Side has all the necessary ingredients for a complete Mediterranean coast vacation: superb Hellenic ruins, parasailing, an illustrious museum, beautiful sandy beaches, and the self-proclaimed “best disco in Europe.” You can bargain for leather goods in the crowded pedestrian streets, study up on ancient history in the 7th-century Roman rains, and make coconut oil libations to the sun god. The town is crammed onto a small peninsula, with the ruins, restaurants, shops, pensions, and banks all within walking distance.
The early history of Side will likely never be fully uncovered. According to residents, the city was colonized by Greeks, who, upon arrival, forgot their mother tongue and instead began speaking a strange, barbarian language. All of the city’s inscriptions from before the 3rd century BC are written in a unique and still under ciphered script. Alexander the Great conquered Side in 334 BC and destroyed the Persian Empire in 331. Side later prospered under Roman and Byzantine rule, but, as a result of increasingly ferocious Arab raids and a 10th-century conflagration, the population was moved to Antalya.
Entering Side, you may get dropped at the otogar, but the buses will more likely leave you at a gas station marking the highway turn-off in Manavgat, from which dolmuş ran to the Side otogar ($.60). From the otogar, a ridiculous-looking, red 11.u’tor-drawn carriage makes the run to town ($.06). The Manavgat otogar has a tier selection of buses departing the region, and it can be reached by dolmuş from Side (every 5min. 6am-midnight, $.60). Frequent buses run from Manavgat to Alanya (every 30min. 6am-7pm, $2) and Antalya (every 20min. 6am-11pm, $1.50). The Side otogar (753 12 86 or 753 42 44), 1km from the tourist center, is a peculiar place: there are bus companies but very few buses. Theoretically, buses leave from Side’s otogar to: Ankara (10 per day 9am-10:45pm, $13); Bodrum (10:45am, 0:45, 10pm; $12); Bursa (5 per day 10:45am-llpm, $ 14) Eskişehir (5 per day 10:45am-11pm, $13); İstanbul (8 per day 9am-9pm, $18); İzmir (7 per day 9am- 10:30pm, $14); Marmaris (9:30a.m, $14). You’re best off buying your ticket in advance, to ensure that the bus knows to stop in Side end route.
PRACTICAL IN FORMATION
The Side tourist office is past the otogar and the rusted Luna amusement park, toward the highway. You can snag brochures and a list of Side’s 200 pensions and 150 hotels, (753 12 65. Open daily 8am-5pm; Sept.-May M-F 8am-5pm.) The Side Internet Cafe, marked by a surfboard, is on Small Beach Street, across from the Moonlight restaurant, (753 23 99. $1.60 per hr. Open daily 9am-midnight.) ATMs and Exchange Offices are everywhere on the tourist peninsula. In the event of a medical emergency, dial s753 12 21. Other services include: the Side Medical Center (753 1445) and the Manavgat Government hospital (Devlet Hastanesi) (746 M 80), across from the tourist office, just off the main street between Side and the light ray; the jandarma (a 156), which has jurisdiction over Side and may respond luster than the police; and a small PTT, in the center of town, with no services beyond post and a money exchange. A larger PIT is near the beach west of Side, past the hospital. (Both open 8am-midnight for all services.)
A bedroom, a steak, or a leather jacket are never more than 10m away.
- Pettino Pansiyon. Walking downhill on Liman Cad., turn left at the Jungle Bar in the middle of town to get to this pleasant, breezy spot. 13 comfortable rooms encircle an arboreal courtyard and bar, where wooden decor adds to the Amazonian ambience. Breakfast included. $7 per person. O Ani Motel, Buyuk Plaj Yolu (753 33 64). With the water on your right, walk past soundwaves. Restaurant has 25 wooden cabins with baths and balconies situated around a well-kept garden. Close to the entrance to the popular east beach. $6 per person.
- Beach House Hotel (753 10 59 or 753 16 07), on the small eastern beach. Above an ancient Roman villa, this upscale hotel has 20 rooms (with fan and phone) that have been graced by the likes of Simone de Beauvoir. Ocean-view balconies, a terrace bar, and a garden over ancient ruins may inspire you to write your breakthrough novel as well. Breakfast included. Up to 5 guests per room. $13 per person.
- Hotel Lale Park. Barbaros Sok. Lale Cad., No. 5 (753 1131; fax 753 3567; hotel), behind Soundwaves. For the comfort seeker, this hotel offers fully loaded rooms with A/C in a building modeled after an Ottoman mansion. Family owned and operated. Breakfast included in the landscaped garden. Singles $15; doubles $20.
- Yaşa Motel ( 753 40 24; fax 753 14 44), on Turgut Reis Cad., next to the parking lot. Near the sea, Yaşa has a charming, if oddly decorated, courtyard and 30 rooms of varying quality, so ask to see a few. Breakfast included, $7-10 per person.
