This sleek resort is squeezed against the Gulf of Antalya by the dark slopes of the Taurus Mountains.
The scenery is defined by a 250-metre-high promontory, sticking out into the Mediterranean and fortified since time immemorial.
In Alanya, your days will be spent lazing on an enticing beach and adventuring through those lofty castle ruins, which can be reached by a cable car that opened in 2017. This is one of a few projects that have helped turn Alanya into a 21st century beach resort.
The city is also a jumping off point for scuba diving, cruises and trips into the Taurus Mountains where you can hike in canyons, explore caves and bathe in cool mountain streams.
1. Alanya Castle
The city’s steep peninsula, protected on three sides by the Mediterranean, is topped by a 13th-century castle with 6.5 kilometres of fortified walls.
This rocky mass is a natural defence, and today’s castle was built on earlier Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine enclosures.
In all there are 83 towers and 140 towers in the walls, and many of the 1,200 original cisterns continue to fulfil their original role.
Alanya Castle is one massive archaeological site that warrants hours of exploration.
The starting point has to be the citadel or Kale on the southwest side, where you’ll come to the Byzantine Church of St George, later adapted as a mosque.
The north side of the promontory is the scene of the Seljuk Ehmedek Fortress, built on Hellenistic vestiges and holding a military garrison, arsenal and Sultan’s treasury for hundreds of years.
Here you’ll discover countless ruins, together with historic 19th-century houses that went up after the castle had lost its defensive purpose.
2. Red Tower (Kızılkule)
Alanya’s emblem is a 13th-century Seljuk defensive tower, getting its name from the red brick that makes up the structure’s upper storey and parapet.
The Red Tower has an octagonal footprint and climbs to 33 metres with marble blocks on its lower walls.
This rare piece of Medieval defensive architecture was constructed to protect Alanya’s harbour and shipyard, and greeted people’s arrival to the city for many centuries.
There’s a cistern inside, still able to collect rainwater, and you can make out the historic siege-repelling murder holes, through which boiling water and pitch would be dropped on helpless invaders.
On the first floor is a small ethnographic museum with tools and handicrafts reflecting the Turkmen culture in the Taurus Mountains.
3. Kleopatra Beach
Starting at the western foot of that promontory is Alanya’s main beach, a long gentle arc of coarse sand bathed by low-to-moderate surf.
Kleopatra Beach is wide, tapering only a little the further north you go, and gives you unbroken views of the castle and the brooding mass of the Taurus Mountains.
There are beach clubs with sun loungers at intervals along the beach, and between the sand and Atatürk Boulevard is a wide promenade, blessed with those same panoramas, under swaying palms and buffered from the street by a strip of greenery with playgrounds and flowerbeds.
4. Alanya Teleferik
On the east side of the beach is the lower station for a cable car that opened in summer 2017, whisking you up to the castle promontory.
The Alanya Teleferik climbs 250 metres on a 900-metre line, and one of its 14 gondolas will depart every 19 seconds.
On board you’ll be treated to astonishing 360° views, out over the Gulf of Antalya, across the resort and beyond to the Taurus Mountains.
When we wrote this article in March 2019 a round trip was 28TL (about $4.50). Sunset is of course a great time to make the journey, and from street level the gondolas are lit in green and blue at night.
5. Sapadere Kanyonu
It’s impossible not to be awed by Taurus Mountains, and if you want to break out and experience this stirring landscape your best bet is the Sapadere Canyon, about 40 kilometres northeast of Alanya.
The temperature is a few degrees lower in the mountains, and something that will strike you right away is the lack of humidity.
On GetYourGuide.com there’s a seven hour tour taking you into the mountains for a trek via 750 metres of wooden walkways along the gnarled walls of the gorge, past waterfalls with bracing, clear pools that you can bathe in.
Afterwards you’ll stop at Sapadere village for lunch and to see rural life in the Antalya Province up close.
6. Damlataş Cave
In 1948 when Alanya’s peninsula was being quarried for stone for the harbour, workers stumbled upon a cave brimming with stalagmites and stalactites.
At the foot of a stairway, the Damlataş Cave is 50 metres long and up to 15 metres high, and those bizarre concretions are carefully illuminated.
Now, something to note about the chamber is its high humidity (96%), elevated carbon dioxide and constant temperature of 22°C.
This might put off some visitors, but since it was first discovered the Damlataş Cave has been hailed for its therapeutic effects for people with respiratory complaints.
Tens of thousands of asthma sufferers visit each year, and take a 21-day treatment course involving four hours in the cave each day.
Their slot is 06:00-10:00, before the cave opens to the wider public.
7. Alanya Harbour (Limani)
Alanya’s port for tourist cruises and diving excursions is defended to the south by Kızılkule, and is as good a place as any to potter around and see where your curiosity takes you.
Along the water there’s a promenade, hemmed by gardens with palms, lawns and topiaries.
There are lots of spaces to just park up and soak up the views out to sea, down to the castle or up to the Taurus Mountains, a constant, imposing presence all along the coast.
