From Tarsus we headed west along the Mediterranean coast, with of course stops on the way, to visit a number of places, including heaven and hell.
Our first stop was the small seaside resort of Kizkalesi, popular with Turkish holidaymakers, but yet to attract crowds from other countries. It has two castles: one, known as the Sea Castle, is actually on a very tiny island 300 metres offshore. A boat runs backwards and forwards to enable people to visit. It has some interesting mosaics, but we were nervous about walking round the battlements on a narrow path with no barriers. The Land Castle opposite is picturesque but crumbling, not inspiring confidence when you explore.
Just outside the town there are three caves which you can visit, known as the Heaven, Hell and Asthma Caves (the latter because the air is supposed to be good for sufferers). Hell is not really a cave at all, just a place where you can look down into a deep chasm. To get to Heaven the path is more difficult!!! It involves a steep downhill walk to the mouth of the cave; the path through the cave is very slippery, and hardly worth the effort. For us the Asthma Cave was by far the most interesting. Despite having been in many caves, this one caused us to say ‘Wow’ frequently. The stalagmites and stalactites were impressive, but it was the colours (mainly brown and green) that were unusual.
From the caves we walked down to the village of Narlikuyu, to see a mosaic of the Three Graces. The ‘museum’ there turned out to be just a small building over the mosaic. But the village has a number of fish restaurants arranged around a bay, so we paused for a leisurely lunch.
From Kizkalesi we travelled west about 150 miles along the coast road – slow but very scenic, as the mountains come down almost to the sea. Alanya is a large town, and a popular seaside resort with Europeans (but relatively few Brits, especially this year). Like Kizkalesi, it has a castle and a cave, though only one of each.
We began our day by walking up to the castle, which is high up on a peninsula: not much left, but the views are spectacular. We walked down to the port area, and detoured to see an Ottoman shipyard and the Red Tower, both very atmospheric. After lunch we walked out to the small lighthouse, and then strolled around the port, marvelling at the number of ‘pirate’ ships lined up to take tourists for cruises! We ended at the ‘Cave of Dripping Stones’. This has only one room, so it didn’t take long to visit, although the stalactites and stalagmites were worth seeing.
We continued west about 60 miles further, to visit the Roman ruins at Aspendos. The theatre there is in a great state of preservation, and in a very scenic location. We saw a bride and groom having their photos taken on the stage! We walked around the site, looking at the ruins of the aqueduct, agora, church, stadium etc – none as well preserved as the theatre, but the views were picturesque.
When planning accommodation for our trip, Ian had difficulty finding anywhere close to Aspendos. The best he could manage was an all-inclusive beach resort, which turned out to be further away than we expected – not too bad as the crow flies, but an awkward journey by bus. Staying there (fortunately, just for one night) reminded us why we are not keen on such places, and this one was particularly bad. We decided it must be run by Basil Fawlty’s Turkish cousin.
Antalya is a port city, large although less touristy than Alanya. We spent most of two days there, and enjoyed strolling around the old city and the marina, visiting the excellent archaeological museum and taking a short boat trip along the coast. However, the highlight of our stay was our visit to the ruins of Termessos, about 25 miles out of town.
We were almost tempted not to go. Getting there involves taking a taxi or private tour, and is therefore not cheap. And we’ve seen so many Greek or Roman ruins on this trip that we were not sure we needed to see yet another ancient theatre. But we were very glad we went. The ruins are very different to the others we’ve seen, simply because they have not been restored, but left in their natural state. (We were reminded of Angkor in Cambodia, where the jungle has encroached on the temples.) And the setting is truly spectacular – worth a visit for the scenery alone.
We took a taxi because it was cheaper than a tour, and because we tend to prefer exploring in our own, rather than being accompanied by a guide. But our taxi driver was brilliant, showing us some of the best places and helping Sandie on difficult paths. He was as good as a guide, except that he spoke no English – and we speak no Turkish – but we managed to communicate perfectly well.