New marinas, streets lined with nightclubs, top-notch restaurants and centuries-old historical sites make the once quiet backwater of Alanya a booming Turkish Riviera town and holiday hotspot.
But there are two Alanyas. The city by day and the city by night are two very different places.
By day, one passes the time soaking up the sun on its golden beaches, shopping, touring castles and eating fresh seafood on restaurant ships.
By night, its harbor area resembles Ibiza's West End, with multi-story nightclubs dominating rows of streets that pulsate with house music while beautiful people dance freely.
You will see a lot of beautiful people in Alanya, chiefly as it's become a summer destination of choice for girls in their twenties from Scandinavia, Germany and Russia; lending the place a gigantic pan-European spring break feel.Goldcity complex: a newly built footballer's wife's dream, adorned with marble floors and walls throughout, private pools and fine dining (not to mention the best Turkish bath in town).
I was staying slightly closer to town, albeit four kilometers away from the buzz of the center, at the Grand Kaptan.
The first sites of interest I saw when I was finally ready to go exploring, and indeed the most memorable, were the historic ones.
My inaugural visit was to the famous Damlataş Magarasi cave, translated as the 'Cave of Dripping Stones,' which was accidentally discovered by quarry workers in 1948 before quickly being turned into a popular tourist attraction.
After your eyes acclimatise to the lighting inside, you find yourself marveling at its 15,000-year-old stalactites and stalagmites before descending down the stairway where you take its legendary air: considered a treatment for asthma sufferers thanks to its 12 times normal CO2 levels and 95 per cent humidity.
I then went onwards and upwards to the majestic Citadel of Alanya -- which dates back to the Hellenistic Era -- and towers on a peninsula 750 feet above sea level. Most of its remaining structure was built in 1221 and a number of its original 83 towers and 140 bastions remain standing.
Alaaddin Keykubat, the Sultan, was suitably impressed with what he found of it when he invaded Alanya and built his palace on the site in 1230. A number of its rooms and mosques can still be seen, including the renovated Castle Mosque Süleymaniye.
The views from the top of the peninsula here are breathtaking, with Alanya's five beaches laid out far below, rugged coastline stretching out on either side and the blue ocean rolling out toward Cyprus.
One of the beaches below marks another special point of interest, Cleopatra's Beach, which has fine white sand (an anomaly in the area) said to have been imported by the former Egyptian queen and Roman warlord groupie. When you swim off this beach you actually have to enter the water from a series of steps, rather than directly, so as not to carry any of the precious sand with you on your feet.
Also to visit is the Red Tower -- another of Sultan Alaaddin's commissions -- which was built in 1226 to defend the town's shipyard. Here, you can enter and scale the octagonal tower's five floors, each featuring a different exhibition of historical events and artifacts, with your reward on reaching the ramparts at the top being a panoramic view of the picture-postcard perfect harbor.
A virtual armada of boats awaits you down in the harbor to serve up lunch as they chug along Alanya's craggy coastline, or later in the day if you fancy going 'sea clubbing' by night.
I boarded a medium-sized ship complete with a dance floor pumping out chart hits (a bit much before lunch) and a barbeque. The highlights were the caves it stopped at -- including: the Lovers' Cave, Devils Cave and Phosphorus Cave -- all of which it would sail perilously close or sometimes actually in, as well as the swimming spots it would drop anchor at, where the bravest of us would scale the ship's railings and dive into the deep turquoise waters below.
If you're lucky, you may see a pod of dolphins while you're out on a boat. The sailors actually keep a radio channel reserved for calling sightings out to one another, so the tourist boats can head straight towards Flipper and his friends if they decide to come in toward the coast.
If you're luckier still, and have your own boat, or you just want to check out another top notch restaurant, a very plush dock has just opened to the public, with over 275 berths, called Alanya Marina. It is a very smart part of town to be seen in, with big-spenders networking over lobster and the odd Saudi billionaire pulling up in his super yacht -- all entertaining stuff to watch while you sip champagne poolside and pretend to fit in.
If you still have energy, after all of this, the nightlife of Alanya offers a range of action for the discerning visitor,
The best course to take once you're ready to broach Alanya's party world is to walk around it and see which venue is playing the sort of music you like. After several nights of dancing to House music in the biggest clubs -- like Robin Hood or James Dean -- you may decide to repair to a quieter bar with an apple tobacco shisha and check out some traditional live Turkish folk songs, which I'd hugely recommend.
Or there are a few rock bars, like The Doors, where you can headbang to your heart's content, or at least until you drink too much Efes and fall down.
I spent a lot of my time in sun-soaked Alanya in such a daze, not solely because of the heat or the beer, but because what I found was so unexpected. It's completely understandable why it's both such a magnet for young people to party -- especially when it's dark and cold in their own countries, like Scandinavia -- but also such a destination for the older crowd, who are increasingly buying up property there.
The mayor has big plans for the place, having already reopened some direct flights from Europe to the local airport, rather than via Istanbul and Antalya. He's also pledging to allocate portions of the vast amounts of money flooding into the city from tourism for more cultural and commerce buildings, such as theaters, a sports stadium and business conferencing centers.
I will return to before long. Alanya, I look forward to seeing your two faces again.
Note: Richard Powell is a former journalist who now works for the Press Release Distribution and Public Relations firm, Presswire and does not work with or for any of the parties mentioned in this article.
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