If you consider spending your summer holiday in Antalya, where to stay and what to do may be the first thing that you will ask, before you start making arrangements. Indeed, every time when we go to a new place, we may feel a bit apprehensive, although that’s normal. We all want to have a good time and to get the best out of our holidays.
WHERE TO STAY IN ANTALYA?
Before I booked my stay in Antalya, I had some clear guidelines with regard to what I would like to do there. I wanted to be in the city centre and I also wanted an easy access to the beach. Often, it’s difficult to reconcile these two requirements, especially in big cities, like Antalya. But, I was prepared to make an effort. The problem was that I didn’t know where to start.
Many people, when they say that they are “going to Antalya”, consider all resorts from Kemer to Belek as Antalya. In other words, everything up to 50km along the coast, each side of Antalya. This additionally complicates things and it makes your decision where to stay more difficult.
So, I read a lot of articles and travel blogs on the internet, in order to get an idea of how things work in Antalya. But, none of the articles that I read provided me with the crystal clear picture of what I should do. Additionally, most travel blogs that I read were sponsored and rubbish. For example, one very popular travel blog started well and it was initially presented as a personal experience. Then, the writer started to list “10 best places where to stay in Antalya”.
But, how can anyone stay in 10 different places at the same time, to be able to recommend all 10 of them? Perhaps, they’ve already been to Antalya 10 times in the past, although I doubt.
When you read such posts, you realise that they are not the best places to stay, rather they are 10 places that pay money for promotion in that particular website. In fact, they could be good places, although there is always an element of suspicion, especially when you know that the recommendation is not based on someone’s personal experience.
Also, different people have different desires and different expectations. So, my suggestion is that you carefully consider your preferences and you decide what works for you best.
MY HOTEL IN ANTALYA
And that’s exactly what I did. I stayed in a small, family run Held Hotel. I wanted a hotel in the historical centre, this hotel seemed nice and it was reasonably priced. Also, I read relatively positive reviews by other guests and in the end I booked it through booking.com.
This hotel, the same as most other hotels in the Old Town, is an Ottoman era villa.
The reception, some communal areas and several guest rooms are on the ground floor. Most other rooms and the balcony are on the first floor.
It’s a lovely building, it’s full of charm and you really get that special oriental feel when you enter the building. But, my room was tired around the edges and the breakfast was only acceptable. In reality, I shouldn’t complain because the price that I paid was among the cheapest that I could find in the historical centre, for the period when I was there – in the peak season.
If I ever go back to Antalya, I would choose a different hotel. I don’t have anything against this particular place. Rather, I would choose another hotel because I would like to stay in a different Ottoman style villa. I’ve seen a lot of very interesting and alluring little hotels during my walks around historical Kaleiçi.
The Held Hotel also has a small swimming pool, behind the building. You can stay by the pool in case you don’t want to go to the beach. Anyhow, when you look where to stay in Antalya, choose a place with a swimming pool, regardless of how small it is.
THE ANTALYA CARD
If you, like me, also decide to stay in the old historical centre and if you are not going to rent a car, you will have to use public transport to go to the beach. As you will see, the nearest beach is not close enough for you to walk.
In order to use public transport, you must obtain the Antalya Card. You can’t travel on any public transport without this card, simply because you can’t pay the driver. You can get this card from a machine at the corner of Atatürk and Ali Çetinkaya streets. The way it works, you feed the machine with let’s say 20 liras, the machine deducts 7 liras for the cost of the card and it credits the remaining amount to your new card.
But, be careful how much money you insert in the machine. Perhaps, you can calculate how many times you are going to travel to the beach and back to the hotel. The same works if you stay in a hotel far from the historical centre and you travel there in the evening.
The point I want to make is that you don’t want too much money to remain on the card, after you’ve left Antalya. I don’t know if credit has the time limit and whether it expires after a certain period of time.
WHICH BEACH TO GO TO IN ANTALYA?
There are two beaches in Antalya – Konyaalti and Lara – and I went to both of them. They are very big beaches and I believe that, because of their immense size, neither of them gets too busy, even in the peak season. Perhaps, there are busy parts, especially if they are allocated to certain hotels. But, you can always try to find a calmer area, where you can spend your day in relative tranquillity.
THE KONYAALTI BEACH
The Konyaalti Beach starts right at the end of Konyaalti street. It’s much closer than the Lara Beach and it’s easier to get to. To arrive to this beach, take a tram no. 5, in the Old Town, and get off at the last stop. As I’ve already mentioned, you must have the Antalya Card to be able to travel on the tram.
