Shaped by the cooling waters and soft sands of the Mediterranean, heir to the riches of antiquity and child of the modern world, Side is the perfect destination, equally rich in ancient treasures and the gems of contemporary entertainment, shopping and comfortable accommodation.
Side is a superb choice for a holiday, whether your aim is to bath in sun, sea and sand, or to repose in harmony with nature under a soft, leafy canopy, or to explore the region’s unparalleled history, wandering mesmerised through the ruins of antiquity.
Here sea and sky exist in perfect harmony, and where the waters meet the side of the peninsula, golden beaches give on to ancient ruins, cafes, superb restaurants and souvenir shops. Natural marvels such as Manavgat Waterfall and Köprülü Canyon National Park are easily accessible. It’s all here.
Ruins of antiquity reflecting the spirit of time
The ancient Side was a centre of commerce, and the temples were built next to its harbour so that gods would protect it. One of these is the temple believed to have been devoted to Men, the God of Moon, which stands next to the other temples. The people of Side worshipped Cybele and Men before Athena and Apollo. During the Christian Era the temples of the sacred field were substituted for a basilica and a church. The basilica was built in 5th century AD, and the church was built in the 8th or 9th century.
The god and goddess of Side, Apollo and Athena, adorned the coins minted in here. The reverse, however, showed the pomegranate, the symbol of fertility and life represented by Cybele and Athena. The word “Side” itself means pomegranate. Small and large, from coins to temples, these ancient objects provide us highly valuable information regarding the history, beliefs, culture and daily life of Side.
Ancient Side welcomes its visitors through the Main Gate, set between two towers of the insurmountable city walls, standing directly across from the monumental fountain. The Main Gate dates to the 2nd century, and together with the horse shoe shaped, colonnaded courtyard it was also used for ceremonial processions. The monumental fountain across from the gate had three wide arches and a basin, and it was also built in the 2nd century. It is the largest ancient fountain of Anatolia. Originally the structure had three levels and it was decorated with marble cladding and reliefs, however at present only a single level is standing and a few decorations of the pool can be seen. Manavgat River used to provide water to the fountain through aqueducts, splendid examples of human ingenuity working in tandem with the gifts of nature. Sections of the aqueducts are still visible.
Passing through the Main Gate and courtyard there are two roads originally lined with corinthian columns: the main road that continues straight ahead, and another leading off to the left. The main road, which channelled the social and cultural life of ancient Side, is lined with porticoes providing sheltered access to the shops and houses, and passes through the agora and city centre where a bathhouse, a theatre, and fountains once stood. The road eventually reaches the tip of the peninsula, site of the harbour and temples, symbols of commerce and religion.
Kemer is a seaside town set in one of the most stunning locations anywhere along the Mediterranean. It’s also set along the historic Lycian Way, making it a popular spot for hikers and camping out. Actually, more than that, its natural beauty makes it a perfect spot for all kinds of outdoor activities, including the aforementioned camping and hiking and also mountain biking, cycling, boat racing, motocross, and more.
Its beaches are famous and if you come at the right time of year, you might see some stars mingling with the locals on its beautiful shores.
selling all kinds of wares you’ll find nowhere else. In the summers, it is known for hosting tons of concerts and festivals with people flocking from all over the country to enjoy the fresh sea breeze and big-name bands that come here
Right along the Lycian Way, the tree houses of Olympos and camp grounds surrounding it are wonderful for star gazing, right in Olimpos Beydağları National Park. Every year the Olimpos Sky and Science Festival is organized right here due to its amazing location right on the Mediterranean and the opportunity to see so many stars in a sky that rarely features any clouds at all.
Göynük is well known within Turkey as one of the most beautiful spots anywhere in the country. It’s been a relatively important area since the Roman era. Its forests and lakes are stunning, and in the fall people flock to see the range of colors, not to mention the local cuisine which is delectable.
Hatay is an inexhaustible treasure house of history and a centre of civilization. The evidence of the earliest settlement extends back as far as the Epipaleolithic Period (40.000- 9.000 BC) and can be seen in the caves found in Samandağ-Çevlik, Antakya-Şenköy and Yayladağ-Üçağızlı. From 9000 BC onwards, Hatay was controlled successively by the Akkadians, the Hurrians, the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Macedonians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Byzantines, the Seljuks, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, and the Ottomans.
