According to legend, the Queen of Sheba spent a thoroughly enjoyable day in Antalya on her way to visit King Solomon.
So good enough for biblical kings – but would it be good enough for Mrs. H.?
I shouldn’t have worried. As Europe’s cheapest holiday destination, you can live like a queen – and a king – in Turkey without pawning your crown jewels.
The spa town and the old port of Antalya offers culture, history, food and countless opportunities for leisure and relaxation.
No wonder 30 percent of foreign visitors travel to Turkey this jewel of the Turkish Riviera.
And not just any old foreign visitors either. Our hotel, Regnum Carya Golf and Spa, hosted the 2015 G20 World Leaders.
There’s a signed photo of them in one of the opulent corridors, alongside the galaxy of music stars who’ve played in the hotel’s outdoor arena – including Rita Ora, Dua Lipa, J-Lo and Tom Jones.
On its full size football pitch, complete with bleachers that would not embarrass a decent non-league team, real Madrid Organize football camps and train the Turkish national team.
Like your golf? The hotel regularly hosts the Turkish Open on its floodlit court, where you can play a round at night.
Time to live like a legend, even if it’s only for a few days.
OK, it’s not a budget hotel, but with prices starting at just over £300 per room for two people per night, it compares well to other five-star resorts and its facilities are second to none.
You don’t have to venture beyond the walls of the hotel for an action-packed week, but it would be a crime not to.
Our tour guide Cengiz Zorel is one of life’s enthusiasts and looks forward to showing us the rich culture and history of the region.
Our three young gladiators missed a trip to Rome thanks to covid.
But in the Roman city of Side and near Aspendos – home to one of the best preserved Roman theaters anywhere – they embraced their inner Russell Crowe in a frenzy of brother-on-brother combat.
More peaceful was our stroll through Antalya’s old town, where hospitality extends to the “stray” cats and dogs fed and watered by the residents of these charming, narrow streets of Ottoman-era buildings.
Greek Orthodox churches stand alongside mosques that date back to the 13th century.
It’s a fascinating mix of cultures – Roman, Byzantine, Greek, Ottoman – that reflects Antalya’s longstanding status as a port, commercial hub and resort.
Beaches follow the town’s crescent-shaped bay, with a pebble beach and crystal clear waters along the flank bordering the new town and a long stretch of sand stretching away from the picturesque old port.
And if you love your sand castles, you’ll dig Sandland, where castle artists from around the world exhibit their work. It will make your bucket and spade efforts look pathetic.
After the narrow streets of Old Town and the heat of the beach, it was refreshing to feel the spray of Lower Duden Falls, where rapids meet an abrupt end as they plunge over sea cliffs into the Mediterranean Sea. You can tackle the whitewater on a raft.
You don’t have to venture beyond the walls of the hotel for an action-packed week, but it would be a crime not to. Our tour guide Cengiz Zorel is one of life’s enthusiasts and looks forward to showing us the rich culture and history of the region.
And it’s not the only spectacular water feature in town. Antalya is also home to the world’s longest tunnel aquarium, where sharks, rays and eels swim among the remains of a WWII bomber.
The fish are also a feast for the eyes at lunchtime. We sat down in the Aphrodite restaurant in the old port of Side.
The owner brought us a menu and then showed up with a huge tray of fish that had landed on the adjacent wharf hours earlier.
“How would you like it cooked?” he asked. Not used to anything other than breaded or breaded cod from the freezer, we simply replied, “Whatever you’re thinking.”
After a delicious meze, platters of grilled sea bass, freshly fried calamari and garlic lobsters emerged. Oh, and a spectacular pomegranate salad.
Any restaurant that can get a 15-year-old boy interested in green deserves his parents’ praise.
At Land of Legends theme park, visible from afar thanks to its towering Disney-style castle, seafood is taken literally: it’s luxurious dining IN an aquarium. However, it’s best to ride the park’s roller coasters and aqua park before feasting.
Back at the all-inclusive Regnum Carya, there’s a buffet three times a day. Wait, upscale food court would be more accurate. And pay a little more and you have your choice of fine Turkish, Japanese and Italian cuisine on-site.
After dinner, it’s a sofa at the Green Bar outdoors for a Tina Turner tribute act before the kids realize Dad is getting a little merry and can be banged at the pool at the Sports Bar. Simply the best?
To be honest, Dad can easily be beaten at eight ball when he’s sober, but I got my revenge at air hockey and bowling.
Ms. H. doesn’t really like ten needles. Murmurs already, more precisely the marble of the luxury Turkish baths in the hotel spa. Plus a heated indoor pool, whirlpool, sauna and treatments galore.
Outside, kids can explore the numerous on-site pools, including a wild wave pool, an aqua park with slides, and wild river kayaking.
The hotel’s private beach is a ten-minute walk alongside pine trees, charming al fresco restaurants, and goats. yes goats
The hotel keeps a flock, along with wild turtles. As one of my kids quipped, “Don’t mind those farm animals, this holiday is the GOAT.”
You were right. Antalya will recharge your batteries and restore confidence in old-fashioned hospitality.
In Britain, Hadrian built a wall to keep people out. In Antalya he built an arch to welcome them.
Some 1,900 years later, that reception feels warmer than ever.
COVID: All vacationers must fill out an online form. Fully fed travelers do not have to undergo tests. However, unvaccinated must show a negative PCR test within 72 hours of arrival or a lateral flow test within 48 hours of arrival.
GET THERE: Turkish Airlines flies direct to Antalya from airports such as Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham from a return fare of £207. See www.turkishairlines.com.
STAY THERE: Twin rooms at Regnum Carya Golf and Spa start from £315 per night. See regnumhotels.com/en.
https://www.thesun.ie/travel/8692830/antalya-feasts-fun-family/ From Disney-style attractions to hotel water parks