Turkey is a country of beautiful beaches. When planning a trip to this oasis, it is hard to decide just which part to hit when making vacation plans. Side is one of the best in a land full of bests. Pronounced ‘see-deh,’ this coastal town is on prime real estate in the Mediterranean Sea. Water, water everywhere, and with miles and miles of gorgeous sand. Side means ‘pomegranite,’ and dates back to the 6th Century BC. This is ancient Pamphylia’s largest port and was at one time a safe harbor for pirates and other scallywags of the area.
One of the coolest things about the beach at Side is you don’t have to bring your own chair. They are everywhere and available for your use for a mere pittance… and while you are lounging around enjoying the sun, vendors wander around selling just about anything you could possibly want or need, and then some. The guys walking around with huge platters full of bread on their head are worth the trip alone. Very cool, that, and the bread is delicious.
Water sports are very popular, as you might expect in a country so full of beaches. Para-sailing is very popular here, as well as jet skis and sail boats. Rental shops are close by and not nearly as costly as in the U.S.
Hotels and motels are on top of each other along the coast and are very inexpensive. Practically any room you book is going to be very close to the beach, and likely to even have an ocean view balcony. Side is all about pleasing their tourists. The rooms are scant but comfortable, and really for the prices you can not complain too much. Really, with so much to see and do you will not be spending a whole lot of time in your room anyway. Of course, if you want to lay out the big bucks, there are many full service resorts ready to take your money and treat you like visiting royalty.
You will have no trouble getting yourself fed in Side, either. Nothing here is overly expensive and many of the evening restaurants have fabulous floor shows right there in the middle of th tables. It is exhilarating to watch the traditional Turkish dancers spinning and hopping about as you dine on the excellent local cuisine. Fast food for lunch takes the form of kabobs and pizza joints everywhere you look.
Shopping is mostly bizarre style, meaning open-air vendors lining the streets. It is a busy, electric atmosphere sure to please even the most avid shopaholic types. Touristy schlock is as far as the eye can see, as well as wonderfully handcrafted local crafts. Do be prepared to haggle prices. It is part of the experience and they get a bit disappointed if you pay the first price quoted. It is fun, so don’t be afraid and scoff and laugh while making ridiculously low offers.
Do go into Side proper and have a look around the Aspendos. This is an amphitheatre that was built in 167 A.D by the son of Theodorius, a very important historical figure of the day. While sometimes termed ruins, it really is not. This arena is in remarkably great shape for being so ancient. We are talking the time of Marcus Aurelius here. It really is something you will want lots of pictures of. There are tons of souvenir shops along the bridge, which was built by an Anatolian emperor in the 13th century. Then there are the temples of Apollo and Athena right there also. These were built in the second century AD. Athena was side’s patron godess.
Along the beach you will see numerous ships. Go ahead and jump aboard one. They will take you to Manavgat Falls, a really stunning waterfall where you would never expect to find one. On the boat they serve refreshments and one of the crew will fill you in on the sights during the ride, and do so in English.
The best times to vacation in Side is around late April, May, and early June, and then again in October if you wish to enjoy the warmth yet avoid the crowds as much as possible. It is a very popular destination for Europeans in July, August, and September. If you are the type that thrives on hectic crowds, then by all mens make your reservations early for the middle of summer.
If you are at all into goth kind of stuff, then do be sure to head to the perimeter of the city where you can find what was once referred to as Cities of the Dead, or necropoli. These are ancient cemeteries full of temples, sarcophogi, and holes in the ground. If you go to the Western Cemetery there on the sea, you can see the most magnificent of them all: a 2nd Century building set upon a podium at the head of stone steps. Inside you will find unbelievably cool arches with sarcophagi sitting in the niches.
In Side, boredom just is not an option. With so much to see, do, and explore, you probably will not even need any of those Internet Cafes you pass. Who cares about checking their email when in the middle of such a feast for the senses?
My article appeared in the Dec-Jan 2007/2008 issue of Teen Trend Magazine. All rights reserved.