Inching westward along the Mediterranean, Alanya marks the starting line for Turkey’s marathon of coastal debauchery. Swans of Nordic tourists discovered Alanya sometime in the 1980s, rendering the once-idyllic seaside town a maze of apartotels, palm trees, restaurants, shops, and beautiful Scandinavians. Looking beyond the tacky7 facade, it’s easy to see why Alanya is so popular: miles of gorgeous blue-flag beaches, monuments of Selçuk grandeur, and nights of clubbing combine for some undiluted vacation fun.
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Buses: From the otogar to: Adana (9hr., every 1hr. 7:30am-9pm, $13.50); Anamur (3hr., every 1hr. 7:30am-9pm, $5); Ankara (8hr„ 6 per day 0am-11pm, $14.50); Antalya (2hr. 7:30am-9pm, $4); İstanbul (14hr., 5 per day 8:30am- 7:45pm, $20); İzmir (10hr.; 10:30am, 6:30, 9pm; $14); Konya (4hr„ every hr. 7am- 11pm, $9); Mersin (8hr., every l^hr. 7:30am-9pm, $11); Side (1hr., every 30min. 7:30am-9pm, $2.60); Taşucu (6hr. 7:30am-9pm, $9). The otogar has luggage storage that extorts $1.60 per 20min.
Ferries: Fergin Shipping Co. Ltd. (511 55 65; fax 511 53 58), 50m north and uphill from the Kızıl Kule on Atatürk Cad. Sells sea bus tickets for Girne (W, F 6am; return Tu Th 4pm; one-way $25, students $20, ages 4-12 $15, under 4 free; round-trip $40, students $30, ages 4-12 $25, under 4 free). Office open 24hr., but erratic.
ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
The town’s most conspicuous landmark is the peninsula, consisting of several hundred vertical meters of cliffs, castles, and towers. The two major tourist centers are the famous Cleopatra’s Beach on the peninsula’s western side (to the right facing the water) and the harbor on the eastern side. The otogar is west of the city center, a few blocks away from the water, along Atatürk Cad., the main road running parallel to the water. The tourist office is at the peninsula end of Güzelyalı Cad., the smaller street that runs along Cleopatra’s Beach. İşkele Cad. is the street that runs downhill to the harbor, the epicenter of Alanya’s nightlife. Restaurants, hotels, and counterfeit designer clothing stores are everywhere.
- Tourist Office: (513 12 40; fax 513 54 36), next to the Damlataş Cave, at the inter-section of Damlataş Cad., İsmet İnönü Cad., and Güzelyalı Cad. Consists of an unattended table of free maps and brochures. Open M-F 8:30am-6pm, Sa-Su 9:30am-4pm. Travel Agency: 2000 Tours, 34/1 Damlataş Cad. (512 56 79). Offers Jeep Safari adventure tours through the Taurus Mountains ($25 per person; stops at old Turkish villages and Dim Creek) and historical Perge-Aspendos-Side tours ($25 per person).
- Pharmacies: Many line Damlataş Cad., which runs parallel to and south of Atatürk Bul. Hospital: Besides the numerous, well-advertised international clinics catering to tourists, the Devlet Hastanesi (513 48 41) provides general medical treatment.
- Internet Access: Cafes line Atatürk Cad.try My My Donose Chatroom, closest to the Red Tower. $1.20 per hr. Open daily 10am-lam. Away from the harbor, head to Eksen Internet Cafe by taking a left at the Foto Yunus sign on Damlataş Cad. $.80 per hr. Open daily 10am-1am.
- PTT: Main office, in the middle of Atatürk Cad. Postal services, fax, and telegraph. Currency and traveler’s check exchange daily 9am-11pm.
Alanya is awash with hundreds of hotels and pensions. Condominium-like “apart otels” are popular, especially among the European tourists who account for the lion’s share of Alanya’s visitors. Good deals can be found on Bebek Sok., near the tourist office and Alanya’s famed Cleopatra Beach. Night owls might try İskele Cad., whose hotels are a stumble and crawl from the frantic nightlife. Reservations are a good idea in late summer, when hotels in Alanya are often fully booked.