No coastal resort would be complete without seafood and a kicking nightlife. Fine seafood is pro throughout the city, and slightly pricey restaurants line the waterfront. For savory, affordable Turkish food, try Uğur Lokantası ( 753 36 54) on Orkide Sok., where $4 will get you salad and a mean stuffed pepper. For finer dining, hit the Soundwaves Restaurant (753 10 59), next to the Beach House Hotel. On a picturesque seaside terrace, meat and chicken meals run $5-8, with a slightly pricier seafood menu. Next door, the Soundwaves Patisserie and Cocktail Bar is a great lunch spot and serves up a solid cheeseburger ($2.50). The red Christmas-light letters on the sign at Moonlight Restaurant 0 are visible all the way down the street. Here seafood, steak, and pasta are served in a romantic courtyard with fabulous views of the moon over the ocean ($4-8). The döner joints on Liman Cad. (the main road down to the waterfront) make especially delicious (read: greasy) versions of the Turkish favorite in a fry bread wrap for $1.
Chugging past Side’s ancient ruins and arches in a little red tractor gives the illusion of traveling through time. Past the ruins, a Roman footpath along the right- hand side of the paved road enables visitors to retrace the footsteps of ancient Side’s residents. In 2001, a laborer came across a terra-cotta pot filled with 1000 Roman gold coins buried just under the topsoil, right next to the modern-day road. The nymphaeum, a memorial fountain at the entrance to Side, once had a marble facade depicting punishments administered to those who committed sexual or who had sinned against the gods. Ironically, modern-day Side is as loose as it gets—get down, get dirty; chances are your neighbors are naughtier than you. The 2nd-century theater of Side, which seated 25,000, boasts its role as one of “the largest and most imposing Greco-Roman ruins in Asia Minor.” Though 10 years ago the amphitheater was sturdy enough to house the Moscow Circus, today’s entrance fee only allows you to walk the 50m fenced-off strip that, divides the crumbling upper and lower cava, or seating area. (Open daily 8am-midnight. $4.) The rather unimpressive ruins of two agora lie scattered behind the theater. A bit farther down the road in the direction of the otogar, ancient Roman baths have been converted into an excellent Eli Archaeological Museum. A visit to Side is incomplete without seeing this revamped bathhouse, which now houses sarcophagi, marble reliefs, ancient columns, and a breathtaking array of marble statues. (Open Tu-Su 8am-noon and l-5pm. $4.) At the end of the tiny peninsula, parts of the Temples of Athena and Apollo have been rebuilt, making for a spectacular photo spot. Located in a field of razed ruins, the temples’ standing columns were repaired and hoisted under the finance and care of an American businesswoman. Beautiful beaches extend on either side of the peninsula. To the west, flat stretches make popular sunbathing spots; to the east, some tourists lay sleeping bags on the sand
- Oxyd Disco, 3km west on the highway outside of Side (taxi $9). The best disco in the area. The bizarre combination of styles—ranging from the Hittite fortress exterior to the industrial piping of the upper dance floor to the space-age rigging over the main dance floor actually manages to work in this outdoor shrine to postmodernism. A good DJ, fashionable Turks, 2 bars, and an ingenious interior design. Cover $10, includes unlimited domestic drinks. Foreign drinks run about $4. Open daily 11pm-4am.
- The Light House, on the water. With a fleet of B-52s cleared for takeoff and plenty of Sex On The Beach, this place is ground zero for mindless carousing. Through the ramped entrance is a giant, open-air, waterfront dance floor with multiple bars. Cover $10, includes domestic drinks. Open daily until 4:30am.
- Barracuda Bar and Cafe (753 27 24), Stones Bar (753 36 69), and Happy Days Bar (753 27 24) all beyond the Athena/Apollo temple (with the water on your right). This side-by-side triumvirate of small dance-bars blasts a mix of Turkish- and Euro-pop with enthusiastic gusto. Dancers bop on small dance floors, though patrons are mostly table-side bar-hoppers. Beer $1.60; rakı $2.40; cocktails $6. Open daily 11am-3am. Jungle Bar (753 2235) is a landmark on Liman Cad. at the center of the tourist area. On the second floor of a jewelry store, the name describes the decor. Beer $1.50; mixed drinks range $2-6.
- Blues Bar and Bistro ( 753 11 97), between Jungle Bar and Pettino Pansiyon, this tastefully decorated bar plays a broader selection than its name suggests. Cavernous interior with an outdoorsy ambience. Houses a winter bar with fireplace. Serves up a tasty Bloody Mary ($4). Beer $1.60. Open daily 11pm-3am. The Bistro, a recent addition, offers standard fare (seafood, pizza, steak) at standard prices ($5-10).
DAYTRIP FROM SİDE: MANAVGAT WATERFALLS
To get to the falls from Side, first take a dolmuş to the Manavgat otogar ($. 60) and from there catch another dolmuş to the falls (Manavgat şelalesi; $.60). Day-long tours from Antalya to Perge and Aspendos usually include a visit to the falls ($.40).
Four kilometers north of Manavgat, a set of small falls in a pleasant, shaded area las become a popular escape from the midday heat. Bring a picnic or sip cold drinks purchased from one of the overpriced cafes. Be forewarned: on a hot day, the crowd at the falls can make Side look like a ghost town. If you’re just looking for some solitude, try wandering up the road along the river north of the falls.