Antakya, the biblical city of Antioch, lies on the banks of Asi River (Orontes) on a fertile plain surrounded by grand mountains. Once the capital of the Seleucid kings, it was renowned for its wealth and luxury. In the 7th century, Antioch was one of five patriarchal centres of the Christian church, the others being Rome, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and İstanbul (Constantinople). In Roman times, the city continued to thrive with commerce and culture. It featured prominently in early Christianity where the name “Christian” was first coined. A cave known today as the Grotto of St. Peter or Church of Saint Peter is believed to be where the Apostle Peter preached when he visited Antioch and is considered to be one of the earliest Christian houses of worship. This grotto-church, located on the Antakya- Reyhanlı road, is as sacred for the Christian world as the cities of Rome or Jerusalem and it is the only structure to have survived from the earliest period of Christianity when the new faith had begun to spread. In 1963, the papacy designated the site as a place of pilgrimage and also recognized it as the world’s first cathedral. Every year on June 29th, a special service is conducted at the Church of St. Peter that is attended by Christians and clergymen from all over the world.
Besides this early church, Antakya is also home to a Catholic Church and a Greek Orthodox Church as well as a Museum of Archaeology (also known as the Mosaic Museum), which has the second richest collection of ancient mosaics in the world. Also to be found in Antakya are a number of historically important examples of architecture from the Ottoman Period, such as the Mosque of Habib-ün Neccar.
Harbiye (Daphne), located 7 kilometres from Antakya, is a popular excursion and picnic area – a virtual paradise thick with greenery and blessed with abundant water. According to legend, this is the spot where Apollo caught sight of Daphne, a beautiful nymph, and fell in love with her. When he tried to approach her however, she fled and Apollo began to pursue her. Realizing that there was no escape, she prayed to the Mother Earth, begging for her protection and she was transformed into a laurel tree just as Apollo reached her. Ever after, a crown of laurel leaves was used to award excellence in poetry and military prowess. Daphne’s tears are said to be still flowing over the waterfalls of Harbiye. The Turkish word for laurel is defne, whose origin of course is the nymph’s name. The essential oils of this tree are used in making the famous laurel soap (defne sabunu), which is completely natural and is highly recommended for healthfulness.
Another ancient city in Hatay is Alexandretta (İskenderun). The foundations of this city were laid in 333 BC, after the victory of Alexander the Great, King of Macedonians, over the Persian King Darius III at Issos. It is a modern district, spreading out along the narrow shore of a gulf with the same name and resting against the foothills of the Amanos Mountains, which rise like a wall immediately behind it. This tourism centre, verdant and warm year round, is also a bustling commercial port.
Arsuz, with its inviting sea and sandy beaches, is one of the most important resort areas in the region and certainly worth a visit. Other historical sites that should not be missed are Columned Port (Sütunlu Liman) Port of Frank (Frank Limanı), Chateau Ruins (Şato Kalıntısı), Şalen Castle (Şalen Kalesi), and Sarıseki Castle (Sarıseki Kalesi), Bakras Castle (Bakras Kalesi), at one time an important stronghold vital to the control of the caravan routes to and from Arabia, contains a church inside. Among the must-sees of the area is also the Column of Jonah (Yunus Sütunu). According to some beliefs, the place where the Prophet Jonah was freed from the belly of the big fish was marked by the Jonah Column which was also the part of the entrance gate to the ancient city of Cilicia.
Samandağ is an important seaport originally founded by the Seleucids in 310 BC as Seleucia Pieria, although there is evidence of Epipaleolithic Period settlement at Çevlik. In ancient times, it was the port (St Paul’s first voyage to Tarsus began here) for Antioch which was the capital city. The remains of a Doric-order temple can be seen. During the Roman period, the town used to be a naval base. The ancient harbour was located at the mouth of the Asi River. During the Roman period, the town was a naval base. The ancient harbour was located at the mouth of the Asi River, which constantly threatened to fill the harbour up with alluvium from the mountains. To prevent this, the Tunnel of Titus (a covered channel measuring 1,330 metres long) was built in the 1st century AD by the Roman Emperor Vespasian. Carved into the limestone cliffs near the tunnel are twelve rock tombs that date back to Roman times, the largest and most famous of which is the one known as Beşikli Cave.