- Hotel Marina, 80 İskele Cad. (513 43 21; fax 513 96 11), by the Red Tower. Cheap, attractive rooms with balconies overlooking the harbor. The lobby has a small bar area and a back room with dart board and pool table. Breakfast included. Singles $10; doubles $15; triples $20.
- Mola Otel, 8 Bebek Sok. (513 30 21). They call him “Şişman Amca” (“Uncle Fatso”). The hotel’s congenial proprietor, that is, who relishes the endearing nickname from his days of Ankara ice-cream vending. “Fatso’s place” offers 26 comfortable, basic rooms in the heart of Alanya. Breakfast included. Singles $12; doubles $21; triples $28. Add $5 for A/C or $1.50 for fan.
- Kalyon Hotel, 123 Atatürk Cad. (513 43 92; fax 513 44 76). Walking away from the water on Bebek Sok., turn left when you hit Atatürk Cad. and walk 50m. Kalyon’s exchange services, international newspapers, and pool make it feel like a classy hotel despite the low price. All rooms have balcony, bath, ceiling fan , and funky 70s flavor.Breakfast included. Singles $10; doubles $18.
- Baba Hotel, 6 İskele Cad. (513 10 32). Apparently this hotel is only for “yip yips” (hip-pies) because of the cheap prices, but hey, that’s cool. The 30 rooms are somewhat worn, but bathrooms are surprisingly clean. Fans included. Singles $4, with bath $9; doubles $7, with bath $12.
- Sunway Hotel, 2 Bebek Sok. (511 18 80; fax 512 75 72). Big with the Nordics and chose to the beach, but not the best deal in town. Offers a rooftop terrace, small lobby bar, and rooms with private bath, balcony, and phone. Breakfast included. Room fan $2.40. $14 per person.
FOOD AND ENTERTAINMENT
Tourism has brought many quality dinning options to town but has also increased prices. European options, including decent steaks, pizza, and schnitzel, mix with the standard Turkish favorites on Alanya’s multilingual menus. Recently adminis¬tered regulations shut down many of Alanya’s shabbier eateries, making meat eating a non-hazardous activity in town. In the nightlife sector, flashy Alanya exudes its share of loud music and disco-light wattage. The most posh and worthy clubs line Rıhtım Cad., along the harbor below İşkele Cad.
- Musti’s Restaurant and Cafe Bar, 7 Bebek Sok. (511 02 76), across from Mola Otel, beneath the apart otels of the same name. Away from the chaos of main streets, this small restaurant presents an eclectic menu of Euro-Turkish and specialty dishes. The Chicken Bombay is to die for ($6). Open daily 8:30pm-midnight.
- Cafe Sedir Restaurant, 4 Güzelyalı Cad. ( 512 38 76), down the street from the tourist office. Nightly overflowing crowds make Sedir hard to miss. The fame is well-earned- the polyglot menu fills a 3-ring binder with over 30 house specials, meat and chicken dishes, grills, steaks, salads, and sandwiches ($4-6).
- Bistro Bellman, on Rıhtım Cad. This restaurant by “day” (6-11pm), club by “night” (11pm-3am) is the place to be seen. Frequent theme parties and a mod animate the dance floor, where hips swivel to techno remixes of otherwise cheesy pop. Nordic tourists vie for majority dominance screaming to chants of “Do we have Sweden/Norway/Denmark in the house? ” If you tire of watching the sexy bartenders and sleek patrons, glue yourself to the big screen TVs. Beer $2.50; cocktails $5-6.
- James Dean Bar, next door to Bistro Bellman, where everybody aspires to a rebel without a cause slickness. Mellow beginnings have tourists sipping cocktails until the mostly pop selection (expect Madonna) inspires dancers to get their groove on. Beer $2.50; cocktails $4-6. Open daily 9pm-4am.
- Zapf Hahn, in the same cluster. An uninspired Top 40 selection and aimless light show attempt to make up in quantity for what they lack in quality. The giant, open-air dance floor sheltered by a corrugated metal canopy, is like a post-apocalyptic pirates’ cave gone wild. Beer and rakı $2.50. Open daily until 4am.