From the tram station, it’s only a short walk to the beach. Well, I am referring to the beginning of this very long beach that you can see in the photos in this post. You don’t need to go too far down the beach and it will also be easier for you when you have to go back.
The Konyaalti Beach is a pebble beach. Personally, I don’t particularly like such beaches, although they may be perfectly fine for some people. You are certainly not going to get full of sand in this beach, although I don’t mind sand. But, pebbles were quite big and as I only had a very thin throw, I felt very uncomfortable.
Getting in and out of water was also a challenge, because of a steep sea edge. Pebbles moved under my feet and I kept my balance with great difficulty. It was a struggle for everyone that went in and out of water.
One more important and useful observation is that there are no free beach umbrellas. You will either have to rent one or you can bring yours, if you don’t want to burn in the sun.
However, the biggest disappointment was that the water was dirty with plastic bags, plastic bottles and other rubbish and it was a sad image. Try to imagine: you are in a beautiful setting, it’s a sunny hot day by the Mediterranean sea, but when you go for a swim, you find yourself in the middle of rubbish. I went for a swim only once. I felt hot and had to cool down, but all the time I was literally pushing the rubbish away from me.
A friend of mine, whom I mentioned in my previous post, worked in Kemer as a tourist rep, all summer. He told me that the sea was dirty there too and that’s 60km from Antalya.
Perhaps, I was unlucky to be there in that particular moment, otherwise it could be that water is normally clean. Although, considering the amount of rubbish that I’ve seen, I doubt.
It is probably needless to say that I didn’t return to this beach.
THE LARA BEACH
In my opinion, a much better option is the Lara Beach. It’s a very long sandy beach, just the way I like. Also, water was clean, there was no rubbish like in the Konyaalti Beach. That, plus the fact that I prefer sand, made the time I spent on this beach very enjoyable.
This beach is very long and it stretches for many kilometres. You will find the biggest and the most luxurious hotel complexes there, plus many other smaller hotels. One evening, a friend of mine took me to see these resorts. They are big and impressive, although I wouldn’t choose to spend my holiday in any of them. I prefer more intimate, atmospheric places with a character, like the hotel where I stayed in the Old Town.
One clear advantage of staying in a hotel at the Lara Beach is that you step out of the hotel and you are on the beach. But, I don’t know if there is anything to do there in the evening. I don’t know if you can easily find restaurants, bars and other forms of evening entertainment.
So, a dilemma that you may have, the same as I did, is whether to stay in the Old Town and travel to the beach or to stay by the beach and travel to the Old Town in the evening.
The Lara Beach is far from the historical centre. You can go there by bus no. KL08. In the Old Town, the bus stop where you can catch this bus is right in front of the Garanti Bank, in Atatürk street. But, the journey is long. It takes approximately 35-45 minutes to arrive to the beach, because the bus stops frequently and there is also a lot of traffic.
Lara Plaj is the stop where you should get off. Then, you will see this beautiful beach right in front of you.
WHERE TO EAT IN ANTALYA?
You will find a lot of restaurants in the Antalya’s historical centre – Kaleiçi.
Certainly, there is an element of attractiveness in having a dinner surrounded by beautiful historical buildings. But, absolutely all restaurants in this area are touristic and rather expensive.
You will also find a lot of restaurants in İnönü Street. There was a mix of foreign tourists and some locals eating in restaurants in this street, so perhaps it could be an option for you to consider.
However, in line with my policy of only eating in places where Turks eat, I found the Paçacı Şemsi Merkez restaurant. Food in this place was fabulous and much cheaper than what I would’ve had to pay in any of the touristic restaurants in the Old Town.
I went there nearly every evening. Each time, I was the only foreigner, otherwise the clientele was the local Turkish people. If you want to try the excellent Turkish cuisine, I suggest that you go to this restaurant.
After your dinner, perhaps you can visit one of Antalay’s patisseries and have some delicious Turkish sweets.
As you have probably understood from this post, Antalya is a bit of a hard work. If you decide to stay in the historical centre, you will have to make an effort and travel to the beach every day, especially if you want to go to the Lara Beach.
The alternative is to choose a hotel near the beach but, in that case, you will have to travel to the centre in the evening.
Well, that’s the way it works in Antalya and there is no way around.
Antalya is so popular for a good reason, it has a magnificent historical centre, good beaches and a perfect summer weather.
Plus, Turkey is much cheaper than other European countries, you can eat excellent food there and there is an overall very good value for your money!