Sometimes you don’t want to spend your summer baking beside a pool. Some of us prefer getting out and about, getting active, seeing something of the world — and maybe even having a little adventure while we’re at it. If this is you and your family, then one place you ought to consider for your next adventure is Turkey.
Aside from the sun, the sea and the friendly welcome (and a very keen exchange rate at the time of writing), one of Turkey’s key natural assets is the sheer quantity of caves and underground passageways that permeate the landscape – reportedly over 40,000 of them! They make great playgrounds for intrepid explorers of all ages.
Alanya, in the southern Antalya Province, is particularly blessed with these subterranean marvels – and as this area accounts for about one-tenth of all tourist spending in the whole of Turkey, infrastructure and accommodation are top notch too. Here we’ll take a look at some of the coolest caverns, and suggest how best to enjoy them. Now who’s up for a spot of speleology?
In the mountains above Alanya, around 11km from the city, Dim Cave burrows into the rock in an area that has been home to fortresses and citadels since the Classical era. The complex here and in the surrounding hills is one of the best for tourists in the whole country, and kids in particular will love the tours and talks on how these natural marvels were formed.
Spectacular Stalagmites and Stalactites
These beautifully lit natural wonders were formed by carbolic acid-rich rain falling onto the limestone hills and dissolving their way through the rock.
Here’s some information enquiring minds may want to know:
- Found in 1998, this is the oldest commercial cave tourism attraction in Turkey — so no wonder the setup is so good
- It’s what’s known as a karstic cave, a geological term for the dissolving limestone formations.
- Inside it’s 360m long and 10-15m high.
Top Tip: While you’re up there, also well worth a look is the Dim Citadel, most notably renovated by the Seljuks in the thirteenth century. Any history buffs in your family will thank you.
Pirates (or Girls’) Cave
This part of Turkey, like all good trade routes, has a long and potted history of smuggling. This cavern goes by two names: Kozanlar Mağarası, as this is where the local pirates would stash their plunder before delivering it or selling it to the locals, and Kızlar Mağarası (Girls’ Cave), because this was where they hid their female captives.
Top tip: With the right tour, you can enter in a rowing boat. Inside is a massive hall, and what is, according to local legend, a staircase that once led right up into the Castle of Antalya, until it was destroyed long ago.
If you’d prefer a dip (and if you’re in Turkey in the scorching summer heat, this may be advisable), then our next selection is for you. It’s named for the phosphorescent shimmer of the water in the lagoon, which glints up onto the roof of the cave.
You can take an open top boat up to the mouth, and stronger swimmers can go right inside. If you’re up for it, it’s even possible to scuba dive here. It’s like an aquarium down there, with astounding colours and a profusion of sea life under the waves.
I think I may have saved the best for last here. Unearthed during the construction of Alanya Harbour in the 1940s, this stunning natural cave has a constant water temperature in the low 20s. It also has the look of an underground Gaudí cathedral, with ornate designs accreted and eroded in the rock over thousands of years.
Cure for What Ails You?
According to speleotherapy enthusiasts, this calcite gem of a place is actually good for the health. Thanks to its 90% humidity and balmy heat, coming here works like a sauna, and has been prescribed for everything from asthma to rheumatism. A hefty exposure of 21 days’ worth of four-hour sessions is suggested, but I reckon even a day should do you some good. And even if you’re not in it for the health benefits, the natural phenomena on show are well worth it.
Where to Stay
Bella Bravo Suit Hotel – Very handy for my last spelunking suggestion (it’s about a 15-minute drive from Damlatas Cave) and only two minutes from the beach. This self-catering hotel is a great base for families exploring Alanya – it’s even got a pool, perfect for small swimmers.
May Flower Apart Hotel – Another self-catering spot (always handy if one of your family members is a picky eater). It’s a short walk from Alanya Aquapark, which is a cracking attraction for water lovers of all ages and sizes – and there’s a beach nearby too.
How to Get There
With six airlines flying 41 times a week from London, the four-hour flight to Antalya (AYT) is an easy one. It’s reasonably-priced flight as well, especially with current exchange rates.
Personally, I think it’s worth arranging your transfers beforehand. I always advise a private transfer with Shuttle Direct for the best mix of top-class service with a nice price.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct offers some of the best professional service across Europe and North Africa. We have over 40 years of experience matching holidaymakers with shuttles and private transfers.