With the charm of a small resort and the facilities of a larger one, clients may find mid-size Side just right, says Karl Cushing

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Fifty miles east of Antalya and west of Alanya, the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Side (pronounced See-deh) packs a punch as a smaller, quieter resort option, with a host of activities in the surrounding area and a solid tourism infrastructure in the town centre.

Since the 1990s this formerly small fishing community has seen a sprawl of hotel developments fan out from its centre, chiefly westwards along the better of the flanking beaches, their sandy strips supporting activities from watersports to parasailing and a surfeit of sun loungers.

Fittingly for a town that can trace its roots back to 700BC, Side’s best bits include the old town, home to some lovely stone buildings, and its heart remains the historic central strip and harbour frontage.

Fans include Olympic Holidays commercial director Photis Lambrianides. “Among Turkish resorts, Side is one of the best and makes an excellent holiday base,” he says. “The walled city has a wonderful setting and there are some excellent sandy beaches in the area, along with plentiful restaurants and bars and one of the largest discos in the area. There’s also a good choice of flights into Antalya, enabling us to offer holidays at keen prices.”

It’s also very popular with Direct Traveller’s clients, says marketing manager Enver Ozdemir. “Its unique blend of fashionable bars and restaurants alongside beautiful ancient ruins and buildings make it a perfect holiday resort,” he says. “As well as its historical gems there are multiple markets and bazaars that simply cannot be ignored.”

See: On land and sea

Top attractions in Side town include the well-preserved Greco-Roman amphitheatre and restored Roman bathhouse, said to have been frequented by Antony and Cleopatra, which is now a museum housing Roman statuary and other relics. Meanwhile, the remaining upstanding pillars of the beachside Temple of Apollo make a welcome addition to sunset snaps.

Various boat trips and sunset cruises operate from Side harbour. Attraction World offers a full-day Dolphin Island Boat Trip, which blends snorkelling and sailing with the chance of dolphin sightings, from £16 per adult and £1 per child aged up to 12. Alternatively, wooden boats ply the nearby Manavgat River before anchoring in the sea for snorkelling, swimming and lunch.

Attraction World’s Bazaar and Manavgat Boat Trip (from £16/£1) also takes in Manavgat’s colourful, twice weekly market and the low level Manavgat Falls, a scenic spot alive with picnicking activity on my Sunday visit.


Day trips

Antalya, just under an hour’s drive along the coast from Side, makes for a popular day trip. Visitors can enjoy its charming old town, stroll along the scenic seafront, and stop to shop and admire the restored Ottoman buildings. Some lovely restaurants overlook the historic harbour while nearby Lara Beach will take care of clients’ sandy requirements.

For golfers, the myriad courses of Belek are within easy reach, as are the area’s popular historic spots such as the ancient cities of Perge, Aspendos and Selge. (The famous Roman amphitheatres of the former two, which host concerts in summer, were closed for refurbishment during my visit, but were due to reopen for summer.)

Local tour company NBK Touristik, based in Antalya, can arrange all manner of commissionable trips and itineraries throughout the region (nbktouristic.com/en), while Ali, my affable local guide, was a mine of information and ideas (aliyuzgec35@gmail.com).

Stay: Large and small

Reliable, family-friendly all inclusives include the sprawling Crystal Sunrise Queen Luxury Resort & Spa, recently given a light refurb. As well as the usual facilities that parents look for – family rooms, waterslides, kids’ pools and clubs, and free ice cream – guests can also use the facilities at the newer, adjoining Crystal Sunset Luxury Resort & Spa, and Side town is reachable on foot via a pleasant stroll along the promenade. The property is new for summer 2014 for Cosmos Holidays, which has added it to its Ultimate Family Friendly range.

Other reliable options include the nearby Barut Hemera, set on a wide private beach and with options including swim-up rooms and some balcony Jacuzzis, plus free Wi-Fi; and Sentido Perissia, a recently refurbished family-friendly Thomas Cook option.

In Sorgun, less than two miles away, clients will find Voyage Sorgun, a lively property in large, wooded grounds with its own disco and 11 restaurants, and Barut Sorgun Sensatori, which opened last summer, featured by Thomson. With a mini-club, playground, kids’ pools, buffet and disco, it’s family-friendly, but the adult accommodation section, spa and private cabanas will keep couples happy too.

For couples who like to be somewhere smaller and more central you’ll struggle to beat Conny’s. This intimate, 12-room property, run by a Dutch couple who made Side their home 22 years ago, is featured by everyone from Cosmos to On The Beach.

My base was Amelia Beach Resort & Spa. Modern, spotless and with a solid all inclusive offering, for my liking it was too far removed from Side centre, and its beach, which is accessed via a foot tunnel under the noisy motorway that fronts the property, was nothing to write home about. It’s popular with the German and Russian markets, a factor that may not suit some British clients.

Sell: Happy halfway

Side’s range of accommodation options is a strong selling point but there’s no shortage of others. For one, access is easy as Antalya, the gateway airport, is about an hour’s drive away. Adding to the already plentiful airlift, Jet2. com has added flights to Antalya from Leeds Bradford, Manchester and East Midlands airports to its summer 2015 programme, backed by Jet2holidays packages.

Side is a good option for clients who want a smaller resort that still boasts a solid tourism infrastructure, including some nightlife – albeit without the boom-boom brouhaha of some of Turkey’s larger resorts. Plus, it still retains a lot of charm; the beaches are pleasant, with child-friendly, calm, shallow waters; and for those who want to do more than fly and flop, there’s a good range of excursions and activities on offer.

Side provides a nice halfway house between big resorts such as Bodrum and Marmaris and quaint options such as Kalkan. And with Turkey about 30% cheaper than last summer thanks to the strong pound, there’s never been a better time to book.

Turkey: News update

Neilson has added yacht sailing routes in Turkey. A new one-week itinerary along the Lycian coast can be booked alone or combined with an existing trip along the Dorian coast to create a two-week holiday. Novice sailors are better suited to Neilson’s Stay and Sail options, giving them the chance to train at a Beachclub before sailing in a flotilla under the guidance of a Neilson crew. The operator’s latest resort is Andriake Beachclub in Demre, where a two week package starts at £905.

The 103-room D-Resort Gocek, 20 minutes from Dalaman, has reopened following a refurbishment. It boasts two restaurants, an Espa spa, and a speedboat available for charter. Sister property D-Hotel Maris, on the Datca peninsula, has opened a Zuma Japanese restaurant.

Two Radisson Blu hotels have opened in Istanbul, one in the business district of Sisli, the other in Tuzla near the airport. The Carlson Rezidor Group will add to its Turkey portfolio again in 2015 with a Park Inn by Radisson in Izmir.

Sample product

Classic Collection Holidays offers seven nights’ all-inclusive at Barut Hemera, a 20-minute walk from Side town centre, from £1,129 departing September 8, including private transfers and flights to Antalya from Gatwick (other UK departure airports available).


Jet2holidays offers seven nights’ all-inclusive in a standard double or twin room at the five-star Crystal Sunset Luxury Resort & Spa, Side, from £899, including flights from Leeds Bradford departing July 20, 2015, and transfers.


Olympic Holidays offers seven nights’ all-inclusive in a double room at the three star Kervan Hotel in Side for £427 in early September, including flights from Manchester and transfers.


Cosmos Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B at Conny’s Boutique Hotel from £549 including flights from Leeds Bradford on August 21.


Find out more at the Turkish Culture and Information Office website