When you think of Turkey, what usually comes to mind is either the vast skies of Cappadocia dotted with colourful hot-air balloons or the rich cultural and historic centre that is Istanbul. But what if we told you that Turkey has another gem of a destination hidden just a little further south?
Located in the southwestern coastal province of Antalya is Manavgat city, home to the stunning Manavgat waterfall, bustling bazaars and gorgeous beaches. Whether it’s shopping, sports, history or sightseeing, Manavgat has something for everyone. That is to say, if you’re looking to travel overseas for a quiet yet exotic family vacation, this is the place to be.
Although there are no direct flights to Antalya from Singapore Changi Airport, you will be able to visit Manavgat via a layover. Travel to Manavgat, Antalya from Singapore via a layover at Istanbul Airport with Singapore Airlines or Turkish Airlines, or stop by other airports for a transfer to Antalya Airport.
1. Take a cruise along the Manavgat River and visit the Manavgat Waterfalls
To visit Manavgat without seeing the Manavgat Waterfalls – that would be as absurd as someone visiting Singapore for the first time without visiting Gardens by the Bay.
The water from the Taurus Mountains flows down Manavgat waterfalls before meandering through the centre of town. In other words, hopping on a boat tour from the city centre is incredibly convenient.
Day tours are aplenty here — just approach one of the many friendly boat tour agencies along the river. The general entrance fee to the waterfall is 6TL (S$0.50) per person, while the tour’s price varies depending on the tour group. The journey is a three- to four-hour scenic ride to the waterfall. Along the way, you’ll get to see not just the bustling city life, but also the lush greens leading up to the main majestic event.
The waterfall might not be that tall (only four metres high), but what it lacks in height it makes up in width at a vast 40m. Plenty of panoramic photos to snap and show off to your friends back home, so a stunning smartphone camera and monopod will do wonders! Afterwards, head to one of the nearby cafes or restaurants for a tete-a-tete overlooking the waterfall to end the day.
2. Shop ‘til you drop at Manavgat Bazaar
Souvenirs are a must when travelling abroad, so where better to fill your luggage than at the local market? There’s a fixed, covered part of the Manavgat Bazaar in the town centre that’s open every day. But it’s on Mondays and Thursdays when the bazaar truly comes to life.
With additional booths lining the side streets around the town centre, the full Manavgat Bazaar is one of the biggest open-air Turkish markets in the Antalya region. Tourists aren’t the only ones looking to snag a bargain; locals from the nearby cities also make their way down just to get their hands on rare finds like regional produce too.
The covered market is where you’ll find all sorts of hand-woven leather goods and carpets, jewellery, spices and Turkish street snacks. Roasted chestnuts and grilled corn are common, but if you get the chance to try a Wet Burger (a beef burger flavoured with garlic and tomato sauce and left to ‘sweat’ inside a steamer), you have to get at least two of these Turkish specialities.
Meanwhile, the open-air section is divided into two parts; the first half sells mainly clothing and high-quality accessories, while the second half sells organic produce like cheese!
To get there, just hop on one of the regular ‘bazaar’ buses that make stops at hotels. The bus frequency is roughly five minutes or so on Mondays and Thursdays, and a ride costs only 16TL (S$1.30) each way.
Address: Pazarcı Mahallesi, No:, 1004. Sk. No:7, Manavgat 07600 Turkey
3. Discover your wild side at the Taurus Mountain Jeep Safari
For a change of scenery, try a full-day excursion up to the Taurus Mountains on an open jeep (a jeep without a roof, so you get the full outdoor experience.) These excursions can be easily organised with the help of your hotel’s reception desk.
The Taurus Mountains are a complex and dramatic mountain chain that runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast. When the mountain range is this close to the coast, you get a truly breathtaking view of the sea from nearly 4,000m above.
As the wheels kick up the dirt in the air, the ride up the mountains will make you feel like you’re on the set of an Indiana Jones movie, especially as the jeep winds through the dusty pine forest paths. The safaris take you as high as 900m above sea level – up there, the air doesn’t just feel different, it smells different too.
Depending on which tour your hotel hooks you up with, you might get a chance to enjoy a water fight between jeeps or even go swimming in lakes and plunge pools. Tl;dr, be ready to get dirty.
