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Antalya
Antalya
Antalya

Founded as a port by King Attalus of Pergamon in 158BC, Antalya has been owned by the Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Selçuk Turks, Ottomans and even briefly by the Italians. The fourth largest city in Turkey, much of it is a typical urban sprawl, but the old centre, Kaleiçi, is an utterly delightful maze of steep narrow streets lined with carpet shops and boutique hotels in restored Ottoman houses, curving down to the ancient harbor, while the Konyaalti seafront is a wonderful place to take the evening air.

Beyond the beach: Antalya Museum on Konyaalti is a world-class archaeological collection housing the finest exhibits from classical sites right along the Mediterranean coast, including the ancient city of Perge and Aspendos, with its superb Roman theatre, both easily reached near Antalya airport. In town, most of the other sights are within the old city, Kaleiçi, described by a 17th-century traveler, Evliya Çelebi as being surrounded by a 4.5km wall with 80 towers and 4 gates. Start at the top near the 13th century clock tower and statue of Ataturk and work your way down the hill past the Fluted Minaret and Karatay Medrese to the old harbor, now a ritzy marina with its quay lined by restaurants and cafés. On the cliff at the far side of the harbor, an ancient lighthouse, the Hidirlik Kulesi marks the edge of another historic district with a web of tiny alleys of old wood-framed Ottoman houses, around the triumphant Roman Hadrian's Gate.

Family fun: There may not be sandy beaches in town, but there are many great water parks with spectacular slides which also has dolphin shows, while the museum has a brilliant children's section if you want to try and cram a little culture into them in passing. There are plenty of boat trips from the harbor.

Exploring further: Perge and Aspendos are must-see bits of the ancient world, while Side, just beyond, is an attractive resort that combines ancient and modern and a great beach. To the west of the city are the ancient cities of Phaselis, which also has lovely sandy beaches and shady pine forest and makes a wonderful place for a picnic and Olympos, with a shingle beach but also the extraordinary Chimaera, a natural phenomenon that belches living flame from the rock. Both are probably easiest to get to by boat, on one of the many trips on offer from the old harbor. Inland the Taurus Mountains offer excellent hiking and the dramatic setting of the ancient city Termessos.