Ancient Side: Visiting from Alanya

I just can’t get enough of ancient ruins. So it’s lucky that Turkey has so many of them.

The freezing, rainy conditions of the day before had been swept out to sea leaving a glorious sunny Sunday, and almost wishing I’d worn shorts for our trip to the ancient seaside town of Side.

Walking through Side from where the bus dropped us on the highway, it seemed like a peaceful little town with a slow pace of life (at least in January). Soon, the stones of ancient Side started cropping up in the parks and along the sides of the streets, as though the modern town exits within the old.

We came across the Collonaded Street, blissfully deserted on this sunny January Sunday (counting my blessings not to be here in the height of the summer). Badly ruined after thousands of years.

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Barry and I wandered our amongst the ruins of the city, passing what may have been a hospital, the theatre and a posh person’s house with an indoor toilet. What luxury! We didn’t go inside the 20 000 seat theatre but we could see from the outside the agora where slaves were once traded in the second century AD. Only the pretty ones were sold from the central stage. It was hard to imagine such beautiful stones being the site of what must have been such sadness.

The road took us through the pedestrianised village, past shop keepers and hustlers. We eventually succumbed to the pull of a fresh orange juice. I especially enjoyed just being near the glittery deep blue Mediterranean.

The Temples of Apollo and Athena, down at the harbour, make a picture postcard look.

We picked up a gozleme (savoury pancake thing) from a streetside stall. We fought of the entreaties of the waterside restaurant owners in favour of a walk along the beach, in the sand dunes and amongst the ruins.

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The Side Museum, on the site of, and within, the restored Roman baths was our last stop of the day. Cleopatra is said to have bathed here. We spent some time exploring the statues in the bathing rooms, even catching a glimpse of the underground heating system.

We headed back to Alanya and sooner, rather than later (it’s the middle of winter after all), the sun set on another crystal blue Mediterranean day.

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Do what I did:

  1. From Alanya Otogar, ask around for Side (see-duh). You’ll most likely end up on one of the coaches plying the route between Alanya and Antlaya. The ticket costs  €5/12.50 lira each, 25 lira for two.
  2. You’ll be dropped off on the highway D400 at the turnoff for Side. It will take about an hour from Alanya (even though it’s only about 50 kilometres away).
  3. Cross the road and head toward Side town. You can either wait for a dolmus or walk. It will only take about 30 minutes to reach the Collonaded Street from the highway.
  4. When you reach a major left hand turn into Side take it. A kilometre or so further, turn right. Follow the brown tourist signs towards Ancient Side. It sometimes changes it’s name but basically, if the sign is brown and heads towards the sea, you’re on the right track.
  5. Entrance to the theatre is 15 lira.
  6. Entrance to the museum is 10 lira. Amazingly, the toilets are unattended so you don’t need an extra lira to pee.
  7. On the way back, either walk to the Otogar or back to the highway. We walked back to the highway and flagged a coach coming from Antalya which then dropped us safely back at Alanya Otogar.
  8. If there’s three of you travelling you should consider hiring a car from Alanya. Especially if it’s the off season and you can get one for €25 or €30. Although Side is pedestrianised, only a small part of it actually doesn’t allow cars and there’s easy parking near the theatre. You’d want to walk from here anyway to explore the ruins. Even with two people, the time you save might be worth hiring your own car.

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