Travel to Turkey: 5 Highlights in Southern Turkey, From Ankara to the Mediterranean Coast

Travel to Turkey: 5 Highlights in Southern Turkey, From Ankara to the Mediterranean Coast

Turkey is a country that dazzles travelers at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Although Istanbul and Cappadocia are favorite destinations, there is far more to Turkey than these popular places, especially along its southern “Turkish Riviera” Mediterranean coastline. Having lived in Turkey and returned eight times, it’s hard for me to choose only a few of my favorite places – but I’ll try. Here’s what you really must see and do, heading south from Ankara to the Mediterranean Coast:

  1. Ankara
  2. Konya
  3. Antalya
  4. Mediterranean coastal towns
  5. Turkish baths, anywhere

1. AnkaraTurkey’s modern capital is home to the colossal Atatürk Mausoleum; in Turkish it’s aptly named Antikabir, or “Monumental Tomb,” for its larger-than-life founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Another draw is the Anatolian Civilizations Museum – heart of Mesopotamia – with rare, 8000 BC artifacts from Çatalhöyük and Hacılar.

  • Tip: Try sımıt, a sesame-encrusted Turkish bagel sold by young and old men often balancing trays of sımıt on their heads. Sımıt varies by region; in Ankara it’s smaller and much crunchier than in other regions.
Schoolchildren line up to enter <i>Anıtkabir, </i> the massive mausoleum of Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk <br />  Photo credit: Helen Holter

Schoolchildren line up to enter Anıtkabir, the massive mausoleum of Turkey’s founder, Atatürk
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo to see larger version)


2. KonyaBest known for beloved Muslim mystic Rumi (also called Mevlâna) and his founding of the Whirling Dervishes, Konya is a conservative city infused with Seljuk culture and history. The top draw is the Mevlâna Museum, a holy destination where Muslim pilgrims view Rumi’s/Mevlâna’s tomb. Nearby are displays – and sometimes live demonstrations – of the mystic Whirling Dervishes in their prayerful trances (sema), one hand toward heaven and the other toward earth. This 13th-century whirling religious practice is a UNESCO-designated “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.”

  • Tip: Rumi’s/Mevlâna’s writings and poems are popular souvenirs.
The turban-topped sarcophagus of mystic Mevlâna (or Rumi) draws world-wide followers to Konya's Mevlâna Museum <br /> Photo credit: Helen Holter

The turban-topped sarcophagus of mystic Mevlâna (or Rumi) draws world-wide followers to Konya’s Mevlâna Museum
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo to see larger version)


 

3. AntalyaIt’s perhaps Turkey’s favorite Mediterranean Sea resort, with abundant beaches, gulet excursions on all-wooden yachts, and a well preserved Old Town (Kaleiçi) marked by its stone tower, Roman harbor and historic Hadrian’s Gate. It’s easy to make side-trips to archaeological sites like Aspendos, Perge, or Termessos.

  • Tip: Antalya is a perfect place to splurge on a seafood dinner; favorites include stuffed mussels (midye dolma), butter prawns (tereyagli karides), and bonito (palamut). Don’t forget to try Turkey’s delicious desserts, like baklava.
Antalya's Hadrian's Gate (<i>Üçkapılar</i>), the Roman triumphal arch built almost 2,000 years ago <br />  Photo credit: Helen Holter

Antalya’s Hadrian’s Gate (Üçkapılar), the Roman triumphal arch built almost 2,000 years ago
Photo credit: Helen Holter

(click on photo to see larger version)


4. Mediterranean Coastal TownsMIR staffer Jake Smith enjoys vacationing in the fishing and yachting village of Kaş, known for its almonds, honey, and sandy beaches. I gravitate toward a nearby seaside town where friends live, Fethiye. I love Fethiye’s mountain and sea views, boat excursions to 12 islands, nearby Çalış and Ölüdeniz beaches, and easy access to the Lycian Way, a 300-mile hiking trail.

  • Tip: Visit the temple-sized Tomb of Amyntas (Fethiye Tomb) at sunset for best photo ops.
The Ölüdeniz beach near Fethiye is world-famous for its blue lagoon, a designated national nature reserve <br />  Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

The Ölüdeniz beach near Fethiye is world-famous for its blue lagoon, a designated national nature reserve
Photo credit: Republic of Turkey Ministry of Culture & Tourism

(click on photo to see larger version)


5. Turkish Baths (Hamami)For the ultimate – and perhaps touristy and pricey – experience of a Turkish bath in splendor, stick to Istanbul’s famous bathhouses, like Çemberlitaş or Cağaloğlu. But for a local and more authentic experience, seek out an old-fashioned hamam in Antalya’s Old Town or in small towns like Fethiye, Kaş or Side.

  • Tip: If the bath attendants start singing haunting Turkish melodies that echo from the domes, you’re in a truly authentic hamam.
Domes of mosques and bathhouses (<i>hamami</i>) dot Turkey's landscape, from urban settings to remote villages <br />  Photo credit: Helen Holter

Domes of mosques and bathhouses (hamami) dot Turkey’s landscape, from urban settings to remote villages
Photo credit: Helen Holter

Travel to Turkey with MIRThere’s so much to explore in Turkey’s distinct regions with MIR. 

  • Handcrafted Private Journeys: MIR can create a custom, private itinerary for Turkey that reflects your interests and timeline, perhaps exploring southern Turkey’s ancient ruins and seaside fishing villages, or simply chilling out on a Mediterranean gulet cruise for a couple of weeks.
Once simple fishing boats, today's Turkish gulets are luxurious, equipped for Mediterranean cruising Photo credit: Helen Holter

Once simple fishing boats, today’s Turkish gulets are luxurious, equipped for Mediterranean cruising
Photo credit: Helen Holter

You also can begin and end your journey in Istanbul, a bustling city  that showcases the best of Turkey. Its minaret-studded skyline glistens with mosques, palaces, and water views that dive deep into the country’s living history, diverse cultures, and international cuisine.  


Explore More of TurkeyThere is so much to see in Turkey, from ultra-modern Istanbul to rustic Mustafapaşa. Because Turkey is such a large country – the size of Texas – it’s easier to explore by focusing on its geographical regions, each one unique in its sights, history, and cuisine. What remains the same everywhere: legendary Turkish hospitality. Here is a brief overview of the country, along with favorite highlights in several key areas of Turkey:

  • Travel to Turkey: 6 Favorite Highlights in Istanbul: A city built on seven hills, Istanbul highlights including visiting the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace; riding a ferry along the Bosphorus Strait and enjoying delicious, healthy Turkish cuisine.

Whatever Turkish delights capture your imagination, MIR’s expertise in crafting unique, custom journeys to Turkey can transform your dream trip into an unforgettable travel adventure.

(Top photo: Fethiye’s Çalış Plaj (Calis Beach) is a sandy oasis popular with Brits, located on Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast. Photo credit: Helen Holter) 

 

PUBLISHED: February 19, 2015

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