Get on top of Antalya with Katie McGonagle’s guide to the region
When the titans of the travel industry headed to Antalya for the annual Abta convention in October, it was bound to spark a surge of interest in the region.
Since it already accounts for a third of the country’s tourism, with more than 10 million international visitors last year, according to the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office, there’s obviously a sizeable pool of potential bookings.
Operators are responding accordingly, adding new product across the board – everything from luxury resorts such as Belek, where the delegates stayed, to budget-friendly beach hotels – and emphasising the area’s appeal to families, couples and young travellers alike.
Here, we take a look at what’s new in Antalya, with a rundown of resorts and attractions across the region, to help you turn renewed interest into real bookings.
STAY: A SHORE THING
Thomas Cook reports its most popular resorts are Lara Beach, Side, Belek, Kemer and Alanya, and this list is reflective of most operators in the region.
Lara Beach lies just a few miles east of Antalya city, and has been nicknamed the ‘Las Vegas of Turkey’ thanks to themed hotels based on landmarks such as Venice and the Kremlin.
The buzzing beach resort offers sublime golden-sand beaches and good nightlife within its all-inclusive resorts, though visitors seeking more variety can head to the bars and clubs of the city.
Family favourites Wow Topkapi Palace and Royal Wings Hotel are bestsellers for Thomas Cook, as part of its Aquamania range.
Direct Traveller recommends the stylish Rixos Lares Hotel for its range of activities, including go-karting, yoga and volleyball, while Barut Hotels Lara Resort & Spa is a firm favourite with Mosaic Holidays for its informal atmosphere and choice of rooms or apartments.
Belek is a more upmarket resort still under development and known for its golf courses. Club Med Belek, set to open in April with a massive 433 rooms and 16 villas, will feature sailing, tight-rope walking, a water park, bowling alley and kids’ clubs, plus an on-site spa and adjacent 18-hole championship golf course for parents seeking peace away from the kids.
The 75-acre Letoonia Golf Resort Hotel is the top pick for operators such as Olympic Holidays and Direct Traveller, with sports facilities including a driving range, putting green, tennis courts and beach volleyball for sporty types, plus a spa and four outdoor swimming pools.
Anatolian Sky Holidays has added the all-inclusive Sirene Golf Hotel & Resort this year, set on its own stretch of private beach and featuring a children’s pool, water slides and kids’ club. Thomson, meanwhile, picks out the Hotel Ela Quality Resort, part of its Platinum collection, for its spacious grounds and choice of seven à la carte restaurants.
Side has been chosen as the site of Thomson’s fifth Sensatori hotel (pictured below), opening in May with designated adult-only and family zones, swim-up rooms and a spa; plus its latest Thomson Couples adult-only property, the Barut Hotel Andiz.
Olympic Holidays, meanwhile, has expanded its Side product in the second edition of its Summer Sun 2013 brochure with properties at both ends of the budget scale. This includes the three-star Side Best Hotel, newly opened Side Best House, Sunlight Gardens Hotel and family-run Aral Hotel.
Antalya city makes a welcome change from the all-inclusive beach resorts of the coast, which is why Anatolian Sky has added three historic properties in the city.
Managing director Akin Koc says: “We are now seeing a rise in the specialist market that offers boutique hotels with traditional and cultural experiences. The Old Quarter of Antalya has retained many historic Ottoman houses and mansions that have been restored to the highest standards to offer quality, authentic Turkish experiences.”
SEE: PAST TIMES
Historical attractions are rarely top of the wishlist for a chilled-out beach break, but with many of its most famous sites just a stone’s throw from the coast, Antalya makes life easy for even the most reluctant sightseer.
Antalya city boasts a fascinating Old Quarter, Kaleici, where visitors can see Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman influences among the narrow, winding streets. Enter via the picturesque Hadrian’s Gate, then wander through the historic district leaving enough time to visit Antalya Archaeological Museum or haggle over prices in the bazaar.
Nearby Perge is famed for its ancient theatre, stadium and unusual gate towers, but those with enough time can also explore the charming colonnaded street, agora and baths. Combine it with Aspendos to see one of the best-preserved Roman theatres in the world; in summer, visitors might even get to enjoy the international ballet and opera festival.
Attraction World includes these ruins and a visit to Kursunlu Waterfalls on a full-day trip (from £67 for adults or £34 for children from Antalya, or £97/£49 from Belek and Kemer).
The Roman ruins of Side are an absolute must-visit. Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides says: “Side is an ancient walled city that’s an attraction in itself. It’s said to date back to 4,000BC and has lots of charm, with narrow streets and interesting ruins to explore. There are some first-class sandy beaches around Side’s headland location, and the resort has many good restaurants and bars with an emphasis on locally-caught fish.”
Add a quick stop at nearby Manavgat to see its beautiful waterfall, or venture further east to Alanya, where the combination of historic citadel and long, sandy beaches suits those who like their history with a splash of sunbathing.
Myriad boat trips also depart from the major coastal resorts, offering the perfect spot from which to admire the towering Taurus Mountains and pine-covered scenery that forms the backdrop for the entire region.
SELL: A BROAD APPEAL
‘Something for everyone’ ranks up there with ‘sun, sea and sand’ or ‘crystal-clear waters’ as the most-overused phrase in travel, but on occasion, it just happens to be true. With mile upon mile of golden-sand beaches, Antalya is an obvious hit with sunseekers, but its historical highlights and scenic beauty widen the appeal to those who want more.
This is no Ibiza-in-the-making, but growing nightlife in the city and the larger resorts means there is enough to satisfy younger travellers, while well-developed hotel product caters for the family and couples markets.
It’s sunny from spring to autumn, but with average temperatures of about 15C the winter months are warm enough for hikers, cyclists and those keen to explore the region without crowds.
Thomson has introduced year-round flights to Antalya from regional airports, including Bristol, Cardiff, Newcastle and Bournemouth.
As the gateway to the region, there are also direct services to Antalya from the likes of Monarch, easyJet and Thomas Cook Airlines, or connections via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines for visitors keen to pair a beach break with an action-packed city stay.
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