Sometimes it might feel like you’ve explored all the best historical destinations and tourism has taken over the rest. But in a culture as rich as Turkey’s, you can guarantee that if you scratch the surface a little deeper, a wealth of history can be discovered in some of the most unexpected places.
Kemer, a bustling little tourist resort just south of Antalya, might appear to be all about the sun, sea and sand (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but it’s also a town of great natural beauty, surrounded by sites of huge historical importance. So pack your sun hat and your history hat – because you’re going to need both!
Top tip: If you’re looking for a great multi-generational destination, there’s plenty for the kids or grandkids to enjoy here as well.
If you prefer your history with a picturesque vantage, you’ll find a lot to love about Phaselis. Located on a peninsula between Kemer and Olympos, in ancient times this site was the setting for bustling port town, which served the timber and (rose oil) perfume trade. Laid out around three bays the city dates back more than two thousand years, and its ruins go some way to telling the story of its fascinating and very prosperous heritage.
As well as the remains of an aqueduct, you can stroll around the site to encounter the Roman baths, an agora and an elevated theatre, which offers tranquil views over the mountains. The entire site now comes under protection as a national park and is well facilitated by a cleared walkway called the Harbour Way.
Olympos was the largest (and arguably the most powerful) city in the whole of Lycia. The site is located adjacent to the stunning Cirali Beach, offering breath-taking views over the ocean and surrounding mountains. (You can actually see quite a bit of the site from the water while you’re having a dip.)
Records and artefacts show that the city minted its own coins in the second century BC, and the ruins provide an insight into the layout of this once thriving place. Some of the highlights to look out for include the remains of a temple dedicated to the god of fire and blacksmiths, Hephaestus, Roman baths, a theatre and an acropolis. There is known to be an agora and gymnasium, but they remain unearthed at this stage.
At 2,543 metres, Mount Olympos (aka Olympus by the Romans) is the highest mountain in Turkey. It’s quite often referred to as the Mountain of Monks as it was home to several monasteries in the Middle Ages. Today the entire region is a national park and is renowned for its popularity for hiking in the summer and skiing in winter. You can take the cable car up the side to get some wonderful views, although it doesn’t go right to the top.
For history lovers, there are numerous sites of interest to explore, with lots of scattered Roman and Byzantine ruins. The highlight is the fascinating Chimaera and the story of its eternal flames is at the heart of local mythology. This incredible natural phenomenon sends constant flames out through the crevices of rocks, which are impossible to extinguish. In reality they are fuelled by natural methane, but Lycian legend has it that they were the work of the monstrous Chimera, a creature with the body of a goat, the tail of a serpent and the head of a lion. Keep an eye out, it should be easy to recognise…
Where to Stay
Golden Lotus Hotel: With a great location, its own private beach and a fabulous onsite spa and wellness centre, the Golden Lotus Hotel is ripe for both relaxation and exploration. The beautifully decorated, contemporary rooms feature air-conditioning, satellite TV and a balcony, and some have views over the ocean or Taurus Mountains. Enjoy the all-inclusive hospitality of the hotel’s international restaurant, or you can even enjoy food service at the beach (charges apply).
Kaliptus Hotel: The delightful Kaliptus Hotel offers friendly, boutique accommodation within a short walk of the beach. Featuring some amazing Ottoman architecture and a lovely garden with a pool, the hotel’s rooms are cool, comfortable and very welcoming. Dine indoors or al fresco around the pool from the traditional Turkish buffet, and explore Kemer’s history at your leisure, with the Folklorik Yoruk Park Open Air Museum just a short walk away.
Elegance Hotel Kemer: Easily living up to its name, the Elegance Hotel Kemer offers sophisticated rooms and a fantastic spa centre. Located just a few minutes’ walk from the beach and marina, the expansive facilities include an outdoor pool and superb onsite restaurant. Enjoy the hospitality of the hotel, stroll to the beach, or head further afield to explore the local historical attractions within easy reach.
How to Get There
With a flight time of four hours from the UK, it’s certainly not hard to get there. Multiple airlines, including easyJet and British Airways, offer regular scheduled flights to Antalya Airport and it’s quite easy to find a decent time to suit.
I’ve found the most convenient option of getting to your accommodation is to pre-book a door-to-door transfer with Shuttle Direct. Once you land you’ll meet up with your friendly local driver and he’ll get you the rest of the way in about two hours. It’s quite a picturesque journey, so the time will fly. You might also want to ask the driver to point out some historical sites of interest.
About Shuttle Direct
Want a safe, convenient and reliable ride from the airport to the door of your accommodation? Shuttle Direct is your new best friend! Make an easy online booking with us and when you land one of our friendly local drivers will be waiting to get you to your final destination in comfort and style. It’s no surprise that we’re the most trusted name in airport transfers throughout Europe, because we take the stress out of all your onward travel arrangements.