If you are staying in the area of Antalya there are few interesting places to see. I personally stayed in Kemer during one week family holidays and was worried that I won't be able to explore much in the area. However, I was really surprised to discover places I did not know about and see the ones I really wanted (Pamukkale - of course). So let's start the list of top places to visit if you stay in Antalya region and why I would recommend to see them.
Photo: On the edge of travertine - Pamukkale
I will start with the bang and most important site and the one I really wanted to see very much. Pamukkale translated from Turkish means 'cotton castles' and they really look like that. The formation looks otherworldly. It is unique and one of its kind. If that does not convince you to see it, then maybe the fact that it is UNESCO Heritage Site, which means it is very precious and the organisation had to protect the fragile site since 1988, so it is a unique and one of its kind place. The formations begun when hot calcium water cascaded over the cliffs and started hardening after cooling down to form the terraced travertines (the pools with water) showing us amazing nature at its best!
Some of the sections are not accessible to the public anymore due to damage we are causing and you will not be able to swim in them (these are the ones that look best on photos) The good news is that you will be allowed to soak up some vitamins in some of the travertines that are open to public on your way up the hill, they are filled with turquoise blue water, so don't forget to bring your swimwear and a camera.
Travel tip: bring a bag to carry your shoes - you will have to walk barefoot so carrying shoes in your hand will be inconvenient.
Photo: Hierapolis and its amphitheatre
Once you reach the top of white formations you will see what is left of Hierapolis a former Roman-Greek city which was a thriving metropolis in Roman times, and most probably grew on the fame of its hot springs that served as a health spa for over 2000 years. Well preserved ruins of the city reveal large amphitheatre, necropolis, and a church. Nowhere in the world you can explore hot springs and remains of a city in such a proximity. This is the uniqueness of Pmukkale and Hierapolis (often the word Pamukkale is used to describe Hierapolis too - so don't get confused). Located in the city of Hierapolis was a Sacred Pool also called Cleopatra's Pool - why is it called that way? In some stories, the Sacred Pool in Pamukkale is also known as the Cleopatra's Pool because the Egyptian queen is said to have swum here. So you can bath as the Romans did thousand of years ago, for an extra charge to get in.
Pamukkale is approximately 300 km from Antalya so you will need a day trip to get there. I would recommend renting a car so that you can maximise your time and see beautiful landscapes on the way.
Photo: Ancient Myra with its amphitheatre that could hold up to 1500 viewers.
Closer to 'home' aka Antalya region another gem of a place that I only discovered while I was already in Turkey is an ancient city of Myra. Ancient Myra is still not fully excavated and is largely under present-day city of Demre. Myra is best known for it's tombs carved in the hill side. They resemble houses and temples giving us an idea how it all looked back then. Next to the tombs you can admire impressive amphitheatre still in a very good condition. For architecture fans you can admire both Greek and Roman styles in this site.
Photo: Colour Frescoes in St Nicholas Church dating back to 6th century B.C. in the church's oldest part.
Myra was also a home to Church of St Nicholas - built as early as 6th century, you can admire original colourful marble mosaic on the floor, the marble tomb where St Nicholas was buried, and colourful frescoes on the walls all dating back to the origins of the church. For a comparison, the churches we can admire in Europe (think Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame) have all been built to its glory between 14th - 18th century, whereas here you are standing in the church dating back to 6th century if not earlier.
Photo: Remains of the city on Kekova island - zoom in for two door frames.
Not a long drive from ancient Myra you will jump on board a boat for a 15 minute ride to reach shores of Kekova - this is a place I also only discovered while I was in Turkey as a local recommendation. It is a small island close to the city of Demre. The long history of this island goes back to earlier than 2nd century B.C. In fact it was destroyed by earthquake in 2 C.B.C. and then abandoned during Arab incursions. In present day it is uninhabited island, but still holds remaining of the ancient town on the northern side of the island. You can only admire the ruins from the boat, and see stairs, church doors, sewage system and walls. Some of the ruins are in the water and hence Kekova is commonly called 'the sunken city'. It is an odd and beautiful landscape at the same time, in my opinion worth a visit. The boat trip may also take you to the picturesque village of Kalekoy just opposite the island which is only available to reach by boat or foot from neighbouring village. Here you can admire ancient Lycian tombs carved between rocks and among present-day houses, which are visible even from a boat so you don't have to get off the boat if you don't want to. The hillside village has also a castle on the top of the hill that adds a charm to this small hidden place.
Photo: Kekova - remaining of the city after earthquake in 2 century.
In a close by area of Finike, we had a pleasure to be hosted by a local farmer and treated to a traditional Turkish breakfast. We were served organic produce all made at the farmers house. My favourite was jam from a orange fruit that looked like a clementine but it is too sour to eat so they made jam out of that. Apparently Turks made jam out of everything! Sadly, I can't remember the name of the fruit. The traditional bread was made from a grain that this particular farmer has shipped from North of Turkey and is not common in this area - it tasted divine even if it was fried on deep oil. I would highly recommend a visit and a meal with local family or farmers house - it is just worth experiencing local cuisine.
Photo: Traditional Turkish breakfast - bread fried in deep oil, home made jam, and Turkish tea.
A visit to turkey cannot be complete without Hamam experience. I would dare to say that Hamam places will be found probably in every part of Turkey, so regardless of where you will go I am sure you will be able to experience it. It is a Turkish Bath which is a place of public bathing associated with the culture of the Ottoman Empire. There is a ritual or process where it starts with relaxation in hot room, then wash in cold water, then you are scrubbed (literally) like a baby, and then you are left for more relaxation. It is one of the activities you have to experience at least once in your life and where better to do it than in Turkey.
Finally, I would like to mention Antalya city, although I have not managed to go myself I had few points prepared for the trip. So I'm sharing in case you want to use them for your sightseeing trip. Antalya is the biggest city in the region, with over 1 ml people officially living in the metropolis (unofficially it is almost 2 ml). The top places to see in this city for me would be: Duden Waterfalls (apparently not that wow and they are a bit further away from the centre) and Duden Park; Hardian's Gate and old square, Historic Hidrlik Tower, and of course Bazaar for spot of shopping.
I hope some of this will be useful in your trip planning, so please let me know if you find any of those places useful. I would really appreciate that.