The Mediterranean is one of the most sought-after vacation spots globally, with its enviable collection of picturesque beaches, historic sites, and immeasurable cultural value.
But it is overcrowded, and in some places, the surge in prices has been so significant it is scaring tourists away.
Luckily for the budget-conscious, crowd-wary traveler, this lesser-known city in the Eastern Mediterranean is still a great alternative to consider, especially in terms of affordability, the tourist offer, and its year-round warmer weather.
This year, it’s time to give Italy, Spain, Croatia, and the like a miss and head instead to the gorgeous up-and-coming resort destination that is Antalya in Turkiye:
One Of The Leading Destinations In The Med Right Now
Antalya is one of the largest Turkish cities lining the East Mediterranean coast. Home to 1,347,000 people, it is a bustling metropolis whose importance as a regional trading hub and cultural center dates back several millennia.
It is also one of the fastest-growing destinations in the Mediterranean, having hosted over 13 million guests in 2022 – more than entire countries would have in the same period – and looking set to shatter all sorts of tourism records in 2023.
Back in 2019, the most successful year for Antalya so far, it hosted approximately 141,000 foreigners in January. In the first 31 days of 2023, however, it breached the 219,647 mark, posting a record increase year-on-year and giving a strong indication this summer could be the busiest yet.
Compared to 2022, it is already an increase of 58%, and while it’s mostly Europeans who are flocking to Antalya’s pristine beaches, the number of American visitors is on the rise as well.
Two new flight routes were added between the States and Istanbul, Turkiye’s main transit hub and the gateway to Antalya for the U.S. market, bringing U.S. sun-seekers closer to their dream holiday.
Turkiye, as a whole, will be one of the busiest summer destinations this year, and Antalya is at the front of this astounding recovery.
It was, after all, named the Top City Break worldwide in 2022.
What’s Special About Antalya?
Antalya was originally born a Greco-Roman city prior to the formation of the Turkish state, and much like Izmir, Bodrum, and other popular sunny spots on the Turkish Aegean, it retains much of its Hellenic character, whether it’s the more relaxed approach to life and liberal attitudes of the locals, or the historical remnants spread out across the city and the wider province.
The Kaleiçi, or Old Town, is easily the most scenic part of town and hosts a lively cobblestone-laden maze full of shops, traditional restaurants, and centuries-old Greek churches and Ottoman-era mosques.
The most impressive and easily-recognized landmark is Hadrian’s Gate:
This beautiful colonnaded gateway is flanked on both sides by defensive walls and watchtowers and has historically guarded the entrance to Old Antalya prior to the city’s disorderly expansion beyond the fortifications.
Crossing Hadrian’s Gate, visitors are, in fact, stepping on an incredibly well-preserved section of Roman road, which paved the original city level, and tracing the steps of Roman soldiers who patrolled the premises and subjects and merchants who sought entry into Antalya for safety and trade nearly 2,000 years ago.
The Kaleiçi has plenty of ancient wonders to keep the History buff in you entertained for days on end, but beyond its majestic walls, you will also find beautiful sandy beaches where the water is crystal-clear and warm enough for a dip as early as April.
Further down the coast, there are up-and-coming Mediterranean-style resort strips renowned for their affordability and a modern district dotted with high-rise buildings and leisure centers, popular for shopping and their nightlife scene.
Antalya Is Cheap To Visit
Antalya is a hugely affordable city compared to other Mediterranean competitors.
I resided in the city myself for an entire month in early 2022, in the off-season, and my monthly expenses, accommodation, and food included mounted up to roughly USD$1000 in the end.
You could easily spend one thousand bucks over a weekend in Santorini or Ibiza on a strict budget. It’s a no for me.
Working remotely from Antalya, I was staying in a two-floor apartment a little further out, a 30-minute drive from the city center, yet five blocks away from the beach and within walking distance of restaurants, bars, and a shopping district.
I enjoyed a stable WiFi connection, a well-equipped kitchen, which I rarely used myself, a smart TV, and even a terrace with sun loungers, a hammock, and a grill.
When it comes to dining out, it is surprisingly cheap, with three-course, satisfying meals costing on average USD$15 per person, or over USD$30 in more upscale places, though I was able to save up a lot of money buying groceries and cooking at home on some nights.
There are surely more than 5 reasons why Antalya is the perfect summer destination, but the fact that it is unbelievably cheap by Western standards and home to both world-renowned historical sights and gorgeous sandy crescents are surely some of its greatest strengths.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com