good for a variety of ills. This natural monument bristling with magnificent stalactites and stalagmites is easily toured on walking platforms.

The calabash, or bottle gourd, grows in abundance in the gardens of Alanya, Decorated with gaily colored motifs, it is also turned into a decorative object, and bottle gourd lamps are sold in the local shops.

The glory and splendor of Alanya are spread before your eyes from the Red Tower, a symbol of the city. Constructed in the 13th century when the area was under Seljuk rule, the tower is octagonal in shape. Gazing at the harbor from its viewing terrace is a special pleasure.

According to some sources, bananas have been grown at Alanya since the mid-18th century. Weighing up to 100 kilos a bunch, Alanya bananas are distinguished by their fine flavor and aroma.

Sampling the gastronomic specialties is also de rigueur at Alanya, which is bursting with palm, date and orange trees as well as a variety of cactus species. Fish in season, olive oil dishes and halvah with pekmez (grape molasses) are the cornerstones of the local cuisine.

A wide array of jams and preserves are sold in the shopping centers of Alanya. Orange, lemon, eggplant, watermelon, date, pumpkin, Bergamot orange and kiwi are just a few of the flavors available, all of which make perfect gifts for friends back home.

Alanya offers a wide range of accommodation alternatives from resort villages with private beaches to boutique bed&breakfasts. Best of all, discounts are available in November.

Seasonal fish, grilled octopus, stuffed calamari with pesto sauce and mezzes in olive oil are best topped off by post-prandial almond coffee. Peculiar to the region, this coffee is prepared by pounding the coffee beans in a mortar with almonds, arrowroot and carob.

There is nothing you can’t find at Alanya Market, at the end of Ataturk Avenue in the heart of the city. It’s hard to return empty-handed from this market chock full of shops selling gold, silver and costume jewelry as well as wearing apparel, leather goods, wood carvings and gift items galore.

Alanya Archaeological Museum has a rich collection representing the area’s millennia-old history. Among the must-see artifacts are a 52-cm high statue of Heracles from the 2nd century A.D.

A genuine beach paradise, Alanya is covered with beautiful beaches both at the city center and at its eastern and western ends. And most of them offer opportunities to try numerous water sports from jet skiing to sea kayaking.

Turkish Airlines has flights in both directions between Istanbul and Antalya or Alanya Gazipaşa Airport. For information:

Oranges, lemons and clementines are grown in abundance in Alanya, which is covered with citrus orchards. If you go there in September, you’ll immediately detect the orange scent that fills the air.

The ancient city of Laertes on the Alanya-Gazipaşa highway is the home of the first Miss Universe according to myth. Many ruins are still standing from this city, believed to have been founded in the 7th century B.C.

Arising on the slopes of the Taurus and emptying into the Mediterranean, the Dim River is a fun-filled rafting route. Close to five kilometers long, it appeals most to novices in the sport.

One recommendation for a two-hour hike: Reasons are rife for photographing the area along the esplanade between the Municipal Square and the Red Tower.

Alanya is gearing up for an exciting autumn of international sports events: The Triathlon European Cup Final on November 2, the 19th International Swimming Marathon on November 4, and the 15th International Mountain Bike Race (Kızılalan) on November 7.

In Antalya’s backyard, Alanya is an earthly paradise with sunshine three hundred days a year on average. The golden sand beaches along its coast are among the finest in the world. And almost all these beaches, which once captured the heart of the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, have been awarded the blue flag, international symbol of cleanliness and order, making guests feel they are in the bosom of nature.

“With its sun, sand and natural beauty, Alanya is a center of attraction for foreigners. Germans and Dutch are the largest groups among the ex-pats who have opted to live here. Alanya is also bustling all year round with festivals and sports events. The international beach volleyball matches especially, held in September, are world famous.”