The Monastery of St. Simon, set on the highest peak of Samandağ is a 5th century refuge for Stylites- a kind of anchorites living on top of pillars. Its founder St. Simon closed himself in a cell outside the city for three years after completing his religious studies in a monastery. Later, he climbed a mountain near the city and spent long years on top of a natural stone carved pillar. According to popular belief, the pillar grew taller with each sitting and reached a maximum height of 13 metres. As word of Simon’s patience, faith, and endurance spread through the Christian world, people suffering from illness or physical defect flocked here in the belief that he had the power to cure them. Located on the slopes of Mountain Musa in Samandağ District of Hatay, Vakıflı Village is mostly populated by Armenians and maintains good neighbourhood relations with the villages in its environs. The cultural diversity here adds more and more to the colourfulness of this region. The culinary speciality of Hatay is sumptuous prawns. Gourmets must try künefe, a hot dessert of sweetened shredded wheat filled with melted cheese, and humus, an appetizer of pureed chickpeas, garlic and paprika. You can buy good souvenirs like hand carved wooden tables and chairs and other objects of wood.
Demre and Patara
Santa Claus, who is portrayed as an old man wearing red-and-white clothing and driving a sleigh pulled by a team of flying reindeer carrying gifts to children, was actually Saint Nicholas who was born and bred, lived to become a bishop, achieved sainthood, and eventually buried in the land which is in the present day borders of Turkey.
Saint Nicholas, who is involved in many a childhood memories, was born in and lived his life in lands which is part of Turkey. His birth place is the ancient city of Patara, which is adjacent to the Gelemis village of the Antalya province. Following his education, Saint Nicholas became the bishop of Myra, present day Demre town. There is a church in Demre built in memory of Saint Nicholas which also harbours his grave. During your visit to Turkey, you may follow the footsteps of Saint Nicholas by visiting all settlements in a couple of days, and enjoy the natural beauty and historical heritage they offer to you.
Nicholas was a Lycian, and he became a world renowned saint because of his life dedicated to doing kindness to needy and on the merits of miracles attributed to his intercession. He was the only son of a wealthy family and chose to become a priest. Saint Nicholas shared his wealth with poor, but hr did this through secret gift-giving. He was renowned for secretly providing assistance to the needy in the form of gifts delivered secretly through windows and chimneys, and his memory is converted into the present day popular belief in Santa Claus.
While Demre is most associated settlement with Saint Nicholas as he was the bishop there, and the church bearing his name and his grave are there, his birth place Patara where he spent his youth also upheld the memory of the saint. The city where the miracles of Saint Nicholas have taken place was Patara. Patara was the capital city of Lycian League and the extraordinarily well preserved ruins would attract your attention. The structures most visited are the Theatre, the restored Boule (council house), the Light House, the Triumphal Arch, the colonnaded high street, a temple, and numerous chapels. Great portion of the ancient city has been buried under the sand dunes carried by the Mediterranean Sea. While the shifting sands rendered the commercial harbour of Patara unusable, it has also created one of the longest and most beautiful beaches of the whole coast of Mediterranean Sea. During your visit to Patara you may have excursions to the ancient ruins, and enjoy sun and sea on the beach which is renowned for being the nesting site of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta).
As Saint Nicholas served as the Bishop of Demre, he is identified with the town. Also, he died and was buried in the town, and a church built over his tomb. During the Medieval era, the church was a centre of pilgrimage and even today visitors inundate the church. In the past seafaring pilgrims to Jerusalem stopped over Andriake, the port city of Demre, travelled inland to visit the Saint Nicholas Church and sought cure from the holy oil cult. Since 1983 every 6 December, the day of his death, activities centred on the “Santa Claus World Peace Appeal” are organised in Demre to commemorate this important saint of the Christian world. Adherents of different faiths participate in prayers for peace during the ceremonies, to remind an era when different cultures and religions lived together in peace for thousands of years in Anatolia.
Myra is one of the cities of antiquity adorning the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The city is 7 km inland. According to Strabo, Myra is one of the six major cities of the Lycian League. There are remarkable rock tombs hewn into the cliff faces which are identifiable to Lycia cities. Most of the ancient city is under the layers of earth awaiting exploration while the theatre is the principal building available to visit.
Antalya was founded in 158-138 BC by Attalus II, King of Pergamon, who named the city Attaleia after himself. Having been inhabited continuously since then, it was encircled by strong protective walls in Roman times. The Byzantines and Seljuks successively occupied the city before it came under Ottoman rule.