You’ll never be far from a cafe for a hit of Turkish coffee, and for the best views you can walk along the harbour’s south arm to ponder Alanya and its mountainous hinterland.
8. Alanya Archaeological Museum
In ancient times, the surrounding region known as Pamphylia had a cluster of cities, many of which are compelling archaeological sites today.
So while you’re on the Turkish Riviera a visit to an archaeological museum will always be worthwhile.
Alanya’s is famed for a bronze statue of Hercules, dating from the 2nd century CE and just over half a metre tall.
Also on show are intact amphorae from the 2nd century BCE, coins going back as far as 700 BCE, an inscribed Phoenician tablet from 625 BCE and a 46-line letter by the Roman emperor Septimus Severus.
The museum also has an ethnographic section detailing local ways of life down the years, as well as an outdoor space showing ancient agriculture techniques, and funeral customs from ancient times through the Islamic era.
9. Alanya Tersanesi
In 1228 the Anatolian Seljuk Sultan Kayqubad I ordered the construction of this remarkable shipyard, facing east across the bay, just south of Kızılkule.
In Medieval times Alanya was the Seljuk Empire’s prime shipyard on the Mediterranean, and what remains is in great condition and open to the public for free along a wooden boardwalk.
There’s a row of five pointed arches, more than 55 metres long in total, and these vaulted bays go back 44 metres inland.
The shipyard was oriented east to get as much sunlight as possible, and is flanked by a mosque and guardroom.
Slightly back and posted on the rocks on the south side is a defensive tower once armed with cannons.
The Dim River weaves down the east side of Alanya from the Taurus Mountains.
As well as nourishing an abundance of vegetation on its banks, the river is wonderfully cool, even during the fierce heat of the summer months.
It’s a local family tradition to visit the river below the Dim Dam to paddle in its calmer stretches, come fishing and take a barbecue on the banks.
And catering to the many day-trippers are dozens of restaurants, many with shaded terraces on little wooden jetties or even on pontoons floating on the water.
Some of these river restaurants have pools, slides and diving boards on the river, and others will give you a fishing rod to catch your own trout.
Upstream from Dim Dam you can go rafting on a 5.5-kilometre course, setting off from Akköprü, and with lots of places to stop for a picnic on the banks.
11. Dim Cave (Dim Mağarası)
On your visit to the Dim River make time for the largest cave system in the Alanya area, carved out by water over millions of years but only discovered in 1999. The Dim Cave is 360 metres long, and worthwhile for its many concretions.
Something to remember is that there are lots of steps and narrow walkways, so the Dim Cave isn’t accessible to all.
As with the Damlataş Cave there’s high humidity at 75%, although the cave does offer respite from the summer heat, with a temperature never rising above 19°C.
12. Alanya Belediyesi 100. Yıl Atatürk Parkı
One of the things to love about this park is its location, right by the cable car station, tourist office, Damlataş Cave and archaeological museum, at the east end of Kleopatra Beach.
Within a few steps north along Güzelyalı Cd. there are dozens of places to eat.
As for the park, it’s somewhere to escape the heat for a few minutes, under a palm tree or one of the enormous ficuses.
There’s a mini-golf course, a fishpond, flowerbeds and pieces of public art like a ceremonious statue of Cleopatra.
This is also somewhere to witness Alanya’s affinity for its stray cats, which roam the lawns freely and have special wooden shelters and feeding stations.
13. Seyir Terasi
To those in the know, the best panorama in Alanya can be had from this belvedere in the foothills of the Taurus Mountains.
By car or cab you can get up to the Seyir Terasi in under 15 minutes, and once you’re there you may not want to leave.
From this leafy vantage point you’ve got the best view of the castle’s peninsula, the tessellated white blocks of modern Alanya, as well as the harbour and the aqua-blue expanse of the Mediterranean.
There’s a telescope on the terrace and a cafe-restaurant above, and in the evening families will come to the park to light barbecues.
14. Alanya Boat Trip with BBQ Lunch and Drinks
Of the many views to cherish in Alanya, some of the very best are from the water.
On a cruise departing the old harbour, you’ll see the castle, shipyard, Kızılkule and the Taurus Mountains through the eyes of a Medieval sailor.
The coastline in the Antalya Province is also fabulous, and there are three sets of caves within a short sail Alanya.
Occasionally on this six-hour voyage the boat will drop anchor and you can lie back on deck or plunge into the cool turquoise sea.
Cold drinks are provided and there’s also a barbecued lunch on board.
This outing is available on GetYourGuide.com.
15. Scuba Diving Tour With Lunch
You may want to spend a whole day descending into the clear waters off Alanya.
This experience is open to divers of all experience levels, and includes hotel pick-up and boat trips from the harbour to two dive sites, with a cooked lunch aboard the yacht on the way to the second site.
Beginners are well looked after, diving in groups no larger than two per instructor.
Non-divers can also come along for the trip, and you can bring your own snorkel and mask, or rent them from the boat, and pass a carefree day swimming in the crystalline sea and sunbathing.
Book online: Scuba Diving Tour With Lunch