Travel Stories

A travel blog for a long-term expat, backpacker, traveler, ESL teacher, and photographer. 

Side, Turkey

So last week, in specific, March 30 - April 3, I was in Antalya and Side, Turkey. It was my second time leaving Istanbul. I surprised my boyfriend Tom with a trip to the South of Turkey for his 23rd birthday. Turkish airlines (in general, I mean, not specifically the country) looooove the idea of red eye flights. They always seem to be at 3 AM, 4 AM, etc, which totally sucks if you arrive at your destination so late at night. We had a midnight flight, it could've been worse but at least we arrived around 1 AM.  I assumed that there would be no transport to Side at this time of the night so I pre-booked a hotel in Antalya. We took a 40 lira taxi to the center even though I tried hard to negotiate and miserably failed so 40 lira it was. The hotel, the Sun Rise Hotel, was, well, pretty shitty. I've been to worse but it isn't a great hotel. However, the owner of the hotel was so lovely that I can't complain about it too much. He was really nice and dedicated to helping us with anything. It was pretty odd/funny that he had a bed in the lobby and just crawled out of bed if we needed him, lol. Customer service really makes all the difference - maybe he can run a course on customer service to ALL of Poland. :P


On our first morning we went and walked around Kaleici (old town). It was relatively small but it had its charm. There aren't really that many Roman ruins to see so if you ever want to go to Turkey for ruins, you shouldn't spend more than a day in Antalya. There is an impressive ruin piece called Hadrian's Gate, however.



After exploring old town, we decided to try to find the Otogar (bus station in Turkish). Otogar refers to the main bus terminal of Antalya and it has buses to and from the whole country. From the old town we assumed we could walk. Our map made it look so awesomely close so, challenge accepted to save a little money! After walking around 4 kilometers, we realized this was unrealistic and eventually flagged down a cab. You can take a tram from the old town to Otogar for anyone who gets into this situation.At the Otogar, we took a bus that went in the direction of Manavgat. Side is a stop along its route. It was 12 lira (6 dollarsish) and it took around an hour. They dropped us off at a seedy gas station on the highway and we were really confused. Like, oh hey highway/gas station, where the hell in Side? Cool. Luckily, however, another guy got off the bus at the same spot and with some impressive body language (because English is not commonly known in Turkey) and my bad Turkish language skills, I understood that we should take the Dolmus (a shared taxi/mini bus). This ended up costing 2 lira although the Turkish guys didn't pay so maybe we were slightly ripped off... Oh well. 1 dollar wasn't going to kill me. HELLO, SIDE!





Our hotel was called Leda Beach Hotel. It was right across the street from the ruins of Side and in fact, it was also built on top of some of them. It had a really nice pool, beach access, multiple restaurants, 2 stores, and a really lovely, welcoming staff. Each room of the hotel were separate cabins/bungalow things and they were really comfortable little things. For 75 euros for three nights, there were absolutely no complaints! It even had some lemon trees on site. It was a great location too because it wasn't on the main busy, touristy street so it was still quiet but only 5 minutes to the main street of Side. Okay, enough raving about my awesomely chosen hotel. ;)Side is really quite small and you could walk the whole town in 30 minutes. As we walked down the main stretch, we passed lots of shops selling the same fake name brand shit and every guy trying to harass you to come into their store. Same shit, different city. Fine, cool, that's how Turkey does business so I ignored it as I usually ignore in Istanbul.

The weirdest part of Side is that they preferred you to pay in euros. I AM IN TURKEY. WHY WOULD I HAVE EUROS? Crazy tourists bringing their crappy euros. YOU'RE IN TURKEY. /sigh. Anyways, paying in lira was cheaper so we insisted on it. As we were wandering, we saw a little booth at the end of the main street near the harbor that said "BOOT TOURS." This catered to the MASSIVE amount of German tourists so I assume that means boat in German and that they aren't really going to make a big sign with bad English. The prices for their tours were surprisingly great which wasn't expected for such a touristy town. So, we booked a tour to Manavgat. This included a boat trip on a giant pirate boat, swimming on a little beach, lunch, transportation to the Manavgat Waterfall, and to the Manavgat Bazaar.

So after we booked our tour, we went to the ruins of Side. There is a famous column still standing, there are some small reconstructed building ruins, and an abundance of cats like the rest of Turkey. We walked along the sea on the street and saw baby ducklings getting fed. So that obviously took up some time since I was in awe staring at baby animals and annoying the boyfriend. ;) We finished off our night at a Mexican restaurant called Fiesta on the sea at the end of the touristy street. It was quite expensive, they didn't have half their menu, and it wasn't THAT great.. Cool. Tourist trap. We re-walked around the ruins at night which gave off a different atmosphere. It was stunning since it is right in front of the sea.