4. Visit a Hammam
Do as the locals do: isn’t that what they say? While in Turkey, you’ve got to try the full Turkish bath experience. Fortunately, you can find them pretty much at any spa or pool around Antalya
Turkish baths, or Hammams as they’re called in Turkey, involve following your attendant through the different (and progressively warmer) sections of the bathhouse. Unlike Japan’s onsens, you’re allowed to wear a bathing suit or disposable underwear inside the Hammams.
Inside the washing area, the attendant will scrub your body down with a kese, a Turkish body scrub mitten. That’s followed by a sudsy massage on top of a gobektasi, a warm marble slab that’s honestly a lot more comfortable than it looks. For a wash like this, prices usually range around 250TL (S$19.90).
Most people will lounge around the bath area afterwards just to relax and unwind before heading into the cooler final room to allow their bodies to come back to their regular temperature. Most hammams will serve a glass of sherbet or Turkish tea in this room too. Don’t forget to tip your attendants before you go.
5. Have a kids' day out at the Land of Legends Theme Park
Who knew that there was a giant entertainment resort in a traditional little town like Manavgat city? Known as the Land of Legends, this theme park in Antalya is packed full of action and adventure for the young and the young at heart. It’s for this reason that it’s also known as the Disneyland of Turkey.
A total of 55 water slides, three roller coasters, giant swings, and laser light shows — what more could you ask for? They even have bear and dolphin shows, if that’s not enough.
To make the trip extra special, we recommend spending the night at the Land of Legends Kingdom Hotel. It is by far the most popular resort in the entire Antalya region for obvious reasons, but also because you get to enjoy the entire facility as part of the package too. Otherwise, ticket prices can be purchased via their website.
Address: Merkez, Atatürk Cd. No:104, 07500, 07500 Serik/Antalya, Turkey
Opening hours: 10:00am to 12:00am
6. Walk down memory lane at Side’s Old Town
If you’ve got an extra day to spare, take a road trip out to the coastal city of Side (pronounced ‘see-day’). The eastern beach has not only the softest, loveliest white sands but also the clearest blue water. Looking at it makes it feel as though your problems are being washed away.
Side is also known for its ruins, some dating as far back as 150 A.D., aka a really long time ago. Among the important ruins include the Temple of Apollo, the Commercial Agora and the Monumental Fountain.
You could also visit the Side Archaeological Museum, where you’ll find tons of ancient artefacts from Side and other excavation sites. Sarcophagi, friezes, jewels, and even weapons are all on display there. And if that’s not enough, the whole building itself is located inside the ruins of an old Roman bath. Tickets cost 25TL (S$2) per entry.
Side Archaeological Museum Address: Side, Liman Cd., 07330 Manavgat/Antalya, Turkey
Opening hours: 8:30am to 7:45pm
7. Fill your tummy like a local at Oba Restaurant
Turkey’s famous for its kebabs. But if you’re looking to try some properly authentic local cuisine in Manavgat, head straight for Oba Restaurant.
It’s a no-frills restaurant frequented by plenty of locals in Antalya who’d like nothing more than a comfortable warm meal. As seasoned travellers would know, it’s always a good sign if an eatery’s packed with locals.
The meats are all cooked fresh on a charcoal grill, and the pita, wraps and stews all leave you wishing you had room in your stomach for more. That said, no one would judge you if you wanted to lick your plates clean. The best part — you can dine like a king on all they have to offer for less than S$50.
Address: Eski Hisar Mahallesi, Çevre Yolu Girişi No: 85, Manavgat 07600 Turkey
Open: 24 hours
Those plane tickets don’t book themselves; hurry on and snag them before everyone else catches wind of this hidden gem of a holiday destination. Besides, you’ve already got a full itinerary lined up above with our trip planner, so what are you waiting for?
Things to note before travelling to Turkey
All incoming tourists over the age of six are required to submit a “Traveller Entry Form” four days before taking off. It must be completed and submitted online and presented before boarding and after arrival.
Masks are only required within indoor health facilities, such as clinics and hospitals.
For the latest information, refer to Turkey’s Ministry of Health Covid-19 website.
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Best time to visit:
The weather’s much fairer between the months of April and May, and September and October. During this period, the temperature averages between the mid-20s to 30 degrees celsius — the perfect sightseeing weather.
The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish lira (TL).
Buses and dolmus (minibuses) are the main modes of public transportation around here, though there are large subways if you’re coming in from a major city.
Search for airfares and book your tickets to Antalya, Turkey here.