“Antalya is situated at the end of a gulf, the namesake of the city, and extends over a green plateau that lies parallel to the sea. With its blue sea, luminous sky, the ever-changing colour of its mountains and lush green vegetation, the city is a festival of colours.”
Today it is one of the world’s best-loved tourist resorts, with numerous five-star hotels, holiday villages and entertainment establishments. Besides the chances Antalya offers for skiing on the mountains and then descending to the shore for a swim, the proximity of a great number of archaeological sites and ruins enhances its appeal. There are great works of art from different civilizations at every corner of the city. In the picturesque old quarter of Kaleiçi, narrow, winding streets and old wooden houses abut the ancient city walls. When Emperor Hadrian visited Phaselis in Antalya in 130 AD, a beautifully-decorated three arched gate with Corinthian columns was built into the city walls in his honour. It was the only entrance through the city walls. The two towers flanking the gate, as well as other sections of the walls, are standing near the marina. The clock tower in Kalekapısı Square was also part of the old city’s towers. The elegant, fluted minaret of the Yivli Minaret Mosque at the centre of the city, built by the Seljuk Sultan Alaeddin Keykubat in the 13th century, has become Antalya’s symbol. The Karatay Madrasah in the Kaleiçi district, from the same period, exemplifies the best of Seljuk stone carving.
The two most important Ottoman mosques in the city are the 16th-century Murat Paşa Mosque, remarkable for its tile decoration, and the 18th-century Tekeli Mehmet Paşa Mosque. Neighbouring the marina, the attractive late 19th-century İskele Mosque is built of cut stone and set on four pillars over a natural spring. The Hıdırlık Kulesi (tower) was probably constructed as a lighthouse in the second century. The Kesik Minaret Mosque, which was previously a church, bears witness to the city’s long history. The major part of the southern coastline falls within the borders of the city of Antalya. With ancient cities hidden among the trees, lush-green plateaus and forests with oxygen-rich air, trekking routes and beautiful beaches, Antalya is a holiday paradise offering much more than one might expect.
According to available knowledge the history of the ancient city Anavarza (Anazarbus) goes back to 2100 years, and it has reached its zenith in the 2nd century BC when it was awarded by the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus. Anavarza rapidly developed and became the capital of Cilicia in 408. The city maintained its significance through the Byzantine era, and hosted other cultures after wards. Armenians, Abbasids, Seljuk, Ramadanids, and Ottomans all left their diverse imprint on Anavarza and traces of these cultures could be seen today. The cultural diversity was the main grounds on which the ancient city was included in the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage and it is a remarkable ancient settlement with ruins and legends
Anavarza has been the capital of the region for a while, and it was renowned as the centre of festivals and sport tournaments. The ruins of stadium and theatre would help visitors visualise the enjoyable sights and struggles that took place on those stages in antiquity. The colonnaded high street, mosaic lined pools are other attractive structures of the ancient city. The Rock Church from 6th century, and the Church of Apostles are Byzantine, and the Arabian inscription panel on a tower just outside the West Gate of the city indicates the Abbasid era. The city walls around the settlement of Anavarza are 1,500 metres long, and one of the gates was designed as a triumphal arch, dating back to 3rd century. The current excavations found an ancient high street and a section it was unearthed to reveal a 32 m wide 1,700 m long road which is believed to be one of the widest and longest colonnaded streets of antiquity.
The citadel of the city has not lost its strategic importance for hundreds of years, and risen on top of a 200 meter-high hill dominating the plains below. While the pathway to citadel is quite steep and jagged, the difficult climb is worthy, enabling visitors to see the mid-eleventh century church there and have a panoramic view of the Çukurova plains of Cilicia.
Physician Dioscorides, a prominent citizen of Anavarza, has been regarded a founding father of medicine and pharmacology. His book, De Materia Medica, which has been thought in the universities all around the world for hundreds of years, was the oldest known pharmacopoeia, book of preparing medications, and it was believed to be written in the city. A contemporary literary work, “Memed, My Hawk” (in Turkish İnce Memed, Memed, the Slim) is also associated with Anavarza. It was written by the world-renowned Turkish author Yaşar Kemal and an important part of the novel is played on Anavarza and other settlements nearby.