The next day the bus picked us up for our tour at 9 AM. It dropped us off at the end of the touristystreet near the Boot sign and we got on a giant pirate ship kind of this. The weather was beautiful and it was assisted by rough seas. It was run by 20 something Turkish guys which meant club music the whole time and it was pretty funny to see the face expressions of the elderly to have pop music blasted in their ears. The owners of the company basically assume everyone is German/can speak German so the loudspeakers broadcasted all relevant information in German and failed to translate a lot into English making it really un-German unfriendly. You were supposed to pre-buy your tickets for the waterfall, which they didn't tell us in English and they got angry at us. Dafuq? When the boat stopped for swimming, they didn't tell us that either. When I asked a question to the Turkish guy working there, he then told me to calm down American and said some strange things that didn't make much sense (by the way men, girls don't like to hear "calm down" ever).

We stopped for a swimming break after the boat docked. We only knew it was a swimming break after we stupidly watched what the German tourists were doing. I got into the water up to my knees which was pretty warm for April and mostly took photos of Tom jumping the waves.



Prior to booking Side, I had seen a picture of the Manavgat Waterfall and my immediate reaction was "I must go there." It was rather disappointing and small. I've seen better for free in North Carolina and we had to pay to see it (around 1.50$). The water was freeeeeeeeeezing.

The tour then took us to an endless tourist-catered bazaar. Prices were listed in euros and everyone spoke at us in German, again. /sigh. This was Tom's opportunity to go shopping so he went a little nuts. He bought something like 8 shirts, a belt, etc. Being American surprisingly helped (or so I was gullible enough to believe probably) because everyone seemed to love America. The guy who sold me Tom's belt said " AMERICA!! CHEESEBURGER! HAMBURGER. COCA-COLA!!!" haha. Odd. Anyways, my bargaining skills are getting much better. So much better in fact that I got paid to buy a shirt. Yes, you read that right. He gave me 2.50$ to buy his Ralph Lauren Polo. I negotiated, in Turkish, the price down to 25 lira for a polo. (14$). I gave him a 50, he owed me 25. He didn't have the change and only had 30. So he told me to buy 2 for 50.  I told him no and that I wanted my change. I had my other cash out and he took a 20 bill and then eventually gave me both the 20 and the 50 back and gave me 5. I was so confused. Clearly I have skills. 

I did research on visiting the other local ruin sites and we decided it would be best if we booked another tour with the Boot Tours company to Antalya for 10 euros the next day.

So, the next day, we get picked up at 8:30 AM from our hotel and we head off to the ancient city of Aspendos. It had a giant amphitheater and an old Roman bridge (or what remains of it). Aspendos was 4 km off the highway and if we had taken the same bus we took from Antalya, we would've had a bit of a walk. The bridge was 1-2 kilometers from the amphitheater so having a bus take us was worth it. After Aspendos, we asked the driver to drop us off on the highway that led to Antalya.

So, we're standing like fools on the highway, looking stupid, and waiting for a bus. The bus system is really weird and it will drop you off anywhere you want if you ask. So, eventually the bus that goes every 20 minutes stopped and got us. It cost 10 lira (6 dollars) to the stop called Aksu

Aksu is where the ancient city of Perga is. It was 1-2 kilometers from the highway drop off. We had the option of taking a taxi but it wasn't THAT far, less than a mile so why not? The giant amphitheater was closed off unfortunately. We walked into the ruins site and immediately saw a stadium for chariot racing. Tom was in awe because he'd never seen one. Behind the stadium was the entrance into the site. It isn't the most exciting place to describe so I'm just going to have the pictures describe it. ;)





After we got back to Side, we explored the ruins of Side near our hotel. First, we went into the amphitheater of Side and that was very impressive with the view. An old Turkish man took my camera and took some photos of us. He was so happy, spoke some English, and had us follow us while he gave us a mini tour of the site. We thought he was so lovely and nice. SO WE THOUGHT. Then he demanded 35 lira. Dick. So we paid and complained. Eventually Tom gave 5 euros and I gave 10 lira. So 10 euros from our touristy asses. My fault for believing that someone has a good heart and wants to show tourists around in their spare time. That pretty much sums up my trip!