To the east, to the west
Side’s old town and glitzy harbour are flanked by two beaches, conveniently-named West Beach and East Beach. West Beach is where families flock, as it’s teeming with activity. The beach comes ready with a sweeping shallow area that makes swimming safe for kids, while further out on the waves, parasailing and waterskiing adventures are to be had. There are also more low-key watersports such as snorkelling and boat cruises to keep the energy on the mild side.
West Beach enjoys easy access to snack options, as it’s bordered by bars, shops and restaurants. East Beach, on the other hand, is where you want to head for maximum relaxation on your Turkey holidays. There, it’ll just be you, a sunlounger and some serious R&R.
Just off the coast is the Temple of Apollo, whose crumbling columns beg for Instagram love, while the towering stone walls of the Greek Ampitheatre were made for afternoon wanders. It’s still a working venue, so if you’re lucky, you might catch a show from its historic stage.
In spite of its touristic potential, Side still manages to maintain its peaceful airs. Walk along East Beach and you’ll eventually hit the River Aras, which leads towards Manavgat. Nature lovers will find their Zen in this quiet spot – the waterfall near the town of Manavgat is truly something else. Luckily you can dine just alongside it, so lunches and dinners here always come with a view.
It might be tempting to take up permanent residence in your hotel’s buffet, but you’d be wise to venture out to Side’s restaurants. No pressure – there are only some 150 options between Side and Manavgat. Along the waterfront and into town are some delicious Turkish restaurants, along with European and other international delights. There are also a wide range of barbecue restaurants and steakhouses as well.
Evenings in Side range from family-friendly to all-night rowdy. Much of the after-hours fun is to be had along the waterfront, from pubs to laid-back lounges. Don’t be discouraged by the casual fun in the early evening hours – after a certain time, the lights in Side’s bars go down and the music is turned up.
Side is lined not only with kitschy souvenir shops, like you might expect, but a number of handmade spots selling goods that are truly local. Night-time is the shopping hour, as much of Side transforms into a pedestrian-only zone. You’ll find everything from leather handbags and jackets to handmade jewellery – and whatever you don’t find might be stocked on Saturday, Side’s weekly market day.
An hour drive or trip on the ferry will bring you to Antalya, land of historic sites, a lifetime’s worth of theme parks, nightlife and the best shopping in the region. It’s no surprise then that this town is the third most-visited resort in Europe.
Out of necessity, day trips to Antalya should come in bulk – it’s home to its own aquarium and zoo, as well as a Dolphinarium and waterpark. Nearby is where you’ll find the ancient towns of Termessos and Perge, whose jaw-dropping amphitheatre, columns and statues now lie in ruins.
Then comes the shopping. In Antalya, you’ll find three shopping centres and an outlet centre, as well as more traditional bazaars hocking local goods. But it’s Antalya’s nightlife scene that’ll keep you coming back to this vibrant town – foam parties, multi-level bars, open-air lounges and cool cocktail sports are the norm.