725km (450 miles) south of Istanbul; 467km (290 miles) southeast of Izmir; 298km (185 miles) northeast of Fethiye; 435km (270 miles) east of Marmaris; 634km (394 miles) southwest of Nevsehir

The sun-kissed Turkish Riviera, with its outstretched arms that embrace the Gulf of Antalya, is home to an extended string of resorts that include seaside towns well outside of the region's capital of Antalya, as far as the rocky shoreline of Kas to the west and the sandy stretches of Alanya to the east. And all along this sunny coastline are more deluxe, themed, all-inclusive beachfront hotels than found in all of Spain. For the casual tourist descending from Eastern and Western Europe, Antalya offers an embarrassing choice of theme park-like accommodations. But as more sophisticated, intellectual even, travelers, we know how to cut through this populous drabble into the region's soul, don't we? We didn't fly all this way to sequester ourselves under a cheesy haze of mass tourism. That's not to say we won't don our swimming duds and consume frou-frou frozen rum drinks for an extended period. But thanks to the local geological and historical gifts, visitors can cram as much cerebral and physical activity into a day as their bodies will allow.

Unlike Marmaris to the west or the Aegean resort of Kusadasi, you don't have to exit the city of Antalya to bask in the glorious region of Antalya.

The city is built on a rocky travertine plateau, formed by natural springs running down the Toros Mountains and surging off the cliffs, with the constant breathtaking silhouette of peaks and snowcaps in the distance. The city's Archaeological Museum is custodian to an incredible collection of richesse of antiquity collected in excavations at the nearby open-air museums of Termessos, Aspendos, and Perge, the latter two among the cities on the Anatolian Mediterranean that witnessed the arrival of St. Paul. As for action: Antalya has rocky mountains, gushing waterfalls, soaring canyons, and lush gardens, perfect for biking, hiking, cycling, canyoning, rafting, wreck diving, golfing, and even skiing -- all just a stone's throw away. At the city's center is the historic quarter of Kaleiçi, a cobbled quarter backed by Roman and pre-Roman ruins and Byzantine ramparts guarding the harbor, a living museum of the area's former Ottoman grandeur. The neighborhood began to undergo a transformation from its former, dusty and neglected self and is now bejeweled with its original, restored timber-framed manses embracing fragrant garden courtyards. A renaissance has also taken root to the west of the historic city center over at Konyaalti, an expansive pebbly strip of prime beachfront backed by a meandering, grassy promenade and "Beach Park," stocked full of diversions such as an aquarium, a children's playground, a paintball area, restaurants, cafes, and shops. It's this winning combination of sun, fun, cultural richness, and a conveniently located state-of-the-art international airport that has made Antalya the focal point of the Turkish Mediterranean.

A Look at the Past

Indigenous tribes were combating the scorching heat on the rocky coastline of Antalya since prehistoric times, until eventually the Hittites migrated off the harsh Anatolian plains in search of a more gracious climate. The Hittites were succeeded by a number of independent city-states founded in the region, and today's province of Antalya covers Pamphylia and parts of Pisidya to the north, Cicilia to the east, and Lycia to the west.

Antalya officially enters the history books in the 2nd century B.C. when King Attalus II marched in to pick up the pieces of the territorial war that broke out after the death of Alexander the Great. The city was proclaimed Attaleia after the Pergamese king, later morphing into variations of Adalia, Satalia, Adalya, and Antalya by successive cultures. The city was handed over to Rome along with the rest of Pergamum, and one of the more important events in the history of the Roman city was the arrival of Emperor Hadrian, whose visit was honored with a grand monumental gate.

Sovereignty over the region passed from the Byzantines to the Selçuks and back again, and in 1103, the port became a valuable asset to the Crusaders, allowing them to avoid the treacherous overland journey from Palestine. The decline of Byzantine influence allowed the Selçuk Sultanate of Rum to annex the region around 1207 until Antalya was finally incorporated into the Ottoman Empire.

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