Exploring the Roman ruins around Antalya, Turkey

by arif_kool2001

The region around Antalya popularly known as the 'Turkish Riviera' has some of the most well preserved Roman ruins in the world, a fact which is often overlooked by most of the tourists

Watching live opera and ballet performance from troupes of various countries in an Amphitheatre around 2000 years old seems much like a dream! Well, we were lucky to witness the world renowned Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival, held in Aspendos, near Antalya. The atmosphere was terrific, the electrifying performances coupled with the roar and claps of thousands of spectators and the traditionally lit ambience simply transported us to the Roman era. The massive stone structure was reverberating with the sounds of a bygone era!!

We arrived in Antalya after exploring the culturally important city of Istanbul. Nestled between the Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, Antalya has a coastline dotted with cliffs and waterfalls resulting in spectacular natural beauty.

The region around Antalya is also referred to as the ‘Turkish Riviera’ and the easy availability of resorts, hotels, bar and restaurants have made this town a major international resort town. The region is popular for sunbathing, swimming and sports activities like sailing, wind surfing, water skiing and mountain climbing. However the region also has rich and well preserved Roman ruins, a fact which is often overlooked by majority of tourists.

Exploring the ruins

Since public transportation is not very developed in the region, we hired a taxi(200 YTL Turkish Lira) and left Antalya early for a day long excursion exploring the ruins of Roman era. We drove along a well maintained highway to the east of Antalya.

Our first stop was at Perge, an archaeological site some 18 kms away. This place has become a major tourist attraction because of the presence of vast and extensive ruins of the Roman period (2nd century AD). Its ruins include the amphitheatre, canals, markets, public baths, temple of Artemis, and polished pillars of various dimensions. Many of the pillars are in perfect shape even to this day. An Acropolis dating back to the Bronze Age has also been discovered in recent excavations.

It is believed that Alexander’s army raided and occupied the region in 333 BC. The famous mathematician Appolonius, a disciple of Archimedes lived here and wrote a number of books on mathematics. St Paul on his first missionary journey is believed to have visited this region.
(Entrance Fee: 15 YTL, Opening Hours: May-September: 08:00—18:00, October-April: 08:00—17:30, during Ramadan closed after 16:30)

Moving ahead, we next stopped at Aspendos(45 Kms away), an ancient city believed to have been founded in 1000 BC by the Greeks. Aspendos was one of the earliest cities to mint coins (500 BC), its coins can be found throughout the ancient world. The city was conquered by Alexander in 333 BC and after his death, the city passed into the control of Romans, Byzantine and finally the Turks.

The prime attraction in Aspendos is the Amphitheatre with a seating capacity of around 20,000 people. The theatre is regarded as one of the best preserved in the world, with many of the original features still remaining intact. It is believed to have been constructed in the 2nd Century AD by an architect named Xenon during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. We climbed the steps and went to the top gallery and found some holes at the upper level, which we were told, was used for pulling sheets to provide shade to the audience.
(Entrance Fee: 15 YTL, Opening Hours: May-September: 08:00—18:00, October-April: 08:00—17:30, during Ramadan closed after 16:30)

The theatre has been regularly hosting the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival during the months of June and July. Opera and Ballet companies from various countries participate in this festival and electrify the 2000 years old theatre with lively music concerts, opera and ballet performances. Don’t miss this spectacular event if you happen to be in the region during this time. (www.aspendosfestival.gov.tr) , Email: aspendosfestival@kultur.gov.tr

We had a light lunch comprising of Kebabs and Pilav at a restaurant just outside Aspendos and moved to our next destination, Side, 65 Kms from Antalya. This city was also founded by the Greeks and later on passed into Roman hands. Side was under the direct control of the Romans for quite some time and was also known as the ‘Slave Trading Centre’ of the Mediterranean region.

The ruins at Side are quite extensive and comprise of an amphitheatre, temple of Apollo, public baths, square agora, streets and markets. The city walls are well preserved, though the gates have been badly damaged.

It was time now to return back to Antalya, the taxi driver was kind enough to show us two amazing waterfalls(Kursunlu and Duden) while returning back. Set in perfect natural settings, the waterfalls provided relaxing and soothing end to a long and hectic day.

How to Reach

Reaching Antalya has never been so easy. Flights with budget carriers are available from a number of cities in Europe and UK to Antalya, which boasts of an international airport just 10 Kms from the city centre. Since public transportation is not much developed, hiring a Taxi is the best option to reach the city centre. Alternatively you can hop on to a shuttle bus operated by “Havas” and reach the city centre for 10 YTL.

Where to stay

We stayed in Oscar Hotel for 28 Euro/night, inclusive of breakfast and dinner. It was a nice and cosy boutique hotel with helpful and cheerful staff. Breakfast was served by the poolside and was quite filling. Every day they had something different to offer for both breakfast and dinner. The only drawback though was the early closure of dinner, I believe 8:30 PM was too early to wind up dinner activities. The bartender was a cheerful guy who kept everyone entertained and lent his ears to anyone narrating his own experience.

Alp Pasa Boutique Hotel is an excellent choice for those looking for a bit of luxury. Located in the old city centre, this hotel boasts of a traditional architecture and is at walking distance from the marina. Double rooms are available from around 70 Euro, inclusive of breakfast.