Most of Alanya’s sights are clustered on the peninsula. Known in ancient times as Coracesium, Alanya gained notoriety as a pirate cove until the Roman General Pompey destroyed the town’s huge fleet in 67 BC. Marc Antony later conferred the city upon Cleopatra as a gift, resulting in many a souvenir shop named in her honor. Many of the city’s great structures date from the 13th century, when the city’ fell under Selçuk control and was renamed Alanya in honor of Sultan Alaeddin Iveykubad. Alaiye fell to the Ottomans in 1471.
- SELÇUK SIGHTS. The Kızıl Kule (Red Tower), built in 1226 under Sultan Keyku bad’s reign, is spectacular. The 30m high octagonal structure constructed from red, kiln-baked brick, served as the city’s first line of defense against seaborne attack. Soldiers could shoot arrows at ships from five levels while drawing water from the giant cistern built into the tower’s spire. The strategic location on the harbor now affords spectacular views of the surrounding area. The Kızıl Kule also houses an Ethnographic Museum, with the usual array of carpets and costumes.A magnificent 200m walk behind the castle walls from the tower will take you to the only remaining Selçuk era tersane (shipyard) in Turkey. This nursery for Keykubad’s navy has five chambers; munitions were stored in the nearby tophane (arsenal). (Tower open Tu-Su 8am-noon and l:30-5:30pm. $1.65, students $.70.)
- İÇ KALESİ (FORTRESS). At the top of Alanya’s headland is a fortress housing a mint, a Byzantine-era monastery, a church, and a cistern. The walls are still mostly intact, and in one comer stands the adam atacağı (“place for throwing people”). Now cordoned off, this platform marks the spot from which the condemned where heaved onto the jagged cliffs below. Today, instead of gawking at prisoners, tourists arrive in the early evening to watch the sun set over the ocean. Had the condemned prisoners taken the time to appreciate their plummet, they could have enjoyed one of the most beautiful views on the Mediterranean. The fortress is also worth seeing after dark, when Alanya’s lights sparkle like jewels below, and many a car parks at this quintessentially romantic spot. (You can either trudge the 3km to the top or take a dolmuş (every hr. 7am-8pm, $.30) from the north end of İskele Cad. or opposite the tourist office. Fortress open daily 8am-5:30pm. $2.80, students $1.85.)
- CAVES. Damlataş Cave, accidentally discovered by miners in 1948, is a two-story affair replete with eerie stalactites and stalagmites. The 90-100% humidity inside does wonders for asthma, but the unending flow of tourists that pass through makes it impossible to gaze in solitary awe at the strange workings of Mother Nature. (Follow the signs along Güzelyah Cad. in the direction of the peninsula. Open daily in summer 10am-8pm; in winter 10am-5pm. $1.20, students $.60.Far more impressive is the Dim Cave, located 91cm northeast of town. Dim Cave is an awesome tangle of limestone-dissolved stalactites and stalagmites, measuring 360m long and 10-15m in height. Carbonic acid rainwater continues to drip along the interior, adding to the unearthly formations. Unfortunately, no dolmuş ran to Dim Cave, so access is either by tour group, car, or taxi. (Open daily 9am-8pm. $2.40). The nearby Dim Creek is becoming a popular tourist stop, Where visitors swim in the absolutely frigid water. Picnic spots and restaurants are set up along and in the river, with floating raft eateries and waiters wading barefoot to serve. The best pick is Ada Piknik Motorcu Şevketin Yeri where chicken, fish, or meat meals ($3-6) are served on carpeted, pillowed rafts. Further down the creek, a 9m high bridge makes for a heart-stopping plummet to the icy water below.
OTHER SIGHTS. Alanya also has museum with exhibits from local Bronze Age excavations to 19th-century Ottoman kilims. (Across from the tourist office. Open Tu-Su 8am-noon and 1:30-5:30pm. $1.15, students $.70.) Relax during the day at the beautiful Grand Alanya Büyük Hamam (511 33 44) on Damlataş Cad., where $16 will get you a sauna, jacuzzi, shock pool, kese, and 90min. massage. There’s also a separate, women-only hamam and a “vitamin bar” for post-scrub indulgence.