Side is an ancient city and former fishing village in Turkey‘s Mediterranean coast that has developed into a lively resort without losing its authentic charm. Set on a forested cape, its enchanting old town spills down a gentle hill to the harbour and spectacular Greco-Roman monuments stand testament to its historic importance. Its breathtaking sandy beaches, charming old town, and rich cultural heritage make it one of our favourite Turkish holiday destinations. Here are 5 reasons we love Side – and we’re sure you’ll love it too!
Side’s biggest beach stretches to the west, where most of the hotels are lined up along an endless stretch of golden sand. Perfect for couples and families, this beach has all the facilities you could possibly want, from sun loungers and parasols to a great choice of water sports. The beach to the east, which is more popular with locals, is a picture-postcard curve of shingle and sand, overlooked by the stunning columns of the 2nd-century BC Temples of Athena and Apollo. There’s also another little cove right at the tip of the peninsula. And if that’s not enough, the beaches at Sorgun, Kumkoy and Colakli are all within easy reach.
Side was first settled in the 7th century BC, and the lovely old town is still strewn with spectacular Greco-Roman monuments. The most dramatic of these is the vast Roman theatre that crowns the hill, while possibly the most picturesque (and star of a thousand sunset photos) is the Temple of Athena (later dedicated to Apollo) which sits on the water front. But you can also admire Roman villas, with their faded mosaic floors, and pass through ancient gates that pierce the sturdy walls. The old Roman baths have now been converted into a fascinating museum full of finds discovered during the archaeological digs.
Lingering in the Old Town
Side’s charming Old Town is beautifully located right at the tip of the cape, and is still ringed by remarkably well preserved city walls and gates. Its narrow, stone streets are a delight to stroll around, admiring the ancient buildings and ruins that have been incorporated over centuries into the fabric of the town. No sterile museum town, nowadays it’s packed with shops, bakeries, cafés and restaurants, and hums with life.
Shopping and waterfalls in Manavgat
Set just inland from Side (and only a 10-minute ride on the local domus bus service), Manavgat is a larger town that has a fantastic covered market, which is perfect for picking up gifts and souvenirs. It’s also got a lively outdoor market on Mondays and Thursdays, with piles of wonderful fresh produce. You could pick up some picnic supplies and head out to the Manavgat waterfalls, which are set in a shady park, and enjoy lunch by the side of the river. And, if you like messing about in boats, there are also lots of river cruises available.
Out and about
If you’re itching to explore further afield, there is a host of fantastic things to do within easy reach of Side. There are numerous boat trips available, whether you fancy a gentle cruise upriver to the Green Canyon, where you can take a dip in the lake, or want a romantic sunset sail around the coast. You could also sail out to Kekova Island, where you can see the remains of a sunken city beneath the crystal-clear waters: this excursion also usually includes a visit to the marvellous ancient site of Myra. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, you could try white-water rafting in the Köprülü Canyon, which is part of a spectacular national park, or take a 4×4 tour through the amazing peaks of the Taurus Mountains.