Turkey turned out to be the perfect holiday destination, and it's certainly no wonder that this country, and especially the region around Side and Kemer, is such a popular vacation spot. With its extensive coastline, beautiful nature, rich culture, many ancient structures, excellent food, great infrastructure, big diversity in accommodations and so much more!
The Turkish Riviera has been one of most popular vacationing spots for decades! Also in the Netherlands, my homeland, many choose Turkey and especially its Riviera for the warm climate, beautiful sites and great package prices offered by travel agents, like Corendon, specialized in Turkey trips, with an extensive offering!
During my trip to Kemer and Side last month I experienced this myself and was certainly impressed. In my previous blog you can read why and where to go. And when there, some sightseeing is highly recommended!
Photogenic sites & unique spots of the Turkish Riviera
It’s easy to rent a car to explore more of Turkey, as the roads are good. However, in my opinion it’s always nice to have a local guide too! There's much offered by local tour companies or at the hotels, which you can book per site and activity.
I will share my top 6 recommendations based on the, in my opinion, most photogenic spots and sites we visited! Of course as always through many of my own pics;
1. Tahtali mountains
A definite must visit, also known as Lycian Olympus, which meant home of the gods in the old days. Only 30 kilometers from Kemer, southwest of Antalya, in Bey Mountains National Park, you will find this nature area of about 34,425 ha. Offering several hiking trails, different climbing routes and you can even go paragliding here!
Tahtali mountain is also part of the Lycian Way long distance trail and is 2,365 meters high.
We went up there with the cable car of Olympos Teleferik. The bottom station is located on the eastern side of the mountain and this aerial tram has an amazing length of 4,350 meters.
The station opens at 9.30/10 am each day for the first run and includes free parking. You can easily get there by car or through a transfer service.
It has a small restaurant at both the bottom and the top station, with tickets of €35 return for adults, but worth these views from the top, don’t you think?!
You can also book a return transfer through the cable car company.
Costing €7-15, depending on your exact pick up location in the Antalya region. More info on: OlymposTeleferik.
2. Olympos ruins & beach
A great combination with the mountain was our visit to the historic city and nature area of Olympos. They are however still a 45 minute drive apart, about 28 km from Kemer.
This cute backpacker-style village is popular for its unique accommodations in nature, such as tree houses, laid-back bungalows and small hostels.
But the most famous here are the ruins of Olympos. Which we came for and followed the river past these archeological sites, amidst nature, leading to a quiet pebble beach. Olympos Beach is also part of the historical Lycian Way hiking route and located in the ancient city. Therefore you can only visit the beach when you also buy a ticket for the ruins, which is not expensive and worth it!
See for yourself:
With a history of pirates, having been a hippie hotspot in the 70’s and the décor of several movies, this beach certainly has some stories to tell.
Since 1972 it has been protected, as the Caretta Caretta sea turtles lay their eggs on Olympos beach. That’s why this coastal section has only been cautiously developed for tourism and is still very pure and secluded, without showers, sunbeds or umbrellas. Yet especially this, and the beautiful setting, make it so interesting for nature lovers.
The beach is kilometers long, but you can find a few restaurants and beach vendors there if you need them.
3. Boat trip Kemer coastline
The Turkish Riviera has one of the most stunning coastlines of the Mediterranean sea, so a boat trip is a must. From Kemer there are many tours to choose from, even with a traditional pirate ship. These are huge and can get crowded, that’s why we booked a private yacht for a few hours instead.
The tour took us along stunning limestone cliffs, secluded bays with bright turquoise waters, passing by luxury resorts and the ancient town of Phaselis. These ruins are located in a nature area with a quiet long beach. From the boat you can enter the park via this beach to visit the remains of this old trading center for a small fee.
4. Side old & new town
Although Kemer and Side are 120 kilometers apart, they make the perfect combo if you want to see more of the Turkish Riviera.
I really loved the nature and ancient sites around Kemer, but the Side region has much of this as well. To me Side city was one of the highlights of our trip as it's so diverse, filled with history, yet also vibrant!
The ancient city part of Side is one of the most renowned classical sites of Turkey and feels like an open-air museum. It's a unique combination with the modern resort part of the city with its sandy beaches and long and vibrant boulevard, packed with cute shops, authentic and hip restaurants and bars!
You can enter the city by boat as well, from the Manavgat river that ends up in the sea along which the old city of Side is located. We took a river cruise from Manavgat, which gives you a unique perspective from the water.
In the antique city you can wander from Side harbor over the cobble-stoned streets along several archaeological sites, as they have been excavating Side since 1947 and still continue to do so. The streets are streets lined with remains of marble columns and there are several museums, telling stories of the Roman period. Some of the most spectacular sites here are the well-preserved amphitheater and the temples of Apollo and Athena.
We found the square with the temple of Apollo, located directly on the Mediterranean sea, the most spectacular, especially around sunset.
This Roman temple was built around 150 A.D., dedicated to Apollo, the Greek and Roman god of music, harmony and light.
Side has 2 main beaches, to the east and west. When you walk from the temple of Apollo to the west, you will pass by quaint restaurants and shops to reach Gua Side, where we had dinner.
And to the east many sand beaches and luxury hotels like the Ali Bey Resort in Sorgun, where we stayed, just a few kilometers away.
Read all about that in my previous Turkey Authentic Chic blog.
5. Köprülü Canyon & Tazi Ravine
To finalize our trip to this wonderful region we had an exciting and adventurous day exploring the Köprülü Canyon National Park. Just 70 km from Side and 80 km from Antalya, this stunning nature area is worth a (half) day trip. Many local travel agencies organize tours with shuttle buses, but you can easily drive there with a rental car too, as the entry to the Park is free and there is enough parking space.
This nature area of 36,614 ha has been declared a National Park in 1973, where you can find deer, mountain goats, foxes, wolves, rabbits, and even wolves. Hiking in these beautiful Mediterranean forests is pretty easy, the views are stunning and it’s also one of the most popular rafting areas of Turkey.
The Köprüçay river is ever present, as its bright blue color is visible from several angles in the park. The Tazı Ravine offers one of the most spectacular views on it and has gained quite some popularity lately through social media.
The ravine view spot is easy to reach on foot from the parking, where you can also buy traditional fresh baked Turkish pancakes.
When you follow the path in a few minutes you will end up at the top of the canyon with fantastic views like this!
Be careful where you stand, as the rocks are unprotected and steep, but the view is worth it.
TIP: come early, at least before 10 am! We visited this spot first and had the place all to ourselves until a big bus with tourists arrived, crowding this small viewing spot, making it much less pleasant.
6. Rafting on the Köprüçay river
In the National Park there are also several historical sites, like the stone bridges that the canyon got its name from. You can go camping and there are also several other activities to do, like safaris, buggy and horseback riding.
Rafting in the ice-cold spring water of the bright blue Köprüçay river is however one if the most popular, so of course we had to try that too!
You can share a boat with up to 10 people for the 12 km long rafting route with several levels. Luckily the rapids were quite ok and not that scary or hard. I found rafting here a fun and refreshing activity, especially along this lovely nature route, which should not be missed.
I hope I convinced you of the beauty of this Turkish region that I would love to revisit!
For more details and inspiration about this beautiful Turkish region, you can also check Corendon-Turkey.
Or check my previous blog for more details on how to get to the Turkish Riviera and where to stay and eat around Side & Kemer.