ANTALYA, TURKEY: Mention the word Riviera and most people immediately think of France or Italy. As stunningly beautiful as they may be, the Turquoise Coast of Turkey may surpass them both. Or, at the very least, be a definite rival.
The Turquoise Coast
There’s a reason the 700-mile shoreline of Turkey along the Aegean and Mediterranean is known as the Turquoise Coast. As if the Aegean and Mediterranean aren’t enough, add snow-capped mountains and archaeological ruins dating as far back as 400 B.C. to the magnificent sun-drenched beaches and you have a recipe that is difficult to beat.
Alexander the Great fought battles here. St. Paul the Apostle and his companion St. Barnabas traveled this route on their first missionary journey to Antioch. It was there that John Mark left Paul to return to Jerusalem and, upon his return, Paul preached at Perge.
The region is known as the home of scholars, saints, warriors, and kings. It is even known as a site for many well-known myths.
One such legend is that Mark Antony is said to have chosen the region as the most beautiful wedding gift for Cleopatra. Herodotus often referred to as the “father of history,” was born in Bodrum. St. Nicholas, who later became the basis of the Santa Claus legend, was born in Patara, a small town along the coast.
The Turkish Riviera is a treasure trove of modern-day resorts and ancient antiquities. In fact, there are actually more Greek ruins in Turkey today than there are in Greece. Among the archaeological points of interest are two wonders of the Ancient World: the ruins of the Mausoleum of Maussollos in Halicarnassus; and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.
To fully appreciate the region, here is a sampling of some of the villages and towns along the coast and, given it’s the Easter season we’ll just call it “In the Footsteps of Paul.”
Located on Turkey’s southwest coast bordered by the Taurus Mountains, Antalya is the capital of Antalya Province and the largest Turkish city on the Mediterranean coast.
The city that is now Antalya was settled about 200 B.C. and founded roughly 50 years later by King Attalus II of Pergamon from whom its name derives.
Today, Antalya is Turkey’s biggest international sea resort on the Turkish Riviera.
As recorded in the book of “Acts of the Apostles, Paul of Tarsus and Barnabas visited Antalya during their early missionary travels:
“Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, and from there they sailed to Antioch.”
Thanks in large part to tourism, beginning in the 1970s, Antalya grew rapidly from its quaint pastoral “fishing village” image to one of Turkey’s most important metropolitan areas.
In 2015, the city was the host of the 2015 G-20 summit and the EXPO 2016. For travelers, Antalya is a place where you can lay on the beach in the morning and snow ski in the afternoon. Antalya is also the gateway to some of man’s oldest historical landmarks.
Moving about 60 miles down the southern Mediterranean coast is the modern resort town of Side (pronounced SEE-day).
The ruins of the ancient city of Side are among the best-known classical sites in Turkey. Coins are of particular interest because they bore the image of Athena, the patroness of the city, from the 10th century B.C.
Of particular interest, Alexander the Great occupied Side without a struggle in 333 B.C. Leaving but a single garrison behind to occupy Side. The occupation resulted in the people of the city adopting the Hellenistic culture, which flourished from the 4th to the 1st century B.C.
During the 3rd century B.C., Side was at the height of its prosperity, establishing itself as a slave-trading center in the Mediterranean while also using its large commercial shipping fleet to engage in acts of piracy.
Side’s ruins are among the most notable in Asia Minor. They cover a large promontory with a wall and a moat separating it from the mainland. Among the ruins, its massive theater complex. Built like a Roman Theater, the largest is in Pamphylia is built much like a Roman theater. The structure relying on arches to support the sheer vertical walls.
An ancient city in Pamphylia, Asia Minor, Aspendos is about 25 miles east of the modern day Antalya. Aspendos was a victim of Alexander the Great when he captured the city in 333 B.C
Though Aspendos did not play a significant role as a political force. It is known for being the best-preserved theatre of antiquity.
Built in 155 A.D. by the Greek architect Zenon, a native of the city, its 315 ft diameter provided seating for 12,000.
The rich legacy in the performing arts continues today with the Aspendos International Opera and Ballet Festival, an annual season of theatrical productions in the spring and early summer.
Slightly over 9 miles from east Antalya lies a vast site of ancient ruins including an acropolis dating back to the Bronze Age. Perge (pronounced PER-gay) is also an important ecclesiastical site because according to Acts 14:25 of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul preached there before traveling on to Attaleia (modern-day Antalya).
Since 1946, Perge has been a major tourist attraction thanks to countless archaeological excavations and discoveries. Among the relics are some of the best Greek mosaics in the world.
Historically, Perge’s most celebrated ancient citizen, the mathematician Apollonius (c.262 BC – c.190 BC), wrote a series of books. Describing a family of curves known as conic sections, they comprise of the circle, ellipse, parabola, and hyperbola.
One final note for traveler’s venturing along this magnificent route, you will likely encounter some roadside “flea markets” en route. Be sure to visit at least one for some incredible local arts and crafts that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
There are “rivieras” and there are “Rivieras.” Be sure not to miss Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. You will not be you to not disappoint.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is the founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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