Alanya is a fast growing town about 135 km east of Antalya. Quite often called the pearl of the Turkish Riviera, Alanya has become well known world wide because of its sandy, clean beaches, the crystal clear, deep blue waters and the excellent climate of the Mediterranean area.
Its historical development, numerous sights of natural beauty and its multicultural life style have made Alanya into something really special. Lots of different types of water sports are on offer, and its picturesque bazaar and never-ending night life have made Alanya into a famous holiday resort on the Turkish Riviera for Turkish as well as for European people. There is a joke about the town which says Alanya has been conquered by Europeans and then set free as a Turkish holiday resort.
Alanya was a very important harbour for the Seljuk people. Over the years, Alanya has become one of the most important tourist cities in Turkey.
Because of its subtropical climate, more and more tourists stay in Alanya during the winter as well, when it is comfortable and relaxing, partly because its small restaurants, bars and shops are not as crowded as they are in summer.
The ancient town formerly called Alaiye is situated at the eastern end of the Gulf of Antalya. The town is situated on a peninsula of thick marble stone and is overlooked by an old Seljuk castle. To the right and left of this huge mountain the sandy beaches meet the feet of the mountain. Immediately away from the coastline the land rises to the peaks of the Taurus Mountains, the highest one nearest Alanya being the Ak Dağı (2647 metres in height).
Alanya and its surroundings are in an area of subtropical Mediterranean climate with very mild winters and dry summers. Because of this there are no huge fruit gardens in the area as there is not enough water from the ground and no artificial irrigation system has been introduced. Instead of the fruit gardens you will find a kind of steppe vegetation with bushes of oleanders and wild olive and eucalyptus trees all along the coastline. It is only in spring that the scenery changes from the grey of the mountain ranges to the green of the grass and lots of small flowers.
Winter Health Resort, Seaside Resort and the Seldjuks
Because of its picturesque position, its subtropical climate and certainly its wonderful beaches, many people visit Alanya both as a winter health resort and as a seaside resort. The number of historical buildings created by the Seljuks also draws people to the area.
The town's name has changed several times throughout its history. About 2200 years ago its name was Korakesion (Coracesium) when it was a Kilikian fortress against the kingdom of Pamphylia. About 200 BC, a pirate leader called Diodoros Tryphon started building the first castle. This was destroyed by Pompeius at the end of his campaign against the pirates. Following these events Alanya came under Roman control and leadership. A little later Antonius gave Alanya to Cleopatra as a present. Much later, under the leadership of the Seljuks (from 1221), Alanya became more famous when Sultan Alaeddin Kaikobad used it as one of his winter resorts and changed the name to Alaiye. Between 1226 and 1231 he started building the castle and the harbour as one of his marine bases. This led to the town becoming more and more important to the Seljuk control of the seas. However, because there wasn´t enough protection from the sea and the distance inland to the mountains was so small, the town did not become important economically.
Around the Castle Mountain
The old parts of the town of Alanya go back to the Seljuks and the Osman kingdoms when houses were built in the space between the lower and the higher town walls at the eastern part of the castle mountain, mostly on ancient foundations. The newer part of Alanya is on the north eastern side of the Castle Mountain and is still growing into the huge agricultural areas to the left and right of it.
A winding road passes the old Alanya houses, reaching the top of the mountain at the southern wall of the castle, which leads to the higher courtyard. At its northern end you will find Kale Camii (Mosque of the Castle). At the southern end of the courtyard a lighthouse, built in 1720, can be visited. At the western end of the wall you will find a completely enclosed citadel from where you will have a really beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea, the beaches of Alanya and the green fruit gardens leading to the mountains of the Ak Dagi.
At the northern part of the Castle Mountain, at the start of the sandy beaches, you will find a cave which was discovered while excavating in 1948. The cave is called ?Damlatas Cave (Damlatas means stalactite). The stalactites inside reach heights of 15 metres. All year long the temperature inside the cave remains constant at 22° C. The high amount of carbonic acid (five times higher than outside) and the radioactivity of the air are used by the population for the treatment of asthma and bronchitis. Next to the entrance, souvenir shops and restaurants await your visit as do the sandy beaches next to the cave.
Just a short walk away from the cave you will find the Museum of Alanya with lots of ancient relics on show. It was opened in 1967. In the courtyard there is an old ruin of a Byzantine church still to be seen, which is quite famous because of its cross shaped ground plan.
If you follow the walls down again to the harbour you will reach Kızıl Kule (Red Tower), built by the architect Ebu Ali from Aleppo during the reign of Alaeddin Kaikobad, who was also responsible for the drawing of the plans of the fortress of Sinop in 1225. This building, one of the sights of Alanya was restored in 1948. With its height of 46 metres and octagonal walls each 12.5 metres in length, this building is one of the landmarks of Alanya. It was built to defend the wharf situated next to the tower. The Seljuk wharf, measuring 42.5 metres by 7.7 metres, was built in 1227 directly into the marble stone of the Castle Mountain. Sultan Alaeddin Kaikobad used this wharf to build his ships in order to extend his power in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. The wood for building the ships came from the Taurus Mountains near Alanya. This wharf was still used for ship building until 1950.
The Surroundings of Alanya
On either side of the Castle Mountain you will find long, wide beaches which are some of the best places for sunbathing and swimming in Turkey. Towards the west, the road leads to ancient places such as Hamaxia, Augae and Ptolemäis (by the mountains of Figla Burun) and after about 16 kilometres reaches the caravanserai of Sarapsahan, built in the form of a fortress. Following the road to the north, after about 12 kilometres you will reach the old Seljuk Caravanserai of Alarahan, built in 1231.
Following the road to the south east of Alanya, after about 50 kilometres you will reach the small city of Gazipasa, which is situated approximately three kilometres inland close by some of the rivers flowing into the Mediterranean Sea.
Around Gazipaşa, some places go down almost vertically from the Taurus Mountains to the beach. In one of the highest places you can see the ruins of an old fortress and houses of the ancient town of Selinous, built by the Phoenicians after the Roman king Trajan died there on the way back from his war in Parthehr in 177 AD. Lots of ruins have been found there and, while trying to find more on the western side of the mountain, terraces were discovered on which were built large walls with a huge number of protection towers, leading from the top down to the cliffs. Down at the river there was a theatre, the shape of which you can only imagine because the seats are completely gone. Other huge constructions were the tomb of Trajan and an aqueduct built to bring the water down from the mountains.